GNI MAG ISSUE 54 - OLLY MURS

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An introduction from our editor... ITS CHRISTMASSSSS! Well almost. Where has this year gone? Summer flew past me, Halloween was barely a thing and now we are weeks out from Xmas and New Years. It’s mental though I’m ready for it, it truly is the most wonderful time of the year and I cannot wait to eat, drink and be merry with my family. Also not to make anyone envious though I am also heading back to South Africa on 28th December, I will be there for the month of January enjoying doing nothing, I have family over there, this will be my 5th visit, I’m so excited to turn off the emails, soak up the African sun and recharge my batteries. Current affairs are something that I am super concerned about, I always flag up what people are dealing with though on the mouth of Christmas I want to be positive and not remind people of the challenging times we are going through. Ok so what’s contained within the pages of Issue 54, will first off you will have seen Olly Murs on the Cover, there a 5 page interview inside, we talked about so much, New Album, Tour, Marriage. He revealed he is a Briefs guy who likes Pina Coladas, Winter, Takeaways and why he is Snogging Meghan Trainor (it’ll make sense when you read the interview lol). I interviewed 2 prior strictly pros Alijaz & Janette, they were so lovely, we chatted for a good 30 mins about their tour which comes to The Waterfront and so much more.

stayed at the Shepherds huts at Galgorm and got a week’s worth of healthy Keto food & snacks from local meal prep company Nutri Lean. We cover so many other things, we have a whopping 24 pages devoted to Weddings, a piece shining a light on companies who offer environmentally friendly alternatives to everyday products. Our Real Life section includes stories from a local Spiritual Medium, a CEO who spent 75k on cosmetic surgery, Harvey & Jeremy talk about love, adoption and their business and we also have a piece on fostering. This issue is really jam packed so much so we had to add 16 pages just to fit it all in. No issue would be complete without the input of our resident columnists, who share what has been going on with them. Final thing I want to mention is the return of the GNI Awards, we are back on 15th April 2023, to be affiliated visit gnimag.com/awards. More info will be announced in the coming weeks on how to nominate/ vote, in the meantime get that date in your diaries. I hope you enjoy reading, see you all next year, have a wonderful Christmas and Happy New Year xx Daniel May Editor and Director

We also feature Country Queen Shania Twain, The Aces, Tom Goss and others. I reviewed Firestone, it is a Teppanyaki restaurant,

great life • great work • great people

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Contents OLLY MURS CONNOR MILLS ALIJAZ & JANETTE MICKY MURRAY SETH PETTERSON CARL CONNIELINGUS TOM GOSS THE ACES TAILOR MAID ADAM IN FRAGMENTS SHANIA TWAIN ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY ACTION FOR CHILDREN CHAD - I SPENT 75K ON SURGERY XAND - HOOKUP THE TATTOO INDUSTRY IS CHANGING RAINBOW - HOUSING SUPPORT ANOTHER WORLDS 5th BIRTHDAY MARTIN MURRAY - SPORT CLINTONS FOSTERING STORY HARRY + JEREMY LIFE, LOVE & ADOPTION THOMAS WYATT - SPIRITUAL MEDIUM XMAS BUDGETING TIPS GIVE THE GIFT OF FRIENDSHIP CHRISTMAS MOVIES TO WATCH WINTER WEDDINGS FASHION FROM DEMETRIOS ANDREW AND LEE’S BIG DAY FIVE TOP WEDDING TIPS BRIDEZILLA CONSIDER THIS SHARLEEN AND DEBORAH’S BIG DAY GOURMET BOYS - 5 RECOMMENDATIONS FIRESTONE REVIEW STAYCATION - SHEPHERDS HUTS @ GALGORM LOCKER GEAR AVAILABLE @ JUPITOR & LO NUTRI LEAN REVIEW GAVYN ANDREWS - BRUSSELS

Credits Daniel May Operations Director daniel@gnimag.com Pauline Fitzpatrick Sales Executive Tony Day Design Thanks to... Olly Murs / Alijaz & Janette / Seth Petterson / Tom Goss / The Aces / Omar Salas Zamora / Shania Twain / Chad Teixeira / Thomas Wyatt / Connor Mills / Micky Murray / Carl Connielingus / Tailor Maid / Martin Murray / Gourmet Boys / Gavyn Andrews / Jeff Dorta / Brian Hugg / Gary Campion / Xand / Catherine & Sazzle from SKinworks / Harry + Jeremy / Action For Children / Rainbow Project / Another World / FCA N.I / Volunteer Now / Demetrios / Firestone / Jupiter & Lo / Locker Gear / Galgorm Estate / Nutri Lean / MBC PR / Halestorm PR / Jeff Dorta / Project Publicity Chuff Media / Daw Bell PR / The Eternal Idol and LK Communications GNI MAG is published by: Romeo & Julian Publications Ltd. 13 Union Street Belfast, BT1 2JF www.gnimag.com facebook.com/gnimag twitter.com/gnimag instagram @gnimag

All submissions to GNI MAG are made on the basis of permission to publish the submission in GNI MAG and it’s licensed editions worldwide. In the case of picture selection, the editors decision is final. Any materials sent is at the owners risk and although every care is taken neither Romeo & Julian Publications Ltd or it’s agents shall be liable for loss or damage. We take great care to make sure all elements of GNI MAG are accurate. However we accept no liability for misprints that appear in this magazine. You should seek professional advice prior to following any advice offered in this publication. Any opinions expressed are those of the writers and not those of GNI MAG or Romeo & Julian Publications Ltd. Romeo & Julian Publications Ltd 2022


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GIVE THE GIFT OF CHOICE G I F T C A R D S AVA I L A B L E


INTERVIEW OLLY MURS

Olly MURS

It is always so much fun getting to chat with Olly, we discuss his new Album “Marry Me”, we find out about his Tour, his insane transformation, his Wedding plans, The Voice and loads more. He even took time to play a couple of games and answer fan questions.

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INTERVIEW OLLY MURS

Congrats on the engagement - for anyone that doesn’t know, you proposed to Amelia a few months ago. Tell us how you did it and were you planning it for a while? Thank you! I was thinking it was time for me to propose and I managed to do it and she said ‘Yes’! It was amazing - I wasn’t really nervous about it as I knew it was the right thing to do. It felt right... Speaking of “marrying you” (see what we did there lol!) Have you started making plans or set a date yet? We are hoping to get married next summer but obviously depending on schedules and everything else and finding venues it really all depends. I always knew if I got engaged we would get married quite quickly. Is it going to be a big showbiz wedding or a low key intimate affair? Definitely intimate... With family and obviously there will be friends invited but it will be a lot quieter than people might think. You had what sounded like quite serious knee surgery earlier this year, what exactly happened and are you fully recovered now? Yes, I feel like I am fully recovered now. It has been a difficult few years with my legs and I have managed to get to the end of it now. I feel positive, I feel like I have done all of the rehab and all of the training that I needed, so yes, it feels good. In recent pics you are looking incredibly ripped. What made you decide to hit the gym so hard? Tell us what you did to get the new and improved physique. I just wanted to train and get fitter and stronger. I wanted to look after myself and have a healthy body and that is the reason I started training. I spent too many times this year eating rubbish so it is nice to put something good into my body for a change. We have to talk about the Voice - we love you as a judge, this is now your 5th season ? Are you planning to stay a while? I think I will continue to do it and I love doing it. I don’t know, I will just see what happens and play it by ear. I never thought that I would get to 6 seasons on The Voice - it is amazing really! So let’s see.. I watch religiously, when was the current season GNI MAG [10]

recorded? Are there more changes to come ? and how do you feel about this year compared to previous years? Obviously at the start of the season we made a few changes and wanted to mix the show up a bit and give something new to the fans. If anything I am more intrigued to see what the fans think. A lot of people have asked me why the battles and the knock-outs are different, however the show has to change and develop, it has to move with the times. The semi finals and the finals are exactly the same as before, the blinds are exactly the same, but we decided to make changes in relation to the call backs - who knows - I will wait and see how we do the next series, however I think overall what we did at the weekends is all good and I enjoyed it. What we are seeing now seems like a while ago. Is what we are seeing still socially distanced? Yes, we filmed it at the start of the year in February, you know it was kind of back to normal but there were a few things put in place as we had to be just a little bit cautious at times. But it was good fun. What do you think the reason is winners from the voice don’t seem to do as well as those from other talent shows? I think the reason is because times have changed. The XFactor is a different show to The Voice - we don’t tell the contestants that their lives will be changed. When I was doing The XFactor in 2009 it was the most watched show in the country, however there has been success from The Voice. It really has been hugely successful and it really depends on the acts and it is on a different scale, depending on how you look at it. The guys on The Voice have gone on to have really successful careers and are taking their careers more seriously after doing the show. The show gives our contestants more belief and courage so it’s different times really. It is 4 years from your last Album HALUJA LOL what took so long lol? I just took some time away and reignited my love for music and what I was going to do next... that was kind of it really. I managed to do that and now I am back with new tunes and I am buzzing! Some Artists have scrapped songs and entire albums for various reasons such as subject matter - does this apply to you?

“So I think men really do struggle at times to speak about their feelings and I have always tried to help my friends or try to get them to speak out more about their feelings, because I sometimes keep it in. I just think it is important to get your feelings out - whether it is to friends or to a complete stranger.”


INTERVIEW OLLY MURS

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INTERVIEW OLLY MURS

[12] GNI MAG [11]


INTERVIEW OLLY MURS

That’s a good question but no, not really. I haven’t changed anything. I am really happy with the songs I was doing and I believe they are the right songs for the album. There’s no songs that I missed out that I wish I had now. I am just really pleased with how the songs have turned out and the songs that I have got. I wouldn’t make any changes. Your 7th Album “Marry Me” is out in December. This is a two-pronged question A. How involved were you in the writing and sound process? For the writing and the producing I pretty much wrote all of the songs. There’s one song ‘Dancing on Cars’ that I didn’t write, ‘Die of a broken heart’, I wrote a small part on that, but I wrote all of the other nine songs. B. What is your favourite track and why? Oooh there’s a couple... I would say ‘Go Ghost’ and ‘Let me just stay’ - I haven’t even played that one to Amelia yet. Also I must say the vocals are on point, the falsetto section in the middle of ‘Let Me Just Say’ melted my heart - I’ve listened on repeat and it’s been playing in my head since. Did you have to train much to achieve such a pristine higher register? Yes, just trying to take myself out of my comfort zone - not sing the way I normally sing. I wanted to try and mix it up and do things differently and push myself. That’s definitely why I did this album across the board - vocally, from the writing, from the production, I just tried to push myself to a different place and it has been good and I really enjoyed it. ’Die Of A Broken Heart’, is the first single it’s familiar Olly with a Caribbean vibe! Yes. It has been out for a week now and the reaction has been brilliant. Everyone seems to be loving it, so it has been positive. It does feel like it has got a reggae kind of feel to it it is a cool song. On to the tour, tickets are already on sale, though the Elephant in the room, no Belfast date :’( . Have all dates been announced or is there a possibility of coming over ? A wee dicky bird told me there may be a summer concert ? Any Truth? I’m not too sure what I can and can’t say but we will definitely be coming to Belfast. So it is happening, watch this space...

You’ve been very vocal on men’s mental health after everything you’ve been through over the past few years, what made you decide to go so public on it and why do you think men find it so hard to talk about their mental health? I think men really do struggle at times to speak about their feelings and I have always tried to help my friends or try to get them to speak out more about their feelings, because I sometimes keep it in. I just think it is important to get your feelings out - whether it is to friends or to a complete stranger. Not just me - everyone. If you have had a bad day, don’t be afraid to talk about it. Being our xmas issue we must ask how will you spend Christmas ? Do you get into the festive spirit? Oh I love Christmas. I saw my first Christmas advert today and I absolutely loved it. I can’t wait to get involved and buy some presents.

Fans Questions Pamela May wants to know who was your idol and inspired you when you were growing up? There’s quite a few actually. I would probably say Justin Timberlake was probably the main one. There was Michael Jackson as well - he was one that probably gave me the inspiration to say that I would love to sing for a living as I watched him perform live in concert and was blown away. Definitely Timberlake though. Karen Duddy asks, has there been one stand out moment of your career that you will never forget? I think that would be my first Number One. Getting your first official Number One plaque and being told you have reached Number One was absolutely amazing.

Awesome! Keely Marigold asked what is your favourite city you love to visit when you are on tour? Ah, you know it’s Dublin... Dublin or Belfast.

Olly let’s play a game of would you rather.. Cook or Takeaway - Takeaway Summer or Winter - Winter Boxers or Briefs - Briefs Beer or Wine - Neither... My drink of choice is Gin & Tonic or a Pina Colada Weights or Cardio - Weights XFactor or The Voice - The XFactor Tis almost to be Jolly - When is it acceptable to put up the xmas tree and decorations? I think 1st December. SNOG, MARRY, AVOID Jennifer Hudson - Marry, she was like a mother on the panel to me and she is someone who would look after me. Meghan Trainor - Snog, on the basis that Anne Marie is a karate champion, and I think if I tried to snog or marry her she would kick me, so I would prefer to avoid that. Anne-Marie - Avoid

Since completing the interview we heard the great news that Olly is coming to Belfast next year on 10th June - Tickets available via ticketmaster

Ross Hamilton wants to know, if you could claim one song as your own what would it be? It would have to be ‘Pencil full of lead’ by Paolo Nutini. Laura Corr has asked what Sir Tom Jones is really like to work with? A legend. He is just like you see on TV. He is great fun, has a great personality, is a great storyteller, and a really, really great guy. I love him. Kelsey_2604 has asked you to describe your new Calsie_2604 album in one word? GNI MAG [13]


COLUMN CONNOR MILLS

INTROSPECTIVE WORK Connor Mills

I ’ll set the scene, it’s a Friday night and your heading out, you pour yourself some form of f izzy fulf ilment you deny yourself during the week, your galloping towards 30 so minus a few more lotions and serums then usual your throwing on that outf it you’ve been thinking about since deciding you can be bothered to be seen socially, the sliding scale begins, maybe it’s the shirt, sure I ’ll just redo my hair, why don’t I have any clothes, when did I get so x, why am I too much, maybe I ’ll have enough time to cancel.

Or let’s say you make it past the getting ready phase unscathed from your own thoughts and in a well-deserved serotonin boost you make it out on that crisp coffee filled walk, everything is hitting just right, you are the main character, your killing whatever “it” is, the weekly shop isn’t ready for the amount of excellence your serving right now. Yet a quick reflection glance can be devastating, “I didn’t look like leaving the house” descending down the drain to an empathetic, shy shuffle around the isles. Sounding familiar? Starting as perception, an assumption of how people see you, the spotlight’s directly above and you’re not rehearsed. It turns into introspection, why aren’t I right? When I was growing up, there was this big rally behind the idea of modern media being terrible for people’s self-esteem, the idea of perfection being whatever you wanted perfection to be, but then of course very strict and exact rules of what you should want it to be. Yet it’s not even this brutal competitive race of physicality that I’m talking about, simply put when I’m in public I feel wrong, I compare, and the scale starts, I see something that I’ve convinced myself if I had, if I could stand that tall, if my laugh could fill a room, maybe if I held myself that confidently than maybe then I wouldn’t refuse to be in pictures I haven’t spent time planning. I spent this year doing a lot of introspective work, I went to counselling through the amazing and essential Rainbow Project and some of these themes came up, and while I felt this feeling was apart of some crazed vain pity project and something to snapped out of and shook loose, it became apparent it was a symptom of defence, I wanted to take up as little space as possible and apologise for it, to become this tiny pretty thing that was universally liked, I would plan conversations before they happened in order to then plan how I could be perceived, I would blunt opinions to not come across jarring, go above and beyond at detriment to myself, laugh extra hard to make someone feel better, make it clear I was lesser than as to never appear threatening in any way, just be perfect. Remember what I said, it’s a sliding scale, from the start of this column you had probably assumed this was your usual run of the mill, oh, I want confidence and too feel good about how I look but I can’t because of x,y,z and now through the power of reading a few sentences I’m cured, too talking about something closer to the core of learned problematic behaviours, it’s a scale and everything can get on top and bleed together and regurgitate this big ball of, I’m not right and so I should hate myself. If I could draw on any sense of influence right now I would just like you to, doesn’t matter where you are as discreet as you like but take a deep breath. It might be a little bundle of self-doubt, self-hate, anxiety that’s tilting the scale down, or a big boulder that’s been growing for weeks, months, years, no it’s not as simple as if you wear the right whatever, it’s not whether or not you

did enough exercise today, it’s not because you indulged a craving, your not inherently unlikable, breath, unravel the emotion from the twine ball of mixed up emotions and take a step back. In a once tough admittance, I feel like my like my toolbox of outward perfection came from a few things that I’m still working on, but one of the sources of my self-hate was when I was attacked as a teen, I play dumb because I felt that person could outsmart me, I didn’t stand tall because they were taller, I’m always pleasant as I didn’t want to upset them, I plan because I want to be liked and didn’t want to make a misstep, I’d feel wrong because that person left a stain that I don’t feel like I’ll ever truly wash out and people could see it on me, I would feel like I have to be liked, for survival, because something bad would happen if I didn’t comply. Yet this isn’t what you think when your staring in a mirror thinking of all the imperfections your thinking, why I am I wrong, not, what went wrong. I’m not saying it’s that easy, and I’m not saying it’s a one moment revelation cures all, but I am saying a feeling becomes easier to overcome if you understand what that feeling is in the first place. It’s this time of year I feel like we can all get slightly more introspective then usual, going into the new year with all these promises, I remember last year I asked myself if I could give myself something what would it be, and I promised myself I wanted to be happier, even out that scale a little more to make the load lighter and it’s through this self-work and the help of counselling, friends and keeping this promise I actually achieved this, no I’m not any closer to some unachievable version of inner and outer perfection, but I smile a little easier, laugh more authentically, yes, I’ll always have this black dog by my side, but now I feel like I have the tools to make it heel. Your inherently beautiful, what happened to make you feel like you weren’t? Tranquil Tip: So this issues tranquil tip is to go do something you’ve put off this year that is solely for you, we are so good at making excuses to put off something, there’s always a reason to change goal posts when I’ve found personally it’s through our own fears or barriers we deny our own joy, so what you’ve two left feet go to that dancing group, who cares your cakes more cement than fluff try that ridiculous recipe you saw, sure you get out of breath walking round the shops, doesn’t mean you can’t try that spinning class. For me I have this massive problem spending money on myself, I hate it and will make a million excuses to avoid it, recently I put those feelings in the bin, and decided to treat myself to a tattoo from the amazing and talented Matt at Fika Tattoo Studio, the studio itself is a beautiful queer owned and queer run space and not only did I have a great time bopping along to what can only be described as the best playlist created (nothing hits quite like getting tattooed to Charli XCX) but the actual pure joy of doing something I wanted to do for so long (8 years since my last) felt to be honest quite freeing, and it’s an emotion I can easily draw upon whenever I look at my thigh in the future! Please note, this column is the opinion of the columinst and not that of GNI or Romeo & Julian Publiccations Ltd.

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INTERVIEW ALIJAZ AND JANETTE

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ALIJAZ and JANETTE INTERVIEW ALIJAZ AND JANETTE

We chatted to 2 of Strictly’s Alumni ahead of their arrival at the Waterfront Hall on 5th December. Why did they leave strictly, what they’ve been up to, are kids on the agenda all is revealed and we hear all about their xmas touring show “A Christmas to Remember”

Neither of you guys are professional dancers on Strictly anymore, which is really unfortunate. Janette, you made the move first. When you knew that you were leaving as a pro dancer, did you know or was it the plan that Take Two was going to be happening? Janette: If it was up to me I would have stayed as a dancer on Strictly for as long as I could, or at least until my legs could! But they approached me and said they needed a host for ‘It Takes Two’ and it is the dream job. I have been trying to shift my career into presenting more anyway, so when this came along I just thought, this is the dream, this is exactly what I want to do when I am done dancing on Strictly. I still feel like I am part of the Strictly family, well I am part of the Strictly family, and it is such a nice show to do because I am talking about dancing, I am getting to meet all of the couples, I am still working with all of my friends and pros, so it was the perfect transition for me to leave the show. But it was hard for me, especially in the first year, to watch all of the pro dancers. I was there every single weekend backstage just watching everybody and I thought “you are not going to get rid of me that fast, I can’t just leave the show”.

physically, mentally and being there to guide them. One time, I just thought, I have given every single bit of me, every single laugh, every single smile, every single love, and it was just the right time. I felt like I had written a beautiful book and at some stage there had to be a last chapter to it and I thought that was the most beautiful way to end it.

Now that you are a further year down the line, do you still think that you made the right decision? Janette: Yes of course. I mean, it’s like anything. I watch the show now and I feel so proud that I was a part of it. When I see the impeccable group numbers that they do, they genuinely get better and better each year. Already with the two we have seen so far, there have been tears in my eyes - crying. I am immensely proud of everyone involved.

Oti Mobuse, she started where you guys have taken a route down judging and has been very successful. Is that something that you could see either of you guys doing? Alijaz: Yes indeed. You know what, Strictly is an incredible thing. It gives you this platform, not just as a choreographer, a teacher or a dancer, but it gives you this world of opportunities and I feel like when the opportunities arrive you do have to just take them. Oti is one of those people that is incredible and throws herself into anything. I think she has proven now that she is an amazing judge and whatever position she finds herself in she is going to be great at it. I think that most of us on Strictly are like that, we are those tiny little nuggets that just can’t wait to be discovered. I am so happy for Oti - she is brilliant! Janette: As a woman I am so inspired by her, she is just an incredible person.

Aljaz, you announced to the world that you were leaving earlier this year. Was it just the right time or what made you make the decision? Alijaz: It was exactly that, it was just about the right time. Nothing instigated it, it was just a feeling, and I have always been one that sort of goes on your gut. When you feel something is right you have to go with it and that was it. I love the show, I love creating on it, I love being a part of it, I love teaching people how to dance, I love seeing people being transformed

Ending on a high is great? Alijaz: Yes, of course. I mean dancing with Sara Davies who is a gorgeous human being and then doing a dance with Janette and Ed Sheeran - I mean what a moment. You both have had so many partners, do you keep in touch with a lot of them and who is on your Christmas list? Janette: I think we do actually. I know I still speak to every single one of my partners, most recently we have gone on holidays with Sara Davies. I think we might be seeing her this week as well. If we were to have a Christmas party I think all of our partners would be invited to it. We were very lucky with every single one of them. Alijaz: Or they can come and see us on our show!

