August 2013 press releases

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Queen’s University pays tribute to Seamus Heaney

Queen’s University Belfast has paid tribute to its former student, staff member and honorary graduate, Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney.

The University’s acting President and Vice-Chancellor, Professor James McElnay, said: “Queen’s University is deeply saddened by the news of Seamus Heaney’s death and extends sincere sympathy to his wife Marie, and their three children Christopher, Michael and Catherine Ann.

“Seamus was not only a former student, professor and honorary graduate of Queen’s, but also a true friend of the University. Generous with his scholarship and his time, his warmth, humour and brilliance will be sorely missed.

“He was selfless in his contribution to Queen’s. Whether giving his name to the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry, crafting our University’s Centenary Stanza or contributing copies of his early works, Seamus asked for nothing in return.

“His contribution to the world of literature has introduced millions of people around the globe to the enjoyment of poetry and enhanced it for many more.

“As a truly inspirational citizen of Northern Ireland, he was the vanguard for a new generation of Irish poets, and at Queen’s we will ensure that his work continues to inspire many for generations to come.

“At Queen’s we have been truly privileged to have known Seamus as a student, staff member and Nobel Laureate and will miss him greatly.”

Professor Ciaran Carson, Director of the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry at Queen’s University, added: “Seamus Heaney's death will leave a void in all our lives. But his words have become part of our lives, and he endures in them. There is no poet in Ireland who has not been influenced by his example, and is in his debt; but so is everyone who has been touched by his poetry, and they are innumerable.”

Media inquiries to Communications Office. Tel: 028 9097 3091

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Belfast poet laureate features in Queen’s new Open Learning programme

Belfast’s first poet laureate Dr Sinead Morrissey will help celebrate the richness of contemporary writing in Northern Ireland during this year’s Open Learning programme at Queen’s University.

The award-winning poet will be joined by several local writers, including Graham Reid and Carlo Gebler, in a ten-week programme The Blackbird Bookclub. Running in September and January, it is just one of hundreds of short courses on offer in Queen’s new Open Learning brochure.

From painting to public speaking, walking to wine appreciation, counselling to ceili dancing, and astronomy to assertiveness, Open Learning at Queen’s offers everyone the chance to try something new and enjoy learning in a relaxed, friendly atmosphere. The latest round of courses begins at the end of September and online registration is open now at

Dr Cathal McManus, Open Learning Programme Co-ordinator at Queen’s School of Education, said: “At Queen’s we believe that learning should be lifelong and life-changing. Participation in education should be challenging, rewarding and, above all, enjoyable – and that’s exactly what’s on offer in this year’s Open Learning programme.

“Every year, we welcome thousands of people from across Northern Ireland who sign-up to pursue an existing interest or hobby, or to try something completely different. The courses are open to everyone, regardless of age or ability, and take place at locations across Northern Ireland. But many fill up quickly, so I would encourage people to enrol early online at  or phone 028 9097 3323 / 3539 for more information.”

Highlights include a new course on Irish Storytelling, which is sure to get chins wagging by encouraging students to switch off the TV and tell a tale; and A Tale of Two Churches, which takes students on a tour of two of the oldest churches in Belfast – St Mary’s Catholic Church on Chapel Lane and First Presbyterian Church on Rosemary Street – in order to discover the spirit of ecumenism in eighteenth century Belfast.

Award-winning director Allessandro Negrini will explore the role of film in Italian politics from the rise of Mussolini to the modern day, in O Bella Ciao: Italian cinema from Mussolini to Berlusconi, while Lights, Camera, Austen! will examine how the writings of Jane Austen have been adapted for TV and film, from casting and costumes to screenplay and location.

China and the World explores China’s unique civilisation and rich culture, helping students understand its emergence as one of the world’s ‘big players, while those with an interest closer to home can explore The Placenames and Surnames of Ulster, and discover the roots and meaning of the names we utter every day.
Those looking for a more practical course can discover crochet, knitting, painting or learn how to play guitar, violin or tin whistle; while anyone on a quest for personal development can avail of courses in stress reduction, anger management or public speaking.

Further details on course availability are available online at  

Media inquiries to Anne-Marie Clarke at Queen’s University Communications Office on 028 9097 5320 email

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Teams jump in to volunteering

The call is out for volunteers to join the team and help create the opening event for this year’s Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen’s. The Wish project requires hundreds of volunteers to work alongside internationally acclaimed artist-in-residence Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada to transform five acres of land in the Titanic Quarter into the largest land art portrait in the UK and Ireland.

