Wednesday 21st July 2021 

One of Ireland’s leading diaspora initiatives is today launching a new network of regional Irish partners to connect those of Irish heritage abroad with their places of origin. Ireland Reaching Out, which has more than 150,000 members worldwide, wants to team up with local organisations to help drive regional tourism as part of the economic recovery. One of the first organisations to join the network is the Tower Museum which will cover the counties of Derry, Tyrone, Fermanagh, Down, Armagh and Antrim.

One of Ireland’s leading diaspora initiatives — Ireland Reaching Out — is today launching a new network of regional Irish partners to connect those of Irish heritage abroad with their places of origin. Pictured are Mick Baynes, Tourism Officer for Visit Castlebar, and Laura Colleran, Ireland Reaching Out Programme Manager, outside the National Museum of Ireland – Country Life. Photo: Alison Laredo

Ireland Reaching Out plans to build on the surge in people tracing their Irish roots during the lockdowns and who now wish to travel to Ireland as the country starts to reopen. To support this expected influx of Irish Diaspora tourists to Ireland, the Irish Partner Network of Ireland Reaching Out has been established. This new network of regionally-based partners aims to improve the service offered to diaspora as they visit Ireland – both north and south.​ Three key groups –  Tower Museum, Visit Castlebar and Ballyhoura Development CLG — have already joined and Ireland Reaching Out  is now seeking other interested regional heritage and tourism groups to join.

Established in 2010, Ireland Reaching Out is a volunteer-driven, non-profit organisation connecting people of Irish heritage with the local community in their place of origin in Ireland.  It is funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade and is based in County Galway. This unique charity offers anyone from anywhere in the world with Irish roots the chance to connect with the community they have descended from by engaging with locals on the ground and online through its online platform – IrelandXO.com   Members avail of free advice from a large team of volunteers, helping them to trace their roots and connect with their Irish place of origin.

Ireland Reaching Out has sought partners who are leaders in heritage and tourism in their regions.  Each Network Partner will provide support to Ireland Reaching Out volunteers in a number of surrounding counties in order to increase engagement with the diaspora in those areas. The first three partnerships established are:·     

Tower Museum  – which will cover the counties of Derry, Tyrone, Fermanagh, Down, Armagh and Antrim

Visit Castlebar –  which will cover the counties of: Sligo, Roscommon, Mayo, Leitrim, and Donegal

Ballyhoura Development CLG – which will cover the counties of Cork, Kerry and Limerick.

Laura Colleran, Ireland Reaching Out Programme Manager, says:“Our network of regional partners will provide assistance and support to the many Ireland Reaching Out Volunteers across the island of Ireland. It will also ensure that those visiting Ireland for the first time to trace their roots in Ireland have a better chance to engage with the locals living in their communities of origin in Ireland.”With volunteer help, they may get to see the homestead of their Irish forebearers, walk the land their people farmed before leaving Ireland, see the graves of their ancestor and, if possible, get to meet living relatives in Ireland. As we emerge from COVID restrictions and look to develop creative solutions that re-ignite tourism, IrelandXO is an important diaspora engagement resource for the whole country.”

Bernadette Walsh, Archivist at Tower Museum, says:“The Tower Museum has a very similar outlook to Ireland Reaching Out. We are very much about sustainability, promoting our genealogy and archive collections to encourage people to access and engage with our programmes and to promote tourism to the local areas. We are unique in that we are the only local authority archive service in Northern Ireland outside of the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, Belfast. We get a lot of people visiting that want to investigate their own family history as well as research students, academics and film companies. “As part of Derry City & Strabane District Council, the Tower Museum is strongly associated with the Council’s region, we will be working with partners and volunteers all across Northern Ireland to promote the wider region as part of this project with Ireland Reaching Out. Ideally, we will eventually have partners joining from all across the island of Ireland to build on the momentum.”    

If you are interested in volunteering, becoming (or supporting) a regional partner, please contact Ireland Reaching Out at info@irelandxo.com

Serena Terry, Mammy Banter

Serena Terry has more than a decade’s marketing experience with local companies including Learning Pool and social prescribing business Elemental, where she was appointed COO in 2019. But to over half a million TikTok fans, and more than 100,000 Instagram followers, the Derry woman is better known as her honest and funny alter ego, Mammy Banter. In May, Serena launched her own agency, Catchy Co, specialising in social media marketing, training and content production.

Congratulations on the launch of Catchy Co! Why did you decide to set it up?

