#AnswerTheCall with No Alibis

Today is the one year anniversary of when I started this blog and so it seems very fitting that on this day I attended the #AnswerTheCall with No Alibis event, which was held at the Black Box, Belfast.  It is fitting because the #AnswerTheCall series sees Bushmills® Irish Whiskey partnering with creators, thinkers, artists, entrepreneurs and adventurers to celebrate their stories and inspire others to fulfil their true calling.
For as long as I can remember I have always wanted to write. As a child I had a notebook bursting with weird and colourful short stories. As I got older, I always wanted a career than incorporated working with words, and so I was over the moon when I got a job at Ulster Taler magazine. Although my daily work involves writing and editing, I found that as I have gotten older, writing in my spare time has seriously dwindled, and so I started the blog a year ago with the aim that it would help me find a discipline to write on a regular basis; a year and 89 posts later, I am very proud to say Little Burch is still growing and that I have stuck to my goal of at least one post a week.

Like my inspiration to start a blog, all ideas, no matter how big or small, need to start somewhere and once upon a time, 400 years ago, the Old Bushmills Distillery™ was also just starting out on its own journey, which was to be one of the first distilleries in the world to make both single malt and blended Irish whiskey. This innovation and fearlessness, which has saw the distillery grow, evolve and stay true to its roots, has inspired the launch of the #AnswerTheCall campaign. Not only does this campaign shine a light on Bushmills’ superior produce, today for example, guests were treated to a delectable serving of BLACK BUSH® and white lemonade as well as a smooth and rich BLACK BUSH® Old Fashioned cocktail, but it also aims to showcase the talents and stories of those who have defied convention to boldly answer their call and create a legacy of their own. True to this mission, today’s event in the #AnswerTheCall series, entitled Whiskey & Words, could not have found a better subject than David Torrans, owner of No Alibis Bookstore.

BLACK BUSH® Old Fashions

No Alibis is Northern Ireland’s only specialist crime bookstore as well as one of the country’s few surviving independent bookstores. On a personal level I stumbled across the shop when I studied an American Noir module at Queen’s University Belfast. A number of the titles on the curriculum were available in the shop and I, to this day, remember going in armed with my list of required reading and encountering David for the first time. He offered me tea and Viennese Whirls whilst he took my list off me and gathered up all the reading materials I required. Instantaneously it was obvious that this was a shop unlike any other and David Torrens was a book seller like no other; not only is he passionate and knowledgeable about literature but he has also created a unique and inviting environment in which all literature aficionados are welcome to talk books, to get a recommendation of authors they might like as well as to consume their latest read in a nook away from the hustle and bustle of day to day living. Since my first visit, I have been back to the shop time and again, not only to buy books and soak up the unique atmosphere, but also to attend several of the events David has hosted over the years; from local writers such as Stuart Neville to international bestsellers like Linwood Barclay and literary legends like James Ellroy, No Alibis has attracted some of the most influential names in modern literature.

Ian Sansom (left) in conversation with No Alibis’ owner and entrepreneur David Torrans at the Whiskey & Words event, part of Bushmills’ #AnswerTheCall campaign

Whilst the events David hosts offer the perfect chance for readers to find out more about the journey of some of their favourite authors, today’s event, which saw David in conversation with professor, journalist and one of my favourite authors and columnists, Ian Sansom, offered the opportunity for the audience to find out more about David’s journey. From 1990 David was a dedicated bookseller but in 1997 he took the risk to venture out on his own and start his own bookstore. Inspired by the iconic The Mysterious Bookshop and Partners in Crime Mystery Booksellers, to name a few, David knew he wanted to start a bookstore that focused primarily on the crime genre, and so No Alibis was born in 1997. Twenty years later No Alibis is still standing and although the intervening years have featured good times as well as tough times, David has successfully continued to grow and evolve the business whilst blazing his own trail and creating the bookstore he always dreamt of.

The Whiskey and Words instalment of #AnswerTheCall series was a truly inspiring event that highlights that, like Bushmills Irish Whiskey and David Torrans, you should not let people stand in your way when it comes to embarking on your own journey to follow your passions, achieve your dreams and answer your own call.

For more information on the #AnswerTheCall series, which will collaborate with other local talents such as; Whitehead based tattoo artist Willy G, one of Belfast’s best known street artists, Visual Waste, and Kevin Pyke, owner of Derry based Pyke ‘n’ Pomme, an acclaimed street food style eatery, visit: http://answerthecall.co.uk

Posted: 23/04/2017

Super Furry Animals 

I love having a niece for many reasons, but today I discovered another one; she’s the perfect excuse to spend a Friday afternoon at Streamvale Farm, in Belfast. I finished work at lunchtime today and headed to meet my sister Gail and the tiny human. After something to eat,  we donned our coats and made for the farm.