Some reports are saying you were married for 9 years, another said 5 years, something else said 11 years... So we

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INTERVIEW ALIIJAZ AND JANETTE

will just address this now... when did you both meet, start dating and when did you get married? Alijaz: So, we met in Fulham in London 11 years ago at a place called Dancematic. We travelled together, we went on a world tour for three years, seeing some beautiful places and going on the most incredible dates - which are really hard to top now! Then, about 6 1/2 years ago I proposed to my now beautiful wife Janette in the same studio that we met for the first time. Five years ago we got married, first in London then in Slovenia, then in Miami and we have continued to blossom into this beautiful relationship. Nine years ago we both became professionals on Strictly, now this is Janette’s 10th year involved with Strictly. There you go we smashed it! What are your thoughts about children? Are they in the future or not right now? Janette: Well, to be honest this question is directed at both of us. These days it is not just the woman that has the baby - it’s the couple. He is the biggest rock in my life so when that part of our life kicks in we are going to attack that as the best team ever. So Alijaz and I will have a baby, eventually at some point, it is in the books and it is something that we want to do, how and when and how many? I don’t know, I think it is very hard to determine because the most uncontrollable thing in life is that, when you are able to have a child. There are so many things that could go wrong, there are so many things that could go perfectly right and so Alijaz and I are trying not to get our plans that specific, we want to be ready for anything that could come our way. But to answer the question, we are definitely hoping to be parents and we will let you know when that day comes. I am personally going through the adoption process myself. I will be the first single gay man in Northern Ireland to adopt and I am doing it on my own. I have been single for 7 years and I have always wanted a family. I was just putting it off because I thought I had to be with a partner but the partner wasn’t happening. So I thought, I am not getting any younger, I am 40 next year and I am going to do this process on my own. So I am just curious, is that a conversation that you have both had. Could you see yourselves fostering or adopting? Alijaz: For sure. I think if you care about people I general I think that is something you have thought about in whatever capacity because yes you want to have kids, yes you want to bring a bit of you into the world in another shape and form, but just as equally there are so many people already in this world that do deserve a loving family. What is most important is to have a loving family, have love. If everyone had that in the world, the world would be a better place. I support it 100% and I think it is such a beautiful thing to do. Earlier you said you couldn’t attend Oti show because you were doing your show. That was the one that was based around the Oscars, Remembering The Oscars. I am gutted I didn’t get to see it but when you think back what were your highlights of that show? GNI MAG [18]

Janette: I think Remembering The Oscars was a show that was meant to go out in 2020 and we were about to go into tech rehearsals for the show and the day that we went to go into tech rehearsals in the venue the world stopped... We had to pull the plug on the show and we had to stop everything. So we did a livestream of the show and the final year we were able to put it out this year. It was just the anticipation, excitement and the love that went into creating that show. Oddly enough, because we had more time because of Covid we really dissected what numbers worked and what didn’t work. So when we finally put it on, Alijaz and I felt that it was thee best show we have ever done. Was it ever recorded or made on a DVD? Janette: No it wasn’t recorded, but never say never. There are always conversations of us trying to bring it back and do it in a different capacity again. It was one of those shows that every single night we were literally blessed and excited to bring to every single person that was in the venue. Every year we have had the complete luck of being able to perform at The Palladium which is one of the most iconic venues in the world. This year, with Remembering The Oscars, we got a whole week at Sadler’s Wells, which is insane to think that two Strictly dancers for four weeks, sit down, in London at one of the biggest dance venues in the country. Again, we are just so proud of that show - it stood for everything we love, which is great entertainment, great singing, great dancing, beautiful costumes, an impeccable set and just good warmth. I felt it was a warm, family entertainment show and genuinely we are so proud of it. This brings us onto your next show, A Christmas to Remember. Why Christmas, what is so important about Christmas that you decided to do this show? Alijaz: We both are such massive family people, we love our families and I think Christmas is like the perfect family holiday. It brings people together and in England I love that the culture is to go and see a show. We are the family for Christmas, being the Nutcracker or whatever it is... We are normally always really busy at that time of the year with Strictly, never mind creating a show. We then realised that we have a bit of time on our hands and on the most family and festive driven month which is December, I think this was the natural thing for us to do. We love entertaining , we love being on stage, we love dancing and doing what we do and Christmas is our favourite holiday. So combining those two together was a no brainer. When we started choosing songs and putting ideas together I think it was the easiest process that we have gone through so far because there is so much in the backpack - it is just a matter of opening it up wide enough and digging into it. It is a beautiful show, and with Christmas you have these endless possibilities. There are so many characters, amazing songs to dance to, so many traditions you can visit and I love that we are doing this here, where people have so much love and respect for all different cultures. I cannot wait to see what people’s reactions will be for our

Christmas show. At the moment is everything in the ideas stage or are you both actually rehearsing routines? Janette: We have just started with the full cast rehearsing in November so right now we are in the creative juices of it. It’s our newborn little creature right now and we will hopefully create something magical. We have like a breakdown already such as the songs and the things that we are going to do but what is exciting is that in the next few weeks we will start to get the music through, we will start finalising all of the edits and scripts - so the lead up into that first day of rehearsals is exciting. It is good because you are actually planning the show in the run up to Christmas? Janette: Actually I will give you some advice - the best time to buy some things for Christmas is in January because everything is discounted. Just buy everything in January. Apart from the amazing routines, what else have you included in the Christmas show? Alijaz: We work with an amazing team, it is the same team with the Remembering shows, the same producers and directors, and the same creative team and we have this immense trust in them. What you could expect is, if you have ever come to any of our Remembering shows I feel like we always leave the last bit of sweat on stage. It doesn’t matter where we are. This is going to be a great mix of both, we will be giving our absolute all to the dancing and then it gets to finding out the bit about us and why we like Christmas so much. Why we want to celebrate Christmas, celebrating Christmas films and songs, I think it is going to be our version of Christmas on stage. It’s not just dancing, there is also going to be live music and singers? Janette: We have got two amazing singers - Janine and Giovanni. Janine has been a part of our tours for the last 3 or 4 years and she can really sing. Giovanni, this is our first time working with him. He was supposed to be in Remembering the Oscars with us but because of Covid we were unable to do this. But now we have got him back and he is an absolute powerhouse of a singer. Even if it is just the two of them on stage they can really blow your mind with their talent. Besides that we have got an epic team of dancers - we have Robbie Kmetoni who is my other dance partner and Fay Hiddleston who will be dancing with Alijaz, she will be doing the ballroom numbers because I am too short to do them! We have another four cast members who are absolutely brilliant. It’s an extravaganza of war and fuzzy talent on the stage. Janette, you are so busy. You are going straight from this tour into hosting the Strictly tour, how do you even manage having all of this on your plate? Janette: She likes being busy. To be given the honour to host the Strictly Live tour there is absolutely no way that I would say no to doing that.


INTERVIEW ALIJAZ AND JANETTE

It’s like the epitome of Strictly Come Dancing but in a live sense. We get all of the favourite couples throughout the series and it looks like we will get some pretty amazing dancers again this year and then you get the judges being silly and funny and giving their comments and arguing with each other as well as giving scores. We have got Anton this year which is amazing and then the live bands. So it is really like being on Strictly Come Dancing however it is on a massive scale. I am more excited about that than a lot of things this year. There is no way I would never do that show. What plans do you have Alijaz? Alijaz: If you really want to see me you could come to the Strictly Live tour where I will be watching my beautiful wife. I am going to be posting my live location where I will be sitting so you can come and see me there. Any words of wisdom for aspiring dancers or performers? Alijaz: Do you know what, hard work, training, education, and be curious, because those are the things that no one can ever take away from you. We all get this one chance in our life and we have to be prepared and ready to be our best. So when the opportunity does come, just take it with both hands and run with it.

Catch their show “ A Christmas to Remember: at The Waterfront Hall in Belfast on 5th December

GNI MAG [19]


COLUMN MICKY MURRAY

MY LAST COLUMN Micky Murray

I’ve decided that this will be my last regular contribution to GNI Mag. When I was co-opted onto Belfast City Council in May this year, following Kate Nicholl’s election to the NI Assembly, I knew my life would get busier, but I had no idea just how important a work/life balance would become. I’m very thankful to have had the opportunity to contribute to GNI, writing isn’t something that comes naturally to me so it’s been a bit of a learning curve. During the last five years I’ve written about various topics, LGBTQ+ history, immigration, the Ban Conversion Therapy Campaign, and some of my political thoughts. I don’t feel that I’m a particularly strong writer, and my boss always tells me that I overuse commas, and I do love a good comma, but I feel like I’ve done okay. Equally, I’ve never been great at getting that work/ life balance correct either, and I’m sure it’s the same for a lot of people. They say that if you want something done ask a busy person, I’m not sure who “they” are, but they’re clearly a manager who wanted something done yesterday and asked you today. The saying should go, if you want something done, take some other pressures off the person you can trust to do it, and then ask them politely. Welcoming new challenges into your life sometimes means you must cut something else out, even things you may enjoy. I’ve enjoyed writing for GNI, Daniel and the team have always been so accommodating, which I’ve really benefited from because my columns are ALWAYS late. The weeks come and go, and I never seem to get anything done that I’d planned to do. I have a fulltime job, Council, a part-time weekend job, GNI, my gym, and trying to fit in some sort of social life and time to relax. I’m very fortunate to be in the position I’m in, there are many people looking for secure employment, and Council is a huge privilege that very few get to experience.

the craic?” has been “working”. So many of us have the intention of taking pride in our work and doing a good job, while enjoying our life and creating time to spend with our friends. But very few can actually say that they’ve been able to achieve this and spend more time thinking about how to reach that goal than we do actually reaching it. This became even more apparent to me when I realised that a really respected life coach who reached out to me to give me advice on how to do this had been waiting four months on me to reply to an email to arrange a meeting.

Welcoming new challenges into your life sometimes means you must cut something else out, even things you may enjoy. I’ve enjoyed writing for GNI, Daniel and the team have always been so accommodating, which I’ve really benefited from because my columns are ALWAYS late.

There’s so much stress in the world, we owe it to ourselves to do what we can to remove stress from our lives when we can. I deleted and restarted my social media accounts, I removed people from my life who brought stress rather than joy, I took on new challenges which I enjoy, and now I’m trying to free up more time to spend with friends, family, and maybe most importantly, on my own. The #BeKind movement was focused on the need for people to be kinder to people online, and we need to strive to be kinder to ourselves every day, even if being kind to ourselves means that we have to give up some stuff and we might make decisions that other people don’t want us to make, but it’s important that we do. As I said, being a Belfast City Councillor is a privilege, one which I don’t take for granted at all, if I put half as much work into my education as I do my committee preparation, I’d have gone much further in school. The difference is that I wholeheartedly enjoy Council work, and I feel like I’m quite good at it.

Obviously, my full-time job takes up my 9-5, Council meetings and community activities take up my evenings and weekends, my parttime job in a sexual health clinic takes up one weekend a month, I religiously fit in at least three gym sessions a week, and this has become my routine over the past six months.

I want to say thank you to the GNI team for bringing me on board and encouraging me, even when my writing hasn’t really been ground-breaking. Please be kinder to yourself, remove stress where you can, and enjoy life a little more.

Something needed to give, I haven’t seen my family properly in weeks, I’ve been unable to catch up with my friends for months, and my only response to “what’s

You can keep up-to-date with my political campaigning by following me on social media, Cllr Micky Murray on Facebook and @Micky_Murray on Twitter. Please note, this column is the opinion of the columinst and not that of GNI or Romeo & Julian Publiccations Ltd.

GNI MAG [20]

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INTERVIEW SETH PETERSON

seth peterson

GETS HIS GROOVE BACK

GNI MAG [22]


INTERVIEW SETH PETERSON

His Film Career is Skyrocketing, He Looks Better Than Ever, and He’s Got a New Man

want to do anything with it. I needed money, but I also saw potential for myself in the industry and thought it could be something I loved. And I did.

Seth Peterson always dreamed of being an adult movie star but his boyfriend wouldn’t allow it. Luckily, when they split, Seth wasted no time in pursuing his dream. He joined the team at Helix Studios and has already appeared in several of the studios biggest productions including Helix Academy Wrestling and Stealing Hearts.

What is your idea of perfect happiness today? A feast of friends all hanging out at the beach.

When he’s not working alongside the biggest names in adult film: Travis Stevens, Derek Shaw and Josh Brady, to name a few, Seth enjoys being by water, either on a boat or swimming. He also enjoys traveling, experiencing gay nightlife around the world, and discovering cute cafes where he can sip on Matcha Tea and make new friends. He’s made plenty of friends at Helix Studios, and has found a replacement for the controlling boyfriend who tried to keep him from his dreams. Seth is dating his Helix co-star Aiden Garcia. What was life like for young Seth Peterson? I grew up in Southern California. I was a beach boy and very active and outdoorsy but also a bit of a nerd. When did you come out? I was 15 years old; a sophomore in high school. That’s young! It was a little scary because I was afraid of what my friends and family would think, but once I had support from friends, it became easier to imagine a reality where I was open. Tell us about your firsts. My first kiss was with a girl in kindergarten. It was an ‘I dare you to, no I dare you to’ sorta thing. My first date was in high school. I hadn’t come out yet and it was all secretive… it was followed with sex. Were you always good at sex? (Laughing) No. Bottoming is definitely something that took me a long time to get good at. I think I still have room to improve. What led you to consider a career in adult film? I graduated with a degree and didn’t know what to do with it. Honestly, I kinda felt like I didn’t

Greatest fear? Fear.

touch with the real world. This is not a normal job most people have and I’m mostly surrounded by people in the industry. (Laughing) I sometimes lose track at what real people are doing. Who do you consider your closest friend at Helix? Alex Roman. Period. I love that guy so much and I honestly feel like I’ll never meet a soul like him.

Which living person do you most admire? Aiden Garcia.

If you were to hand out awards to your Helix costars, who would get the ribbon for best body? Josh Brady.

On what occasion do you lie? Honestly, whenever I think I should.

Best Top? Aiden Garcia. I may be biased.

What do you most dislike about your appearance? I don’t dislike anything about my appearance. Except for maybe the occasional pimple.

Best Bottom? Also, Aiden Garcia.

What is the quality you most like in a guy? Wit, cleverness, grace. Who is the greatest love of your life? Aiden Garcia and my dog, Phoebe. Which talent would you most like to have? I would love to be able to speak multiple languages.

What would fans be surprised to learn about Seth Peterson? I can play an entire Beethoven Sonata which is about an hour long. Visit Helixstudios.com By Mike Bahr

What do you consider your greatest achievement? My degree in Neuroscience. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? Self-doubt. If anywhere on the planet were an option, where would you most like to live? The beach; anywhere that’s got some waves. What career might you consider pursuing sometime in the future? I haven’t decided yet, but I always felt that being a firefighter was a calling. My dad is a firefighter and my grandpa on my mom’s side is one. I love the idea of being active and helping people. What is the one thing you might warn your young self about, if you had the chance? It’s important to keep connections with friends and family. I’ve been in the industry for two years now and there are times that I feel a little out of GNI MAG [23]


COLUMN CARL CONNIELINGUS

TRASH HITS AND BITS Carl ConnieLingus

Hello Beauts It’s your favourite gender fooker here to fill you in on the last few weeks and let you all know some amazing news coming up in December. From starting my Music Production course in September, to going to amazing concerts and performing at some crackin’ gigs myself, it’s been chaotic but fun. Grab a beverage, get yourself comfy and come join me. SummerWeenMas Let’s talk about SummerWeenMas - Yes you read that right haha - This is the period from the end of the Summer, going into Halloween and arriving at Christmas all in one because, let’s face it, it goes in far too quickly. Before we know it, it’s gonna be 2023..but I still feel like it’s 2019 ahhhhh.

Movies, Music & ME It has been nonstop to be honest, and above was just the iceberg!! We had the pleasure of seeing Biffy Clyro with opening Act Architects last week (even though I’ve been sick from it), but what a show both bands put on. I was lucky enough to get free tickets through college after attending their stage and sound set up that day.

At the beginning of September, I started Belfast Met for my Music Production Course and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, but it also makes me mad that I wasn’t in this line of work all my life. Not a regret, just an annoyance more than anything. I also believe everything happens for a reason, and I’m supposed to be doing what I’m doing now!! I can feel that more than ever. I’m also very lucky to have class tutors teaching us, and although all the students are much younger than me, I couldn’t have asked for a better class. I can be down with the kids for a bit, and in turn they get the knowledge and advice of an almost 40-year-old restarting their life. Win, win in my eyes.

Upcoming Events & Projects Over the next few weeks, you can find me at: Gallaher’s Bar & Grill, Cityside (Yorkgate) for “Dragaoke” - Friday 24th November (9.30pm12.30am) After my success with Drag Fest Ireland, I am delighted to be joining the cast of Klub Kids UK for “Shantay you Sleigh” - you can catch me at: Mandela Hall (QUB Student’s Union) - Sunday 4th December The Clapham Grand, London (LONDON) – Thursday 15th December Cabaret Supper Club, Belfast – Tuesday 6th December with Perfect Illusion – Lady Gaga Tribute (Dancing) Libertine, Belfast – Thursday 22nd December (9pm onwards) - Catch Storm and I bring back Drag, Sass & Rock ‘n’ Roll, also known as DSRNR!! The Rockin’ Christmas Edition. *Double gig alert* Gallaher’s Bar & Grill, Cityside (Yorkgate) for “Santaoke” - Friday 23rd December (9pm-12am) Kremlin Nightclub – Christmas Kings (LATE)

Just before Halloween Hayley and I went to see The Pretty Wreckless at the Ulster Hall and they did not disappoint, not as much as the audience anyway. I’ve never seen an audience at a Rock Show so chill. Poor Hayley was distracted by the lack of mosh pits and energy – Fantastic show from the band though!! For Halloween I had my “Halloweenoake” at Gallaher’s and it was such a great wee success. My regulars all came in dressed up and we had such a fun party. My monthly Gallaher’s gigs are quickly becoming one of my favourite wee gigs. Upcoming dates are below. Just before the spooky season an old friend of mine had passed away in a serious accident abroad with work. Heartbroken in that moment, one of my closest friends who also knew my friend, decided to book flights for us to spend time together. My beloved Anneka landed on Halloween morning and by dinner time we were a beaut lunch and a few bevvie’s deep, whilst also contemplating a night out, when a friend of hers realised she was in Belfast and told her to bring us to Dublin the next day for the Robbie Williams concert. She was only his Stage Manager for his new tour. The amazing part of this being that the next day happened to be Hayley and I’s 3rd Anniversary. The most random but fun Halloween I’ve had in years. And let me tell you, Robbie DID NOT disappoint!! An absolute Showman and performer. And now being in November it’s prep time for upcoming Christmas Shows and this will be one of my busiest December’s to date and I cannot wait. Let me fill you in – below.

Outro The next time we chat it’s gonna be 2023 and I want to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year. 2023, let’s be havin’ yeeeeeeeeeeee. Happy Yuletide and see you on the other side my friends. Carl <3 <3 Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/carlconnielingus Insta - @carlconnie_lingus Tik Tok - @cclingus1

Please note, this column is the opinion of the columinst and not that of GNI or Romeo & Julian Publiccations Ltd.

GNI MAG [24]



FEATURE TOM GOSS

Tom Goss BIG FAT GAY ASS CHRISTMAS

GNI MAG [26]


FEATURE TOM GOSS

A Rollicking Collection of Original Songs that Celebrate Living Joyfully, Exuberantly, and Authentically Queer

chorus, Ryan Satyr provides background vocals and Drake Jensen serves the sexy deep-voiced Santa.

Tom Goss isn’t a fan of Christmas music, but that isn’t stopping him from recording his first holiday album! His new EP, Big Fat Gay Ass Christmas, is Christmas-themed, but with songs like “Santa Slay,” “Put that Ass in Christmass,” “Sassy Santa,” and “Ho Ho Homo,” it’s not a traditionalholidayalbum. “Iwantpeopletolaughandsmile,thenstripdowntotheirundiesand dance,” he says. “That ’s the Christmas I’m most looking forward to this year!”

The second track on the EP is “Put that Ass in Christmass,” a song about celebrating Christmas with a booty shake. Big Daddy Karsten raps the first verse and Keith Lawrence raps on verse two. “I’vebeenafanofbothguysforyears,”Tomreflects.“Ijustlovehowaggressivelybigand queer Karsten is. As soon as I wrote the song, I knew I wanted him on it. As for Keith, we were casually texting and I asked “hey, do you rap?” I sent him the track and he immediately called me, excited. Like me, Keith loves a big boy, so it was wonderful to get giddy about ways we could paint men of size in a positive light.”