Donegal gaelic football star Karl Lacey and rugby stars of the future Joshua Skarmoutsos and Christian Orr from Bangor Rugby Club have jumped at the chance to volunteer and be part of what is set to be the most exciting and ambitious arts project ever undertaken in the city.

Work starts on the piece in September and to register to take part visit the WISH event page on or call 028 9097 1197. No artistic experience is required and everyone is welcome to give as much or as little time as they wish.

Further information from:Cathy Law 07876 358 842

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Queen’s researcher highlights lack of legally binding burial rights in UK
Rawlinson’s depiction of the Irish Giant
Rawlinson’s depiction of the Irish Giant

A Queen’s University researcher, campaigning for the burial of an 18th Century Irish Giant, has highlighted how no one in the UK currently has the power to stipulate legally binding burial instructions.

Thomas Muinzer, a PhD student in Queen’s School of Law, has been campaigning for the release of Charles Byrne’s skeleton from the Hunterian Museum in The Royal College of Surgeons, London.

Byrne was a celebrated 18th Century Irish Giant born in County Londonderry. Although historical accounts of his size vary, his skeleton suggests he was about seven feet seven inches tall. His height was due to a growth disorder called acromegalic gigantism, an unusual condition where a person produces too much growth hormone. The effects of this condition gradually worsened causing Byrne’s health to deteriorate - he died aged just 22.

Thomas Muinzer said: “Charles Byrne feared that the well known surgeon and anatomist of the time John Hunter wanted his body for dissection and probable display after he died. Byrne told friends that when he died his body should be weighted down in a coffin and buried at sea. His fears were realised, however, when Hunter arranged for Byrne’s cadaver to be snatched on its way to sea, and four years later Hunter put Byrne’s skeleton on display in his Hunterian Museum, presently located in the Royal College of Surgeons.

“The research I have carried out illustrates that as the legal system stands none of us have the power to stipulate legally binding burial instructions; we rely on our loved ones and society to carry out our burial wishes so that we are buried with respect and dignity. Byrne relied upon the people around him in this very same fashion.

“The continued display of his skeleton is unethical and unnecessary, and seems even more unjust given the recent news that Richard III’s remains, after 528 years in an unmarked grave, will finally receive a burial fit for a King. The gentle Irish Giant has provided scientists and the Hunterian Museum with all he can, and his skeleton is not required or relevant to the on-going DNA study in Tyrone and Derry. Accordingly, after more than 200 years of display it is now time for the Hunterian Museum to release his skeleton and finally give Charles Byrne a burial fit for a Giant.”

In December 2011, Thomas launched his campaign to free the Irish giant from the Hunterian Museum by co-writing an article with Len Doyal, Emeritus Professor of Medical Ethics at the University of London, entitled Should the skeleton of ‘the Irish giant’ be buried at sea? which was the feature article of the Christmas edition of the British Medical Journal (BMJ) in December of that year. The article acknowledged the role that Charles Byrne’s skeleton has played in medical research, but observed that there is no scientific benefit in continuing to display his remains. The authors noted that whilst Byrne's DNA has been taken and can be used in further research, it is now time to respect his burial wishes and attempt to morally rectify what happened to him.

Thomas Munzier is currently a PhD student in the School of Law at Queen’s University Belfast.

Media inquiries to Claire O’Callaghan, Communications Officer. Tel: 028 90 97 5391 or email

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Minister extends funding for STEM Masters Courses
Employment and Learning Minister Dr Stephen Farry (right) pictured with Professor Tony Gallagher (centre), and  Professor Richard Millar, UU.
Employment and Learning Minister Dr Stephen Farry (right) pictured with Professor Tony Gallagher (centre), and Professor Richard Millar, UU.

Employment and Learning Minister Dr Stephen Farry today announced additional funding for Masters Courses at Queen’s.

Queen’s will increase recruitment by some 30 students on economically relevant MSc courses, including Biological Sciences, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

The Minister said: “This investment in economically relevant Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) postgraduate courses will help improve the skills of our graduates to meet the needs of local employers and support economic growth.”

“I am committed to the continuing expansion of higher education to give Northern Ireland the skills profile required to compete globally. This commitment is reflected in my Department’s Skills Strategy, ‘Success Through Skills - Transforming Futures’. One of the strategic goals of the Strategy is to increase the proportion of those leaving from our Higher Education Institutions with graduate and post graduate level qualifications in STEM subjects.”