I have never been to Streamvale Farm before and was looking for any excuse to go; if you think this is just a place for kids, think again. I love animals of all shapes and sizes and so as we made our way around the farm, and got to encounter piglets, peacocks, horses, roosters, cows, goats and donkeys, and got to pet chicks, puppies, and kits (or most commonly known as adorably cute tiny baby rabbits), I was completely in my element. I won’t lie, I think I had even more fun than the tiny human.

In addition to the animals, there are plenty of activities on daily throughout the Farm, from pony rides, barrel rides and tractor rides to watching Chase the resident farm dog complete the agility course in record speed; kids of all ages are sure to find something to keep them entertained.

As well as being a fun filled place for little ones, Streamvale Farm is the perfect place to escape from being an adult for a few hours. With furry animal cuddles aplenty, I am pretty sure I will be able to create another excuse so I can visit again soon.

Prices:

  • Infants under 3:  Free
  • Children aged 3-18: £6.60
  • Adults, 18 and over: £7.20

http://streamvale.com

Posted: 21/04/2017

Top of the Hill 

Parliament Buildings at Stormont Estate

I always like to try and get out and explore in some shape or form when I have a few days off, and so as it is Easter, it seemed the perfect time to visit one of the most famous buildings in Northern Ireland: Parliament Buildings at Stormont Estate. 

Although it was a public holiday and the building wasn’t open for tours, my family and I had a lovely walk around Stormont Estate which is much more than just the home of the Northern Ireland Assembly amd Executive. In addition to Parliament Buildings, it is also the location of several stautes, including the Reconciliation sculpture, which depicts a man and woman embracing across barbed wire and a 12ft bronze statue of Sir Edward Carson by L.S. Merrifield, to name a few. Additionally Stormont Estate features a number of walking/ running trails for all fitness levels, so whether you want a gentle walk or an all out park run to burn off those calorific Easter eggs, Stormont Estate, with its lush lawns and colourful bursts of flowers, offers a scenic setting to soak up the sights and sounds of the outdoors. 
Although we had to fit our visit in between rain showers, I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to ‘The House on the Hill’, and whether you live in Northern Ireland or are simply just visiting, I definitely recommend checking it out; the tranquil sound of birdsong alone is enough to entice me back once the weather improves.

Posted: 17/04/2017

The statue of Sir Edward Carson

Little (and big) Burch at the House on the Hill

Chris Loughrey Album Launch 

So, I am completely obsessed with the new album, Long Day, by Co Westmeath singer-songwriter Chris Loughrey. My husband and I, who are both huge fans of local music, jumped at the chance to attend the launch of the album, which was produced by Mallusk-based recording studio Emerald Records, last Friday night at The Hudson, located on Royal Avenue in Belfast. It had been a horrendous day but the idea of a mini concert in the bar’s courtyard seemed to be enough to even coax the sunshine out to play. 

As Chris came roaring into the courtyard on the back of a motorcycle with a guitar strapped across his back, the crowd, which included a mixture of visitors to the bar and press, immediately hushed. When Chris strutted on stage, with a captivating stage presence might I add, it was pretty evident this guy was cut from rock ‘n’ roll cloth. During the set Chris, whose biggest inspiration is none other than Bruce Springsteen, played a selection of songs from his new album, including title track ‘Long Day’ and the gorgeous ‘She’s So Cool’. He also threw a handful of covers in the mix, from ‘Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door’ and ‘Purple Rain’ to ‘Rocking all Over the World‘. 

With a an exquisite voice that contains more gravel in it than a sand pit, mixed with a repertoire of songs that are so contagious you instantly find yourself singing along, as well as busting a move as evidenced by the couple in front of us, it seems pretty clear Chris is a rising star in the music scene. The album itself is a cracking new release with hints of country and rock; it will inspire, break your heart and have your foot tapping all in one listen. Trust me, Chris Loughrey is a name you will want to listen out for.

For more information about Chris Loughrey and his new album Long Day visit: http://www.chrisloughrey.com

Posted: 8/4/2017

Join the Fast & Furious Family

I am a huge fan of the Fast & Furious franchise. I remember when the original film was released in 2001, changing gears had never looked so bad ass. For someone who was learning to drive at the time, the film had me pumped with adrenalin and ready to hit the road. However, whilst the film made driving look epically cool, my chugging along in third gear was anything but. After several films in the series, and several years experience on the road for me, I finally felt it was the right time for me to put my driving skills to the test with the FF8 experience at Victoria Square. The unique green screen experience, which has been created by Universal Pictures Ireland ahead of the release of Fast & Furious 8, will be at Victoria Square for this weekend only; not only does it put you in the driving seat but it also lets you create your very own personalised #F8FeelTheSpeed video to share across your social media platforms.