Joining Tom on the EP are some of the biggest names in gay hip hop, rock-and-roll and country music: Benjamin Koll, Big Daddy Karsten, Keith Lawrence, de ROCHE and more. “They are all a part of my queer family,” Tom explains. “We may sing in different music genres but we are the same in that we live our lives joyfully, exuberantly, and as authentically as possible!” Tom Goss’s Big Fat Gay Ass Christmas will be available on Apple Music, Spotify and all major digital platforms on November 18. At first glance, the songs on Big Fat Gay Ass Christmas appear tongue-in-cheek, but those who look deeper will recognize a serious side to the record. “I have spent a lot of my life censoring myself,” Tom laments. “Censoring what I say, what I write, how I dress, what my music sounds like, and so much more. It’s been a constant state of second-guessing, carefully carving out a life that is unoffensive, in hopes that everyone will love me. But that’s not real. With my first holiday EP, I wanted to make something that was big, fun, unapologetic, body positive, and queer as f**k.” Big Fat Gay Ass Christmas begins with “Santa Slay,” a dance/ballroom track that Tom wrote with Jaake Castro about a Santa who is big, confident, queer and in touch with his feminine side. “This Santa is not only delivering toys, he is throwing it down in bed,” Tom explains. Ned Douglas mixed and mastered the record. Drag queen Roxy Wood is the lead vocalist, Tom sings the

Tom Goss wrote “Sassy Santa,” the third track on Big Fat Gay Ass Christmas, with hopes of getting Benjamin Koll on the EP. “I have a huge crush on Benjamin,” Tom confesses. “I love the joy and positivity he brings to the bear community.”

gift of an EP.” Tom Goss was raised in Kenosha, Wisconsin, a small city on Lake Michigan, between Chicago and Milwaukee. Much of his youth was spent focused on his studies and on wrestling. He didn’t feel much in the way of sexual and emotional desires growing up. In fact, he didn’t go on his first date until he was 22, while in seminary, training to be a Catholic priest. That was when Tom realized he did have an appetite for sex, only it wasn’t towards women or even the men that society deemed as handsome. His attraction was toward plus-sized men, known as “bears” in the gay community. Many of his biggest pop hits today are odes to the large, furry men he loves. Visit http://tomgossmusic.com

Knowing Benjamin’s affinity for funk and dance runs, Tom worked both sounds into the song’s rough mix that he sent to Benjamin with fingers crossed. To his delight, Benjamin agreed to perform on the record! He added instrumentation, vocals, mixing, and mastering, turning “Sassy Santa” into a slamming retro dance/funk track that Tom loves. Big Fat Gay Ass Christmas concludes with “Ho Ho Homo,” a beautiful track Tom recorded with his frequent collaborator, de ROCHE. He credits de ROCHE with bringing the song to life with vocals that sound like a group of carolers on the doorstep. “De ROCHE and I have been making music together for over a decade. I want her to be a part of everything I do until the end of time.” The album’s cover art is by Joseph Fortuno. “Joseph created something so much edgier, cuter, gayer, and more visually stunning than I ever could have imagined,” Tom raves. “It’s the perfect wrapping for this big, fat, gay ass GNI MAG [27]


FEATURE THE ACES

Introducing...

THE ACES

GNI MAG [28]


FEATURE THE ACES The Aces are ready to greet you now, again. It’s been four years since the quartet released their acclaimed debut album, When My Heart Felt Volcanic, in those four years, the band has supported 5 Seconds of Summer, X Ambassadors, and sold out their own US headline tour. Universally relatable and yet deeply personal, in 2020 The Aces returned with the confidence only time and true friendship can bring. Their album Under My Influence isn’t just brimming with honesty, but with trust—trust in themselves, as individuals, as a group, and in their camaraderie with their fans. The Aces are the next “it” girls, but not like “it” girls of the past. They are changing what it means to be an influencer and embodying what the modern woman has become. The Aces have developed the ability to connect with the new generation of music

listeners. Sisters Cristal and Alisa Ramirez (vocals/ guitar and drums, respectively), McKenna Petty (bass), and Katie Henderson (lead guitar/vocals) - all friends since grade school in Provo, Utah - explore growing up and falling in love in the 21st century with candid honesty and endearing relatability. With their infectious new single “Girls Make Me Wanna Die” and stops aT Pride Festivals across the country, The Aces are primed to make a big splash The Band have been supporting the Vamps while touring across the U.K , they are in Dublin on 3rd Dec, Belfast on 5th Dec and have four other December dates on sale.

18M in the U.K and a whopping 200M Globally, you must get over to their website and get familiar and check out their current single, it’s such a bop. Oh also if you are planning a trip to LA, NYC or Salt Lake City you need to see the Pride Guide they have created, it is so handy. To see/hear their single, get tour tickets or to view their pride guide visit: theacesofficial.com

We must share their impressive streaming stats - over

GNI MAG [29]


COLUMN TAILOR MAID

ALMOST TINSEL TIME Tailor Maid

Get the Tinsel out, pour an extra-large sherry and get ready to parrrrrty!! Its nearly Christmas! Yeooo! It feels like this year has went by in the blink of an eye. Not that I am complaining, I love festive season and everything that comes with it, cosy nights in, tinsel, lights, nuts on my chest and 25 different variations of Baileys, but I do hope I can enjoy it all and it doesn’t hurtle past me in the blink of an eye. I wish I could say that I am consciously going to take a slower approach and enjoy the “little things” but alas that’s not on the Christmas cards for me this year. Is it ever? Ha ha!

Manchester respectively. The cast is INSANE with Krystal Versace, Lawrence Chaney, Danny Beard, Pixie Polite and much more, over all the dates, it’s going to be a Christmas bonanza!!

Circling back to August this year, I made a decision to find a bit of balance between both Tailor and James, to be brutally honest I was doing far too much, performing every weekend and some week nights and then working full time, as well as having to look after my relationship and our 2 wee doggies, at the same time trying to come up with new content, and costumes, and maintain everything. Even though I was having a lot of fun, I realised that I needed to run a marathon and not sprint to absolute burn out!!

Also while I am in Manchester I will be stopping by CRUZ 101 for the second time this year, preforming on the 16th and 17th of December for more Christmas antics and a show called A very RUDE Christmas with Bailey J Mills, Lady Bushra and the queens of Cruz! I am so excited about all of these upcoming shows, and to be included in such amazing line ups is both humbling and terrifying. Reflecting on this past year, I feel that I have purposely put myself in situations that have terrified me both as James and Tailor. I have started a brand new training and Education department in Bperfect, filmed a tv show with the BPerfect team and performed as Tailor in Ibiza, Manchester, and Dublin with amazing Drag Talent from all over the world, in venues that I could have only dreamed of a year ago.

Doing drag for me is my passion, but being good at it takes a lot of work, and dedication and I’m under no illusion of the work that is involved, but what I’ve realised is that I have put myself under a lot of pressure both financially and mentally and it’s good to acknowledge the feelings and do something about it. With that being said, I have still enjoyed consistent drag work that has been a lot of fun in a lot of different capacity’s, hosting charity gigs, birthdays, performance nights and more, but its more on my terms, when I can commit to them and fit it into my schedule. I am feeling more in control of the work that I am agreeing to and I’m balancing well. So, I decided to focus on less gigs for Tailor but make them bigger, and better with more time to create performances and looks that I could be proud of. This decision alone has helped me focus and organise myself which is really important to me in giving my best to my craft. Taking all of that into consideration, I have only went and committed to 4 of my biggest gigs to date all during the month of December this year. Ha ha! Some would think that it doesn’t look like I’m slowing down, but in my defence, I have had ample time to prepare to smash all of these gigs out of the park. Planning is well underway with new costumes, numbers, wigs and performances all planned and I can’t wait to share it all with you. I am thrilled to be preforming in the touring show Shantay you Sleigh brought to you by Klub Kids UK on the 4th and 17th of December in Belfast and GNI MAG [30]

I think that when you put yourself in situations that terrify you, then you create the space to grow in every way and I am totally up for that. My new moto is to be terrified and do it anyway! This edition will mark one year of my little column here at GNI and I want to thank you all for reading and to Daniel (Editor) for giving me the opportunity to write my inner thoughts for you all. Wishing you all a very happy festive season! Xoxo Tailor Get your tickets for Shantay You Sleigh from @Klubkids on Instagram Get your tickets for a Very RUDE Christmas from @Cruz101 on Instagram You can also find Tailor Maid on Instagram @totally.tailor Bookings on Instagram or via email jamesmcguigan@me.com or call/message 07540533943



Adam

FEATURE ADAM IN FRAGMENTS

IN

F RAG M ENT S

Out filmmaker Omar Salas Zamora discusses his new series, Adam in Fragments, streaming this month on Dekkoo In the provocative, gritty drama, Adam in Fragments, a young man returns to his former life as a sex worker where he quickly re-engages with his seedy and often dangerous male clients. All appears status quo until his urge to guide a young and naïve aspiring adult film starlet and protect her from their terrorizing handler, Felix, triggers a series of events that send violent ripples through the Los Angeles underground sex-trade. The series starring emerging young actors Beau Swartz, Keiva Bradley, and Ryan Ruffing premieres on the gay streaming service Dekkoo on November 17. “Most television shows about sex work either glorify the trade or exploit it,” out filmmaker Omar Salas Zamora explains. He wrote and directed the series with Calvin Picou. “In Adam in Fragments, we aim to examine the profession, not by sensationalizing it, but through exploring the main character and his interactions with drug dealers and johns.” We spoke with the filmmaker on set in Los Angeles. How true-to-life is Adam in Fragments? Omar Salas Zamora: Santa Monica Boulevard as a hub for sex work is pretty much extinct today. The sex industry has gone completely digital. It’s done through location-based apps. That’s great for the safety of sex workers but it is not exactly cinematic to look at cell phone screens so we leaned into our own reality. Interesting. So, it takes place in modern day Los Angeles, but as if we were back in the 1990s. Omar Salas Zamora: Yes, maybe even earlier. Adam in Fragments is a hustler’s odyssey with a grim 70s cinema aesthetic. Santa Monica Boulevard was so much more of a community in the 70s and 80s. Hustlers protected each other and especially looked after the teenagers that would join them. They shared condoms and kept violent johns away. Now, sex workers operate on their own terms, inside whatever safe space they’ve created for themselves. So the need for comradery isn’t there anymore. From where did you draw inspiration for the series? Omar Salas Zamora: Calvin (Picou) and I studied the photography of Eve Fowler and Philip-Lorca GNI MAG [32]

diCorcia who framed their hustlers in a romantic, otherworldly way. We also watched as many documentaries as we could get our hands on. It was fascinating to witness the subjects trying to grapple the situation they’re in.

though the short is its own encapsulated story, it always felt like that character had more to him. When this project became more realistic, I called Beau because if he wasn’t on board, I would have never done it.

The series is reminiscent of My Own Private Idaho. Omar Salas Zamora: Gus Van Sant’s My Own Private Idaho is so iconic that you can’t really escape it when you’re dealing with material about hustlers. Also, Pasolini directed a fantastic movie called Attacone, about a pimp that becomes destitute when his only prostitute is sent to prison, which though not the story of Adam, has some parallels.

What were some of the challenges in making Adam in Fragments? Omar Salas Zamora: Timing; or rather lack of it. Everyone, the actors and crew, have such busy schedules and it’s difficult coordinating everyone’s schedules in a way that allows us to create a world on film. We were lucky we had the caliber of actors we had who took the material seriously and were determined to produce a stellar project.

Who is Adam? Omar Salas Zamora: Adam is an actor. He must be in order to survive. He decompartmentalizes himself and shows only pieces of himself to the person paying for his company. He is someone that has shed his own personal desires and goals and has become a cypher for the enjoyment of others. The goal was for the audience to observe him at arms-length until the final moments, questioning his choices but understanding that he must do what he does to survive. Why does he hide his identity from johns? Omar Salas Zamora: Practically, it’s for his own safety. But Adam also protects his anonymity so fiercely because he likes his ability to transform into the most desirable version of himself to each john. Is he gay? Omar Salas Zamora: I don’t think anyone could really know. Adam was abused from a young age. He never had a say on his own sexual preferences. Someone that’s struggling so hard just to survive another day doesn’t have time for such desires. Why does he reveal himself to Lucy? Omar Salas Zamora: He finds a real human connection with her. Lucy’s younger, with a faith in the future. She hasn’t been poisoned yet by the business. Every other relationship in Adam’s life is transactional but he finds a friend in Lucy and for the first time in his life, puts another human being before himself. He begins to question his place in the industry. How did you to choose Beau Swartz for the role of Adam? Omar Salas Zamora: It was never not going to be Beau. I collaborated with him on the short film version of Adam In Fragments in 2019. Even

Did you have an intimacy director on set? Omar Salas Zamora: It was discussed but we opted to have a minimal crew instead. Any scene that involved nudity would be directed from another room, leaving only the cinematographer and boom operator in the room. When it comes to filming nude scenes, the most important thing is to make sure the actors are comfortable with each and every movement. What is one lesson you learned about the sex industry from the filming of Adam in Fragments? Omar Salas Zamora: Just a few years ago, sex workers were impulsively characterized as wounded people and victims. As a society, we’re beginning to understand there’s a healthy side to this world. The sex trade has been destigmatized in recent years and that’s a good thing for the Adams of the world.

Adam in Fragments is available for streaming on Dekkoo on November 17, 2022. For more information, visit Dekkoo.com. By Brian Hug


FEATURE ADAM IN FRAGMENTS

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FEATURE SHANIA TWAIN

GNI MAG [34]


FEATURE SHANIA TWAIN

SHANIA Shania Twain has announced a headline UK and Ireland tour for 2023 – and tickets are already on Sale. The country-pop legend will perform at arenas across the country in September next year. She will also coincide the tour with the release of her first album in six years, entitled Queen of Me. Fans can get their hands on tickets for the tour via Ticketmaster. The tour will start in London on 16 September and head to Dublin, Glasgow, Manchester and finish up in Birmingham on 26 September. It’ll be in support of her upcoming album, Queen of Me, which is due for release on 3 February. The LP, her sixth overall, features the lead single “Waking Up Dreaming” and recently released follow-up “Last Day of Summer”. Fans can also expect to hear some of her biggest hits including “That Don’t Impress Me Much”, “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!” and “You’re Still the One”. Since the release of her last album, 2017’s Now, Twain has teamed up with queer country singer Orville Peck. The pair duetted on his track “Legends Never Die” for his EP, Show Pony and the music video saw the country icon serve full “That Don’t Impress Me Much” realness in full leopard print regalia and a rhinestone stetson. The video also featured cameos from Drag Race season 12 winner Jaida Essence Hall and Chicago queen Miss Toto Clormont as well as the voice of camp icon John Waters. And that’s not all Beauty and The Beast fans will get to see Shania as they have never seen her before as she portrays the iconic character Mrs Potts in an upcoming special celebrating 30 years from the original Disney Movie. This will be broadcast live on 15th December in the U.S.A on ABC then the following day U.K audiences can see the retelling of the tale as it is scheduled to be available on Disney+ and we cannot wait. In the meantime get your tour tickets via ticketmaster.co.uk UK and Ireland tour dates - 16 September – London, The O2 - 19 September – Dublin, 3Arena - 22 September – Glasgow, OVO Hydro - 25 September – Manchester, AO Arena - 26 September – Birmingham, Utilita Arena

GNI MAG [35]



You


FEATURE ENVIRONMENTAL

Saving the Planet

ONE PRODUCT AT A TIME Let’s be frank and honest here, we are heading into a climate and eco emergency headfirst and fast if we continue polluting the way we have been for the past 100 years or more. The summers are getting hotter, the winters are getting colder,and animals are dying and in some cases close to extinction all down to us and our carelessness. By Gary Campion

Now don’t get me wrong I am no Gretta Thunberg by any stretch of the imagination, but I do believe we have more information, data and knowledge on the earth and our environment than ever before and even if we all make small changes in our choices, we can all make an impact on this climate and eco emergency to keep this beautiful planet we call earth home for future generations. Here are some facts and figures that jumped out at me while I was researching this piece: We produce about 300 million tonnes of plastic waste annually. 55% of British households still place items that could be recycled into their general rubbish bins. Each year, wash-off from landfills or improper disposal means 8 million tonnes of plastic ends up in the ocean. That’s a full bin lorry, every minute!! By 2050, it is forecast by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation that there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. Plastics from things like toothpaste tubes are entering our food chain. So, with this in mind, I decided to set myself and the rest of team GNI a challenge of changing just a few home and personal products from around the house to environmentally friendly alternatives. We have tested 9 brands in total across an array of categories to bring you our honest opinion on their effectiveness as eco alternatives.

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Canned Deodorant Alternative - AKT Deodorant Balm - Tried, tested and approved by London’s West End performers, AKT is a premium natural deodorant that is truly... BORN TO PERFORM. AKT is designed with efficacy, strong environmental ethics, and premium fragrances at its forefront. All their formulations are made in the UK, hand poured, and packed into their signature, vibrant, 100% plastic-free packaging which is fully recyclable. A single tube should last between 1-2months depending on usage, the formula is suitable for vegans and the fragrances are gender-free. We got the opportunity to try their “After thunder” which is a combo of cedar, eucalyptus and orange, they also kindly provided us with their “the applicator” and “the assistant” tools to ensure we didn’t end up with messy fingers or waste any of their amazing smelling and performing products. A pea-sized amount was applied onto clean underarms using the brass applicator, the fragrance was clean and fresh but not overpowering. The performance was superb with no odour or signs of moisture for the best part of 24 hours from a single application, they have definitely converted us, will they convert you too? You can check out their full range for yourself at www.aktlondon.com

palm-oil free, plastic-free, climate positive and packaged in home-compostable materials, and made with sustainably sourced, regeneratively farmed and directly traded ingredients. Their Shampoo bars cost £12 (Tone It Down Brightening Shampoo is £14) each shampoo bar is equivalent to three bottles of liquid shampoo, their conditioner Bars cost £14 and each conditioner bar is equivalent to five bottles of liquid conditioner. a rope (Lemongrass & cedarwood salt bar). The first thing that hit us was the attention to detail in the packaging and the individually wrapped soaps, closely followed by a pleasant waft of the soap scents combined. The soap on a rope is to die for and an amazing eco-friendly rustic alternative to having plastic bottles of shower gel cluttering up your bathroom, it lathers up into a natural feeling foam rather than the plastic feeling bubbles you get with chemical-filled shower gels. The Face soap leaves your skin feeling clean and fresh without the tightness associated with normal everyday soaps this is due to the concentrated use of essential oils and the cold pressing process of producing these soaps really does make them worth every penny and pound plus you are supporting a small business and helping the environment at the same time so it’s winning all round as far as we are concerned. Check out their full range along with their marble-printed wrapped gift sets for that ideal Christmas present or a little bit of self-care at www.apotlesoap.com why not follow them on Instagram or Facebook by searching apostlesoap.

Face and Body wash Alternative - Apostle Soap A small modern family-run artisan soap business that started in 2018 from a passion for science and luxurious natural scents, combined with the simple values of exquisite scent, no plastic packaging, no Palm oil, Vegan friendly, all-natural, skin-friendly, earth-friendly soap as a nice alternative Christmas gift idea. Today they have an exquisite range of 19 cold-pressed artisan soap products available all inspired by the best natural essential oils that are used in the most popular classic perfumes. Woody, earthy mossy scents such as Vetiver, Neroli or Cedarwood, that don’t usually get in soaps. We were lucky enough to be given the chance to try out 2 soap bars (Vetiver and the Tamanu, Tea tree and Neroli face soap) along with a soap on

I tried their shampoo and conditioner bars for greasy hair and I have to say they worked better than most shampoos, smelt great and left my hair feeling and looking in great condition, I will definitely be a regular customer and I will be giving other products from their range a go once I need replacements to these two bars. Daniel tried their Heali Kiwi Shampoo, it’s created for those with touchy scalps, as he suffers with eczema and combination skin/scalp this was perfect for him, he said “omg where has this been my whole life, not only is it good for me its good enough to eat, I have had to stop myself taking a bite, it smells so good though on a serious note I am now a convert. To date they have helped save 25 million plastic bottles from manufacture and disposal in landfill their next goal is to save 500 million by 2030. For more information and to see their full range go to ethique.co.uk, they are also available at Boots, Holland & Barrett and Feel Unique.

Shampoo and Conditioner Alternatives - Ethique Solid Shampoo and Conditioner bars - Their award-winning, best-selling haircare range includes twelve shampoo bars and six solid conditioners, spanning options for all hair types including dry, oily, balanced, sensitive scalp, damaged, coloured/ treated and even a range formulated for curly, coily and wavy hair. Every product in their entire range is vegan, cruelty-free, GNI MAG [39]


FEATURE ENVIRONMENTAL

Environmentally friendly chemical-free skincare Holos Skincare is an Ireland-based company that actively continues to research and improve how to be better when it comes to Eco and sustainability matters. Right now Holos is conducting a product impact study on 8 of its best-selling products to improve their systems, ingredients, packaging, sourcing and all things that go along with producing a skincare product. I got to try their Super Natural Activity set consisting of a Botanical Micellar Pre-cleanse, an AHA skin cleansing cream, a pre and probiotic facial spritz, Triple Lipid Replenish cream. The packaging is recyclable tin containers with pump/ spray tops which gives the products a really luxurious expensive feel. On first pump and spray of the products, you can just smell and feel all the natural goodness, a mix of orange, lavender and frankincense, both the cleanser and the replenish cream have a really smooth but not heavy texture that my skin absorbed so easily without leaving a greasy layer on my skin. I love that you can use the cleansing cream as both an everyday cleanser or as a deeper pore cleaning mask due to it containing a combination of glycolic and lactic acids both of which help with both daily exfoliation and cell renewal. The natural science is very evident throughout the range and is worth every penny, if you would like more information or to investigate this and the other ranges available check out their website www.holos.ie Wipe replacement - Luna Daily Everywhere spray to wipe - Luna Daily is the female-founded brand on a mission to revolutionise daily washing with expert-backed natural products gentle enough to use on intimate skin and everywhere else. This is the world’s first natural Eco-Alternative to single-use wipes that instantly transforms tissue into a flushable, biodegradable and recyclable wipe with 1 stylish and subtly designed bottle equalling roughly 300 wipes using this as an alternative help prevent blockages to sewage systems that cause issues within out waterways. The product is PH GNI MAG [40]

perfect, uses only natural and necessary ingredients, suitable for vegans and the bottle is fully recyclable. We don’t know about you our readers but we find it’s hard to beat a clean behind using a good wipe after doing your business so we were unsure how this would compare, following the instructions and an element of trial and error depending on your toilet roll brand of choice we found the perfect toilet roll-tospray ratio (for the record 2 sheets of Andrex to 1 spray) gave as clean a result as the polluting single-use wipes but also was in a stylish and discreet enough bottle that you could pop it into your bag for when out and about. The more we talked about the product we were thinking of ideal situations for the product outside the comfort of our own homes and came up with attending music festivals, camping, and travelling abroad. If this sounds like a product that you would consider trying and changing to, head over to www.luna-daily.com for more information on the brand. Cleaning products alternatives - MACK - their entire range of cleaning and home products harness the power of good bacteria and enzymes, similar to probiotics available for humans these bioproducts will have your home sparkling, scientifically clean and smelling great. The enzymes within their products break down substances that allow the bacteria to remove and ingest fats, oils and grime much quicker than traditional and plant-based cleaning products but in addition to the removal of the “bad germs,” the products leave “good germs” on the surface to continue cleaning the surface….which we personally think is pretty amazing. We got to try their dishwasher tablets, washing-up

liquid, floor cleaner and drain cleaning products. Daniel tried their dishwasher tablets and said “In honesty I haven’t gave allot of thought in the past into what tablets I have purchased for the dishwasher which has no doubt resulted in me buying something far from economical, something far removed from MACK’s amazing All-in-one tablets, I have loaded up like normal and had great results I cannot fault them, if anything I now feel like I’m environmentally contributing as they are

both biodegradable and Vegan friendly which can only be a plus. Also, as someone who on average only uses their dishwasher once a week the pack having 28 tablets will last me a good 6 months, thanks” I really found the floor cleaner to be so simple to use with great results it literally was a matter of dropping the pod into the bottle with warm water, waiting for it to dissolve and getting to work. I used it on both tiled and wooden floors and found that it left the floors gleaming with cleanness. The drain speeder upper and maintainer are used in the same way of dissolving the pod in warm water and use, my drains smell great and are flowing perfectly again. To read more about the science and try anything from the full range for yourself head over to www.keepitmack.com


FEATURE ENVIRONMENTAL ‘circular economy in action!”

