Local Entrepreneur is Bangor's Kirsty Allsopp

Rachel Gadd and Mayor Muir with restored furniture
An entrepreneurial young woman from Bangor has turned her talents and passion for furniture restoration and refurbishment into a business. With help from The Prince’s Trust Enterprise Programme, Rachel Gadd has just launched her exciting new venture, Dolled-Up Décor.

Having spent the last 15 years working on various items for friends and family, Rachel decided the time was right for her to capitalise on the growing popularity of “shabby chic” and finding new uses for old furniture.

“ Often clients have a sentimental attachment to a piece of furniture, but it has fallen out of use through wear and tear or changes in décor,” she explains. “ I love working with my customers to create bespoke designs for their much loved furniture.

“On other occasions if clients have something special in mind, I help source furniture and revamp it to their specifications to create a bespoke design that fits perfectly with their décor, without breaking the bank!”

The Enterprise Programme helps young people to explore and test their business ideas, work out whether self employment is right for them and start up in business, or achieve alternative goals in employment, education or training.

Rachel  heard that the Prince’s Trust offered support to young people who wanted to start a business so she decided to give them a call.  In November 2013 Rachel completed the Prince’s Trust Explore Enterprise Course which was held in the Prince’s Trust offices in Belfast.

The four day course covered everything from marketing and selling, to business finance and planning which helped Rachel decide if self-employment was for her. 

Rachel was successful in obtaining start up finance from the Prince’s Trust to enable her to start her business and would encourage any young person who has an idea that they would like to become self employed to just pick up the phone and speak to the Prince’s Trust.

“Through the Prince's Trust I have learnt how to set up and run a successful business. The funding and mentoring support gained from the Trust allowed me to realise my dream of running my own business and has helped me exceed my own expectations of what I could achieve”.

I joined Rachel at the launch as Mayor of North Down, keen to show my support for the courageous local businesswoman. “I am delighted to see Rachel’s launch Dolled- Up Décor and warmly congratulate her on having the courage and amazing expertise to establish such an innovative business which I am sure will go from strength to strength.”

Mayor hosts St Patrick's Day Musical Celebration at historic Town Hall

I opened up the Town Hall on St Patrick’s Day and hosted a Musical Celebration in aid of the Mayor’s Charities. Ards Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann provided the entertainment with over eighty people in attendance.

I am truly grateful to Ards Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann for coming along and performing in the Music Room which now acts as the Council Chamber at The Castle, Town Hall, Bangor on St Patrick’s Day. The music, songs and Irish Dancing was absolutely amazing and a fantastic way to celebrate St Patrick’s Day in Bangor, a town rich which enjoys such rich Christian Heritage.

As Mayor of North Down I seek to build an open, inclusive and outward looking Borough that embraces the rich culture and heritage we all share. Hosting the St Patrick's Day Musical Celebration at the Town Hall is an important step forward and will hopefully become an annual event as we move forward to build a shared future together.

Mayor Muir praises St Paul's GAC U16s

Mayor Muir presenting Borough Plaque
and Football to Captain Sean Tucker
I welcomed St Paul’s Gaelic Athletic Club’s Under 16 Football Team to the Town Hall on Thursday 20 March 2014 to congratulate them on winning Down Division Two Title late last year. With new club kit now delivered the team came along professionally attired and enjoyed a tour of the historic building.

I was delighted to learn about St Paul’s GAC U16 Team fantastic achievement late last year and immediately offered them a Mayoral reception at the Town Hall to recognise the effort made to grasp this important title. I greatly enjoyed the opportunity to meet players and officers within the team from diverse backgrounds united together as a result of a common sporting interest and wish them best of luck in the season ahead.

As one of North Down’s valued sporting clubs I was honoured to be able to present Captain Sean Tucker with a Borough Plaque plus a signed O Neill’s Football and be able to give them a tour of the historic building. As part of my ongoing commitment as Mayor to support both sport and good community relations I have agreed to join the club at a relevant Away Fixture before the end of my term and look forward to supporting their ongoing sporting success in the weeks ahead.