Welcoming the Minister's announcement, Professor Tony Gallagher, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Academic Planning, Staffing and External Relations at Queen's, said: “As part of Queen’s role as a key driver of growth, the additional places announced today will enable the University to continue to strengthen local industry through the provision of an increased pool of highly skilled graduates in STEM-related sectors.

“Higher Education plays a vital role in underpinning the economy in Northern Ireland and therefore today’s decision by the Minister is most welcome.”

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Queen’s offers advice for A-level results students

Queen’s University has issued advice to students receiving their A-level results this week.
Jennifer Dwyer, Head of Queen’s Admissions and Access Service, said: “It is important that A-level students and their families have as much information as possible at this time so they can make informed decisions.

“The University receives A-level and AS-level results directly from UCAS and candidates do not need to communicate their results to the University.  Students will be contacted if any results appear to be missing.  Those who did not take an examination listed on their application should let the University know as soon as possible.”

Decisions made by Queen's, the University of Ulster, and Stranmillis University College are posted on a website hosted by Queen's on the morning of Thursday 15 August and updated twice each day.

The address is This also carries the most comprehensive details and is the simplest way to find out about the status of an application and Clearing vacancies.  Details are also published on the UCAS website at

Applicants who achieve the exact grades or points specified in their conditional offer should have their place confirmed through UCAS following the publication of results.  These applicants do not need to telephone the university or college.  The only official notification is sent by UCAS.  If accepted, students should respond to the appropriate university as soon as possible following the instructions given in the AS12 letter they will receive from UCAS.

Students who do better than expected can, through the Adjustment process, hold their offer while they look for an alternative course. It may be difficult, however, to find a vacancy on a high demand course. Full details are available on the UCAS website

Students who average out or narrowly miss the grades required may still be accepted for their original choice.  This will depend on vacancies being available, and it may be a few days before this can be confirmed. Queen’s has provided all students holding offers with an Enquiry Form. This should be returned to the University as soon as possible if they want to be considered for an alternative course, in the event that they are unsuccessful for their original choice.   Assuming Queen’s can help, a changed course offer would be made. This is simpler than going through Clearing.

Any student unable to gain admission to either their firm or insurance choice, and who is not offered an acceptable alternative course, will be eligible to participate in the Clearing process. Details of Clearing vacancies appear in the national press, on and on university websites. Students must be pro-active, as Clearing vacancies usually disappear quickly.
Alternatively, some students may decide to repeat one or more subjects and reapply for 2013 entry. Any student considering this option should check with the institution concerned about receiving an offer as a repeat candidate, and remember the entry requirements may be different.

Jennifer Dwyer added: “It is crucial to make decisions sensibly at this time of year and not to accept alternative courses, or Adjustment or Clearing places without careful consideration. There are many people who can help.  Students unsure about which option to pursue should discuss their situation carefully with their parents, their school or college or the Careers Service of the Department for Employment and Learning.”

Advice Lines

Queen’s will operate advice lines following publication of results to ensure that students receive the guidance they need.

The telephone number to use is 028 9097 3838 (multiple lines) and on Thursday, 15 August, lines will open from 9.30am to 6.00pm.  Further information on opening times for subsequent days can be found online at

On Monday, 19 August, personal callers will be seen at the UCAS OPEN DAY in the Whitla Hall, Queen’s University between 2.00 pm and 5.00 pm. On the same day, a separate session for Medical/Dental applicants will be held in the Larmour Lecture Theatre (Physics Building) commencing at 2.30 pm sharp.

Further details and FAQs are also available at

Media inquiries to the Communications Office. Tel: 028 90 97 3091 or email

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Queen’s ranked among UK’s top 15 universities

Queen’s is one of the top 15 universities in the UK according to the National Student Survey (NSS) which released its results today.

Queen’s has achieved an overall satisfaction score of 90 per cent, just one percentage point behind the University of Oxford.

The National Student Survey is a high profile annual census of nearly half a million students across the UK. It produces influential Higher Education public information, giving final year students a powerful voice to help shape the future of their institution.

Today’s result is Queen’s best ever NSS overall satisfaction outcome, which sees it ranked 12th overall in the UK (excluding further education and specialist institutions).

Queen’s students gave the University a score of 90 per cent or above on several key areas of the student experience including teaching, where staff are ranked highly for their enthusiasm, their ability to explain things and their availability to speak to students when needed. The intellectual stimulation delivered by courses and students’ access to high-quality library and IT resources at the University also came in for praise.