I always wanted to do it, but what I found scary was that there are so many marketing agencies who can back up their work with testimonials and case studies from previous customers. Yes, I’ve got companies I worked for as an employee for 15 years, but as an agency I didn’t have the testimonials yet, so I decided to keep building up Mammy Banter.

For me, I think my credibility is that I practise what I preach. The proof is in the pudding. Every single one of my customers this month is from Mammy Banter. I did my first Instagram masterclass last week and was able to use her as a case study, talking clients through what I’ve done and the different demographics I focus on, as well as looking at the future of digital marketing in general.

How daunting was it to leave full-time employment and go it alone?

It was really hard. I was in a well-paying job, we have two kids, a mortgage. But lockdown was the turning point for me; I needed more flexibility and I needed a new challenge. Lockdown also taught me I was able to be productive working from home, so that myth was dispelled. And the more Mammy Banter was going up and up in engagement and followers, it gave me a bit more security to think, there’s bound to be at least five people in every 100,000 followers on Instagram that owns a company or knows a business that is struggling with social media.

I just said, ‘I’m going to do it. If I don’t do it, I’ll never know’. So I did my business plan, I looked at what I needed to earn, and I got a good accountant. It wasn’t about wanting to be rich. I just wanted to pay myself a salary, maybe work less hours and enjoy making more people laugh with Mammy Banter, but also have the flexibility to go and collect my son from school, for instance, and be able to close the laptop. I can dictate my hours, I can dictate how many campaigns or customers I take on, that is definitely one of the perks of being out on your own.

How has it been going so far?

What’s crazy about Catchy Co is I’m so busy at the minute and I haven’t even done any marketing for myself yet. I’ve got some bigger businesses I’m doing campaigns for, and then smaller businesses and lifestyle bloggers, who can sign up for a 1.5-hour course with a resources pack. Longer-term, I’d like to continue supporting all size of businesses, and really get my name out there as a growth consultant that can come into start-ups, scale-ups, or corporate organisations, become an extension of their team and help them with growth via digital marketing campaigns.

Do people expect you to be like Mammy Banter in real life?

Mammy Banter is my Sasha Fierce, my alter ego. I was worried at the start that people might be joining the course expecting a comedy session with Mammy Banter. But I got a couple of testimonials yesterday from people saying they have put into practise over the weekend what we went through in the session, and the resources I sent out, and their engagement rates have already shot up. 

Your Mammy Banter videos have racked up 14.5m likes on TikTok. Why has she resonated with so many people?

I think it’s the honesty of it. I hated Facebook and the whole fake world of Instagram picture-perfect mums and the Photoshopping and the ‘look, we’re rich’. TikTok was a platform for me where I thought, people are honest here, warts and all. That’s the kind of social media you want. You don’t want to go on and go, ‘Oh my god she’s a perfect parent, she’s sailing through lockdown, she looks great, she’s not putting on any weight!’ We want relatable, down-to-earth humour. Branding-wise, I’m going to be launching a merchandise range with T-shirts and hoodies and sweaters that go up to 5XL, again just to get that message across that the Mammy Banter brand is inclusive of everyone.

What do your children think of your new found fame?

My five-year-old isn’t really aware of it yet. My 12-year-old daughter only followed me last week when I got verified on TikTok and then unfollowed me the day after. She loves it when her friends talk about Mammy Banter and I’m sure she laughs with them when they’re talking about it, but then face-to-face she’s like, ‘Ugh, I just don’t think you’re funny’. The day she finds me funny my comedy career’s over, there’s something wrong!

How have you found the North West as a place to live, work and invest?

I joined both Elemental and Learning Pool at the start-up stage, so I was privy first hand to the opportunities and the challenges to scaling and growth in the city. And just seeing how many tech companies have scaled in Derry alone and are now providing services worldwide is great. Patrick St has become a complete software as a service hub. You can see those companies are constantly recruiting, and we’re seeing more start-ups come into the tech space too. Community-wise, I absolutely love Derry, I’ve always been a complete homebird. I’m looking forward to when the Clipper returns next year and we start to get more events back, and growth for Digital Derry. It’s exciting.

What would you say to someone thinking of returning to Derry or Strabane?

There’s huge growth and scale locally with tech firms if that’s something you currently work in, and room for you to grow within them. If you want to bite the bullet and start up on your own business, the pandemic has changed the rules around needing to be in a certain office and in a certain town. I’m sitting at my kitchen table and my clients are in America and all over the world, right now. Just go for it, is my advice!