I was literally first in line today to try the experience in Belfast and it was everything I hoped for. Danielle Hibbert from Clearbox Communications and the team from Universal Pictures Ireland could not have been more welcoming. I was slightly nervous before hand, but I was quickly put at ease and after a few run throughs of the script it was time to call ‘Action!’ The experience is incredibly good fun and it doesn’t take very long at all to complete. Although I now have my own personalised video of my stunt driving skills, which you can view below, I don’t think Hollywood is beckoning but at least I can say I got my 10 seconds of fame!

If you want to get into the mood for Fast & Furious 8, which opens in Irish cinemas nationwide on 12th April, get down to Victoria Square pronto and put the peddle to metal yourself! Participation is entirely free, but remember the FF8 experience is only at Victoria Square until Sunday 2 April!

https://youtu.be/tp8T7EUcAsw

Tickets for Fast & Furious 8 are available now via www.fast8.ie

Posted: 31/03/2017

Mum’s The Word

Me with my amazing mum.

My mum is without a doubt one of my favourite people; she is fun, kind, generous, caring, honest and has the most amazing sense of humour. 
Since I was a kid I knew my mum wasn’t like a lot of other mothers: she has never embarrassed me, in fact I am pretty sure she is, and always has been, way cooler than me. My mum coloured my hair for me as a teenager; she bought me CDs of my favourite bands as well as introducing me to music from some her favourites, from T Rex to Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons; she has an eye for fashion and she still always buys me and my sister gorgeous clothes, in fact I always get more compliments when I am wearing something she has bought me, rather than something I’ve picked myself. 

I moved to Belfast when I was 18 to go to university and as much as I loved going out with my friends in the city at weekends, I also loved heading home to hang out with my mum and dad. As I’ve got older I can honestly say our relationship has evolved, as well as being parent and child, my mum is genuinely one of best friends. I can talk to her about anything and whether we having a chat or dancing round the living room, she makes me laugh, without fail, until my sides, face and stomach hurt. 

My mum is my role model. Ever since I was little I have witnessed my mum caring for others; from my dad, sister and myself, to my grandparents, great uncle and neighbours, she has been a rock to so many people and is always so generous with not only her time but her heart. She has always supported me with everything I’ve set out to do with my life and she has always been there when I need advice, a shoulder to cry on or huggles! I have always said if I ever have tiny humans of my own I want to be the same kind of mother to them as my mum has been to me. I not only love her to pieces but I have 100% respect for her and I am so proud to say she’s my mum.

Today is mother’s day, and my mum bought me a bunch of flowers, that’s just the kind of thoughtful woman she is! Although I have already said it to her in person today, I such want to wish my mum, and all the other brilliant mothers out there, a happy mother’s day – although they might not tell you all the time, you are all legends to your children, trust me! 

The flowers my mum bought me for mother’s day.

Posted: 26/03/2017

Northern Ireland ‘Take On’ Norway

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The Logues

What do Norwegian band A-ha have in common with Little Burch? A love of Tyrone folk rock band The Logues!

As Northern Ireland prepare to ‘Take On’ Norway this Sunday in the World Cup Qualifier at Windsor Park, it seems that when it comes to the world of music, the two countries and reached a draw. The Logue’s unique cover of A-ha’s iconic ‘Take On Me’ has gone viral; it has even attracted the attention of A-ha themselves, who loved the cover so much they shared it on their Facebook page!

The original song and video for ‘Take On Me’ totally mesmerised me as a kid. Clearly I was not alone as the song has been covered by Reel Big Fish and boyband A1, whilst the video was spoofed in an episode of Family Guy. For their version of ‘Take On Me’ to garner the seal of approval from A-ha themselves is a huge coup for The Logues, who have just completed a  European tour and are riding high after being voted ‘Best Folk Album’ for Comin Of Age, their last album, in a nationwide Magazine.

Kiel Cathers, lead singer for The Logues says: “Our set list mainly consists of our own original songs, we’re an original folk rock band primarily, but we cut our teeth playing covers, and we generally throw in a few of our favourites, mostly songs that we have grown up with, but we put our own stamp on them rather than just do a copy.”

“We began playing ‘Take on Me’ when we started touring our second Album Comin’ Of Age and it always got a great reaction. We have no plans to release the song, we just put this video up on our Facebook site for the craic.

“We were totally overwhelmed when A-Ha shared our post on their Facebook and humbled by the large amount of positive comments from fans and new fans from all over the world.

“With Norway Football Team travelling to Belfast to play Northern Ireland in the World Cup qualifier, the track has taken on a bit of a life of its own, there was even been a conversations about a special pre-match performance. Unfortunately as we’re just back from Europe, and we’re heading back out to do some UK dates, it didn’t work out.”

Check out A-ha sharing the video, and the video itself here:

Posted: 23/03/2017