Speaking about the results, Professor Ellen Douglas-Cowie, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education and Students at Queen’s, said: “Queen’s prides itself on offering an exceptional experience for our students who are the lifeblood of this University. Today’s NSS result is not only wonderful news for our students, but also for all our dedicated staff.  It is testament to the quality of education and opportunities on offer at Queen’s.

“Our NSS ranking has risen steadily over the last number of years, reflecting the fact that we are an institution which both listens to its students and is committed to investing in their future. It is particularly heartening to see that in addition to the high marks given to our overall student experience, including teaching and learning, many of our individual subjects have also scored particularly highly, with 24 subjects out of 41, from anthropology to aerospace engineering and music to medicine, achieving a rating of over 90 per cent or higher.”

“In a week when thousands of our young people will be deciding on what institution to choose following the outcome of their A-levels, these latest NSS results provide tremendous reassurance for those choosing Queen’s. In doing so, they are selecting to come to a truly world-class institution, which has at its heart, the needs of its students.”

Niall McShane, President of Queen’s Students’ Union, added: “We place great emphasis on ensuring that students at Queen’s are given every opportunity to make the most of their time here and that they are equipped with the relevant skills to give them a head start in the graduate employment market. These latest results from NSS verify that in coming to Queen’s, students are making a decision that will impact positively on the rest of their lives.”

The NSS results are Key Information Sets (KIS), which are published on the Unistats website, the Government’s official website for comparing data on Higher Education providers. It is used by students worldwide to access robust, reliable and comparable information on higher education in the UK in order to help them make informed decisions about what and where to study.

Media inquiries to Lisa McElroy, Senior Communications Officer. Tel: 028 90 97 5384 or email

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Spotlight on world-class local talent

Stories from the Shankill, dance in public spaces, international collaborations and 400 years of Belfast’s history – this year’s Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen’s will shine a light on the wealth of world-class local talent.  Sharing the billing with key international performers from Thursday 17 October – Sunday 27 October, home-grown artists will engage and entertain audiences in venues across the city. Launching the local element of this year’s Festival was Damian Smyth , Head of Literature and Drama for Arts Council of Northern  Ireland and Belfast theatre company Kabosh whose performance Belfast by Moonlight will run throughout festival in St George’s Church in Belfast.

Commenting on the importance of the Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen’s for our local arts scene, Damian stated, "Northern Ireland has produced some of the most outstanding and artistically accomplished local acts of world-class standard.  The Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen’s provides a platform for these theatrical talents to showcase their impressive work alongside that of renowned international performers.  Kabosh’s world premiere of Carlo Gébler’s new play, Belfast by Moonlight, with original music by Neil Martin, will enchant audiences, reinforcing the message of the world-class theatre we have in Northern Ireland.”

From Friday 18 October in the stunning surrounds of St George’s Church, Kabosh Theatre Company will chart the 400 year history of this ever changing city in the new play Belfast by Moonlight written by Carlo Gébler with original music by Northern Irish composer Neil Martin. This ritualistic drama commences in 1613 when the town charter is granted and gives a voice to the forgotten celebrating personal endurance and presenting a refrain for Béal Feirste.

Martin’s music features again within the spectacular theatrical and music event The Conquest of Happiness at T13 in the Titanic Quarter- an international collaboration between Belfast theatre company Prime Cut, East West Centre in Sarajevo and the Mladinsko Theatre in Slovenia. Inspired by British philosopher Bertrand Russell, directed by acclaimed Bosnian artist Haris Pasovic and performed by an international cast this piece takes us on a journey through some of the most dramatic events in the world’s recent history.

Another journey through history - only this time it is the Shankill Road that provides the focus and the venue as community actors work alongside professional actors to present Crimea Square at the Spectrum Centre. The amazing story of the Shankill Road from 1912 to the present day is populated by some of the Shankill’s greatest characters and covers major events from the signing of the Ulster Covenant up to and beyond the Shankill Road bombing. Using a unique combination of especially commissioned sound scape and film, the era of the cinema will be brought back to the Spectrum Centre (old Stadium Cinema) through the use of large screens recalling the Shankill of old.

