Polo prepares to party

Polo is just ready for Christmas! As much as he loves his job and could happily keep it up right through to the New Year, he is very excited about getting time off to spend with his friends and family over the festive break. He is worried about his waistline though… the Christmas parties have already started, and he has eaten more than any penguin has a right to!Polo Christmas Dinner

Last night saw him dine in style with an invite to a Christmas Canapes party. With smoked salmon and fish sticks in abundance, he was a very happy boy. Secret Santa and smelly candles gave the evening  that little bit of class that was needed to make it a great start to the holiday break!

If you’re struggling for something to do between finishing work and Christmas day (because obviously all the Christmas shopping has been done by now…), get along to Sleeping Beauty at the Lyric. Fun for all the family, and if you get on Test Drive you might just get some free tickets!

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Christmas countdown!

The Christmas season is well and truly upon us. The market at Belfast city hall is in full swing, the pantomime’s around the province have begun their production runs, the shoppers have thronged the street and Christmas tree lights are being turned on everywhere. The most exciting time of the year for some, it’s filled with food, presents, minced pies, mulled wine and music.

What are your favourite pieces of music for this time of year? Polo has compiled some of his favourites, songs that will certainly be played at the Polo igloo party later in the month! Follow the blog to see the full top ten, but for now here are three to whet your appetite!

A particular fan of this one is Annie, who fancies herself a bit of a Mariah when it comes to the Karaoke…

Maybe one that you won’t know, this one is a throwback to Polo’s childhood when he played with his blocks at his grandpappy’s knee…

Polo is a fan of the new release, but you can’t beat a classic!

Keep your eyes out for the next three of Polo’s top ten countdown!

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Polo at the Market

Today Polo started his Christmas shopping in none other than the prolific and magnificent Continental market in the grounds of Belfast City Hall!

After wandering round the stalls and sampling some of the wares (he particularly enjoyed the crepes, but nothing beat the seafood stall), he got down to the tricky task of buying Annie her Christmas present. There was so much to choose from! Jewellery, candles, ornaments, clothes, foods… it would boggle any penguins mind! Thankfully he got along to the Ulster Hall café for a quick break. Polo is just not a penguin built for shopping!

polo@marketAfter the stress of even a small trip into the busy city centre, Polo has decided he needs to take a break from shopping to relax, so he’s looking in to the events listings around Belfast to see how he can take some time out. A lovely family event that he and Annie might take the children to is ‘The Christmas Mystery Palace’ at the MAC. Featuring live music, fun and lots of magic, it’s the story of the extraordinary The Family Hoffman, whose marvellously magical Mystery Palace rolls into town for Christmas!

Polo’s advice to you is no matter how your plans for Christmas are going, no matter how far you have to go for buying presents and turkey’s and mulled wine and all the other things that make Christmas the special time of year that it is, don’t forget to take some time out with friends and family to enjoy it! Go to a panto, or visit the Museum… but don’t get stressed like he did!

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Polo in the Millennium Forum

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Can you see Polo outside the Millennium Forum?

Last week Polo was on the road again and made his way up to the North-West for a day out! Being the arts lover that he is, he popped in to the Millennium Forum for a visit. He had been before, but had never found out anything about the venue, so it was good to learn some new things. For example, he found out that the campaign to get the Forum open went as far back as the 1960’s and it only opened in 2001!

Millennium forum Panto, from now-4th Jan

Millennium forum Panto, from now-4th Jan

While there,Polo had some fish in the fabulous restaurant, Encore Brasserie. Everything about it thoroughly impressed Polo, and he is planning to take Annie there later this month for the Christmas Panto, Jack and the Beanstalk. He is also thinking about getting tickets for the LegenDerry Masquerade ball on the 13th December, but he isn’t sure he can have his penguin suit ready in time… It’s still at the dry cleaners after dancing his socks off at the Tea Dance in the Ulster Hall!

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Never too old to Test Drive

A day of riotous joy was in store for anyone who attended the Punjana Traditional Tea Dance in the Ulster Hall on Wednesday, as Mark and Danielle from the Test Drive team can certainly testify. After having some Tea Dance Tea, and a Tea Dance Dance, they made their way upstairs and set up a table for Test Drive the Arts NI, talking to anybody who came by about getting free tickets to events.