Find out more about Catchy Co at catchyco.com and follow @mammybanter on TikTok and Instagram.

A local American Football club is preparing to battle it out against three Northern Irish teams in a hotly-anticipated tournament.

The Donegal Derry Vipers will take on the Antrim Jets, Causeway Giants and NI Razorbacks to compete for the Donaghy Group Invitational Cup this summer.

The action will take place over four days in July and August, with the final played on August 15 at Prehen Playing Pitches.

Vipers member Paul O’Donnell urged spectators to get out and support the North West cross-border team, which has bases in Derry, Limavady, Greysteel and Letterkenny.


Vipers member Paul O’Donnell

Founded in 2014, the team was promoted to IAFA1 (Irish American Football Association) in 2017 and has a large roster of members, including a player from Alabama, and a coach from Chicago.

The Vipers are also currently recruiting for their youth squad, which will welcome 15 to 17-year-olds, male and female, with no previous experience required.

A new YouTube channel has been launched to help young people whose education and career prospects have been affected by the pandemic.

North West Regional College students joined forces with Enterprise North West and Startacus to create Week Gen-C, to inform people about the skills and tools they will need within the post-Covid economy, and the opportunities that already exist.

The channel, funded through the David Cross Young People’s Fund, features panel discussions and interviews with businesses including Learning Pool, Alchemy Technology, FinTrU, Hypixel Studios, UV Arts, Storefront and Ferry Clever, as well as support organisations such as Young Enterprise NI, Extern, NWRC Careers Academy, Derry Credit Union, careers and employment services and mental health charity AWARE.

Brian O’Neill, Director of Development and Enterprise, Enterprise North West, commented:

“The overall Week Gen-C project has exceeded our expectations and this has been mainly achieved through the hard work and creativity of the steering group of young people involved in the series of events right from the beginning. These events have been designed, produced and delivered by young people and have taken into account the negative impact of Covid-19 and the pandemic on young people’s prospects. We firmly believe that these series of events could be upscaled or replicated across NI to inspire other young people”

Alastair Cameron, Co-founder of Startacus, added:

“We’ve all been affected by the pandemic, but it has been even more challenging for our young people so it’s vital that we all do our bit to help them to look forward and to inspire and encourage them to reach their true potential. We’ve been delighted to partner with Enterprise North West on the Week Gen-C project and we have been hugely impressed by the creativity, commitment and dedication shown by the students from NWRC in bringing the entire project to fruition”.

The Week Gen-C recording are available to view on the Week Gen-C YouTube Channel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCqLRGRr1jo5LF56hDH6tN0Q )

Ulster University has landed a place in the top 50 universities for the first time in the Complete University Guide (CUG) 2022 League Table’s 15-year history.

After a third successive rise in these rankings, the university has risen 16 places from 60th (2021) to 44th (2022) out of 130 UK universities. This is the highest rank the University has achieved in the Guide’s 15-year history.

In allocated scores, Ulster University was ranked 13th for research intensity with a huge 84% and 73% for research quality.

Ulster University was given special recognition from CUG for a significant upward shift in the top 50 – climbing 16 places into 44th position. Along with one other UK university, Ulster University has achieved the biggest leap among those now ranked in the top 50, in this year’s league tables.

Professor Paul Seawright, Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Ulster University commented: “The University’s significant uplift in these rankings reflects our continuous focus on the quality and impact of our teaching and research, across our unique campuses. The significant investment in the landmark Belfast campus, due to open from September, which will provide a progressive student experience in a state-of-the art city centre campus; the establishment of the School of Medicine at Magee which will produce 70 doctors per year to address sectoral workforce challenges; and over recent years the University has invested £27 million in facilities on Coleraine Campus including a £5m sports centre and a £6.5m media centre.

Ulster University – Magee campus. (Photo: Nigel McDowell/Ulster University)

Two future doctors at the new School of Medicine at Magee will have their degree costs covered by a construction and property development company.

Heron Bros has pledged to provide two local students with full scholarships for the entirety of their four-year degree programme at the school, which is due to open in August.

NI students applying for the Graduate Entry Medicine programme are eligible to apply for the scholarships where they meet widening access and participation criteria. Applications will open on 5th July and close two weeks later, on 16th July, for students starting the Bachelor of Medicine Bachelor of Surgery programme this August.