From film to dance with Maiden Voyage at The MAC and the Ulster Museum - a newly commissioned premiere from Northern Irish dance company Dance Exposed which will take dance into public spaces to ask questions about the relationship between bodies and buildings as a way of understanding the link between individuals and the structures that shape their experience. Choreographer Fearghus Ó Conchúir will create a performance in and around The MAC and Ulster Museum that maps the relationships between dancer and audience, between the performance and the space it inhabits, and between the traces of what has been and of what is to come.

The scale and diversity of this annual Festival programme would not be possible without the continuing support of our various public and private sponsors, including the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Ulster Bank, Belfast City Council, Northern Ireland Tourist Board, the EU and the British Council. Plus, the many venues, performers and partner organisations whose commitment and passion bring the arts to life for all to enjoy.

The Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen’s runs from 17 - 27 October at venues all over the city. To find out more and book tickets visit  or call  box office on 02890 971197. ?BelFest

Further information from:Cathy Law: 07876 358 842

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Over 600 world-leading wildlife experts flock to Queen’s

Ireland’s native small mammals will die out in at least 80 per cent of their available habitat unless Governments north and south of the border act to address the problem of invasive alien species, according to a leading academic at Queen’s University Belfast.

The warning comes from Ian Montgomery, Professor of Animal Ecology in Queen’s School of Biological Sciences as 600 of the world’s leading wildlife experts flock to Belfast this week for the 11th International Mammalogical Congress (IMC11) which is being held at the University.  IMC is held every four years and brings together wildlife researchers and leading experts from all over the world.

Currently 25 per cent of all mammals worldwide are under  threat of extinction.  Ireland has few indigenous mammal species and these are under threat from alien invasive species such as Sika deer, brown hare, mink, grey squirrel, bank vole, greater white toothed shrew.  Alien mammals are also now appearing in Ireland much more frequently than in the past.
Speaking ahead of the conference, Professor Montgomery, who is also Chair of the Local Organising Committee, said: “We are delighted and honoured to welcome so many eminent scientists and leading experts to Queen’s. Research tells us that without conservation measures many more mammals would be at risk of extinction as the situation would be 20 per cent worse.

“It is critical that we really understand the basic biology of mammals as well as the environmental processes at work. Often it is a combination of factors, over-exploitation, habitat loss, climate change or disease that undermines conservation efforts.   IMC11 represents a great opportunity to exchange experiences and the latest in ground-breaking research across the world.”

Topics being discussed throughout the six day conference include reintroducing rare mammals like the wolf and beaver, and threats to people from big cats including tigers.
Researchers will also be revealing the latest findings into the role of mammals in diseases that affect people as well as livestock and the impact of land management on mammal populations.

The importance of events like IMC11 was highlighted by veteran broadcaster Sir David Attenborough last month when he received an honorary degree from Queen’s for exceptional services to science and broadcasting. Speaking at the time he said: “For 500 years universities have been the guardians of the truth, the discovery of the truth and the proclaiming of the truth and that’s never been more so than today.” The renowned naturalist praised students from Queen’s School of Biological Sciences and told them that they would be at the forefront of preserving and restoring the planet.

The conference at Queen’s is the first time the congress has been held in Europe since 1989 when it was held in Rome.  For further information visit

For media inquiries contact Claire O’Callaghan, Queen’s Communications Office, on 028 9097 3087 or

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Queen’s University academic elected to British Academy

A Queen’s University academic has been elected a Fellow of the British Academy for his outstanding research and work across the Humanities and Social Sciences.

Professor Hastings Donnan, Director of the Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation and Social Justice at Queen’s, is one of 42 new Fellows elected from across the UK.
From Bangor and now living in Armagh, Professor Donnan’s research focuses on the study of borders which have experienced conflict, violence and war; related issues of trauma, memory and displacement; border crossings, transitions and transgressions; Islam; Ireland and Pakistan.

Speaking about his election to the Academy, Professor Donnan said: “The study of conflict and related areas is of vital importance for global society.  As Director of the Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation and Social Justice at Queen’s, I am lucky enough to work with colleagues who are the leading experts on issues of conflict, transition and justice right across the world. It is an honour to be recognised for my own research by being appointed as a fellow of the British Academy, a body which champions excellence in the humanities and social sciences.”

Professor Lord Nicholas Stern, new President of the British Academy, said: “The humanities and social sciences celebrate the study of what it means to be human and how we relate to the world around us. They can also help us tackle many of the challenges faced in this country and the world as a whole. Our new Fellows, from across the UK and world, are world-class experts in the humanities and social sciences and can play a vital role in sustaining the Academy’s activities – helping select researchers and research projects for funding support, contributing to policy reports and speaking at the Academy’s public events.”

