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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Dreams of a penguin

Culture nightAlongside the Belfast Cathedral church of St. Anne’s, there was the Campervan of Dreams. People were invited from the street into this van to talk about your dreams and aspirations, which were broadcast to the street via a loudspeaker and then written onto a piece of ribbon to be tied onto a dreamscape with hundreds of other dreams and wishes. Polo of course, being a penguin of aspiration, was straight in there spouting dreams and wishes so fast that the poor lady writing on the ribbons couldn’t keep up. His most important wish came through though- that more people would engage with the arts!

This dream also came true. Culture night was a fantastic night for the city of Belfast, with thousands of people out in force to experience the sights, sounds, smells and experiences of the arts organisations of Northern Ireland. Children were drawing on the road, people were racing, bikers were biking and, most importantly, everyone was having a fantastic time.

Another great Culture Night. It seems like it’ll be hard to top 2014, but then we said that last year too!

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Get some Culture!

10310666_758597294196421_2115308567263194340_nHave you got your tickets for Culture night yet? NO?!

Can you get them on Test Drive? …Um, no….

Which would be awkward… If you needed any!

Culture Night is upon us. Tomorrow evening, the streets of Belfast will be transformed into the magical annual gathering of thousands that is often hailed as one of the greatest nights of the year!

For those of you who don’t know, Culture Night is a family friendly event with a range of activities that people of all ages can enjoy. Most events will happen between 4pm and 10pm and will be absolutely free to anyone who pops in. (All events for children, however, will promptly finish at 9pm…)

Get on to culturenightbelfast.com for more information about the programme, which includes singers, dancers, bikers, sculptors, skaters, flashmobs, jazz, opera, brass, t-shirt making, circus performers, comedians, and- of course- lots and lots of food…

Polo will be there. Get a photo with him and tell him what you are up to! But most of all, get out and GET SOME CULTURE!

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Take the test car round Enniskillen?

Polo wants to pick you up! Test Drive the Arts NI are looking for new recruits to sign up for free tickets to arts events and performances in Fermanagh.

Local venue the Ardhowen Theatre already takes part in Test Drive the Arts NI by allocating unsold tickets to get people reengaged with their local arts scene.  The Audiences NI iniative has already allocated over 20,000 free tickets to theatre, dance, comedy and music events throughout Northern Ireland.

Manager of the Ardhowen, Jackie Owens, said: “We are delighted to work with Audience Northern Ireland’s Test Drive the Arts project as it has proven to be an effective way of introducing theatre to people who would never usually attend.

Test Drive is the perfect opportunity to either try something new or rediscover something you used to really enjoy – like a night at the theatre. It’s the perfect way to make a night out that little bit more affordable.”

Test Drive the Arts NI introduces people to the arts for the first time, or gets people re-engaging with their local venue by offering guest tickEnniskillenets from spare or unsold capacity. An empty seat becomes worthless as soon as a show begins, but Test Drive allows it to become a valuable tool in increasing and developing audiences and ticket revenue in the future.

Polo’s boss Margaret, Chief Executive of Audiences NI, said “Test Drive the Arts NI is a unique project to give people who have never attended arts events the chance to have a go and try something new – for free.  With over 100 organisations participating across NI, there really is something for everyone.”

To find out more information on how you can Test Drive the Arts in Fermanagh and apply for free tickets to upcoming shows, visit our website www.testdrivetheartsni.org, follow us on Twitter @TestDriveArtsNI or find us on Facebook.

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Need to relax?

Getting the kids back to school and getting back into the routine of September can be a difficult task… particularly when the weather decides to replay the best moments of summer. So here are some relaxing pieces of music to get through the week, or the drive the school, or whatever else it is causing you tension!

Number one, a song you’ll probably know- courtesy of the Electric Light Orchestra, it’s Mr. Blue Sky. This great little tune will always succeed in making you smile on the even the most overcast day!

Number two, maybe a little less known- it’s Pachelbel’s Canon in D. A favourite for wedding ceremonies, this piece even comes with a video of relaxing images to sooth your eyes. Don’t watch whilst driving.

Number three, let’s go for something that you won’t know. The great new hit from Damien Rice, My Favourite Faded Fantasy will have you seeking out the nearest place to sit down and just have a good old think about life. Cafe Nero recommended.

Finally,to round off the message, let’s have Relax, by Mika. Says it all.

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Dancing on thin ice…

A while ago we looked at the advantages of singing. Polo is adamant, however, that he hasn’t “a note in his head”. While Annie doesn’t believe this, she isn’t going to force him to sing. However, that doesn’t mean he can’t let his creative juices flow; Annie has signed the two of them up for a dance class in the Crescent Arts Centre! You can imagine how thrilled Polo was, but he has no excuse now, the classes are paid for!

Dancing, it turns out, is just as good for you as singing is. Polo did a little bit of research and found the following:

  • Dancing helps keep the body and brain active, improving strength and flexibility and forcing you to think and concentrate about how you walk and move
  • Going to a dance class and taking up a new hobby can help you meet new people and develop new friendships
  • Dancing is a fun form of exercise, and can help you to shift those extra pounds of penguin blubber!
  • Taking time out to do something you enjoy will relieve stress and lighten your mood, especially a physical activity like dancing, which releases endorphins. Even in penguins.

So he’s going to give it a go with an open mind. Will you be joining him? We all remember that great movie from 14 years ago, Billy Elliot, about the young boy who discovered a passion for ballet whilst skiving from boxing lessons. He later went on to be a principle dancer for the Royal Ballet. Where could you end up?!

Get the dust brushed off of those dancing shoes and take yourself along to a class!

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Feeling Crafty?


August Craft Month is an annual celebration of contemporary craft in Northern Ireland. Creativity can be expressed in many different ways, but one of the core ways to express creativity is to actually create things! Craft NI host this incredible Craft month to allow you to engage with this, either by making things yourself, honing your budding craft skills or by seeing what other people are doing and making!

In 2014, hundreds of people have been able to explore over 100 craft events including talks, exhibitions, workshops and demonstrations at over 40 locations throughout Northern Ireland. CrafAugustCraftMonth_230-230x230t month is always a fantastic way to experience Northern Ireland through the best of contemporary craft by seeing, making or buying it! The month long event is delivered by a partnership of craft-related organisations across Northern Ireland and is supported by Arts Council NI and Invest NI. There are still a few days left of the month, so get onto their website to see if there is anything that you can make, and get along! If not, there’s always next year. But don’t for a second think that the craft sector only operates in August- I’m sure Craft NI would love to hear from you if you wanted more information on practitioners, events and more!

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