We even made some new friends! The pictures show us with our new friend Geraldine, who helps run the Men’s Shed with North Belfast Partnership, see Danielle and Geraldinehttp://www.northbelfastpartnership.com/north-belfast-mens-shed-opens for information. We were also lucky enough to get a snap with the Mayor of Belfast, Nichola Mallon, as well as having a wee interview on NVTV, so keep an eye out for us!

Mayor test drive

All in all, a wonderful day out with plenty of craic, lots of tea and, most importantly, hundreds of new people armed with postcards directing them to the Test Drive website for their free tickets! It just goes to show… you’re never too old to take a Test Drive!

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A stroll through Narnia

Polo was out and about East Belfast last week and received a bit of a fright- The White Witch of Narnia returned to once again cast Edmund under her spell from a scene depicted in C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia – this was all part of the launch of the C.S. Lewis Festival this morning at Belmont Tower. Polo decided to investigate, and found out that this colourful celebration of one of Belfast’s most famous sons, returns next month for an extended weekend of theatre, tours, talks, films, storytelling and family events across the east of the city and beyond!

The second C.S. Lewis Festival, which takes place from Thurs 20 – Sun 23 November 2014, marks the 51st anniversary of the death of the renowned author, theologian, academic and creator of the incredible Chronicles of Narnia series.

Across 4 days of Lewis-related events will be reflections and assessments of the cultural significance of Lewis’ rich legacy, the impact he had on Belfast, as well as the strong influence his native city had on his vast body of work.

Some of the highlights of the 2nd C.S. Lewis Festival include the Great Story Quest which takes the award-winning Replay Theatre into local primary schools, a CS Lewis Bus Tour, where local Lewis expert Sandy Smith takes intrepid travelers on a very personal journey into the heart of Lewis’ Belfast. Campbell College – the young Lewis’ alma mater, and the inspiration behind the famous Narnia lamp, will play host to the C.S. Lewis Nearly True Tours, hosted by Young at Art, as children big and small are invited into a magical realm of exploration and adventure amidst the enchanted grounds of the famous college. There will be screenings including The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe and the gripping documentary – The Man, The Myth and the Wardrobe, featuring an introduction from east Belfast director Moore Sinnerton.C.S. Lewis Fest 1

Actor David Payne brings his acclaimed one man show An Evening with C.S.Lewis to the festival for the first time. Early-birds can enjoy the Narnia Breakfast at the Park Avenue Hotel. There’s also an opportunity to enjoy an evening with two experts who will expand your knowledge of Lewis the man and his meaning for today during C.S. Lewis- The Bigger Picture. This year’s Lewis at Lunchtime in the Ulster Hall, will have a timely focus on C.S. Lewis and the Great War.

St Mark’s Church, Lewis’ much-loved original place of worship, will be hosting a suitably seasonal Winter Wonderland Craft Fair and the Holywood Arches library will offer up a range of storytelling and creative writing workshops and displays for kids big and small. Elsewhere there’s more creative workshops, screen printing and exhibitions throughout the east of the city!

Leave a comment if you plan to attend any of the events and maybe you’ll just see Polo about to get a photo with him!

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A new kind of Penguin Suit

It’s always good to hear from people who have been for a Test Drive. Recently, Polo has been getting a lot of ‘fin’ mail from folks who have been in and around the arts scene in Northern Ireland, telling him just how good a time they’ve had.

One event that keeps coming through is Bruiser Theatre Company’s production of Cabaret in the MAC. Polo and Annie went to see this musical and got a table with two of their friends. “There was an incredible atmosphere”, said one woman in her email. Polo and Annie certainly agreed, and thought that the new costumes for the MAC staff were very dapper. Annie especially enjoyed the experience of being brought her interval drinks to the table in the theatre- after all she does have some emperor penguin blood in her, lady of leisure and all.

Polo, in his usual enthusiastic style, tried to sing along with the songs he knew. The people a table over, thankfully, just found it endearing so they weren’t shushed… again…

Annie has Polo under tight wraps...

Annie has Polo under tight wraps…

Annie certainly agreed with one of the letters that said “I can’t believe they were a local company, it was all outstanding!” She particularly loved the band, though she was worried about them being cold in their… minimalist… uniforms. Polo thought that perhaps they were trying to start a new fashion style of the traditional penguin suit. Annie threatened divorce if he dared to near it.

All in all, a fantastic night out was had by all, and everyone was thrilled to see what a local company could do- definitely at least equal to anything Polo and Annie saw on the South End on their honeymoon (the musical theatre scene in the Antarctic, that is).

Bravo Bruiser, two fins up!

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