Toothpaste alternative - Parla Toothpaste tabs Every tube of toothpaste you have ever used, still exists somewhere on our planet! That’s because almost all tubes are made of single-use non-recyclable plastic that takes 500 years to break down. 20 billion toothpaste tubes go to landfill or the ocean every single year. PÄRLA are an eco-friendly solution to this never-ending story of destruction. Toothpaste should protect people’s smiles without harming the environment. Their toothpaste tabs are plastic-free, zero-waste, vegan, and are precisely dosed with high-quality ingredients that we as Dentists want to see patients using. PÄRLA are on a mission to eliminate 1 million plastic toothpaste tubes from landfill or the ocean within the next 3 years. We got to try out their toothpaste tabs and bamboo toothbrushes, personally, I loved the really clean feeling after using the tab, it did take a bit of getting used to but they were so easy to use just chew (for 5 seconds or so), hydrate (with a wet toothbrush), brush, spit and rinse and you and your clean smile are ready for the day! www. parlatoothpastetabs.com for more details and a list of stockists. Cleaning Products alternatives - Splosh products are the clever new way to buy your home essentials. They’re great value, really convenient and best of all there is no plastic waste! You order full bottles from their range of cruelty-free home and health and beauty products. Then when you’re running low, you order refills online – and they’ll deliver them to your door for free. When you refill with one of their pouches, you’re cutting plastic waste by around 90%. You can also return your pouches to them and they’ll reprocess them into entirely new products. Splosh have set itself the environmental target of cutting plastic waste by 100% and wants to be an excellent example of a

They sent us a hamper of their Bathroom, kitchen and toilet bowl cleaners along with their laundry detergent and powder. At this point full Mrs Hinch mode was activated in me as I got stuck into cleaning my bathroom and kitchen with their sprays, the bottles look and feel great quality, the scent of the sprays is quite fruity but clean smelling and the results are just as good and in some case better than your usual mainstream branded chemical cleaners. Daniels experience of the laundry products and toilet cleaner was super positive he said “I have probably been a tad too user friendly with the toilet cleaner if there is such a thing lol, I’ve used it maybe 3 or 4 times already on both toilets though have still more than ¾’s left. It works great and is so easy, lets face it not many people like to clean the loo, thanks to the shape of the bottle and nozzle, it is so handy, cleans away any unwanted mess without any real effort, you leave it for 10 mins and job done. Oh it also smells lovely and the bottle is refillable. On to the laundry powder , again it smells great, Jasmine if I’m not mistaken, so fresh and has cleaned everything perfectly. As somewhat of an idiot when it comes to how powder is needed for a wash, the scooper provided in the tin box and the easy instructions meant I knew exactly how much to use. The features that most jumped out at me with Splosh are that all their products are Vegan, non-toxic, septic tank friendly and not tested on animals, all things that will help this brand meet net-zero waste within the near future. For more information on their brand, products and stockists check out www.splosh.com Environmentally friendly furniture - Drums by Darren - Originally from Glasgow, Darren moved to Edinburgh in 2012 to study Music at Edinburgh Napier University. He began his studies as a drummer but found my talents were best suited to developing creative practice and bringing ideas to life with analogue design. He creates unique homewares from old unwanted drum kits saving them from going to landfill. What began in

November 2020 as a lockdown passion project, to occupy his time and look after his mental health has since grown into a thriving business with customers in six countries across three continents. He operates from his studio in Edinburgh, Scotland, and releases a small batch of stock every month. Each handmade item is unique and custom orders are available for that personalised touch.

Darren kindly sent my chihuahua Maisie a drum bed for her to try and an LED drum table for my plants. The first thing that struck me upon opening the package was the quality and attention to detail on both products, you can tell that they have been created carefully by hand and they have a real sense of boujee Brit pop or in this case Scot pop about them. Maisie certainly approves as do my plants! They are definitely a unique piece to own in any music lover’s home or someone who likes alternative or different-styled furniture. His work is available for purchase on his website www. drumsbydarren.com and his Instagram page @ drumsbydarren where you can keep up to date on stock release dates, upcoming designs and regular giveaways. And there we have it, overall positive experiences from just a few changes and making a difference to the world’s environment, what’s not to love?!

GNI MAG [41]


FEATURE FOSTERING

FOSTERING WITH A

Difference Action for Children have built a fostering service in Northern Ireland that they are proud of. Why? Because their fostering families are at the heart of everything they do.

ers and the needs of a young person. Time and again, this extra time and consideration has resulted in strong matches and stable placements.

As Avery, fostering services manager, said: “Our foster carers aren’t just a piece of paper or a number. They are not just an assessment. In our fostering service, everybody knows your name. You are a person. You are a potential family in the making.”

Nicky, a foster carer, said: “Action for Children are all about matching the right child to you and your home. During the assessment process they had the time to get to know me as a person. They knew what child would be suited to me. They couldn’t have got it more right.”

Stability is key at Action for Children. The charity specialises in creating stable longterm fostering families. Every time a young person is moved, it has a detrimental effect on them. A long-term home provides them with the opportunity to put down roots and to experience family life. It can give them a second chance to have a childhood. Matching is so important in finding the right home for a young person. Action for Children consider the skills and strengths of foster carGNI MAG [42]

To ensure foster carers can fully look after the young people in their care, Action for Children offer a package of intensive support. This includes a 24/7 support line, a dedicated fostering social worker, peer support groups, and developmental training. The fostering service also has a low turnover of staff and so support is consistently provided by a familiar face. Jennifer, a foster carer, said: “We rely on

our social workers a lot. Without them, you couldn’t do this job. If we need advice or help, we just lift up the phone. To be fair, it doesn’t matter who answers. Because it’s a smaller organisation, they all know our case. It’s like a family of social workers.” When you foster with Action for Children, you become part of our family. If you would like to find out more about fostering, call 028 9046 0500, email fostercareni@actionforchildren.org.uk or visit actionforchildren.org.uk/ fostering


Time to

connect

Fostering is about building meaningful relationships. Change a child’s life. Contact our friendly fostering team today: 028 9046 0500 fostercareni@actionforchildren.org.uk actionforchildren.org.uk/fostering facebook.com/AFCNIFostercare @Actn4ChildrenNI @actionforchildrenni

Action for Children. Registered charity nos. 1097940/SC038092. Company no. 04764232. © Action for Children 2022. 1863.


REAL LIFE CHAD

Chad

I SPENT 75K ON SURGERY JUST TO BE ‘ACCEPTED’ BY THE LGBTQ+ COMMUNITY” - LOVE AND ACCEPTANCE COMES AT A PRICE GNI MAG [44]


REAL LIFE CHAD

They say money can’t buy happiness - they lied Years of hate and trolling leads to £75k surgery A successful businessman and CEO of talent and communications agency, Daddy The Agency, you’d think that 27 year-old Chad Teixeira oozes confidence as he rubs shoulders with celebrities and attends lavish parties and red carpet events. But behind the mask, Chad’s been in a constant battle with the way he looks since he was just 11 years-old: a young, overweight, gay kid. He was a target for bullies and for the last 16 years his body image has consumed him. “I stood out like a sore thumb. I was three times the size of the average kid. I acted differently, dressed differently. I hated going to school. It was a continuous cycle and a constant battle. I would come home and cry to myself. It was awful. You start questioning yourself. You become your own worst enemy,” says Chad. As Chad got older, it didn’t get any easier. His job working with celebrities meant he had quite a big online presence, especially on social platforms like Instagram. Once again, he became a target for trolls, receiving horrible messages daily, which led him to starving himself to try to achieve the ‘perfect’ body, trying every and any diet and working with personal trainers - but it still wasn’t enough. “People just seem to write without thinking about the person on the other end. I ended up removing all of my photos and deleted my Instagram. I wanted to remove my social presence, to not only shield

myself from the trolls but to help stop me incessantly scrolling and comparing myself to others. I felt like I was being rejected by my own community, and if I the LGBTQ+ community wasn’t going to accept me for who I was, then who would?” But while deleting his online presence removed some of the hurt, the damage of the last 16 years wasn’t so easy to heal from, nor was his constant comparison between his body and the celebrities he worked with. And when the world went into lockdown, Chad’s mental health spiralled. “I got into a really negative space. Stuck between four walls, the only person I had to focus on was myself. Zoom calls were the worst, as I found myself fixated on the way I looked. I could be on a call with 20 other people but I’d just be staring at myself - I’d never been forced to stare at myself so much every single day. In my depression, I turned to stress eating and stress drinking... I hated myself even more. And I knew something had to change.”

pandemic the world was still in - it was early 2021. Scared and anxious as he headed into the unknown. “My mum did everything she could to try and change my mind. But I was fixated on achieving my ‘perfect’ body,” says Chad. “I had two operations while I was there. Removing over 35 kg in weight. They were long and intense. The first operation I was under general anesthetic for 10 hours and lost so much blood I had to have two blood transfusions. The recovery process was long too as I was full of bruises and scars, and my whole body was swollen. I also had a tummy tuck, a brazilian bum lift, and a range of non-surgical procedures like botox, crowns on my teeth and fillers - surgery is like a drug.” So far, Chad has spent over £75,000 on his body image. Surgeries that could have killed him. Surgeries that were fuelled by hate from trolls.

Chad decided that surgery was his only route out of the dark hole he was stuck in. The only way to make himself feel better about the body he was in and to - hopefully - be accepted by his community. At this point, Chad was a size 30, UK doctors refused to operate on him, deeming the surgery too risky. But Chad refused to take no for an answer and found a clinic in Turkey, who would allow him to undergo Mega Liposuction removing 18 liters of fat, around 3x more than the amount they allow in the UK.

“It may seem extravagant to some. But I don’t have any regrets. Since the surgery, the trolling and the nasty comments have died down. Even the way I’m being welcomed is so different now. People treat me completely differently. “The feeling I have now, of being loved and accepted in the LGBTQ+ community, is so much easier since I’ve had my surgery, which is so sad to say because now I look drastically different. I still work in the same job, I am still friends with celebrities and attend high profile events but now, there’s so much less hate and much more love and that has had a huge impact on my mental health. They say money can’t buy happiness...they lied.”

Within two days of booking the appointment, Chad was on his way to Turkey, amidst the

Now, Chad wants to help others who are being targeted by bullies and trolls, encouraging them

to speak about how they feel. “Everyone has their insecurities, some worse than others, but the way people treat us has a huge effect on how big or small those insecurities grow. I did my best my whole life to surround myself with good people but in the end, I couldn’t escape the demons. “Had I spoken out when I was younger about how I was feeling, this might not have happened. I regret letting myself get to such a horrible place and want to do everything I can do to help others speak out about their mental health, before they end up choosing life threatening surgery. “Years of bullying and insecurities are hard to recover from but I am finally starting to feel more comfortable in my own skin. I’m definitely not there completely yet but I’m in a much better space. I don’t know when I will feel like I’ve reached my ideal body but when I can finally look in the mirror and feel happy, I’ll know I’ve made it.” “People are chasing a never ending perfect. And I’m starting to realise it’s not just about the way we look. We chase perfection in our job, in our home, in the food we eat and the clothes we wear. I am the CEO of a company with some brilliant clients. I have a supportive friendship group. I live a good life. It’s sad that I had to go to such drastic measures to realise this but finally, I feel like the puzzle is starting to come together.”

Please note, this column is the opinion of the columinst and not that of GNI or Romeo & Julian Publiccations Ltd.

GNI MAG [45]


REAL LIFE XAND

Xand

I KNEW WHAT KIND OF HOOKUP THIS WAS GOING TO BE Top Of The Evening To Ya! The moment I opened the front door I knew what kind of hookup this was going to be. His hand reaches down in search of my schlong dong as he nervously looks around my tiny flat. I have been selected much like a large, juicy, Cumberland sausage is selected by a hungry customer in a butcher’s shop window but these days I’m not even being paid for the parlour tricks I must perform. Men think that tops, by virtue of the fact that we are the active partners during sexual intercourse, are the ones in control but in fact, it is the bottom who inevitably calls the shots. And this evening’s rendezvous was to be no exception. During our brief and rather impersonal chit-chat on Grindr, I was given my instructions. Firstly a condom must be worn as god forbid he catches an embarrassing S.T.I. that must then be explained to his partner. Secondly, he won’t do oral for the same reason, and thirdly no bruises or marks must be left for the same reason as the above. Finally, this was to be a quickie as time was short so it would be a case of in, out, shake it all about. I had agreed to this game of hide the Cumberland because my dinkle hadn’t had any action in almost 12 months and I wanted to check to see GNI MAG [46]

if it was still working and indeed if I was still actually alive. At the age of 44, which incidentally is about 186 in gay years, one can never be too sure as these days most younger gays think that anyone over the age of 30 is practically a coffin dodger. As we moved into the bedroom the Cialis I had taken an hour before started to work and he pulled out two condoms and two small sachets of lubricant the consistency of glue and proceeded to sniff a bottle of old poppers. Having previously worked as a hooker I knew this would not feel good but not wanting to waste my stiffy I pulled off my shorts and got stuck into a spot of anallingus. It’s funny how much that sounds like Air Lingus doesn’t it? I suppose there are similarities as with a big tongue and some poppers one can make the bottom fly high. Many so-called tops feel uncomfortable with getting right in there but I’m not like most tops. I quite enjoy eating a guy’s ass as it means I don’t have to talk to them and I can pretend it’s Brad Pitt. Duty number one out of the way it was time to get to work on my main role as a disembodied sausage. The condom was a bit too small but over the years I have mastered the art of putting them on in a way that works for an 8 incher (ignore the instructions on the packet that

never fucking works unless one is circumcised). I tore open the tiny sachet of glue-like lube and most of it shot across the room and onto the floor. Fuck! Oh well, I used the tiny amount that was left along with some saliva and got stuck in. I couldn’t feel a fuckin’ thing frankly. It was like putting a plastic bag over my cock and shoving it into a letter box. I knew right away I wasn’t going to cum anytime this month so I decided to get it over with as fast as possible. After several minutes of humping and pumping and getting nowhere, I told him I was a bit tired and he pulled the rubber off my poor frustrated yet still rock-hard dinkle. For a brief moment, I hoped for a mediocre handjob to finish me off but naturally, this greedy bottom was thinking only of his own pleasure and instructed me to lie down and shove two fingers up his arse so he could cum in my face narrowly missing my eyeball. Once it was over and he left I breathed a sigh of relief and reached for my laptop to find some decent porn to wank off to. I hate to finish myself off after a session as it’s a bit like keeping a dog and barking yourself, but as I came, I was grateful for the actors who had helped me empty my aching ball sack. Please note, this column is the opinion of the columinst and not that of GNI or Romeo & Julian Publiccations Ltd.


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FEATURE TATTOOING

Diversity IN TATTOOING “The tattoo industry across NI feels like it’s moved massively to a female artist platform and there is a good amount of the LGBTQI+ community now tattooing. We have two fantastic young artists Sara and Catherine working for us and I know lots of studios across NI have changed dramatically, making for a more diverse industry” Donal Kelly - Owner of Belfast City Skinworks. Let’s get a chat with the 2 afore-named artists... Tell us where your interest in art, especially tattooing came from? Sazzle: I’ve been drawing, painting and crafting since primary school, and at one point wanted to live and paint on the River Seine in Paris! The first tattoo I’d ever seen was an old school swift on my granda’s hand and it always fascinated me. Catherine: My interest in art started the moment I could pick up a pencil, I wasn’t happy when I wasn’t drawing (I’m sure much to my family’s annoyance haha). The tattooing side came second, I was encouraged to go down the academic route but ended up at a loose end. My then girlfriend (now wife and biggest supporter) asked me the typical “what was your dream job as a kid” question, naturally it was a tattoo artist. So that pushed me to pursue it as a career! She has always been there and I’m lucky to have her support as it’s allowed me to work hard to achieve my dream. How long have you been tattooing? Sazzle: I was tattooing just over a year when covid hit, so the exact timing is hard to pin down haha, but even after a few short years I can’t remember what it was like to do anything else! Catherine: I started my apprenticeship in 2018, but I’d say I’ve been professionally tattooing for 2 years now. Is there a specific style you specialise in or prefer to do? Sazzle: While “neo-traditional” is my preferred style- I love bold colour and detailed black and grey, but mostly big ideas- I love translating people’s stories into a visual keepsake. Catherine: I pride myself in being able to turn my hand to any style of tattooing but my specific area of interest is colour, anime and nerdy tattoos. I would eventually love to specialise in this style but it’s important to me to gain experience in all areas of tattooing. I got my first tattoo some 20 years ago when I was 18, what a different world it was then, definitely male oriented. This is a 3 part question, how, when and why do you think more females and LGBTQI+ artists have come into the industry? Sazzle: There have been strong, persistent women paving the path for change in the industry for a long time, and keeping the door wide open to make space for LGBTQI+ artists and making it overall a more inclusive community. I think as the demand for tattoos grows, so do people’s expectations. People and their tattoo ideas are so diverse, and we naturally need a diverse group of artists to create them! As a queer artist living and working in N.I. I can honestly say the tattoo community now is so much more accepting, it’s all about the art-as it should be! Catherine: It’s not a new thing at all, women and LGBTQI+ people have always been in the industry. As we all know the last 20/30 years has seen a massive shift in workplace dynamics, there’s less obstacles in general for us and it’s starting to be seen in the tattoo industry. There are more opportunities and people can now openly reach their true potential, and I have to say I’m more than excited to be a part of/encourage this new direction.

GNI MAG [48]


FEATURE TATTOOING

If you haven’t had a Tattoo in years or fear a male originated environment, what can you say to encourage their custom? Sazzle: Do your research to find someone creating the type of art you like, and ultimately a studio that gives off good energy! Ask friends for recommendations, take the time to chat to your artist and ask questions, most of us want to make everyone feel comfortable and welcome! Catherine: I don’t feel I should be encouraging anyone toward something they are uncomfortable with. As a profession it should be our responsibility to provide an environment that is warm, welcoming and safe for every client. Working in a Tattoo Studio in my view is such a chilled and cool environment, is it the same in reality or how would you describe it? Sazzle: My wife and I were getting tattooed one day and we were watching the artists in the shop having the craic. I turned and said “wouldn’t it be class if this was your job?” and my wife replied with “well, why couldn’t it be yours?” So I totally agree, I thought only cool people got in haha. As with any job there’s lots of work and responsibility, but it’s honestly the most freeing career! Catherine: Haha I wish! Personally, chill is not my experience. Don’t get me wrong, it is a very cool environment and the people and the atmosphere can be electric! However when I catch myself drawing at 2am or see 20 “to be read” messages in my inbox, I do think “Am I wise?” I love my work but there can be a lot of effort going on behind the scenes that people don’t see. Has anyone ever asked for a tattoo you wouldn’t do, if so what was it? Sazzle: I’m up for most ideas haha, usually the wackier the better, but I’m mostly more set on things like size, placement and style to make sure I give the best tattoo I can that will age well over time. Catherine: I can’t say I have, generally the more weird and wonderful the better. I have tattooed Barney the Dinosaur in drag and a rainbow banana as some of my personal faves so the sky really is the limit. Are your family/friends supportive of your career and for others interested, how do you begin - do we all order £10 tattoo guns online and give it a go lol? Sazzle: You are an artist first and a tattooer second, so that’s definitely where you should start. But to make permanent marks on people I think you should be trained professionally in a studio. Be prepared to not take your foot off the gas! The journey so far has been the most challenging but most rewarding

thing I’ve ever done, and I’ve been supported by so many along the way! Catherine: Apprenticing felt like an all consuming job at times so I was very lucky to have friends and family who helped me. They are beyond supportive and I couldn’t have done it without them. For people who want to get into tattooing I can only advise based on my own experience; practically I would suggest working on a hand drawn portfolio so you have something to demonstrate your style and skill. Get tattooed by the artists you admire and approach studios you’re interested in to see if they’re taking on apprentices. And buying tattoo machines online can go one of two ways. Much like doing your own DIY you may succeed but you could also do some serious structural damage. Tell us of your dreams and aspirations... Sazzle: Cheesy- but I am pure living the dream already. Continuing to grow and get better will always be the goal though! Catherine: In the immediate future I hope to refine my skill set but eventually I would love to specialise in bold colour work, specifically anime and pop culture pieces. I aspire to be as good as the artists who inspire me. What are your social handles so our readers can see examples of your work? Sazzle: @sazzleshark_tattoo Catherine: My Instagram is best to reach/follow me @amos_tats Anything else you may want to add about your life, experiences etc? Catherine: One of the best parts of my job is all the different and interesting people I meet on a daily basis. People are so creative and I love helping bring those ideas to life through my tattoos. Bring me all the weird and quirky ideas and I can’t wait to see what you all throw at me next.

GNI MAG [49]



LGBTQIA?

