ONE of Northern Ireland’s most loved playwrights Marie Jones OBE was awarded with the prestigious Lifetime Achievement accolade at this year’s Ulster Tatler Awards in association with Optilase Eye Clinic, which took place tonight in Belfast’s iconic City Hall.
After a short spell in acting, Belfast-born Marie became a founder of the Charabanc Theatre Company – an all-women touring group and played a huge role in helping and encouraging the role of women within theatre.
She discovered her love for theatrical writing in the late 1980s and after moving on from the Charabanc Theatre Company, wrote numerous plays throughout the nineties and noughties which became international hits, being performed across the globe from Ireland to New York City. In 2002 she was awarded an OBE.
Married to Game of Thrones star Ian McElhinney, Marie is best known for her plays Stones in His Pockets, A Night in November and smash hit musical Fly Me To The Moon. Despite finding fame throughout the theatrical world Marie has always remembered her routes, as many of her plays recounted the trials and tribulations of Northern Irish history.
Ulster Tater editor Chris Sherry said that Jones was an extremely worthy winner of the evening’s pivotal award which has been won in previous years by local legends Dame Mary Peters, James Galway, Brian Friel, Phil Coulter, Gloria Hunniford, Michael Longley, Gerry Armstrong, Barry McGuigan and Terri Hooley.
“I have followed Marie Jones’ work for years and not only admire her writing but believe she is a marvellous representative for Northern Ireland and is the epitomy of what the Lifetime Achievement award represents,” said Chris.
Fellow Northern Irish actor and playwright Dan Gordon delivered the citation for the award to a full house of more than 400 guests at Belfast City Hall, reliving the exciting life to date of the inspiring Marie Jones.
“She is one of the most prolific and successful artists ever to emerge from Northern Ireland,” said Mr Gordon. “She writes sell-out plays that go to straight to the public’s heart.
“When she was in her early 30s, frustrated by the nature and scarcity of work for women in theatre she and four other actresses founded their own company Charabanc. It was whilst at Charabanc that she first felt the urge to write. She said “As soon as I started to write, I could hear the voices; they were there within me.””
“To this day she continues to produce work that goes to the very heart of what makes our society tick – warts, laughs and all.”
Other big winners on the night included Ulster and Ireland rugby captain Rory Best, who was named Sportsperson of the Year in a hotly-contested category that also included boxing favourite Carl Frampton, local golfer Rory McIlroy, newly retired GAA legend Sean Cavanagh and award-winning motorcyclist Johnny Rea.
The Celebrity of the Year award was won by Line of Duty star Adrian Dunbar who, earlier in his career, played a lead role in Marie Jones’ production Rock Doves.
The evening, hosted by Pamela Ballantine, wasn’t short of ‘glitz and glam’ as Rory Best and Marie Jones were added to the A-list alongside well known faces Barra Best, Alison Clarke, Rebecca McKinney and Stephen Ferris who all stepped out to celebrate at the City Hall venue.
Ulster Tatler editor Chris Sherry said that the event was a huge success.
“This year’s awards were particularly difficult to judge as the standard of local talent in Northern Ireland was so high and every category was jam-packed with worthy nominees,” he said.
“I want to extend huge congratulations to the winners from each category and all those shortlisted, who should all be extremely proud of what they have achieved within their businesses throughout the last year.
“I also want to personally thank everyone for their support. This year we are celebrating the tenth year of the Ulster Tatler Awards and the event was a complete sell-out so really we couldn’t have asked for more. The night was a huge success!” Chris said.
Winners in other categories included The Lagan Dragons who won the Charity of the Year; Galgorm Resort and Spa who lifted both Beauty Salon / Spa of the Year and Hotel of the Year; Sarah Alexandra Boutique who were presented with Fashion Boutique of the Year; Atelier Design who was named Interiors Showroom of the Year; Oasis Travel who was awarded with Independent Travel Agent of the Year; Bridgeen King Hair who achieved Hairdressing Salon of the Year; Coppi who was awarded Restaurant of the Year; Kukoon.com who took the award for Website of the Year; The Speckled Hen who snapped up the prize for Pub of the Year, Jack Hamilton of Mash Direct who earned himself Business Man of the Year and Alison Clarke of ACA Models who was named Business Woman of the Year.
Shortlists in each category were compiled from votes cast by members of the public while dedicated panels of judges had the unenviable task of selecting the winners in the hotly-contested categories.
The Ulster Tatler Awards 2017 were sponsored by Optilase Eye Clinic, Duffy Rafferty Communications, Zen Day Spa, Hafele, Denman, Linwoods, Carlanto, Acorn IT Solutions, Saville Audio Visual, Corick House Hotel & Spa, Mervyn Stewart, Insanity Tan, Bank of Ireland, Jack Murphy Jewellers, W&G Baird, ND Events and U105.