Despite the stresses 2021 and living through a global pandemic has brought, many ‘good news’ stories have still brought a smile to our faces.
Amy Cochrane lists the top 40 most uplifting, inspiring and kind-hearted stories that have hit the headlines over the past year.
A Belfast art collective became the first group from Northern Ireland to be awarded the Turner Prize this year. Array Collective described their winning work as a homage to Belfast, as they also issued a rallying call for Stormont to deliver on a wide range of social issues.
Mascott Construction erected a ‘Wall of Kindness’ in their Cornmarket site in Belfast’s city centre, encouraging people to take a coat if they are cold or leave one if is isn’t being used anymore on pegs attached to their site hoarding.
A young seal, which sparked public concern after being spotted in Belfast Lough with a drinks can stuck to its mouth for over a week, was rescued in Scotland after the juvenile marine mammal swam across the North Channel.
PSNI chief inspector Graham Dodds donated one of his kidneys to nine-year-old Co Fermanagh boy Joshua Dolan. Mr Dodds acted after seeing an appeal by Joshua’s mum, Mary, for a live donor for her son.
Professional skateboarder Joe Hill hit the headlines after he was filmed on Halloween sporting a Saturday Night Fever-inspired costume speeding down Waterloo Street in Derry holding a pint. After not spilling a drop, he was invited to a meet and greet with Mayor Graham Warke.
The Community Fridge initiative took off in 2021 right across Northern Ireland, with four now established right across the region. On a monthly basis, the scheme helps to divert up to a tonne of food from landfill, by giving away free food which would normally have been wasted.
Cushendall woman Enya McGlinchey (25) was celebrating after a pub she had owned for just a few days won a major UK-wide hospitality award in London. The Steamboat Inn’s success was a wonderful and unexpected start in business.
Co Antrim couple Marty and Mervyn Ross lit up their Aghalee home with countless fairy lights and decorations to raise money for Air Ambulance NI and the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the Belfast Royal Victoria Hospital. They also installed a special post box at the front of their home where children can post their letters to Santa.
Kelly Graham, from Lisburn, decided to use her love of gardening for the greater good earlier this year and began donating the money made from creating her ‘blooms’ and Christmas wreaths to the Lisburn Common, a community initiative providing mental health support.
Former Northern Ireland golf star David Feherty is getting rather serious about the latest chapter of his career – as a stand-up comedian. The Bangor native’s one-man show has been playing to top reviews and packed audiences in America.
TV cook and food writer Nigella Lawson revealed on Twitter that Northern Ireland’s Tayto was the only cheese and onion crisp she eats after posting a photograph of her “crisp cauldron”. She said that they were “divine” and expressed her disappointment at not being able to get them where she lives.
Raymond Walsh said he was left speechless after being told by TV funnyman Matt Lucas that he had been nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Musical Theatre Album for his performance in Les Miserables alongside the likes of Alfie Boe, Michael Ball and Carrie Hope Fletcher.
Jonathan Anderson made headlines when Schitt’s Creek star Dan Levy sported one of his pieces at the Met Gala. He is set to show his men’s fall 2022 and women’s pre-collection as part of the Camera Nazionale della Moda’s official calendar next year in Milan.
A very lucky black cat — who was given a new lease of life after his broken leg was amputated and the tips of his ears badly singed — was selected to be one of the stars of Cats Protection’s 2022 calendar. Inky was just a kitten when he was rescued back in 2019 after being injured from sheltering in a hot car engine.
Sir Kenneth Branagh premiered his upcoming Oscar-tipped semi-autobiographical film Belfast in the city itself. The black-and-white period film follows a working-class family and their young son during the Troubles. It is due to be released in the new year.
Less than 10 years ago, only a handful of female skateboarders were part of the Belfast skate scene. Now, these talented women and girls account for almost a third of the skaters seen through the city’s streets and across Northern Ireland. This year, they were given a global platform after skateboarding entered the Olympics for the first time ever.
Belfast was awarded the coveted City of Music status by UNESCO – celebrating the city’s rich musical heritage and recognising the importance of music to its future. It is the first city on the island of Ireland to receive this status.
Two Belfast clerics who set out to raise £1,000 for charity on their 60th birthdays ended up with over nine times that amount. Father Martin Magill and Rev Steve Stockman had asked for contributions in lieu of gifts, raising over £9,000.
Daniel O’Donnell caused a few headlines with his video for his latest single Down at The Lah De Dah. The video for the cover of Jimmy Buffet’s classic single sees the 59-year-old firstly in striped pyjamas before he begins to dance in a Hawaiian hula skirt.
Daniel McKee (27), from the north coast, walked down the aisle in the reality show Married at First Sight (MAFS) UK earlier this year ready to say ‘I do’ to 39-year-old West Yorkshire charity worker, Matt. He was one half of the first ever same-sex couple to get married on a reality show.
Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell was awarded the Copley Medal, the Royal Society’s highest prize and the world’s oldest scientific prize, for her work on the discovery of pulsars in the 1960s. She is the only second woman to be awarded the prize, after Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin.
12-year-old Cara Mailey, who has height-restricting condition achondroplasia, teamed up with two top London designers, Amanda Rabor and Tara TJ Hanif, to create the UK’s first clothing range for children who, like her, have dwarfism.
A Co Londonderry man, who set up The Shoe Dr in his hometown of Maghera two years ago, saw one of his unique designs on tour around France on the feet of one of the top cyclists in the Tour de France. Shea Gribbon makes handcrafted custom design shoes which are popular in cycling circles.
Nigerian-born primary school girl Ezinne Nwosu (9) took over from Kate Nicholl to become Mayor of Belfast for a day. The initiative is organised by Africa House and is aimed at encouraging members of the black and ethnic minority communities to become involved in politics.
Former Ulster and Ireland rugby captain Rory Best walked 180 miles across Ireland to raise funds for a new therapeutic facility for children battling cancer. He started his 10-day trek in Newcastle in Co Down before walking through over 30 towns and villages and finishing in Co Mayo. He raised over £370,000.
Dazzle the dog rose to internet stardom earlier this year when she ran onto a cricket field where her owner was batting, and then scampered away with the ball, all while being pursued by players from both teams during the semi-final of the women’s Clear Currency All Ireland T20 Cup.
Eight-year-old Randalstown boy Shea Brady was selected to voice Odo the owl in a new Channel 5 animation which was broadcast to children across the world, with the programme to aired in Germany, the USA and Latin America, Australia, Canada, France, Sweden, Norway, Poland and Wales.
A message in a bottle, which was shipped off by Rostrevor native Stephen Caulfield hoping to find love, washed up 23 years later in Dundrum, only 18 miles away from where it was launched. The now-married father-of-three confirmed that he did not meet his wife via any correspondence in a drinks container.
The Body Coach, also known as Joe Wicks, made a visit to three Belfast schools earlier this year as part of a national tour to showcase his new children’s book, The Burpee Bears. A YouTube sensation, PE with Joe became something parents and children could rely on for 18 weeks of lockdown in 2020.
Portstewart fashion designer Hope Macaulay’s trademark colourful, chunky knits graced the cover of GQ magazine earlier this year as her creations won over celebrity fans Gigi Hadid and tennis star Naomi Osaka.
Five-year-old Dáithí MacGabhann and his parents played a key part i n the campaign to introduce presumed organ donor consent in Northern Ireland with their Donate4Dáithí initiative. The west Belfast boy was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome in 2016 and has been on the donation list for a new heart ever since.
22-year-old gymnast Rhys McClenaghan has been a shining example of perseverance and resilience after making a slip-up during his routing on the pommel horse in this summer’s Tokyo Olympics. The Newtownards athlete said he wanted to use the opportunity to show younger gymnasts “that no matter how wrong it goes, you always hold your head high”.
A busking event held in Belfast’s Cornmarket helped raise funds for homeless charity The People’s Kitchen with performances from singer-songwriters such as Amanda St John, Stephen Rafferty and Joe Rocks. The event was organised as part of Homeless Awareness Week by actress and comedienne Nuala McKeever.
Rosie Bradley has been paying tribute to renowned artist Terry Bradley through her own artwork, which she said along with Building Bridges Community Boxing Club, has been her “therapy” since being released from Hydebank women’s prison in 2020.
Derry GAA star Ruairi Mooney has created 100 paintings for mental health awareness, with 10% of the proceeds being donated directly to AWARE NI, the only charity working exclusively for people with depression and bipolar disorder in Northern Ireland.
Twelve-year-old Zoe Rainey completed a hand cycle challenge in aid of future Olympic champions. This was part of the Mary Peters Trust summer challenge, called #PassTheTorch, raising much-needed cash for the sporting charity.
Ruairi McSorley hit the headlines once again after being identified as t he swimmer who got into difficulty off the Co Kerry coast. He was discovered far at sea, alone, and surrounded by dolphins. He was later identified as Frostbit Boy, who previously went viral after giving an interview to UTV.
Ezra Gault, a P3 pupil at Waringstown Primary School, took on the task of writing his own books when lockdown first kicked in before branching out into creating his own comic books earlier this year.
A video of father and daughter firefighters, Phil and Chloe Wilson, racked up almost two million views on TikTok. The video was taken from their doorbell video system from their Co Armagh home, helping to show what it takes to be in the emergency service.
The new year brought a romantic proposal in the heart of the Mourne mountains that will never be forgotten, when a Co Down man popped the question inside an igloo. It comes after Kilkeel artist Stephen Rooney went viral for building the snow structure on Slieve Muck during the heavy snowfall.