FEATURE THE RAINBOW PROJECT

Need housing support? We can help you. The Rainbow Project has carried out research recently which has shown that 14% of LGBQTIA+ people have experienced homelessness and over 30% of those were homeless as a direct result of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. We have sought funding from the Northern Ireland Housing Executive to provide a direct service working with people experiencing housing stress, and we are delighted to have launched the LGBTQIA+ Housing Project alongside the appointment of a new LGBTQIA+ Housing officer–Éaibhín Brady. Their role is to support and advocate on behalf of those at risk of homelessness or housing stress, particularly within the LGBTQIA+ community. Homes provide access to job markets, schools, health care, and economic opportunities. We build our lives on this foundation, yet stable housing is less assured for LGBTQIA+ people. LGBTQIA+ young people were not presented as ‘homeless’ to local housing providers. Some simply didn’t know where to go and many said they were fearful of disclosing their LGBTQIA+ identity/ ‘coming out to support servicesTrans and non-binary young people faced additional barriers to accessing shelters and accommodation. Many clients who are experiencing housing stress will come from diverse backgrounds and will have a range of support needs. Having an unstable living environment can impede access to employment or education and can have a detrimental impact on well-being, and mental and physical health. Alongside support from the Housing Officer, a client can be signposted into a range of other services

provided by The Rainbow Project such as Counselling, Advocacy Support, Sexual Health or Peer Support. We recognise that LGBTQIA+ people might experience discrimination that restricts access to stable and decent housing, or they might limit their housing searches to localities with good access to LGBTQIA+ support services. We are here to provide support to navigate the Housing Executive’s points-based system, access benefits, and provide information about tenant rights and options within the private rental sector in the North. The Housing Officer will be able to support you if you have housing stress caused by domestic abuse, family breakdown or rejection by family members due to sexual orientation or gender identity. Our new Housing Officer will be at the heart of this new project and will be carrying out vital work in this area, as well as helping to carry out research into the impact of homelessness on LGBTQIA+ people in the North.

for many is homelessness, along with increased vulnerability. However, we still do not have LGBTQIA+ specific accommodation for our community and in particular no refuge for gay or bi men who have experienced domestic abuse. Part of the Housing officer’s role will be engaging with key agencies and those working with people at risk of homelessness, to access an LGBTQIA+ Homeless training package on the specific needs and experiences of the LGBTQIA+ community and how to prevent and/or remove barriers to services. The LGBTQIA+ Housing Officer has direct experience working with the homeless sector and has been providing direct support for those who are accessing the benefits system. The LGBTQIA+ Housing Project is there to help people live in safer homes, free from fear, and where we can celebrate our identity and support each other to achieve our full potential. You can contact us via Email: housing@rainbowproject.og or Telephone: 02890 319030

The experiences of LGBTQIA+ people are often overlooked when it comes to studying and tackling the effects of homelessness. Additionally, as part of the project, we will be looking at how LGBTQIA+ survivors of domestic abuse are an isolated and marginalised community with unmet needs. One consequence GNI MAG [51]


FEATURE SHOW SOME LOVE

Photo credit: Bernie McAllister, Argyll Images

GNI MAG [52]


FEATURE SHOW SOME LOVE

Show Some Love

5 years of Another World Belfast We have been following queer led, not for profit organisation, Another World Belfast since founders Connor Kerr and Becky Bellamy first launched back in 2017. Now known for disrupting the local charity sector, with their fierce independence, alongside their thoughtful and contemporary rework of old fashioned concepts, they first appeared in the pages of GNI to talk about their mission to SHOW SOME LOVE and carve out space for their special brand of secular, practical activism. This year they have taken their work to the next level with the opening of two new locations and a complete reboot of their direct aid model that has so far collected and distributed north of 200,000 items for local people experiencing hardship. As part of their new focus they have grown their remit to now provide a first of its kind, personal shopping experience for toiletries, make up, clothes and accessories. Connor commented on their ‘Free Store’ “it’s great to expand on the Love Packs of hygiene essentials that we have been delivering for years, and focus our energy into an even more direct model; where people who use the services of the partner charities that we support can visit in person, pick up all that they need, alongside a load of great treats. For us it’s all about bringing dignity and focusing on the amazing things that happen when people come together”. Commenting on the inclusive nature of Free Store, Becky said “there is no better feeling than being with people who understand you and your experiences and struggle in life. Mine and Connor’s experience is queer, and naturally our volunteers and board are intersectional feminists, so it made the most sense to develop our next stage to focus on women and the LGBTQ community. However we still provide clothing, toiletries and underwear to all genders and needs via direct donation to partner charities. This city and country is seriously lacking in safe spaces for the marginalised in our society to access the same aid as everyone else in need. We are so proud to welcome our diverse community

that may not feel welcome or safe in other services. Namely those provided by organised religions wishing to evangelise to people while they are vulnerable” Alongside Free Store the pair and their growing tribe of supporters and volunteers have launched “the engine that powers the lot” in Swap Shop. Another first of its kind addition their “charity shop with a difference” can be found on Winetavern Street, opposite Smithfield market in Belfast City centre. Swap Shop brings together the upbeat and colourful aesthetic that we have come to know from AWB. Beyond their bright pink shopfront, the interior is covered in symbolic pink and yellow triangles, disco balls all over, barbarella space balloons and even their own model, with a full set of rollers, under a hooded dryer in the iconic brand colours, high camp! All clothing items in store are priced at just £10 or £5 when you swap your own great condition clothing. Unbelievable as that is, it gets better with gender free rails of everything from coats to jumpers, designer jeans, dresses and shirts. Connor commented “We are overwhelmed with the support for Swap Shop so far. It has been great to have a permanent space with easy public access for people to find out more and support us while getting a little something back at the same time. One of my favourite outcomes of this expansion has been our partnership with artisanal coffee brand Bailies. With their support we are now able to offer great coffee at just £2 or £1 when you bring your own cup. It’s proved perfect for fostering conversations and promoting our project. Bailies have been good enough to give us their overflow coffee from their local roasters plus the machines to grind and brew it, to serve it hot and fresh for anyone popping in. We are super grateful for all the support from business’ and brands that understand our approach to giving back.” In store there is a gorgeous collection of brand new, hand made, sustainable gift wear from local

makers and creatives including Connor and Becky which is perfect for the conscious shopper in the gifting season. Our favourites are the items made from the clothing saved from recycling such as ‘Wonderfully Made’ scrunchies from just £3 and one off embroidery works by Charlotte Allen x AWB featuring favourite phases like ‘Homo sweet Homo’ and ‘Live, Laugh, Lube’ boxed alongside their their hand poured candles in scent choices ‘Daddy Issues’, ‘Come Down’, ‘Yeo Malone’ and ‘Wankee Candle’. Becky added “Opening the doors to Free Store has been such a long anticipated joy. We were more nervous opening this project than any others to date. This is understandable as the visitors are often in a vulnerable state so the stakes are higher. We have some lessons to learn of course, and will continually seek feedback to ensure we’re delivering on people’s true needs. We are blown away by the support this project has received, in public donations as well as bloody hard work by all our volunteers and supporters. It’s been a long and hectic journey to bring together at such a low cost and high standard but seeing the beaming faces leaving with huge bags full of everything from underwear to fancy face cream and new purses. It made every hard moment worthwhile. We can’t wait to be able to grow and open more days but we’re grateful for the plans we have to ensure a quality experience for each person prevails. We’re so excited to have welcomed in our first visitors to Free Store just as we celebrated our 5th birthday in style with not one but two parties and a currently top secret surprise visit.” As we go to print Another World Belfast were putting the finishing touches to their latest winter campaign with a £10 pay it forward initiative to provide warm coats and coffee to street sleepers in the city centre. If you are interested in joining AWB and volunteering your time, donating items or helping with one of their fundraisers follow at @anotherworldbelfast or visit their website www.anotherworldbelfast.com

GNI MAG [53]


COLUMN MARTIN MURRAY

MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM SPORTING PRIDE Martin Murray

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “ The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” The privilege of my role as NI Liaison for

Sporting Pride is that I can witness the beauty of my dream in real time as I work to achieve my dream. My goal for almost four years now has been to reach a place where all LGBTQ people are welcomed and comfortable in every space in the country. The second part of that dream is that every LGBTQ person in Ireland is active enough to maintain a healthy and happy life.

This year has been very exciting for me from launching sports clubs, debating trans rights nationally in Ireland and across the UK and working alongside many of the leaders of Ireland and the UKs political and sporting world. I have been praised and awarded by people I look up to and admire while also being painted as a problem or a villain by those who oppose my work. The true beauty of my work is that I have met several hundred LGBTQ people in the last year through GAA, Football, Rowing, Dance, Running and a variety of activists, performers, artists and entrepreneurs. Each of these people have brought with them a backstory of resilience, strength, flexibility, and stability that does them well in their chosen sport and in life in general. As I continue to fight to make the sports world more diverse and inclusive, I am reminded of why I do this every time I look in a participant’s eyes. Statistically, for every LGBTQ person involved in sport there is another LGBTQ person who left the sporting world due to not

feeling welcome. I have watched them push past what they believed they could achieve and thrive, but I have also watched some in tears, feeling hopeless. These men, women and non-binary people are the people who run our country. They are your doctor, your waiter, your teacher, and your chemist. They built your house, took your wedding portrait, and perform in your local nightclub. Their variety is infinite as is their potential. My biggest lesson this year has been duty. My duty born from my privilege is to open every sporting related door in this country for LGBTQ people and no matter what is said about me, my new year’s resolution is to remain calm and push forward for the good of the community. I have three resolutions for myself this year. Firstly, I want to run another Ulster LGBTQ Sports Day but this time I want to raise it from 120 participants to 200 participants. Secondly, I want to make a single sport accessible to every LGBTQ person in Ulster through assuring there is a team in every county in Ulster thus providing a template for every other sport to work from. Thirdly, I want to start the process of making an LGBTQ sports team financially independent to where we don’t need to rely on government funding to give the LGBTQ community opportunities to live a healthy lifestyle. Sporting Pride has achieved a lot this year. In Ulster, I recently founded Ulster Frontrunners and was flooded with support from Frontrunner organizations across the globe including Glasgow Frontrunners who will be sending 50 of their members to take part in Belfast City Marathon in April of this year. Ulster frontrunners started in October as an opportunity to give those who may not have a schedule that allows them to participate in team sports the opportunity to stay in shape and improve their stamina alongside other LGBTQ people and allies. In November we launched our first charity partnership campaign with Positive Life NI, Nis only HIV charity. As I write this article, we have already run the 650KM we set as a target and are thinking of changing it to 650 Miles and we have raised almost £200. To donate, please visit our Instagram page or contact me directly and make a real difference in the lives of people living with HIV this Christmas period and reach out to us if you fancy joining the frontrunners and running with us. Our Instagram is @UlsterFrontrunners. Other successes have been our partnership with Belfast Boat Club where I had the opportunity to row ever Saturday for two months with 12 LGBTQ people who I now call dear friends and of course launching Aeracha Uladh GAC which is now one of Irelands 5 largest LGBTQ clubs as well as one of the fastest growing GAA clubs in Ireland this year. Across the rest of the country, we have supported Team Ireland in their competitions in the Eurogame’s in Nijmegen and ran a range of courses in Sailing, Irish dancing, Golf,Tennis as well as supporting many of the now more than 30 LGBTQ Sports teams in their growth and development. So, on behalf of Sporting Pride, I wish you all a fabulous Christmas and prosperous new year full of health and wealth. It’s been a very tough year but it is our duty to use our privilege to help the community prosper and through the success of our community we will rise to a place where every individual in this country with have equality, opportunity and freedom.

GNI MAG [54]

Please note, this column is the opinion of the columinst and not that of GNI or Romeo & Julian Publiccations Ltd.



FEATURE FOSTERING

Clinton Belfast foster dad invites more LGBTQ+ people to join the fostering community

GNI MAG [56]


FEATURE FOSTERING

GNI MAG [57]


FEATURE FOSTERING One Belfast foster dad is calling for more

They said yes, and here I am! If you are

my young person grow, make their own deci-

consider fostering a child in need of a home.

just take the step into this realm unafraid!”

to the Grand Opera House in Belfast and it

members of the LGBTQ+ community to

interested, or even if you think you might be,

Clinton Kirkpatrick, 37, who is an artist and

Clinton’s work as an artist meant that he was

ney in May 2021 and has been looking after

munity. He had worked with schools, adult

a community artist, began his fostering jourhis young person for the last 7 months.

already heavily involved in the Belfast comgroups and mental health support groups.

It was only in [2006] that gay people were

“I love being an artist, teaching people,

which was several years behind the rest of

with people. It’s partly the reason I thought

legally able to foster in Northern Ireland, the UK.

inspiring them, sharing skills and confidence

sions, have new life experiences! I took him

was amazing to introduce him to something new like the theatre.”

Clinton is enjoying his role as a foster parent, and hopes to provide long-term foster

care for his foster child, but said that there needs to be more information available for prospective foster parents.

If you’re yet to contact an

agency for more informa-

Clinton said: “I feel very

tion, it can be difficult to

privileged to be in this

find out what you need to

position. Even just a few

know. So to help prospec-

years ago I wouldn’t have

tive foster parents, Clinton

thought it possible. But I

has decided to write a book

am delighted that I can call

about his fostering experi-

myself a foster parent, and

ence.

delighted that I can look after someone else.

In its very early stages, the

“There is a need for young

big questions around fos-

book will aim to tackle the

people to be looked after

tering head on, with a first

and supported, so a foster-

hand account from Clinton.

ing myth that should be

busted wide open is that

He said: “The further into

are single, gay, or any-

more I noticed that single,

any one can do it. If you

my foster journey I got, the

thing. Lots of people are

gay foster parents were

equipped to do it.”

non-existent!

Clinton continued: “As a

“I started to document

a single, male, gay foster

through experiences, words

gay man, a single man, and

what I was going through

parent, I am dealing with

and art, and then I thought

this legacy of all these

‘I’m going to write a book!’

tropes of life, but fortunately there is a rise in

“Ultimately, it’s about

now.”

to become foster parents.

conversation around this

encouraging other people I love that I do this, and

Lockdown was the catalyst

that I was able to make the

that Clinton needed to take

choice to do this, so the

the plunge into foster care.

bottom line is I hope that

Clinton said: “I realised

that I wanted to introduce

family to my life, but am acutely aware that

I am not getting any younger, so I needed to look for other ways to do it.

“A friend of mine suggested fostering, I

enquired with Foster Care Associates (FCA), and five months later I had my first foster child.”

He continued: “My first question to FCA

was can a single, gay, man be a foster parent? GNI MAG [58]

more people come forward fostering would be a good fit for me” said Clinton.

Clinton’s foster child is 13, and Clinton

describes their dynamic as ‘funny and hu-

morous’ and said that they get on very well together.

Clinton said: “Foster care is not without

its challenges, but there are so many little

moments that make it amazing. Watching

to foster children through-

out Northern Ireland.”

Foster Care Associates is based in Northern Ireland and provides support to children

around the country. For more information on becoming a foster parent you can visit https://www.thefca.co.uk/regions/northern-ireland/



REAL LIFE HARVEY AND JEREMY

Real Life HARVEY AND JEREMY BY: GARY CAMPION

GNI SPEAKS TO HARVEY AND JEREMY FROM APOSTLE SOAPS ABOUT LIFE, LOVE, ADOPTION AND THEIR SCENT OF ADVENTURE.

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REAL LIFE HARVEY AND JEREMY

The moment you meet Harvey and Jeremy you just know that this is a couple destined to be together forever. Their sense of fun, togetherness and family just shine through from the moment you start speaking with them. Harvey and Jeremy met in Brighton in 2008, through Gaydar. “We didn’t exactly have a first date” Harvey laughs “Where other people have an anniversary, we celebrate our ‘sexiversary’ each year” he adds with a mischievous smile. Jeremy went on to explain “I had recently come out of my divorce, being one of the first into a civil partnership, and one of the first out again, with the dubious status of being one UK’s first gay divorcees! I wasn’t looking for something serious at the time, so our first ‘date’ was strictly a booty call on a Bank Holiday weekend. I didn’t fancy Harvey at first if I’m honest but he’d showered and so it seemed only polite. As it turned out he was a magic kisser and so the rest is history. Harvey said “We hit it off straight away, and it was clear on our real first date that there was a very strong connection, this just happened to be the night after we’d first met. Jeremy, who has a bit of a hippy streak decided I was the farmer he’d always been waiting for even though I’d never done a day’s gardening. My friends decided I was mad, we had absolutely nothing in common and that the relationship was doomed. They all thought he was a pompous ass - they were a bit right” he jokes “but we just worked.” Jeremy added “I always describe meeting Harvey as the same feeling as you get when you lower yourself into a hot bath. It just felt right, and we just felt incredibly comfortable in each other’s company. There were no fireworks, we just fit together.” Harvey said” My cat Xena (Warrior Princess) gave us the seal of approval when she decided to move into Jeremy’s house

before I did. We were in that house for about 2 years and then decided to make a massive change by buying a very run-down smallholding in the middle of the most rural part of West Wales, as I said before Jeremy has a bit of a hippy streak and I got a chance to play at being an electrician which I’d recently qualified as out of geeky curiosity. It was supposed to be a do-er upper ready for retirement

moment.” Harvey recalls “Jeremy ‘tricked’ me into asking him to marry at the evening party by pretending he wouldn’t know what to say if we did ever propose marriage.” Harvey continued “Our wedding day was very small, just five of us, and Myfanwy the dog at the Registry office in Carmarthen (especially allowed which made for great photos). The rain had been biblical the night

JEREMY HAD ALWAYS WANTED CHILDREN, BUT BOTH OF US BEING OF A CERTAIN GENERATION, HAD NEVER REALLY ALLOWED OURSELVES TO ENTERTAIN THE IDEA. JEREMY BROACHED IT EARLY IN OUR RELATIONSHIP, BUT I HAD DISMISSED THE IDEA MANY YEARS BEFORE AND SO TOLD HIM I DIDN’T WANT CHILDREN, AND SO THE SUBJECT WAS CLOSED. THAT WAS THE CASE UNTIL ONE DAY WHEN WE WERE TALKING ABOUT JEREMY WANTING CHILDREN WITH MY MUM, SHE REACTED IN SUCH AN EXCITED WAY. I AM A BIT OF A MUMMY’S BOY AND SUDDENLY I REALISED ALL THE SUPPORT WE WOULD HAVE AND FINALLY ALLOWED MYSELF TO IMAGINE A LIFE WITH CHILDREN. and holidays, but it was so lovely we upped sticks, moved there full time and stayed for four years. That move changed our lives. Around this time one of Jeremy’s closest friends got married at The House of Lords. “It was a magical day, and we got swept away by the

before, so we arrived at the registry offices in our wellies.” Jeremy added, “I had arranged to ‘bump’ into Harvey’s best friend on our way to the registry office, who lived 200 miles from Brighton, and so his bestie was his best woman.” Harvey resumed “Our wedding celebration followed 6 months later, on the anniversary of

the date we moved to Wales which we’d celebrated each year with our new friends. We had a Big Top in our garden and an equal amount of fun. It was an absolutely amazing day that our friends still talk about. It was a lot of mucking in and so we had a vintage bus that my Uncle drove, and a bar with local cask ale that our guests took in turn to man – typical fete activities like whack a rat, welly wanging, and a tug-of-war, we even had a cake baking competition that our two Mum’s judged. For music, we had a local folk music band and hosted a ‘Twmpath’ (Welsh for barn dance) in our barn. Jeremy remembers “We made the most amazing friends in Wales, and they taught us a lot about the value of community. Traditionally when I had gone to dinner parties with my friends, we arrived, took our place and expected to be fed and watered, it was completely different with our Carmarthenshire friends. Everyone bought a dish and everyone helped. It reminded us that friendship and community are actions, not words. It was lovely and it’s something we still miss today.” As the pair were enjoying their new life in Wales so much their thoughts turned to starting a family. “We adopted Rhys three and a half years after moving to Wales.” Said Harvey “ Jeremy had always wanted children, but both of us being of a certain generation, had never really allowed ourselves to entertain the idea. Jeremy broached it early in our relationship, but I had dismissed the idea many years before and so told him I didn’t want children, and so the subject was closed. That was the case until one day when we were talking about Jeremy wanting children with my Mum, she reacted in such an excited way. I am a bit of a Mummy’s boy and suddenly I realised all the support we would have and finally allowed myself to imagine a life with children. I remember one evening when I startGNI MAG [61]


REAL LIFE HARVEY AND JEREMY

ed a conversation around possible fostering and the look of shock on Jeremy’s face was amazing. We never considered surrogacy, as at that time Jeremy was a trustee of a children’s charity in Nepal helping get street kids off the street. We both spent 2 weeks in Nepal working in the children’s home and it made us realise just how lucky we were, so adoption was really the only option for us.” Jeremey added “The process of adopting is gruelling, and it should be, but it’s worth noting that it differs in each UK region. We went through the Welsh process. As a gay couple, we only ever felt supported by the professionals that helped us through the process - No-one ever asked us who wears the trousers, or who goes on top. Our social worker was incredible, she had the task of interviewing and cross-examining us throughout for what felt like 6 months but was probably less. She got to know us incredibly well, we had made the decision very early in the process to have no secrets and just tell her the truth, which wasn’t always comfortable. It could have been easy to think we should make our pasts sound saint-like and quite simply they weren’t. There is nothing that creates an awkward pause in conversation like being asked how many sexual partners you have had by a social worker it is uncomfortable but necessary, they want real people to create lasting families. In addition to interviewing us, our social worker also interviewed friends and family. After nearly a year, we were sent to an approvals panel that interviewed us GNI MAG [62]

further however, it was a very gentle interview, and we got a decision on whether we were approved for adoption that day. The moment they said Yes was very emotional for us both” Harvey continues - We’ve never had any outright animosity from people.

People have always looked at us in the street especially when Rhys was younger as he used to insist on holding both our hands everywhere we went, which is very ‘outing’ Although I must admit we miss those days now, at ten years old, he’s less keen to hold anyone’s hand as he

especially as she was so excited about her new grandchild. It was water off our backs, and my Mums but harder for others. Apart from that, our families have been unbelievably, unquestionably supportive, most have been involved from the beginning, Our Uncles and Aunts have actively made a point of showing their support, and that has meant so much to us.” Jeremy continues “We met our son’s birth mother and grandmother, which was not easy, as we were concerned that they would oppose a gay couple adopting, as it happens, there’s nothing they can do about it, but we were delighted when they gave us their blessing in what can only be described as the single most emotional moment of our lives.” “ In addition, we’ve been incredibly lucky with Rhys’ school, who have truly been a source of amazing support for Rhys and have lived the tough times and the good times with us. As a result, Rhys is stronger and more resilient than he has ever been and continues to grow as an amazing individual.”