A full list of the new British Academy Fellows is available

Media inquiries to Claire O’Callaghan, Queen’s Communications Office. Tel: +44 (0)28 9097 5391 or email

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European film success for Queen's student
Amy Moore
Amy Moore

Queen’s film student Amy Moore has been selected to represent the UK at the Europa Cinema 27 Times Cinema event at this year’s Venice Film Festival next month.

Queen’s Film Theatre was one of 27 cinemas from across the European Union to have been chosen to send a young movie goer to spend ten days at the Festival. After making it through a tough selection process, Amy will  now be watching the Venice Days selection and sharing her opinions and ideas.

Speaking about her selection Amy said: “This is such an incredible opportunity.  I am a true cinephile and watch between eight and ten movies a week.  To have the chance to attend one of the best Film Festivals in the world and also to be part of a team of reviewers from all over Europe is extremely exciting.  This will be a great introduction for me to the real world of film as I think about my future career as a film-maker.”

Cathal McLaughlin, Professor of Film Studies at Queen’s University, said:  “We are immensely proud that Amy will be representing the University, QFT and Northern Ireland at this event.  It is a great achievement to be selected and we know that Amy will do us proud.  Queen’s University boasts the unique combination of a strong School of Creative Arts and Northern Ireland’s leading cultural cinema in QFT.  Working together with QFT we are able to offer these unique opportunities to our students and Amy has grasped this opportunity with both hands.”

Susan Picken, Head of QFT added: “To have the chance to attend such a prestigious Film Festival in this way, at the start of your career, is priceless.  The experience and the networking opportunities that this presents are not to be taken for granted and I know that Amy will make the most of every moment.”

Amy departs on Wednesday 28 August and will be keeping everyone updated on her progress via the Europa Cinemas Blog.

Further information from Marion Campbell, 07814 944020.

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Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen’s announces first shows for 2013

The 2013 Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen’s has announced the first of its shows for this year’s event with an international mix of tenors, tension and transformation.  Opening this year’s event on 17th October is an international double-bill with the unveiling of Ireland’s largest land-art portrait created by acclaimed Cuban-American artist Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada followed by a performance by world renowned tenor José Carrerras at The Waterfront Hall in the evening.  Roger Bernat’s theatrical experiment in political engagement Pending Vote makes its Irish premiere as does Rob Drummond’s ‘edge of your seat’ performance of the infamous magic trick Bullet Catch. Add to the mix world-class, home grown talent with a new major production of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot and an epic closing concert from the Ulster Orchestra and the stage is set for Festival 2013.

Ellvena Graham, Head of Ulster Bank Northern Ireland says: " The strength of the Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen’s is not only that it brings to Belfast new experiences but that it presents these in unusual venues making it more accessible as well as more exciting for all to enjoy. It connects audiences and artists in a unique and memorable way, while also providing a welcome boost for Belfast business."

An epic opening day will witness the unveiling of Ireland’s largest land-art portrait piece which will be created by The Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen’s first artist in residence, Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada, in collaboration with volunteers and community groups from all over Belfast.  Measuring a staggering five acres this piece will transform part of the Titanic Quarter and be open for all to view - free of charge. From a classical music perspective this year’s opening concert brings a touch of glamour to the programme with the legendary tenor, José Carreras making his Belfast Festival debut joined by Irish Soprano Celine Byrne and pianist Lorenzo Bavaj.

Throughout the eleven days from 17th - 27th October a strong theatre programme will be presented in partnership with the Lyric Theatre including; the Northern Irish premiere of Beckett’s theatrical masterpiece Waiting for Godot presented by the highly acclaimed Gare St Lazare Players Ireland, Rogers Bernat’s Irish premiere of political theatre Pending Vote - a show with no performers and where the audience become politicians for the night and vote to determine the direction of the performance and the Irish premiere of Bullet Catch - a tense ‘edge of your seat’ performance of a stunt that has claimed the lives of at least 12 people since its inception in 1613 and was deemed so dangerous that Houdini refused to attempt it.
Noirin McKinney, Director of Arts Development, at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland commented, “This year’s impressive festival programme brings the best and most sought-after arts from home and abroad.  The Irish premieres of ‘Bullet Catch’ and ‘Pending Vote’, are great examples of the festival bringing new and interesting theatre talent to Northern Ireland, offering a world-class experience for audiences, which is within the reach of everyone.”