Mayor praises Sullivan effort at Ulster Schools Cup Rugby Final

I am very proud of what Sullivan Upper achieved. Whilst they didn't win the Ulster Schools Cup they played an amazing game and I am sure they'll be back to seek the cup again next year. Ability to reach the cup final and play strong during a tough game is very admirable. Today's Mayoral reception was to recognise this amazing ability and encourage the team towards future success.

Bangor Camera Club visits Bangor Town Hall

I welcomed Bangor Camera Club to the Town Hall late last month to recognise the valuable contribution made by the club since it was established in 1951.

I have previously attended Camera Club events to find out more about the club and launched their exhibition at Bangor Aurora as part of the World Police and Fire Games during August 2013.

I was delighted to welcome officers and members from Bangor Camera Club to the Town Hall last week and to able to give them a tour of the historic building. Whether it's through their talks, exhibitions or professional services and advice the club is helped photograph Bangor life and showcase photographic talent to many.

I was particularly grateful for the kind gift presented after I gave the club a Borough Plaque to display in their club house. The photo presented is a photo taken by a club member Trevor Craig in a remote part of the USA. After taking the photo Trevor nearly died of heat exhaustion and disorientation when making his way back to his car after capturing such an amazing image.

I look forward to promoting the work of Bangor Camera Club as Mayor of North Down and hope to get along to another talk before my term ends.

Historic St Columbanus European Cultural Route agreement

Mayor Muir along with other Mayors from Towns
to form part of St Columbanus European Cultural Route
 at signing of agreement in Bobbio, Italy
I was delighted to take part in the recent historic ceremony on Saturday 8 March 2014 to agree the St Columbanus European Cultural Route alongside our European friends in Bobbio, Italy, the resting place of Columbanus.  

After leaving Bangor he was to play a pivotal role in the spread of Christianity in mainland Europe and it is fitting that he, the first person to use the term "European", will have this Cultural Route potentially covering up to seven nations, created on the back of his legacy.

The creation of this route will surely be a fitting testimony on a European scale to the man and his work.

Alliance Party Chair re-election

At Parliament Buildings with
Alliance Leader David Ford MLA
I am delighted to have been re-elected Chair of the Alliance Party at our recent Party AGM alongside Antrim Councillor Neil Kelly, who has become Vice Chair of the Party for the first time.

I am extremely proud to have been unanimously re-elected as Alliance Party Chair and look forward to continuing a range of work underway to grow the Alliance Party and lead change to create a shared society for everyone.

Over the last year the Alliance Party has went from strength to strength facing up to the most difficult issues that continue to divide Northern Ireland, whilst setting out a positive inclusive vision for us as an open, welcoming region within Europe.

Councillor Neil Kelly has said he is 'extremely proud' to take on the role of Vice Chair.

He added: "I joined Alliance in 2010 as I believed the Party offered the best long-term solutions to the problems that divide us. Recent events have shown Alliance can make the tough decisions needed to create a new Northern Ireland, based on mutual respect and understanding.

"My appointment as Vice Chair will enable me to take a greater role in building on the work I have already completed with Party Officers and members as we head into a new era of local government in Northern Ireland.

"The Alliance Party will continue to step forward to provide positive leadership with the aim of building an inclusive shared society - a place where no-one is victimised for their beliefs or background, shared spaces and housing are valued places within communities and divisive politics is left firmly in the past."

Mayor works at Council Recycling Centre

I rolled up my sleeves as Mayor on 19 February and spent a morning working at the Council’s Recycling Centre at Balloo.  I was able to witness and support the efforts of both Council staff and the public to recycle and reuse as much of their unwanted items as possible on the site during my visit.

I personally experienced some of the physical challenges faced everyday by the on-site team as they seek to help members of the public to recycle in the right way.  

I was very impressed at the efforts of the all the staff and the significant contribution they make to the Borough, often in the most inclement conditions.