Mr Damien O’Callaghan, Group Managing Director for Heron Bros Ltd said:

“Heron Bros are honoured to partner with Ulster University’s School of Medicine at the Magee Campus. In funding Scholarships to students, Heron Bros will build a better future for the local community, support upskilling of local talented people and provide health benefits for all of us. Heron Bros have been involved in various health, education and third sector education construction projects over the years and the Scholarships truly showcases our business values of passion, forward-thinking and relationships. As we progress from the Covid pandemic Heron Bros Medicine Scholarships will support our future Medicine Students provide a vital and enduring service in our community.”

The Foundation Dean of the School of Medicine, Professor Louise Dubras, has welcomed the scholarship announcement for prospective students:

“Ulster University and Heron Bros have enjoyed a longstanding partnership which has seen many of our students work with the team on a variety of Apprenticeship, Placement and Graduate programmes, enriching their learning experience and increasing employability. We are very proud to continue to strengthen this partnership through this scholarship announcement and we are delighted that Heron Bros will support two of our students through the brand new Graduate Entry Medicine programme, starting in August 2021.”

Louise added: “This presents opportunities for those who may face barriers to developing their vocation for a career in medicine – thanks to these scholarships they can now access and achieve the qualifications needed to become a doctor, joining the ambitious, capable healthcare hub here in the North West in four years’ time.”

President of Ireland Michael D Higgins has appeared alongside international politicians, academics and writers at a virtual conference broadcast from Ulster University’s Magee Campus.

The ‘Heritage, Healing and Home’ discussion took place earlier this month at the American Conference for Irish Studies 2021, which also featured contributions from US Congressman Brendan Boyle the UK and Irish Ambassadors to the US, filmmaker Maurice Fitzpatrick and local journalist Susan McKay.

Professor Malachy Ó Néill, Irish language scholar and Provost of the Ulster University Magee campus said: “Ulster University is delighted to host the ACIS 2021 conference and to welcome academics from 110 different institutions across the world to this global conversation. In partnership with Derry and Strabane District Council and Donegal County Council’s Colmcille 1500 initiative, this event is the academic highlight of the year-long commemoration of Colm Cille (Saint Columba), patron of the city of Derry and the wider North West and one of the most significant figures in early European Christianity. The overarching conference themes of ‘Heritage, Healing and Home’ act as a pathway for these times. Time for reflection, sense-making and collective restoration and healing is needed more than ever as we emerge from our homes after the challenging period during COVID-19.

City and region leaders got behind the international conference. Sportswear brand O’Neills designed a commemorative jersey featuring a beautiful digital artwork of Magee College by Carla Fulton, artist and recent Ulster University. Gavin Killeen and colleagues at NuPrint Technologies produced conference postcards to complement the O’Neills jerseys. Also, Visit Derry worked with Ulster University to bring this multi-faceted event online for the people of Derry.

A series of Fireside Conversations and speeches are still available to watch online.

Ready for an al fresco meal or some drinks in a sun-soaked beer garden this summer? Local business platform Independent Derry has compiled this handy list of their favourite bars and eateries with outdoor spaces. Cheers to that!

https://www.independentderry.co.uk/post/derryoutdoordining

Derry-Londonderry has made the shortlist for Europe’s Leading Emerging Tourism Destination 2021 at The World Travel Awards.

The Walled City is one of eight emerging city destinations in with a chance of scooping the prize at the awards, nicknamed the ‘Oscars of Travel’.

Renowned as one of the finest examples of a Walled City in Europe and the primary destination for cultural and heritage experiences on the island, Derry is a worthy nominee and needs your votes to help scoop the top spot.

With international voting now open, people have been urged to get behind Derry.

Odhran Dunne, Chief Executive of Visit Derry commented: “We are delighted Derry has been nominated for Europe’s Leading Emerging Tourism Destination. Being a finalist in this prestigious award, puts us on a world stage as we begin to emerge from the covid crises and rebuild tourism. It strengthens our international appeal and rewards the commitment of all players in our local industry to position the city region as a must-visit destination. We have all the ingredients of a standout destination, centred on our historic City Walls, heritage, renowned lively cultural and events scene and strategic geographic location to be nominated for the award is fantastic. We look forward to the global industry and travel consumers recognising our emerging potential and giving us their vote!” You can cast your vote for the Maiden City as Leading Emerging Tourism Destination here. Voting closes on 14th July 2021.