From international stars to world-class homegrown talent as Sir James Galway joins the Ulster Orchestra with A Musical Journey from Rodrigo to Tchaikovsky. Taking festival into unusual venues the UK’s leading historical performance ensemble La Serenissima will perform Vivaldi’s Four Seasons at Clonard Monastry. Festival will draw to a close at The Ulster Hall with a performance by the Ulster Orchestra entitled The Swan Songs of Strauss – featuring The Four Last Songs for soprano and orchestra which were the final completed works of Richard Strauss, composed in 1948 when the composer was 84.

Festival Director, Richard Wakely enthuses. "“This year’s programme expands the possibilities of presenting great works of art from home and abroad throughout the city and bringing audiences something that they cannot see elsewhere. We aim to provide the people of and visitors to our city with new ways to experience, engage and participate in a unique menu of artistic works that seek to both enlighten and entertain”.

The 2013 Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen’s would not be possible without the continuing support of various public and private sponsors, including Ulster Bank, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Belfast City Council, Northern Ireland Tourist Board, the EU and the British Council. Plus the many venues, performers and partner organisations, whose commitment and passion bring the arts to life for all to enjoy.

The Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen’s will deliver an eclectic mix of world-class theatre, music, dance, film, literature and talks in venues all over Belfast from 17th - 27th October 2013. More shows will be announced over the coming weeks and to find out more and book tickets visit  or call box office on 00 44 2890 971197. ?BelFest

Further information from: Cathy Law +44 (0)7876358842

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Queen’s University’s Sinéad Morrissey named first ever Belfast Poet Laureate

A Queen’s University award-winning poet has been named as the first ever Belfast Poet Laureate.

Dr Sinéad Morrissey, Reader in Creative Writing at the Seamus Heaney Centre at the School of English at Queen’s, was appointed Belfast Poet Laureate by the Lord Mayor of Belfast as he revealed his Vision for Belfast today (31 July).

The Lord Mayor of Belfast Councillor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Moviehouse Cinemas and Arts and Business established the role of Belfast Poet Laureate to undertake a series of artistic duties and activities over the duration of the current Lord Mayor’s tenure of office.

In the role as Poet Laureate, Dr Morrissey will engage the people of Belfast in poetry, through a series of events, community outreach to art groups, language organisations and minority groups.  She has also been commissioned to produce a series of poems about Belfast and the year as the city’s Poet that explores the theme ‘My City / Mo Chathair Féin.

Speaking about her appointment Dr Morrissey said: “Belfast is a city with an extraordinary literary tradition, especially in relation to poetry. I am therefore hugely honoured to be appointed Belfast's first Poet Laureate, and am excited to celebrate and explore further both the city and poetry in the year ahead."

Roisín McDonough, Chief Executive, at the Arts Council commented, “The Arts Council is delighted that the Lord Mayor has chosen Sinéad Morrissey as Belfast’s first Poet Laureate.  Sinéad has been an outstanding voice in contemporary poetry for 15 years, winning multiple prestigious awards, including a Major Individual Artist award from the Arts Council and she is currently shortlisted for the 2013 Forward Prize for Poetry. In her role as Belfast Poet Laureate, Sinéad will bring poetry to all the people of Belfast, reflecting the creativity of women and their contribution to the historical and contemporary life and character of the city.”

Speaking about his Vision for Belfast, Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, said: “In all of my work, I pledge to remain relentlessly positive about Belfast, its people and its future.  Today I am revealing my vision of how I can use the office of Mayor to build a better Belfast. “

The role of Poet Laureate has a dual nature, public and private, some aspects of the role are primarily for the benefit of the community, while others are primarily to develop the poet’s artistic career.  In her outreach, Sinéad will focus on the ‘Hidden Belfast’, working with ethnic groups in the city, the young, the vulnerable; helping demonstrating how together, they join, in making one city, one Belfast.

For further information on Sinead Morrissey and the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry visit: 

Media inquiries to Claire O’Callaghan, Communications Office. Tel: +44 (0)28 9097 5391 or email

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Queen’s Professor appointed to new UK Food Economy Task Force

A Queen’s University Professor has been appointed to the new UK Food Economy Task Force which aims to boost the UK’s food economy through world class collaboration.

