Belfast Telegraph

On the grapevine - September 9


Baby signers

Babies as young as six-months-old, living in the Ards peninsula, now have a new way of making themselves understood, many months before they utter their first word.

How? The answer is simple, if not immediately obvious — it’s sign language. To those in the know, using sign language is a wonderful way to communicate with your hearing baby before they develop sufficient control over their voice to talk.

Jill Moore of the BabySigners teaching network is now running classes in Ards, Bangor and Portaferry to help parents learn how to use these signs easily and simply in their everyday life.

The classes are small and friendly — typically about eight parents and their babies — and are more like a playgroup than a lesson, with songs, puppets and stories to keep it all fun.

You can start as early as six months and you’ll enhance the verbal development of your baby in the process . All the research shows that babies that learn to sign also tend to speak earlier than their non-signing peers.

Beginners courses will commence Wednesday, September 29 from 11.15pm to 12pm at the Web Theatre, North Street, Newtownards. Other venues include the North Down Resource Centre, Bangor, on October 1 and Ballyphilip Parish Centre, Portaferry, October 4. To secure your place call 07882475292 or email

All the lessons use British Sign Language (BSL) throughout so that your baby’s signs can also be understood by nurseries and other professional carers. For more info visit


Free testing for electric blankets

With thoughts turning to the onset of colder weather, electric blankets will be coming out again and local people can now get their’s tested for free at a home safety event this month.

The testing will form part of the home safety Information Day’ that takes place on Wednesday, September 29 from 10am to 2pm at the Fire Safety Centre in Newtownards (beside the Fire Station).

Everyone is welcome to attend and for those who would like to have an electric blanket tested, but can’t make it to the event, blankets can be collected for testing and then returned. Anyone wishing to have a blanket collected for testing or who would like to bring a blanket for checking on the day should contact the Council’s Environmental Health Service on 028 9182 4052.

Electric blankets account for over 5,000 fires every year in the UK, resulting in deaths, injuries and severe damage to property, with older people particularly at risk. Members of the public can either make an appointment to have their electric blankets tested at the Home Safety Information Day, or if they can’t make it on the day, they can arrange to have their blankets collected, tested and returned.

GI Joes and twinkle toes

From GI Joes to some twinkle toes, next week’s Festival of Peninsula from September 15 to September 19 is broadening its appeal.

While renowned for its folk and traditional music concerts, the 2010 festival will also include contemporary dance, a film screening, night of entertainment with the Ards Writers, as well as a boat tour.

‘World War II Remembered’ will recreate the American presence in Ards between 1942 and 1944, with US troops descending upon Conway Square, wearing authentic uniforms, demonstrating weapon handling and rifle drills, marching and standing to attention when a jeep with ‘General Eisenhower’ tours the town. The soldiers will be back ‘at ease’, however, when ‘The Bellehoppers’ bring the music and dancing of the 40s to the Square.

The outside activity will be complemented by an exhibition inside the Town Hall which will show original Allied and Axis weaponry, uniforms and equipment, as well as a US medical display, — all against the backdrop of original wartime footage and a chance to see the documentary ‘Over Here’ about US troops in Northern Ireland between 1942 and 1943.

Film fans will also enjoy a special screening of ‘Into The West’, when the Town Hall becomes a cinema for the night. The movie tells how an ancient legend becomes reality for Ossie and Tito, the sons of Papa Riley, a former traveller who has rejected the nomadic life after the death of his wife. A magnificent white horse follows their grandfather home and becomes curiously devoted to the boys. Driven by their grandpa’s tales, the horse, and their father’s misery, the boys flee Dublin in search of the west and an answer to what is missing in their lives.

‘Born To Prance’, the unique story of Anthea McWilliams’ decision, as she turned 50, to dance all the way from Malin Head in County Donegal to Mizen Head in Cork, brings comic contemporary dance to the festival when Anthea herself will be re-enacting her experiences on stage in the Web Theatre, Newtownards.

More comic moments are guaranteed in ‘Music, Memory & Mirth’ when Ards Writers will stage an evening of pure entertainment in the company of accomplished pianist, Donald Blair and award winning writer, broadcaster and storyteller, Hugh Robinson.

The Festival of the Peninsula is organised by Ards Borough Council’s tourism and events service, and takes place from 15th to 19th September. For further information, a brochure and to book, contact Ards Tourist Information Centre, Tel: 028 9182 6846 or visit

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