Parents at school have always been great and supportive of the adoption. It was more a case of us getting used to the change’s parenthood brings. In the early days Rhys, who was three years old at the time, would always call Jeremy “Mum Dad”, which often got looks in the supermarkets.

heads towards his teen years. “The only homophobia we have experienced as a pair of gay adoptive parents was third party in that my Mum experienced a couple of incidents,” Harvey said “ It happened several times in the earlier period of the adoption and was incredibly hurtful,

The numbers of LGBTQ+ couples or singles considering adoption are on the rise, for those considering their options Harvey and Jeremy advise to - Go into it with your eyes wide open. No child comes into the adoption system without encountering some form of trauma, even the process itself is a part of that trauma and you must recognise that from the beginning.


REAL LIFE HARVEY AND JEREMY

“Our social worker made sure we attended all the training we could through the local council. We talked to other adoptive parents, joined forums, attended conferences, read LOTS of books, listened to good and bad experiences and listened to adoptees who have grown up, to see what worked during their childhoods, and what didn’t. It prepared us for the worst, so in reality, nothing came as a shock. Even though we were as prepared as we could be, it can still be very hard, especially in those early days, but we had all the resources in place to help us through.” Said Harvey. Jeremy added “Adopted and fostered children and young people can feel their difference acutely, and it’s not uncommon for them to describe themselves as trapped between worlds - their adopted families and their birth families. Identity is a real struggle. I think we as LGBTQ+ people have insight into that and it can make us more empathetic to the challenges of our adopted children, and help them recognise the power of difference – even if not something you would have chosen.” He beams proudly as he comments “Rhys is now a chatterbox artist, he mostly enjoys going to school, is incredibly bright, and very funny, although he has significant struggles socially, and likes the simple things in life. He enjoys a quiet life, mostly drawing, and loves showing off his art to anyone who comes to the house. It’s been a lifeline for him really, and he has clearly got a talent. He’s an extrovert trapped inside the mind of someone who knows the world isn’t always safe – that makes life harder for him – but he’s a miracle.” Harvey continues “ We are actually very lucky that we work both together and apart so can split both family and business responsibilities. Jeremy has his own business as a portfolio

marketing director for growing tech firms and as a coach for people struggling with limiting beliefs. I run the Apostle soap business and Jeremy supports Apostle’s marketing.” They share a look as both laugh knowingly before Harvey adds “We tried working together more closely in the early days, but Jeremy is a strategist and big-picture thinker which is hard if you’re a passionate creative like me. I just ended up stressed because of all things I should be doing. Nowadays we have a far better balance and I know his strengths and the decisions that he’ll get right so we work together on those, in return he gently nudges on the big stuff but ultimately, it’s my call. It works well, he likes to pretend he’s my part-time Chairman, and I like to pretend I listen to him.“ he chuckles. The business itself was the birthchild of Harvey and Rhys when for Christmas 2018 they decided to make Bath bombs for family together whilst Jeremy showcased his culinary prowess making chutneys and pickles. Harvey enjoyed the experience so much he decided to take the process one step further and wondered just how tough it would be to make soap – as it turns out, GNI has it on good authority it is not a process for the faint-hearted, as it is quite difficult. Harvey spent a year researching recipes and a further year developing the soaps. In the second year he began selling to friends and family but through word of mouth the product increased in popularity by the next Christmas the soaps were selling so well that Harvey decided to start Apostle. At this stage, Jeremey came on board with his Marketing skills and developed the website. Harvey commented “It was a long process learning all the regulations. Soapmaking is categorically a science, but also a bit of an art, and I decided I wanted all-natural soap, with no palm oils, and no an-

imal fats, it took a long time to come up with a core formula that makes a soap that is gentle on the skin, lathers well and long-lasting. We’ve had fun with formats and have enjoyed bringing back soap-on-a-rope, but a classier version than the football designs of my childhood. It’s all part of our plastic-free ethos – one less plastic bottle in the shower.” Jeremy chips in “The scents are crucial to Apostle and there’s a story there. One of my best friends is a successful Perfumer, working originally at one of the greatest Parisian perfume houses, and I have always been obsessed with scents, and it’s an obsession Harvey caught. Harvey nods in agreement and continues” It meant I was surrounded by inspiration, especially in some of the classic scents and natural perfumery, which are often heavily drawn from naturally drawn oils such as Vetiver, Patchouli, Jasmine, Neroli, and Cedarwood, and eventually came up with some beautiful blends that survive the saponification process and stay for the lifetime of the soap. Developing scents is actually quite a complicated process specifically when it involves soap making as some scents simply do not endure and I wanted to ensure that the scent was as good the day you open the soap as the day before you buy a new one. My favourite day now is a formulating day when I create the next blend. I sometimes collaborate with other creative businesses who want to design their own soap blends and I’ll often be trying to recreate a particular moment of inspiration for them. A recent starting point was “A Parisian café in the 1930s, with tobacco in the air, leather on the seats, an old Chanel bottle and Ernest Hemingway on the piano”. I did it, and the artist loves it. It’s a fun challenge, especially for soap which can be hard to work with from a scent

perspective. In addition, I have recently launched some new bath salts which are selling incredibly well in beautiful apothecary bottles. I am looking forward to the launch of body butters in the same range of scents as the bath salts, solid shampoo bars and body scrubs which are nearing completion and will be available to customers in the near future.” As we are about to leave Jeremy announces in contemplation “ It’s been such an adventure over the past 16 years, especially the last 7, we’ve not really planned any of it, it just happened organically. We know the three of us are a tight team. Our family mantra is “these things too shall pass” and we hold that in good times and bad. Looking after a child that experienced trauma is never predictable, and we are now heading into teenage years, so between the growth of our son and the business it will be an adventure, but I couldn’t imagine going on this journey with anyone else.” We at GNI cannot wait to see all the exciting things in store and are sure you guys will clean up in whatever walk of life you choose. You can buy the products online at www.apotlesoap.com they can follow Harvey at Instagram.com/apostlesoap or facebook.com/apostlesoap

Please note, this column is the opinion of the columinst and not that of GNI or Romeo & Julian Publiccations Ltd.

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REAL LIFE THE LIFE OF WYATT

THE LIFE OF WYATT GNI MAG [64]


REAL LIFE THE LIFE OF WYATT

Some say I have a gift but it wasn’t something that simply gifted me with its presence. My name is Thomas Wyatt I am an international angelologist & Spiritual medium with clients across the globe, My journey, and my life began very differently than who and where I am today.

so after attending different awareness classes and courses to help get my confidence and help understand my ability i made the bold move to go out and do a demonstration of mediumship i believe that through all the hardships we are faced with at the end there is a light but we must be the light bearer and be willing to switch it on.

I grew up in the city of Belfast a young kid from a council estate with no real idea of what my future would hold or where I would end up. I wasn’t always accepted as I was different from the other kids in more ways than one, I was an extremely feminine young kid struggling to find my way to discover who I was, Sadly I was horrifically bullied as a kid and it continued long into my teenage years this made me want to hide and not be seen to blend in and to try with all my might never to bring attention to myself. I suffered from depression, low self-esteem and had zero confidence in myself. From how I spoke to how I walked to how I looked it felt like I was a walking target for anyone who had something nasty to say.

This work has not only helped me with my own grief but it has truly brought me back to life and given me a purpose to help and to heal others through the power of mediumship and spiritual practices like mindfulness and meditation i have seen firsthand the power that this has and how it can truly help individuals and families hold on for one more day.

I know we live in a world where being different can often be deemed as a negative thing and a setback but if I had only known then what I know now I wouldn’t have allowed the torment to destroy my happiness. Sadly at the age of 15, I lost both of my parents. My dad passed away in a car accident a few years prior and my mum sadly passed away when I was fifteen due to health complications and it really set me back. I wasn’t sure I had the strength to hang on in there, but slowly I found my way back to life. I began studying health care and fell in love with it, skip forward a few years to when I was 21 I had been studying hard and working on becoming a nurse I loved it, it felt like I actually had an opportunity to help people and in some small way make a difference sadly my life took an unexpected turn I was in a road traffic accident that left me with permanent damage and destroyed any hope of me becoming a nurse as my mobility would never fully return to how it was. So here I was again asking myself and asking the universe why me poor me.. it felt like no matter what I did nothing would ever last or I would never truly have the chance to lead a happy and fulfilling life so after many challenges with rehabilitation to help to strengthen my mobility countless medication scans, doctors nurses it began to feel like a never-ending rollercoaster ride that I desperately wanted to stop and get off. It was during this time I began to meditate as a way to help with pain and also to try and help with my mood, being so young and feeling so old wasn’t a situation I ever dreamt I’d be faced with I wanted desperately to have my independence back and I begin searching to find something or someone that may be able to help me on my journey back to some form of normality. It started with seeking holistic therapies things like acupuncture and then reiki and reflexology treatments to stumbling across a local spiritual church in my hometown. I remember sitting there for the first time and having this overwhelming feeling that all of a sudden I was home and then watching these complete strangers bring forward messages from loved ones who had passed on, it was mind-blowing and such a peaceful energy all at the same time. So this triggered something within me i wanted to know more, I wanted to know the how the why and could I?? after a little digging it turns out this ability is something that runs in my family my Mums mother was extremely psychic and as i look back to my childhood i can now see certain memories where she would indeed put me to work and in a playful manner get me to read the room not truly knowing what i was doing but being free to be me making me a third generation medium.

I do understand there can be for a small group of individuals there’s a little misunderstanding of what spirituality and mediumship means and its purpose in this modern world, My own personal work is not about lottery numbers or even rainbows and unicorns to me it about real life connecting with people when they truly need it. To build upon the legacy our loved ones have left behind. For me, mediumship is built on our memories and that is what we seek to go back to that moment in time when we felt our people here with us. I feel that the times have certainly changed when i first started doing live events I was pitched up in the back of a bar or nightclub more as a gimmick and as a prop or form of entertainment but I’m overwhelmed by how the narrative of good mediumship has changed now, for myself I’m able to bring together family and friends and host events in beautiful venues like theaters and hotels across the UK & IRL and have been very fortunate to do two visits this year along to the USA it has truly changed my life for the better, If i could go back in time tell the frightened little kid all those years ago that one day you would not only have a voice but be a voice for others, that you be on a stage in front of a room full of people and one day you’d feel free to be exactly who you are, i don’t think he’d believe me. Yes, we all can have a rough start and several bumps along the way but it’s the power of our mind and what we manifest that we don’t give up simply because it feels difficult or too much work, we fight harder we become tougher, and resilient. i hope in some small way that by reading this little snippet about me and my life you see that it can and it will get better and that mediumship isn’t about ghostbusters or ghouls its about finding hope when it seems like all is gone and that we are truly protected from above and each and every experience you have lived through is making you into the person you are destined to be. I always view myself as an ordinary boy with an extraordinary dream and that somehow through the midst of it all I have managed to make my dream a reality it does not matter who you are or where you come from you have a choice of what you allow to affect you. Lead with your heart and have a little belief in yourself. You got this! I want to leave you all with this final thought.. Look After Yourself, Look After Each Other & Remember to be kind, we don’t always know each other’s journey and how much someone has had to truly find for their seat at the table if our history of the LGBTQ+ community has taught us anything it together we can overcome and there will always be work to be done to better this world for us all, but a sprinkle of heart and soul and few drops of kindness and understanding will certainly make that road a little smoother. The Life Of Wyatt Please note, this column is the opinion of the columinst and not that of GNI or Romeo & Julian Publiccations Ltd.

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Xmas LIFE


CHRISTMAS BUDGETING

TOP TEN BUDGETING TIPS FOR CHRISTMAS Christmas can be a very expensive time of year with a temptation to overspend. Here are a few tips to help make Christmas more affordable.

Make a budget

Secret Santa

Decide how much you want to spend–on food, presents, decorations, going out etc. Make a list to ensure you can stick to your budget and don’t be tempted to go beyond it.

If you have a group of friends or colleagues don’t all buy for each other. Get together and each buy one present–agree a set amount of say £5 or £10; wrap it up and everyone picks one out.

Recycle If you have unwanted presents from last Christmas or things you no longer need, sell them to make money or if they’re good enough, give them away as presents this year.

Club together Get together with friends to take advantage of 2 for 1 deals.

The greatest gift is you! Offer to do something for someone that costs you nothing but is of value to them–babysitting, gardening, decorating, ironing. You could write it out in a Christmas card and give it to them as a present.

Do your sums If you really must use credit cards, overdrafts or loans, make sure you work out how much you’ll have to repay. You don’t want to still be paying next Christmas.

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Make a present pact Don’t be afraid to suggest to people that you don’t buy for each other this year–they’ll probably be glad you did. If you have lots of families to buy for, buy a big tin of chocolates for them all to share.

Shop around Once you have a list make sure you shop around for the best price. If you have access to the internet do an online search. Supermarkets are a great place to get bargains at Christmas.

Pay your bills Make sure you put enough money away to pay your priority expenses–rent, mortgage, utility bills, etc. Just because it’s Christmas doesn’t mean that these don’t need to be paid.

Reflect Use what you learned this Christmas and start planning for 2023.


CHRISTMAS BUDGETING

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FEATURE THE GIFT OF FRIENDSHIP

GIVE THE GIFT OF FRIENDSHIP Public encouraged to spread good cheer and volunteer as a befriender to the elderly community and give the gift of friendship this Christmas. Volunteer Now, the lead organisation for volunteering in Northern Ireland, has launched a new campaign which aims to put tackling loneliness in the elderly community at the top of this year’s Christmas wish list. With almost a quarter of older people saying they will be forced to choose between heating their home or putting food on their table this winter, Volunteer Now is launching a new campaign to bring older people together this Christmas to share hot food and friendship. The ‘Give the Gift of Friendship’ campaign is encouraging citizens right across Northern Ireland to lend their support in one of two ways – by making a befriending donation to directly support campaign activity, or by signing up to register as a volunteer befriender. There are over 285,000 older people over the age of 65 living in Northern Ireland - set to grow to more than 600,000 by 2039 – and over 78,000 older people live alone. As part of its mission to tackle loneliness in the elderly, Volunteer Now has provided more than 3,000 hours of befriending to older people in need right across Northern Ireland since March 2021. Befriending scheme service user, 72-year-old Jeanette Sharvin who lives alone in East Belfast said: “I lost my son in 2014 and have lived alone ever since. Last year, I was referred to Volunteer Now to avail of their driving services to help me out with messages and getting to and from appointments, but it was through this referral that I met Victoria – Volunteer Now’s Befriending Scheme Coordinator – and I began using their befriending service. The friendship I have found with Victoria has been a complete lifesaver. Having someone to care and share something with you makes such a big difference as some days I don’t see anybody at all. There’s nothing as evil as loneliness, it really is an awful thing.

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Now, I really look forward to my chats with Victoria and days out to meet other older people using the befriending service. It’s given me a new lease of life and helps make those days where I am on my own that little bit easier.” Statistics from the NICVA Loneliness in Northern Ireland: A Call to Action report found that one in three people are ‘more often lonely’ and that chronic loneliness affects 1 in 20 people here. More than 100,000 older people say they only have the television for company, whilst 26,000 say they feel trapped in their own home. Loneliness can have a detrimental impact on a person’s physical and mental health, akin to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Numerous health conditions have been linked back to loneliness, including obesity, cardiovascular disease, dementia and cognitive decline. Victoria O’Neill, Befriending Scheme Coordinator for Volunteer Now, said: “Loneliness is a silent epidemic here in Northern Ireland and we’re seeing a real surge in demand for our befriending service. At the moment, the support that we can provide is limited as a charity, but with the generous gift of a donation from the public, we could do so much more, and this is very much the main focus of our new campaign. Through the ‘Give the Gift of Friendship’ campaign, we aim to raise as much funds as possible to deliver a range of bespoke initiatives to support the elderly and vulnerable in our communities at a very challenging time of year – whether that’s through providing a hot meal and a listening ear or delivering winter supplies packs to help keep an older person warm this winter, to providing in-person social get togethers to encourage new friendships, there’s a lot we can do to improve the lives of older people living in loneliness.” For a donation of just £7.49, Volunteer Now can provide a hot meal and friendship for an older person at one of Volunteer Now’s regional get togethers taking place across Northern Ireland, whilst £10 could fund a ‘Winter Warmer’ box of essentials including items such as a hat, scarf, socks, hot water bottle and much more to help keep an older person

warm this winter. Volunteer Now is also calling for businesses across Northern Ireland to consider supporting the campaign as their charity donation this year, with a £500 donation funding two regional get togethers for older people this winter, giving them connection and friendship at Christmas time. As well as donations, Volunteer Now is keen to highlight the benefits of becoming a befriender volunteer this Christmas. “Befriending is very much a two-way street. It’s not just about the volunteer and what they are giving, it’s also about what they get from the person they befriend. My life has changed immeasurably for the better since I met Jeanette and I count myself very lucky to call her my friend. This Christmas, we would encourage everyone to remember what’s really important at this time of year – community, friendship and being the friend indeed to a friend in need. Volunteer Now will be here to provide that listening ear, share a laugh over a cup of tea and spend precious time with older people every week, but we can only do so with vital support and I would encourage everyone to join with us and give the gift of friendship this Christmas”, added Victoria. For more information, please visit www.volunteernow.co.uk or follow @VolunteerNow on Facebook or Instagram.


FEATURE THE GIFT OF FRIENDSHIP

Volunteer Now, the lead organisation for volunteering in Northern Ireland, has launched a new campaign which aims to put tackling loneliness in the elderly community at the top of this year’s Christmas wish list. Pictured (l-r) are Volunteer Now Service User Jeanette Sharvin and Victoria O’Neill, Community Projects Officer for Volunteer Now.

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&

& CHILL WHAT TO WATCH

CHILL A Boy Called Christmas

Avatar: The Way of Water

Falling for Christmas

Available on Netflix An ordinary young boy called Nikolas sets out on an extraordinary adventure into the snowy north in search of his father who is on a quest to discover the fabled village of the elves, Elfhelm. Taking with him a headstrong reindeer called Blitzen and a loyal pet mouse, Nikolas soon meets his destiny in this magical, comic and endearing story that proves nothing is impossible. Adapted from the bestselling book by Matt Haig.

Cinemas: 16th December Set more than a decade after the events of the first film, “Avatar: The Way of Water” begins to tell the story of the Sully family (Jake, Neytiri, and their kids), the trouble that follows them, the lengths they go to keep each other safe, the battles they fight to stay alive, and the tragedies they endure.

Netflix: Streaming Now This see’s the return of Lindsay Lohan, a newly engaged, spoiled hotel heiress gets into a skiing accident, suffers from total amnesia and finds herself in the care of a handsome, blue-collar lodge owner (Chord Overstreet) and his precocious daughter in the days leading up to Christmas.

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& CHILL WHAT TO WATCH

Home Alone Disney Plus: Streaming Now 8-year-old Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) acts out the night before a family trip, his mother makes him sleep in the attic. The McCallisters mistakenly leave for the airport without him, he awakens to an empty house and assumes his wish to have no family has come true. But his excitement sours when he realizes that two con men plan to rob the McCallister residence, and that he alone must protect the family home.

The Santa Clause Available on Disney+ Divorced dad Scott (Tim Allen) has custody of his son (Eric Lloyd) on Christmas Eve. After he accidentally kills a man in a Santa suit, they are magically transported to the North Pole, where an elf explains that Scott must take Santa’s place before the next Christmas arrives. Scott thinks he’s dreaming, but over the next several months he gains weight and grows an inexplicably white beard. Maybe that night at the North Pole wasn’t a dream after all -- and maybe Scott has a lot of work to do.

I Wanna Dance With Somebody Cinemas: 21st December Discovered by record executive Clive Davis, Whitney Houston rose to fame in the 1980s to become one of the greatest singers of her generation. Stanley Tucci will portray Davis and Noami Ackie will take on the role of Whitney.

The Muppets Christmas Carol Available on Disney+ The Muppets perform the classic Dickens holiday tale, with Kermit the Frog playing Bob Cratchit, the put-upon clerk of stingy Ebenezer Scrooge (Michael Caine). Other Muppets -- Miss Piggy, Gonzo, Fozzie Bear and Sam the Eagle -- weave in and out of the story, while Scrooge receives visits from spirits of three Christmases -- past, present and future. They show him the error of his self-serving ways, but the miserable old man seems to be past any hope of redemption and happiness.

Matilda the Musical Netflix and Selected Cinemas: 25th December Based on the stage musical of the same name by Kelly and Tim Minchin, itself based on the 1988 novel Matilda by Roald Dahl. It is the second film adaptation of the novel, following the 1996 film. The film stars Alisha Weir as the title character, alongside Lashana Lynch, Stephen Graham, Andrea Riseborough, and Emma Thompson.

Violent Night Cinemas: 2nd December When a team of mercenaries breaks into a wealthy family compound on Christmas Eve, taking everyone inside hostage, the team isn’t prepared for a surprise combatant: Santa Claus (David Harbour, Black Widow, Stranger Things series) is on the grounds, and he’s about to show why this Nick is no saint.

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Winter

Weddings

Try


Intro... WINTER WEDDINGS INTRODUCTION

It is not too long along that the word Wedding

the fifth attempt, it was vetoed by the Demo-

Marriages of same-sex couples became legally

have come along way in reaching this milestone

cern. Following the inconclusive 2017 Assembly

free to register their intent to marry and couples

for a same-sex couples was alien across N.I. We of equality though let’s recap on the journey...

Same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland has

been legal since 13 January 2020. The first mar-

riage ceremony took place on 11 February 2020. Civil partnerships have also been available for

same-sex couples in Northern Ireland since their introduction by the Government of the United Kingdom in 2005.

Between 2012 and 2015, the Northern Ireland

Assembly voted five times on same-sex marriage, and although it was passed by a slim majority on

cratic Unionist Party using the petition of conelection and failure to form a Northern Ireland

Executive by the deadline of 21 October 2019, provisions in the Northern Ireland (Executive

who had previously married elsewhere having their unions recognised from that date.

Formation etc) Act 2019 mandating same-sex

Over the next 24 pages you will find tonnes of

ulations implementing same-sex marriage were

from advice to funny tips and contact info on

marriage by 13 January 2020 took effect. Regsigned by Julian Smith, Secretary of State for

Northern Ireland, on 19 December 2019.The politician who introduced the 13 January 2020

deadline into the legislation, Baron Hayward, did so in order to allow enough time to update

all legislation impacted by the change, such as

pension rights and parental responsibilities.