Could the Walled City of Derry be the leading emerging tourism destination in Europe? Derry has made the shortlist at the prestigious World Travel Awards for Europe’s Leading Emerging Tourism Destination 2021. The winner will be the finalist who gains the most votes. To vote for Derry as Europe’s Leading Emerging Tourism Destination, visit www.visitderry.com/vote before 14th July. First to cast their vote is the Mayor Alderman Graham Warke with Visit Derry chair Michelle Simpson and Chief Executive Odhran Dunne. Supporting the voting are, Brenda Morgan, City of Derry Airport, Ethan Dunlop, City Cabs, Lawrence, Far and Wild, Carla McDevitt, Airporter, Kiera Duddy, The Pickled Duck, Bronagh Masoliber, Visit Derry. David Douglas, Derrie Danders and James Huey, Walled City Brewery, and

As part of the visual arts programme, from March 8th ‘Full Hoist Always’, delivered by the Void Gallery, will see roadside billboards transformed by artist Locky Morris, focusing on a positive message around care and support in the current times.As part of the Inside Out programme, UV Arts will deliver ‘The People’s Art Project’ which will take place from March 16th, looking at celebrating our local community and those who make the community what it is through portraits.The North West Carnival Initiative will deliver ‘Imagine That…’ – a combination of artist led creation, online content including tutorials, and neighbourhood focused activity.  Our city centre will be re-imagined with creative installations and pop up displays adorning areas including Shipquay Street and several quiet spaces within the Walls; fairy dwellings in​ Kilfennan, St Columb’s Park, Foyle Road, Brooke Park and the Fountain; a willow hare sculpture at Strabane Allotments, and the pig sculpture at the Alley Theatre being transformed into a seasonal leprechaun, and lots more.There will be a vast range of online content, including many events for Irish Language Week which is currently taking place and will finish on St Patrick’s Day.

. Included with Mayor Brian Tierney are Sha Gillespie and Jim Collins, NWCI, at front, and Margaret Crabtree, Keep her Knit, and Ann Millar, community participant.

In partnership with Donegal County Council, Irish Language Week aims to create opportunities for people to use and enjoy the Irish language, and this year Council have been working with partners in the Irish language community across the city and district to create a unique programme of online events which celebrate the Irish language as part of the shared heritage of the region.On March 16th, Council is working with partners on the virtual Destination Derry – Connecting with Home event which will see our diaspora living in all corners of the world come together to enjoy our shared history and love of this time of year, with conversation, music, culture and lots of entertainment.St Patrick’s Day will be marked by students from North West Regional College’s School of Performing Arts who will put together two celebratory traditional Irish music sessions. There will be range of talented artists and lots of great music for audiences to enjoy.Launching the programme,

Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Cllr Brian Tierney, said it has something for everyone.”I’m delighted to launch our Spring and St Patrick’s Day programme which will be a much-needed boost to everyone locally and will bring some colour to our city and district as we move into a brighter season.”Like everything we have done over the past year, this programme has been put together with public health at the very forefront of our minds. Our Council officers have worked incredibly hard to organise a programme that strikes a balance between giving the public something to look forward to and celebrate, while also keeping everyone safe.”St Patrick’s Day and our Spring Carnival are terrific occasions in our annual calendar and while it is disappointing that we cannot celebrate with the usual gatherings and events, and our St Patrick’s Day parades, we have some very exciting online content as well as visual arts and creative outdoor installations and pop-up displays.”The Inside Out programme looks fantastic and we are once again working with the North West Carnival Initiative who have adapted their delivery of ‘Imagine That…’ festivities. It all comes together as one highly-anticipated programme.”

Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Cllr Brian Tierney, with Sha Gillespie and Jim Collins, North West Carnival Initiative, and Margaret Crabtree, Keep Her Knit, at the launch of the Spring programme.

Jacqueline Whoriskey, Council’s Festival and Events Manager, added: “We have come through perhaps one of the most challenging winters that many of us have ever faced, and as we put together this Spring programme we were very conscious of capturing the spirit of a new season, a new chapter, and a fresh, bright outlook.”We have really adapted how we deliver these programmes in the past year, and in line with that we have continued to put a big focus on online content through the likes of Irish Language Week, the Destination Derry event and the music session being delivered by North West Regional College.”While we will not be holding any public events or gatherings, we have focused in on how we can creatively bring the Spring spirit to our streets with artwork and installations, with fairy dwellings and artistic sculptures that can be enjoyed by everyone when out getting some fresh air and exercise.”We hope that this adapted programme can be enjoyed safely by everyone.”

The Inside Out Programme is organised by Derry City and Strabane District Council with funding through the Department of Communities’ Business Revitalisation and Recovery Programme. For more information, visit www.derrystrabane.com/insideout