I found my morning working at the Recycling Centre extremely useful.  It has helped me to understand all the efforts being made by the staff to maximise recycling rates and to ensure high customer satisfaction. Visiting the Recycling Centre as a user will never be the same again after my insight into the operations that keep the centre operating so well, seven days a week, from dawn to dusk

North Down Borough Council employs nine people at its Balloo Recycling Centre and in the year 2012/2013 there were nearly 15,000 tonnes of household waste processed through this site alone.  From this, 10,630 tonnes of recyclable material were collected and 145 tonnes of items reused through the reuse container.  This equates to a recycling and reuse rate of 73%.

There are over 21 waste streams that can be recycled on site. As well as facilities for reuse of furniture, mattresses, bikes and paint.

Alison Curtis, Waste Services Manager at North Down Borough Council facilitated the Mayor’s visit.  She said: “We are delighted that the Mayor has taken time out of his busy schedule to meet with the staff and assist them on a typical day at work.  He has been able to see for himself the challenges they face on a day to day basis. It is not an easy job but the staff are a credit to the Council.  They work well as a team and there is a great relationship between staff and the majority of the public who use this facility and appreciative the services provided.

The staff take great pride in their work and the contribution they make to the Council’s Recycling Rates. The Mayor’s visit to Balloo Recycling Centre will hopefully encourage more members of the public to come and have a look for themselves.

Construction of Bangor’s new Performing Arts and Innovation Centre welcomed

At launch of Centre with Minister Stephen Farry MLA
plus Ken Webb, SERC College Principal
I have welcomed the official start of construction on Bangor’s new £12 million Performing Arts and Technology Innovation Centre (PATIC) along with Councillor Michael Bower.

Alliance Employment and Learning Minister Stephen Farry MLA got the project underway on Tuesday 4 March 2014, cutting the first sod at the site which will provide impressive new accommodation for the schools of Manufacturing and Electrical Engineering, computer and software engineering.

The space will also house a 350 seat theatre - including first class rehearsal, recording and performance facilities - as part of a performing and creative arts centre.

It is fantastic to see this innovative project get underway. Once completed it will bring valuable new educational opportunities to Bangor and Northern Ireland

In officially kick-starting this project, my Party colleague Dr Stephen Farry has again proven Alliance is prepared to step forward to promote the arts. This new facility will help Northern Ireland retain and attract new talents.

Councillor Michael Bower added: "North Down is gaining a vital new facility to improve our skill-base in high growth areas of the Northern Ireland economy which will offer the employment opportunities of the future. The inclusion of a new theatre as part of this project also has the potential to be a facility to be enjoyed by the entire community."

Alliance welcomes £200,000 Coastal Path upgrade

I have welcomed plans to upgrade one of the final sections of the North Down Coastal Path along with local Alliance representative Kate Nicholl. The upgrade will make a significant difference to many people who travel along the path which stretches from Belfast to Holywood, Cultra, Bangor and Groomsport.   

It was recently revealed that the current steep steps at the Seahill exit to the path are set to be replaced with a new water permeable bridge – opening the path up fully to disabled users, those with prams and cyclists.

© Copyright Albert Bridge and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
Current Seahill steps along North Down Coastal Path
© Copyright Albert Bridge and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
The coastal path is one of North Down’s greatest assets, with its natural beauty attracting many on a daily basis.  I welcome plans to upgrade the path further, especially this major change at Seahill which will open the path up to many more users at a cost in the region of £200,000.

The Alliance Party is dedicated to protecting and enhancing green space across North Down and the coastal path provides a vital place for leisure in the borough.  This much needed investment will also bring us closer to day when people will be able to travel freely from Groomsport to Belfast via a Coastal Greenway on a par with the successful Comber Greenway

Kate Nicholl added: “This investment is great news for all those frustrated by the disruption to the path at Seahill.  The relevant authorities, including North Down Borough Council, have spent time researching this project and the creation of a water permeable bridge is the best way to protect the existing marine life in the vicinity. I look forward to the work being completed and seeing the path being enjoyed by many more users."

Read more about North Down Coastal Path story at http://nigreenways.wordpress.com/tag/seahill-steps/