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recognised on 13 January 2020, with couples

information on planning the perfect Big Day, some of the many businesses ready to assist you in making your dream day a reality


Make your day

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At Starling Entertainments we very much appreciate the time and organisation required by the couple, so it is our pleasure to eliminate some of that pressure and provide you with a professional, fully bespoke entertainment package from start to finish. Our aim is to lighten the weight of responsibility that falls on your shoulders by supplying the highest quality acts and much more to meet your individual requirements. All of the acts that are accessible to you, have been personally vetted by us before their details are made available through Starling Entertainments. We guarantee that you will get only the best quality entertainment for your very special day.

Its your day so have it your way! For additional information please contact Tel: 07802 341134 Email: info@starlingentertainments.com


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WINTER WEDDINGS OUR BIG DAY

ANDREW & LEE OUR BIG DAY So tell us how you met, were you single for a long time before you started dating? We met at the Galgorm in December 2017. We had actually been heading up the Galgorm for the previous few years to ease ourselves into the Christmas festivities, Lee with his family, and me with my friend Ashleigh and her family. Our paths just hadn’t crossed. I had actually spotted Lee in the spa that afternoon and had drew him to Ashleigh’s attention as I thought he looked a bit of her, but it was later on that evening, chatting in Gillie’s, that I realised that Ashleigh wasn’t exactly his cup of tea! It all moved very quick from that point, and I was desperate to arrange a date with Lee before Christmas. We met up the next day and by Boxing Day, I was meeting his family! How long after you started dating did it take to pop the question, was it an immediate yes? And who and who? Things moved pretty fast for Lee and I but it just felt so perfect. I knew very quickly that Lee was ‘the one’ and I knew I wanted to pop the question on an upcoming holiday on the Amalfi coast that we were both looking forward to in August. At that point we had been officially dating for eight months, but we were also sale agreed on a house and had so much to look forward to. The timing of everything was just perfect. I had been carrying our engagement rings (I bought one for myself too) GNI MAG [86]

around with me for the whole holiday but nerves kept getting the better of me, and I kept putting the proposal off ! Eventually though, after a lovely meal in Sorrento, I proposed on one of the beautiful cobbled streets. Obviously Lee said yes and we got to work on planning the best day of our lives. Tell us about your big day, location, amount of guests etc. Selecting the Galgorm as our venue was a no brainer for us- it was obviously the place where we met and it’s also the place where we love spending lots of weekend spa breaks throughout the year- it’s our happy place. We had the most wonderful and personal (and emotional) humanist ceremony, led by Emma Bailie, in the Phantom House and then our reception was in the Great Hall. We got married on the 22nd December so we wanted a real classic Christmas vibe surrounded by all our family and friends. We had Andi Mac providing Michael Buble/ Frank Sinatra Christmas vibes during the drinks reception. We also went to town and got a snow machine and had a fireworks display for that extra wow factor! Where there any hiccups or did all go to plan? Everything went so perfectly! As a principal, I had a spreadsheet created for everything and the final few weeks before the big day turned into a little bit of a Groomzilla! I was so impressed with how smoothly

everything went on the day. Donna Cunningham was our wedding coordinator and she is worth more than her weight in gold. She made us feel at complete ease and we knew our day would be safe in her hands! With restrictions were you able to go on honeymoon or are you waiting until restrictions further ease? I had booked a minimoon in New York for New Year’s, with a private river cruise up the Hudson river to get the best views of the fireworks at the Statue of Liberty! I was so excited. I told Lee on Christmas Day, but unfortunately for us, we both tested positive for Covid on Boxing Day and we had to cancel! We will get again though.

faded into the background, whilst allowing Lee and I to make the most of our day. Red Groomswear supplied the suits for us and Lee’s groomsmen and of course we wanted Louboutins also. My groomsmaids’ dresses were from ASOS and they each looked absolutely stunning on the day (thanks to Sarah-Jane Johnston and Makila Mulholland for hair and make-up). On the day our rooms were just stunning thanks to ‘Leaf Designs’ (our florist) and décor by ‘Blooming Backdrops’, ‘Fairytale Events’, ‘Holywood Balloons’ and ‘Selfie Solutions’ (for our amazing gold shimmer wall).

We’re very much looking forward to going to Mexico on our honeymoon next month though. We loved travelling before the pandemic and can’t wait to get into the sun and escape for a fortnight! We’ll be living in the lap of luxury and are both beyond excited.

Our stationery was by Laura at ‘Two Little Words Designs’ and she just completely encapsulated the vibe we wanted for our big day. For us, the invites were so important, as this would be our guest’s first impressions of our day and she did not disappoint. Everyone commented on how classy, and extra, they were!

Tell us who made your day possible in terms of rings, flowers, photographer, cars etc. There would just be too many people to even begin to list but we are so unbelievably grateful for everyone who contributed in any way to our big day. Our photographer ‘We Are Soulful’ and our videographer ‘Rabbit and the Fox Films’ were fantastic- they were both so laid back and

Our guests all commented on how much fun they had at the wedding and that was probably down to our band ‘The Manouche Boys’. They sang our first dance ‘L-O-V-E’ and it was amazing- we had gold confetti cannons explode over the dancefloor at the end!



WINTER WEDDINGS FIVE TIPS

Five Top Wedding Tips 1. Start the wedding plans early Always better to be prepared beforehand than suddenly falling into a dump of never-ending tasks. Weddings are all well and good until you have nothing under control and everything seems to fall apart. Even if you have planned a date for the wedding that is far off; it’s always a good idea to start preparing for the big event beforehand. If you start small and begin preparations; you will be all set before the nuptials and have no stress so you can truly enjoy your wedding. An early plan lets you be on top of everything. A few things that you could pre-plan include- location, rough guest list and so on. The following two are important since wedding locations are always in demand and you don’t want to end up in a situation where your dream location is already booked out. A guest list will help you plan everything else in the wedding including accommodation, furniture, food and so on. Budget is another crucial factor you must not miss out on when planning your wedding.

GNI MAG [88]

2. Think about what will amaze your guests and keep them engaged Guests invited to weddings are truly important. They mostly consist of all family, friends and relatives who are dear to the bride and groom. You definitely want the guests to be awestruck when they join you on your wedding day. You will also want to create exceptional memories. This is why you need to think about how you can treat your guests the best. Since you can’t go around the place during the wedding ensuring all your guests are having a good time; you must get things that make your guests feel their presence is truly valued.

including the little things If you are marrying the person you love, it certainly calls for celebration; and it has to be as amazing as you are. Your wedding must reflect you. From the décor to food and dress codes, let everything in the wedding incorporate facets of your and your partner’s personalities. Let your wedding make everyone go “That’s so them.” Weddings are a one-time thing so while you have the chance; plan it exactly how you want and let everything in the wedding manifest itself and your relationship. You can even go for choosing things that associate with certain firsts of yours.

This can be done by keeping the ceremony brief and interacting with the crowds, giving the guests aesthetic and customised favour gifts, personally greeting each one of them and making sure your guests feel comfortable and included.

4. Get the menu right If everything is stellar at your wedding and the food isn’t; nothing really counts. Weddings are all about scrumptious foods. Food is something that is most talked about at a wedding. So, fix an amazing menu. Decide on tropical welcome drinks, delicious appetisers and a peculiar cuisine. Your guests will definitely go back home happy.

To add some fun to the wedding bash you can get a video guest book. Traditionally, guest books were where guests left their warm wishes for the bride and groom; and these would be preserved as a memoir for the wedding day. With digitalisation; video guestbooks have come up which are even more cherishable. Using online tools, people can film their wishes when convenient and these can be put together and presented to the bride and groom who can reminiscence on the day; by watching it. And, this requires no expensive setups or apps or login. Do it right from the phone in seconds. 3. Make everything about the wedding personal;

5. Never forget to keep lists Lists can simplify and organise the wedding tasks for you. You can have checklists that guide you throughout and help you keep track of funds while ensuring you do not miss out on anything. Play wedding games, have a photo booth; there is so much you can do. Explore all your options, do not stick to the standards and have an amazing wedding you always dreamt of. Susan Noel - we-heart.com


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WINTER WEDDINGS BRIDEZILLA

What to do when your BFF becomes a Bridezilla The Bridezilla - it’s every bridesmaid’s nightmare. And regardless of how well you think you know your bestie, you can never predict how the pressure of planning a wedding will make them feel and act. But your role as bridesmaid is not just to plan her the best hen party of all time, but to be there for the bride-to-be during the stressful wedding planning moments and of course, walk beside them on their big day. So, how do you deal with a Bridezilla? Lisa Forde, wedding expert and founder of leading stationery favourites Tree of Hearts, is on hand with her top tips.

GNI MAG [92]

“Whether it’s your sister or childhood bestie, we know you want what’s best for your bride-to-be and for her to have her dream wedding, but it can often be really tricky being a bridesmaid,” Lisa explains. “Of course, you have your own life at the end of the day, which understandably doesn’t revolve around this upcoming wedding, but you’ve been given and accepted a very important role and need to act accordingly to prevent any major friendship fallouts!”

letting her know, she may not even realise that she’s turning nasty.

Keep calm and carry on In true British style, you need to stay calm and carry on. Be patient with your bride - even if you want to strangle her and try to give her the benefit of the doubt when she’s having a Bridezilla moment.

Step away… If it’s all getting too much and impacting your own life and mental health, don’t be afraid to remove yourself from the situation. You need to give your reasons and be clear so they are able to understand. It might be an emotional conversation, but try to remain confident in your decision and remember why you have made it.

Don’t take it personally It’s not you - it’s her! Sometimes wedding planning brings out the worst in people, the bride may snap and bark orders, and it’s easy to get offended and wonder if you’ve done something wrong. Try not to get upset about it, it’s almost certainly not your fault, and probably not you the bride-to-be is mad at.

Talk to her Wedding planning is an incredibly stressful time, and stress can make people behave in ways they normally wouldn’t. If your bestie strays toward the bridezilla territory, maybe consider

Plan something away from wedding planning Maybe it’s worth planning a day out to distract the bride-to-be from her wedding planning duties and remind you of the bestie she once was. Maybe invite the rest of the bridal party but explain it is a wedding-planning free zone. Let her take her hair down and relax.


W E D D I N G

H I R E

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WHAT WE OFFER? DJ Hire & Entertainment 360 Booths Photo Booths Ice-Cream Carrettino Wedding Golf Light Up Letters Neon Signs Champagne Wall Shimmer Wall Flower Wall Foodie Walls Cold Sparks Confetti Canon

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WINTER WEDDINGS THINGS TO CONSIDER

Consider this... I’m a wedding expert - here’s seven things to consider when planning a same-sex wedding Wedding planning can be a minefield - there’s so many traditions to consider, lots of family members to please and certain etiquette around the events of the day. But what happens when there’s no rulebook? Samesex weddings are fairly new in the UK, having only become legal n 2014, so for LGBTQ+ couples planning their big day, it’s about doing what feels right for you as a couple. Lisa Forde, wedding expert and founder of stationery favourites Tree of Hearts, said: “A wedding is all about celebrating your special love for one another so if anything that is deemed a ‘wedding tradition’ that doesn’t make sense to you or feels outdated then you can simply ignore it. “The only part of a wedding you have to do is the official wording of the vows if you want to make it legal, everything else after that is up for personalisation. “Everything from the first dance and cutting of the cake to the bouquet toss can be changed to suit your personality and budget, so be creative and have some fun with it. You never know you might just create a new LGBTQ+ wedding tradition that other couples enjoy for years to come.”

Lisa has pulled together six top tips for those planning a same-sex wedding: Get around traditional gendered wedding roles The well-known, traditional wedding party goes – bride, groom, best man, maid of honour, ushers and bridesmaids. These are really gender specific roles and they don’t really represent a lot of marriages in 2022. A lot of same-sex weddings have a mixture of male and female attendants instead. Without the classic labels though you’ll need to make sure everyone in your party knows what is expected of them. If you’ve not called anyone your ‘best man’ or ‘maid of honour’ then you’ll have to make sure someone is arranging your hen or stag do, likewise when it comes to speeches. Combine your pre-wedding celebrations If you have a lot of friends and family in common and mix in similar social circles, you might want to combine your ‘stag’ or ‘hen’ dos to avoid inviting the same people to two events. Combining parties can be a lot more fun too. You’re getting married to your other half so they’re probably the person you most love to party with anyway! Embrace the rainbow If white isn’t your colour or seems a little bit conservative to you then have fun with colours instead. Go as bright and bold as you fancy with your outfits and wear what you feel comfortable with. The same goes for your wedding decor - at same-sex weddings it can be fun to go with a rainbow theme as a symbol of LGBTQ+ pride too. Walking down the aisle If you can’t decide who will walk down the aisle and who will wait at the top, or simply don’t like the idea of sticking to this tradition, then don’t. There are plenty of other options including walking down the aisle

together, walking down the aisle one at a time with a parent or friend to “give you away” (give you support) or neither of you walking down the aisle and just being there in the ceremony room to greet everyone on your guest list. Changing your name In typical wedding traditions, the bride takes the groom’s surname, and although many modern hetrosexual couples are choosing to go against this ‘rule’ in today’s world, the question of who takes whose name after the big day is one to consider when planning your nuptials. You could either mesh the two names together to create a completely new name that’s special and unique to you, double-barrel your names or just keep your own names to mark your individuality. The speeches The traditional speech line-up goes: father of the bride, groom and best man. But more and more couples are mixing this up in the 21st century - you can have as many or as few speeches by different members of the wedding party as you like. Regardless of who talks, remember to ask your wedding party to keep them short and entertaining so they don’t go on for too long and you don’t bore your guests. What about a joint couple speech at your same sex weddings if you’re both feeling brave enough to do some public speaking? Do what makes you happy The general rule when planning any wedding is to put yourself and your partner first - try to block out the noise coming from family members or friends and instead focus on what you want and what you enjoy. Want a pizza van instead of a three-course wedding breakfast? Do it! Want to set off fireworks as you share your first kiss as a married couple? Do it!

Call to meet with our wedding team to discuss your per fect day +353 (0)402 26200 or email weddingsandevents@arklowbay.com GNI MAG [95]


WINTER WEDDINGS OUR BIG DAY

SHARLEEN & DEBORAH OUR BIG DAY Tell us how and when you met, were you both single for a long time before you started dating ? We had both been single for nearly a year before we started dating. We met on an online dating site. We talked for a couple of weeks, then went on a date to Laverys, which turned into a pub crawl around Belfast. We both got on really well and had a good giggle with each other. Meeting for lunch turned into a full day of laughter and Sharleen rushing to getting the last train home to Lurgan. How long after you dated did it take to pop the question, was it an immediate yes ? And who asked who? We were together for three years before we got engaged. Deborah took me to Venice for my birthday, when I hijacked it into a surprise proposal. I had the ring for about four months before but couldn’t find the right time. It took me all day to pluck up the courage and proposed on the rialto bridge. Deborah was definitely surprised but said yes straight away, with some happy tears. We got a big cheer from some lads that were passing by and noticed what had just happened. Cute and embarrassing at the same time. Tell us about your big day, location, amount of guests etc...

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We got married at the Galgorm Hotel and Spa, everything was amazing from start to finish they couldn’t have done enough for us and were very accommodating with our requests and ideas. We think the staff enjoyed it as much as we did, as they couldn’t wait to see the eight foot inflatable unicorns. We had 86 guests as planned as we always wanted a smaller wedding. The timming of the wedding was impacable as we had no restrictions at the wedding so we were able to have full numbers, music and dancing. We think everyone was ready for a party by then. What about the food and drink? The food was amazing, there was a great variety to choose from. We laid on beers, cocktails and prosseco at the drinks reception, with a full spread buffet, including mini burgers etc. The sit down meal had five courses with wine, and a glass of prosseco for toasting during the speachess. We gave our guests a free drink token to redeem a drink at the bar on us, so I think the guests were well chuffed. The evening food was scampi and chips, followed by our gorgeous semi-naked cake by Sarah o’hara from Sweet’n your day lurgan. We had chocolate, raspberry and white chocolate and lemon drizzle. It was definitely an amazing cake exactly what we wanted. Everyone loved it.

Did you go on honeymoon ? Tell us about the trip, any recommendations or did any nightmares occur? We went away to Rhodes in Greece for a week it was all inclusive and a very chilled holiday. The food and drink was great and the hotel was lovely with a massive swimming pool and a private beach minutes from the hotel. We had our own private pool at our room which meant we could have some private time to chillout since it was all go for the wedding. We did a boat trip to Lindos which was beautiful, lots or little restaurants running down to the sand, it was very romantic. It was a great feeling to swim in the warm sea again after being in lockdown for so long. The hotel was stunning, very clean, and the staff were very friendly, but we had mentioned before and a few times while on our stay that it was our honeymoon but they didn’t do anything special for us as other couples who had previously been got treated completely different. That was abit disappointing, but they caved in in the end and gave us a bottle of processo to shut us up. We then had a second honeymoon to new york it was brilliant and we stayed at Pestana CR7 times square. The staff were brilliant and so friendly they couldn’t accommodate us more. They made our stay so special and we would definitely recommend this hotel. New york was amazing,

we were non stop everyday trying to see as much as we could everyday making the most of our time. We even had a few drinks in stonewall bar where pride first began. It was good to learn the history first hand from the locals there. They told us about a lesbian owned and ran night club, which we went to check out, it was good fun. In your day to day lives are you into the same things? What interests do you have that are different ? We do have a lot in common we both have the same sense of humour, we love to travel, we love food and trying new types, and partying. We both love animals and being out in nature, and enjoy getting out in the fresh air for a walk with the dogs. Sometimes we take a picnic with us to sit and enjoy the sights. We do have completely different tastes in music. Sharleens likes rock/metal, while Deborah likes dance music. Do you do everything together or do you like to keep independent? We both work long days so don’t really get alot of time together during the week, but at the weekends we try to spend as much time together as we can getting out and about. If we have family committments or separate friends days, well always met up again later. It is still good to have time for friends and family,


WINTER WEDDINGS OUR BIG DAY and talk about our day when we get home together Have you a family, is this something on the plan for you? We are not planning on having any children, but we do have three rescue dogs that are treated like children. Tell us who made your day possible in terms of venue, clothes, rings, flowers, photographer, cars etc . At the Galgorm Megan was our wedding co-ordinator and Stephen looked after us all day, making sure everything went smoothly. We really appreciated all his hard work on the day, and he stayed until the end near 4am. Paul Moan at Paul Moan Photography Amazing photographer. He made it really fun and the pictures were incredible. He listened to what we wanted and captured us perfectly. Darragh Haddock at Forever Endeavour Films The videos were amazing he got

everything from morning to night. He got every little detail, and made the videos very original and personal to us. Stevey Lennox Professional makeup artist Stevey was 100% our only choice for makeup, and she did not disappointed. Amazing job on both of us and our 7 bridesmaids Aoife Ferguson Bridal Hair Aoife was amazing. She done exactly what we had wanted. Everyone looked gorgeous, and Deborah’s upstyle was still perfect the morning after. Ronda from Ballymena Council was our lovely registrar. She was so friendly, and so happy for us. She really did make it special. Rachel Toman ceremony/drinks reception music Rachel was really professional and has an amazing voice. She worked with us to make sure all our songs where perfect for the ceremony, and had a great range of songs to keep our guests entertained while

we where away getting our pictures taken.

Have you noticed any changes in life now that you are Mrs & Mrs?

Fundamentals band played at our evening entertainment. They were brilliant and had a full variety of music for all ages.

Nothing has really changed much apart from it feels nice to say this is my wife and feeling proud about it, knowing that our friends and most of our family have accepted us as a couple and support us. Still feels strange saying this is my wife, it takes a bit of getting used too.

Ryan Nicholl DJ came on straight after the band and what a job he did. We went from full on rave to metal music. He listened to the crowd and even put on the most random requests, absolutely brilliant. Flowers by mairead Breen from lurgan. She did an amazing job with the flowers. Everyone commented on them, saying how beautiful they were. Both of our beautiful dresses where from Chantilly Lace Bridal Boutique lurgan. Agnes at Sewgood did the alterations and did a fantastic job. The wedding cake that was absolutely amazing from Sweet’n your day. Everyone loved the cake.

Anything else you may want to add/ mention that we make have missed? It’s a good feeling to know a same sex marriage can be carried out in this country and be treated with the same respect as a straight couple throughout the process with suppliers. Also not having to hide the fact that we’re a couple is a great comfort. I hope these stories are a good example of what can be and we hope many other same sex couples will follow in the footsteps of the others who have already taken their vows so far.

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FOOD THE GOURMET BOYS

FIVE RECENT ADDITIONS The Gourmet Boys

In 2022, we made it our mission to try out some of Belfast’s newest eateries, so here are five recent additions to the local food scene which really impressed us this year.

Roam

The Teal Monkey

Roam is a terrific new restaurant in Belfast City Centre, serving the finest local ingredients, careful crafted into beautifully presented, utterly delicious dishes. Featuring a changing, seasonal a la carte style menu. Roam started out as a pop-up concept aiming to provide a unique yet casual dining experience, which is now continued at Roam’s permanent home on Callendar Street.

Founded in 2022, The Teal Monkey is a brand new food concept on the popular Dublin Rd. Taking great pride in their ability use unique flavour combinations from around the world and creating contemporary dishes, they have something for all tastes, and are very happy to cater for individual dietary requirements.

We started our lunch with some great quality cocktails, and munched on some moist Stout & Treacle Bread with Thyme & Smoked Sea Salt Butter. We were also very impressed with the Smoked Eel Kimchi Tartlets-small, dainty, but bursting with flavour.

While we studied the menu, we enjoyed some delicious focaccia style bread and dips, and eventually we plumped for the Steamed Mussels; huge meaty shellfish in a chilli, white wine and cream sauce, and Tempura Cauliflower Buffalo Wings with a mustard Mayo dip.

To follow, the Sea Trout with Broccoli, Kale, Parsley & Miso, and the Baked Celeriac with Shallot, Black Kale, Hazelnut & Parsley were both prettily plated and featured a variety of tastes and textures, served with a side of buttery Crushed Baby Potatoes.