Professor Chris Elliott, Director of the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen’s University, joins fifteen leaders from business, universities and government in the Task Force launched by the National Centre for Universities and Business (NCUB.).  The task force will be chaired by Justin King, Chief Executive, Sainsbury’s  and has been set up to ensure that business and university activities are aligned to get maximum economic impact for the UK globally and to keep the country at the forefront of food security.

This is the latest high profile appointment for Professor Elliott who, last month, was chosen by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Department of Health to lead an independent review of Britain’s food system in light of the recent horsemeat fraud.

Speaking about his most recent appointment, Professor Elliott said: “Food production is a truly global and highly competitive business. The UK must produce the highest quality graduates that will understand the complexities and opportunities of operating in the global marketplace. The establishment of the Task Force is an important step in the further development of vital industry-academia partnerships.”

Dr David Docherty, CEO of the NCUB, said, “Industry and higher education must unite effectively to tackle the challenges of a world-leading food sector, and the Task Force will make a major contribution to this effective collaboration.”

Professor Chris Elliott is Professor of Food Safety and Director of the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen’s University Belfast. The recently opened £33m Institute is improving global food security through the establishment of an international ‘food-fortress’ in Belfast.  It will be a key partner in national and global efforts to provide the world’s growing population with a sustainable, safe and secure supply of high quality food.  

Professor Elliott has published over 240 peer review articles, many of them relating to the detection and control of agriculture, food and environmental-related complaints. His main research interest is the development of innovative techniques to provide early warning of threats across the entire fresh water and agri-food supply chains. Protecting the integrity of the food supply chain is also a key research driver.

Queen’s in partnership with safefood, the all-island body to promote awareness and knowledge of food safety and nutrition issues in Ireland, is set to showcase the latest international developments in food safety and traceability at a major conference next year. The second Food Integrity and Traceability Conference will take place at Queen’s from 8-10 April 2014. Featuring experts from Queen’s Institute for Global Food Security and from around the world, the event will showcase progress in delivering safe and authentic food to consumers and explore current and emerging threats to the integrity of the agri-food chain.

For media inquiries contact Claire O’Callaghan, Queen’s Communications Office, on 028 9097 3087 or

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Queen’s University develops key technology for Europe's next generation weather satellites

Queen's University Belfast has been appointed part of a UK group who will build one of the key instruments on Europe's next-generation of weather satellites.

The research, by Queen’s University’s Institute of Electronics, Communications and Information Technology (ECIT), on Frequency Selective Surface (FSS) structures has led to major advances in the design and manufacture of the next generation of Earth observation satellites.   The new technology makes it possible to combine different functions into one instrument reducing costs by £30million.

The UK’s Minister for Universities and Science, David Willetts, announced last week at the UK Space Conference in Glasgow that the UK has secured the key MetOp Weather satellite contract.

The European Space Agency (ESA) has appointed satellite services provider Astrium UK to make a follow-on technology to the Microwave Humidity Sounder (MHS), which feeds data into multi-day forecasts. Depending on how many units are purchased, the contract could be worth up to £150m (170m euros). The new instrument, to be known as the MicroWave Sounder (MWS), will have significantly improved performance.

MWS production will be led from Astrium's Portsmouth facility, but key contributions will also come from Queen's University Belfast, SEA Ltd, JCR Systems Ltd, and the Rutherford Appleton Lab in Oxfordshire.

Queen’s University’s Institute of Electronics, Communications and Information Technology (ECIT) is developing the Quasi Optical filter technology which will be used in the microwave receiver of the instrument to separate the thermal emissions collected by the antenna from Earth. The team from ECIT working on the technology is led by Dr Raymond Dickie, Dr Robert Cahill and Professor Vince Fusco.

The new MWS instrument will measure temperature and water content at different altitudes. It is fundamental information needed by the computer models that look at what the weather is likely to be several days ahead.

Dr Robert Cahill from ECIT at Queen’s said: “I am very pleased that Queen’s has been selected by ESA to develop and breadboard the microwave FSS devices which are the critical components that form the core of the radiometer instrumentation. This is a result of a decade long partnership between Queen's and ESA, the UK Space Agency, Astrium and RAL Space to exploit the patented PhD research work of Raymond Dickie who is a key member of the project team.”

A statement from Astrium said: “Queen’s University has made a significant and recognised contribution to the growth of the UK space industry by developing their new technologies.  Queen’s research contributed directly to the UK space industry securing a multi-million pound contract for advanced instrument development.”

For media inquiries contact Queen’s Communications Office on 028 9097 3091 or

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