The main courses were also first rate; crispy pan roasted Fillets of Sea Bass with scallops, peas broccoli, celeriac purée, and sweet shallots. But the standout main was the Spiced Celeriac Steak; tender, flavourful and delicately spiced, with herby stuffed Portobello mushrooms, cumin sundried tomatoes, charred Jersey Royals and parsnip crisps. An outstanding vegetarian option.

Do make sure to leave room for Dessert; the Baked Apple, Rhubarb Sorbet & Crumble, and the Chocolate Delice with Coffee & Caramelised Milk Ice Cream were both sweet sensations! Roam: attentive but informal, simple but sophisticated.

We couldn’t leave The Teal Monkey without a sweet treat, and the Vanilla Crème Brûlée with white chocolate mascarpone and popping candy absolutely hit the spot. A delightful evening of fine food, wine and a lovely friendly welcome.

Waterman

Cleaver

Waterman, an exceptional and elegant recent addition to the Cathedral Quarter dining scene is an absolute triumph; a 50-seater restaurant at Waterman House which is already home to the fantastic Waterman House Cookery School, and is the latest venture by award-winning chef Niall McKenna.

We recently enjoyed a great meal at this modern European restaurant serving steak & seafood in a relaxed atmosphere on Holywood’s High Street.

The atmosphere is relaxed, with a cool, contemporary feel, great service, and the menu is classic European-style dining featuring quality local produce. Our starters included Butternut Squash Arancini, House Gnocchi with Hazelnut, Buttered Parsnips & Thyme, Salt Baked Beetroot with Mozzarella & Fig, and a specially requested bowl of Spiced Sausage Ragu which was relished with chunks of crusty bread. Our main courses also tasted top-notch; a comforting bowl of Carbonara Cavatelli, Linguine with Shellfish & Spiced Butter, a crispy-skinned Fillet of Stonebass with Prawns, baby leeks & lemon, and a perfectly cooked to order Co. Tyrone Sirloin. And we finished with some homemade, freshly churned Dark Chocolate Ice Cream, and a selection of Irish Cheeses which brought to an end a wonderful evening at Waterman. GNI MAG [100]

Highlights included the starters of Smoked Salmon Arancini with Thermidor Aioli, Chargrilled Asian Style Squid Salad, and Braised Beef Crubeens with a poached egg. The Market Fish of the Day was a beautiful whole Plaice in Butter Sauce served with greens and skin-on fries, and both the Roast Silver Hill Duck Breast and Dry Aged Sirloin were perfectly cooked. And the views of the sun setting over Belfast Lough and the hills beyond are quite delightful. Cleaver has a great value Early Bird Prix Fixe menu, Wednesday Steak Night offers, and also a Cocktails & Canapés promotion on Saturday evenings. Yugo “Born out of an idea, with far eastern roots and a modern aesthetic” is how Yugo on Wellington St describes itself, and that pretty much sums it up; a delightful selection of contemporary, creative dishes which adhere to traditional Asian styles of cuisine.


FOOD THE GOURMET BOYS

Strictly speaking not a new venue, but after a gorgeous extension and renovation, Yugo tempted us back to try the lunchtime menu. Many favourites are still there; oozy Son in Law Egg with chilli jam, Panko Prawns in fluffy, light-as-air Bao with wasabi tartar, umami-rich Kimchi Bao with chilli samba, and a fabulous special of Soft Shell Crab Sushi. The side of Papaya salad with Thai basil was unavailable, but the chefs created a melon alternative which was refreshingly zingy with slices of chilli pepper. Desserts were also a joy; crispytopped Coffee Crème Brûlée, and a special of Baked Apple with a tonka foam. Yugo is an absolute city centre gem, and we love the recent reinvention.

Waterman Roam

Cleaver

The Teal Monkey

Follow @thegourmetboys on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok & LinkedIn Email – hello@thegourmetboys.com If you have any requests for restaurant recommendations send us a message and we’ll get right back to you.

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REVIEW FIRESTONE

REVIEW

Firestone Those familiar with the Shaftesbury Sq in Belfast will remember Speranza and Brooklyn Square, this is exactly where you will find Firestones. First off I must say it doesn’t get more traditional than this place.On entry I honestly couldn’t get over the place, such a transformation, they have genuinely pulled out all the stops when it comes to decor, the place has such an authentic feel as if it were here for years, bravo. ...Also before I delve into the review I must say the first thing i was conscious of was the amount of people of Asian descent, this for me made me instantaneously know I was in for a good experience with quality food.

were great, so crispy with a light batter and some amazing dipping sauces. As a planner I had a pri at the online menu so had a rough idea of what I wanted to taste, that soon

I am such a foodie, I love eating and cooking many cuisines and am always keen to try new things and expand the ole pallet though I have to hold my hands up and say sushi I tend to stay clear from, some 10+ years ago I had a bad experience, from then I try to avoid though as I say I am keen to try things, I went in with an open mind and treated it as a tasty bush tucker trial lol

I wish I was more of a sushi expert so I could talk through each different thing though what I can say is all bar 1 were delicious, I really enjoyed tasting new things, the textures, flavours and freshness of it all . Funnily enough the one I didn’t like was Sharon’s favourite. I unsurprisingly did the lion share of the eating, Sharon made a gallant attempt though we couldn’t get through everything and asked for the leftovers to be boxed up waste not, want not.

After introductions, our coats were taken care of, we were shown to our seats at one of the live cooking stations and we ordered some drinks while having a gander at the extensive menu. As wine was being poured kitchen staff brought us some appitisers to try, the first was edamame peas , these were amazing so fresh, crunchy and salty and the 2nd was rather large portion of tempura king prawns, i do love prawns and must say they GNI MAG [102]

though I must repeat they really did go all out. This impressive boat had no less than 20 portions of sushi , garnishes and dips. At this point I must interject that my friend Sharon who was my guest has the appetite of a small child, bless her lol so I knew all this grub was going to be a struggle to get through though im up for a challenge.

went out the window though as the chef/staff had other plans, I mean this in the most generous and literal way, we were presented with a ship of starters. The picture of the ship probably doesn’t give a true reflection of the size and the amount of food

By this point bellie’s were well filled with Sushi and beautiful wine. I know Sharon could have called it a night though I was keen to see the Live Teppanyaki. We were introduced to our Chef whose name


REVIEW FIRESTONE escapes me now though we had a nice chat, he told us about his background , it was so nice and made the whole experience very personal. He played some games, getting us involved with the cooking, juggling eggs and getting us to catch things in our mouths. It was so fun and really interactive which I’ve never experienced before. At this point I noticed a large platter filled with Seafood. The intention was to prepare the lot for us though I kindly asked the Chef to cook 1⁄2 not being ungrateful. I knew it wouldn’t be eaten and didn’t want food going to waste. On the menu was Scallops, King Prawns, Tiger Prawn Tail, this was all prepared live, cooked with egg fried rice, mixed veg and bean sprouts if memory serves me correctly. Everything was cooked to perfection, I was in my element, great fresh food, great company, wine in full flow, super knowledgeable, polite staff - what more could you ask for!

You wont believe me though the staff were still ready to cook more, asking us what other mains we would like to try, we had to decline in fear of

busting out of clothes lol In all seriousness though I cannot fault the evening and would recommend Firestone to anyone, I am proof that you don’t need to have a lot of prior knowledge, you just need to be open to trying new things, my eyes were opened and it has made me realise I like allot more than I had previously thought. Thank you so much to the owner, management and all the staff for your generosity and a wonderful evening. You really must check it out, the Traditional Teppanyaki is approx £25 which is a bargain in my book. I for sure will be back. Review by Daniel May You can find Firestone at 16-19 Shaftsbury Suare, Belfast 028 9024 4677 firestone.co.uk

Belfast's Newest Japanese Teppanyaki Restaurant Our focus is to serve outstanding Japanese Cuisine and to share with you our Authentic teppanyaki cooking culture Everything about FireStone defies the ordinary, from our displays of roaring fire to the thrilling teppanyaki performance exhibited by our master chefs. Sit back and Relax as you watch our talented chefs prepare your meal in a uniquely theatrical style 16 - 19 Shaftesbury square, Belfast, BT2 7BD T: 028 9024 4677 E: firestonebelfast@gmail.com W: thefirestone.co.uk

Opening Hours: Mon - Thur 12pm - 10pm, Fri & Sat 12:30pm - 10:30pm, Sun 2pm - 10pm GNI MAG [103]


REVIEW SHEPHERD’S HUT

Shepherd’s Hut AT T H E G A L G O R M

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REVIEW SHEPHERD’S HUT I have been to the Galgorm many times for Weddings, Functions and to Dine though surprisingly I have never been to their much talked about Thermal Village so I was super excited when I was invited to come for a relaxing day and stay in their new Shepherds Huts. A little background f irst: The Galgorm, Northern Ireland’s Premier luxury Hotel and Spa, situated only 30 minutes from Belfast is the perfect location to relax and get away from it all. Set within 380 acres of lush parkland with the spectacular River Maine flowing through the estate, Galgorm Resort has a truly unique setting. Close to both Belfast airports and the stunning scenery of the North Antrim Coast, it is the perfect base from which to explore the region’s most renowned attractions. This Resort is home to 125 luxurious guest rooms including 48 deluxe rooms, Junior and Signature Suites, and the unique Thermal Village & Spa that is the first of its kind in Ireland. Guests will enjoy the tranquility of nature and experience pure relaxation in our Spa and Thermal Village with an extensive selection of riverside hot tubs, indoor and outdoor heated pools, steam rooms and saunas. The Resort also boasts a selection of restaurants & bars and extensive conference and banqueting facilities

Now onto the Shepherds Huts... Nestled in Galgorm Wood with the cascading River Maine running alongside, our Shepherd’s Huts are perfect for luxurious, yet laid back countryside living. Each hut is luxuriously appointed with a mini kitchen with facilities including hob, microwave, fridge and small freezer, coffee machine, kettle & toaster. The interior bathroom includes a shower room however the stand out feature has to be the outdoor bath on the terrace - get back to nature and bathe in the views, before watching the sun go down beside the fire pit. The perfect blend of luxurious living with a rustic feel. And those with furry friends will be chuffed to know the accommodation is Dog Friendly And how about the famed Thermal Spa Village The first of its kind in Ireland, is the jewel in the crown of Galgorm. Inspired by the understated beauty of the landscape, natural wood and a palette of hues inspired by nature piece together in harmony to deliver a feeling of restfulness and calm. Manicured gardens reveal meandering paths that lead you on your journey of rediscovery. A smorgasbord of heated and cool spa experiences await including saunas, steam rooms, hot tubs, indoor and outdoor pools, snail shower, heated loungers, the famed snow cabin and Beltane Experience. Savour the views and awaken your senses in the surroundings of the River House, perfect to while away the hours with a good read. When you have worked up a hunger, Elements Spa Cafe

houses refreshing drinks, indulgent snacks and nourishing nibbles for those feeling particularly virtuous. The Thermal Village is open from 8am - 10pm __ The Galgorm has a reputation that speaks for itself therefore this is more a seal of approval rather than regular recommendation. I genuinely had such a wonderful time, although only 30 mins away from work I could have been transported to the other side of the world. Thanks, it was a much needed relax and recharge Here is a few words from my guest Sharon... “What a treat .... Myself and Daniel stayed in Shepherds huts at the Galgorm a few weeks ago, I’ve always heard great reports about the Galgorm and it well surpassed expectations, even the drive into the estate was breathtaking, there was parking right beside the Shepherds Huts and the walk to our hut was beautiful. The cabin was amazing, a gorgeous copper bath greets you on the personal terrace, and a fire pit perfect for those chilly evenings. Inside was so quirky and catered for every need, I didn’t want to leave. Daniel and myself had a lovely day lapping up the spa facilities. It was 1st class, we then were transported to the Castle Kitchen for an amazing meal. I would highly recommend this to anyone and cannot wait to return” In short, The Galgorm is the perfect escape. Thank you so much for your hospitality. Check out the Shepherd’s Huts along with all their offerings via galgorm.com

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FASHION JUPITER & LO

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FASHION JUPITER & LO

LOCKER GEAR FROM JUPITER & LO Unlock my addiction... fetish brand for men

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FASHION JUPITER & LO

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FASHION JUPITER & LO Locker Gear merges sportswear and fetishwear together to bring you some naughty but sporty styles. These hot designs are usually made with a breathable athletic micro-mesh fabric. This has tiny holes that ventilate you, helping to keep you cool and dry for longer. But they also have some kinky features included. For example, peep-hole windows, zips, backless styling, and leatherette panels. These Locker Gear styles are perfect for the club or a night in at home. Many can be paired together to create a hot club-wear outfit, such as the jockstraps and harnesses. They’re sure to turn heads and therefore get attention on the dance-floor! Based in Spain, Locker Gear is the naughty little brother of CODE22. They aim to offer the same great quality fabrics and tailoring, at an affordable price point for fetishwear. They ask you to ‘Unlock My Addiction’ as their tagline. And yes we most certainly will! “There’s something so delightfully naughty about visiting their shop.” Jupiter & Lo Belfast is the official NI stockist of Locker Gear, sourcing directly from the brand to ensure authenticity for you. We have the largest selection of Locker Gear in the NI. We are offering a FREE Locker Gear bag for the first 20 customers quoting GNI magazine with their purchase. Based in Belfast city centre, Jupiter & Lo is the place to visit for designer underwear, luxury & seductive sex toys to fuel your erotic imagination and there’s a veritable apothecary of poppers, in fact the largest selection in Ireland can be found here. When in Belfast take time to explore the home of pleasure where inhibitions are not required. Go on, you know you want to.

Grab Him Harness from £27.00 Double strap harness comes In 4 colours Sizes S to XXL Full access jockstrap from £21.00 Low-cut made of breathable fabric Available in 3 colours Sizes S to XXL Watch it hard jockstrap from £21.00 Leatherette details, front opening, in 4 colours Sizes S to XXL Josh brief from £30.00 Waistband 4.5cm wide brushed elastic Zipper opening with mesh placket Available in 4 colours Sizes S to XXL Available from Jupiter & Lo, 27 Gresham Street, Belfast, BT1 1JL GNI MAG [109]


REVIEW NUTRI LEAN

NUTRI LEAN Like so many people I struggle at times finding enough hours in the day or days in the week for that matter to get everything done. Juggling two jobs and rehearsing for multiple dramatic productions can be demanding without the added pressure of thinking about when I will have the time to prepare meals. It is with that in mind I decided to reach out to a company that I have been seeing all over the place in Garages, Supermarkets and on Social Media, the company in question is Nutri Lean. Who are Nutri Lean you ask! They are a local Meal Prep company offering fresh meals right across the province, currently available in over 270 locations. They offer Meals, Plans, Snacks, Protein Snacks, Granola Pots, Overnight Oats and lots more which can be purchased loose from retailers or for those buying multiple, their meal plans and all products can be home delivered. They are both Convenient & Affordable while being Sustainable and Renewable. Their regular NutriLean Plan has GNI MAG [110]

10 meals perfect solution to sorting meals Monday to Friday though they also cater for those wanting a more specific plan e.g Bulk Plan, Work, Veggie, Couples and Keto. With my busy schedule and knowing I was performing nightly I decided to try their Keto plan. Instead of the carbohydrates such as rice or pasta, this option is packed with lots of fresh vegetables ensuring you reach that target of 5 a day, avoiding those bloating carbs. This option has the exact same menu as their Nutrilean and Bulk plan only without the carbohydrates. Before I get into the food let me tell you about the process, simply pop over to nutri-lean.co.uk and you will see the various plans, the site honestly couldn’t be easier to navigate, fill up your basket, complete the order from and within 2-3 days your goodies will arrive. I must say the packaging really impressed me. Everything was wrapped and had ice packs keeping everything fresh and chilled. So on to the important part, the eating, I would be here all day if I

discussed every dish though here are a few highlights/thoughts. Chilli con carne This was so tasty, it has opened my eyes to what tastes good with Chilli. Toffee Apple Cheesecake OMG this was so good, love cheesecake , this was divine, could have ate another Salted chilli chicken Perfect mash up between sweet and spicy . Chinese Chicken Curry I’m such a fan of a curry , deffo my go too from the Takeaway, really enjoyed it though could of been spicier though that’s just personal preference, added a bit of chilli powder Peppered Chicken I really enjoyed it , very similar to what I’d have for a typical sunday dinner , bravo Salted Caramel Protein Pancakes WOW these are so good, the perfect amount of Carmel for that sugar fix

Buffalo Chicken Absolutely delicious . Great kick to it. 9/10. - My Favourite I thoroughly enjoyed the meals, I am a constant eater someone who likes 2-3 small meals and snacks throughout the day though if you are a bigger eater and someone that is used to a stacked dinner plate you will probably think the portion is small, though as I say they was great for me, nutritionally balanced, very tasty, super varied menu and took all the worry out of my week. Cost varies depending on the plan, the Veggie plan with 5 meals is £19.99, the regular 10 meal option is £40.50 and the Keto plan I reviewed was £45. Oh also just to add snacks are included within the cost of some of the plans FUEL YOUR BODY and get your orders in via nutri-lean.co.uk

Thanks again for the lovely meals and snacks Review by Daniel May


TRAVEL

TRAVEL BRUSSELS

Brussels By Gavyn Andrews

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TRAVEL BRUSSELS

Brussels a city you didn’t expect to want to visit? The capital of Belgium (Brussels) is often forgotten about when people think of city break stops but I want to correct this and show you what you’re missing out on. Brussels has to be one of Europe’s most liberal an forward thinking cities, it also has a fascinating and very unique history with some 30% of its current inhabitants being of foreign nationalities. If like me Brussels has not been on your tourist radar its most likely because the most you have heard about the city is on TV news channels when they have been reporting both on Brexit and now more so the Northern Ireland Protocol dramas. As a city it always came across very stuffy and only for those with wealth and or business interests. Yes it’s true that the EU does indeed have its Headquarters in the city and is often at the forefront of any EU policy decisions but this also means that this is a city which in a sense has to cater for at least 27 different nationalities and cultures whom both work and resident side by side in the city resulting in a surprising and very diverse open lifestyle. What strikes me about the city is its beauty having some of the most attractive buildings and public squares I have seen on my travels around the globe not to mention palaces. The stunning Grand-Place or Grote Market is the central square of Brussels, Belgium. It is surrounded by opulent Baroque guildhalls of the former Guilds of Brussels and two larger edifices; the city’s Flamboyant Town Hall, and the neo-Gothic King’s House or Bread House building, containing the Brussels City Museum. The square measures 68 by 110 metres and is entirely paved. Something totally different which graces the city’s skyline is Atomium; the Atomium is a landmark building in Brussels, originally constructed for the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair. It is located on the Heysel/Heizel Plateau in Laeken, where the exhibition took place. Nowadays, it is the city’s most popular tourist attraction, and serves as a museum, an art centre and a cultural place. Some interesting information, Brussels is known for its cuisine and gastronomic offer (including its local waffle, its chocolate, its French fries and its numerous types of beers), as well as its historical and architectural landmarks; some of them are GNI MAG [112]


TRAVEL BRUSSELS

registered as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. I guess as you can tell so far Brussels is a history buffs dream city and to be fair history is all around and with so many sites and tourist attractions to visit you can really understand why Brussels has become the very modern beating heart of the European Union and everything that it represents. I feel therefore that you cannot be too surprised to learn that the city has an extensive gay village which is packed with a multitude of bars hosting LGBTQ+ events every night of the week. I have to admit it is defiantly on par with cities like Paris, London and even Berlin which frankly shocked me when I visited but in a very good way. The city also has an amazing dance scene and the legendary La Demence monthly dance parties are events which I would certainly book a trip for. As you can imagine with such an open and proud LGBTQ+ city it has one of the best summer annual Pride events which Is one of the city’s biggest spectacles. Of course with such a historical city you will always find an abundance of alternative events in the city for the less flamboyant such as the LGBTQ+ film festival and city flower shows. Oh and for the Hairy Bear readers, Belgium Bear Pride taking place annually in October and is a hugely popular celebration of all things furry with club and sauna parties, dinners, talks, and the popular Mister Bear Belgium competition. Newcomers are always welcomed, because – well, bears may come in all shapes and sizes but there is always kindness in their hearts. Now I have never said this about any other destination or city when comes to hotels or accommodation due to it being a leading light in LGBTQ city tourism the majority of accommodation is open and friendly to our communities. Some

recommendations though would be the Hilton and Marriott hotels but If you like a little more uniqueness then go for it and try 9Hotel or maybe the Aloft, whatever your vibe is though the city has options open for you and your budget. The main gay bars in Brussels are located in the city centre, around Rue du Marché au Char-

bon street (or Kolenmarkt) near Bourse metro station. You have so many different options here but some of the most well-known and popular bars are, Gay bar in the heart of Brussels’ gay street, popular with bears, friends and admirers. Although small inside, this bar is very popular. Most guests will drink outside (there’s little room inside), but the atmosphere is great. Colourful ceilings and walls add to the fun atmosphere. La Reserve the oldest gay bar in Brussels. Pub feel’ here – it’s cosy, friendly, and the beer selection is top notch. La Reserve has a great sound system, and the music is upbeat and loud, especially on weekends! Another fun time venues appears to Chez Maman, popular weekend gay bar with drag shows, hosted by the one and only Maman and her cast of fabulous performers. If you prefer to dance your way through the night then the cities nightclubs will happily welcome you with many offering free entry before 10pm, I would recommend , CAVE which offers an

unground electronic party vibe with a brilliant dance floor, sound system blasting local and international sounds. As a gay man I often look for city LGBTQ friendly hotels, clubs and specific events when planning a trip anywhere but of course how you travel is up to you. If you’re single, coupled or travelling as part of a group then Brussels is a perfect city break destination catering to many individual needs and or even fetishes. Belgium has to be one of the safest places to visit for our community and a place that I would say I felt very confident in both myself and around others openly. If you are not so confident in public the city offers many male sauna opportunities for you to explore your sexual desires or needs in safe and private ambience. Venues such as Macho which is the city’s largest gay sauna and has been welcoming the community since 1983 right in the heart of the scene. If Brussels taught me anything during my visit it’s that don’t read a book by its cover and simply expect the unexpected because you simply don’t know what to expect around the next corner in this central European hub. Every holiday should be an experience so keep traveling and sharing your life with the world and maybe just maybe we will meet on the biggest journey of all, life.

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