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  • Writer's pictureGerry Monaghan


The scene is set and the Belfast Christmas Market is open for business and ready to play host to over 1 million visitors. The hustle and bustle as people from around the world enjoy the sights and sounds can sometimes be daunting. This year, some new initiatives that are being delivered in partnership with the NOW Group will help make the market an enjoyable experience for all.

The NOW Group is a social enterprise that works to support people with learning difficulties and autism in to employment. Their participants came up with the innovative JAM Card that allows people to discreetly ask for ‘just a minute’ of extra time and patience in social situations. Some of those participants will be part of Market Place’s ‘Buddy Tours’ scheme. These are tailored tours of the market for visitors who may like a little more support as they take in the extensive food, drink and gifts on offer.

The market will also have two quiet rooms for those seeking a moment’s calm amid all the excitement. The quiet rooms are located on the perimeter of the market on the Donegal Square East side. JAM cards will be available in the quiet room and are also available as a downloadable app for smartphones. A map of the Market for those who like to plan in advance is available to download from:

Diane Hill, Business Development Director at NOW Group said “Our partnership with Belfast Christmas Market is leading the way in ensuring large, public events take into account the accessibility needs of all. We’re delighted that our participants will have the opportunity to show off the market to visitors who book on the Buddy Tours and also tell the story of the JAM Card. We will, of course, be selling our award winning sausage rolls too.”

Buddy Tours must be booked in advance by emailing

Tours will run from 10am- 12noon on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday on the following dates:

2nd, 3rd and 4th December

9th, 10th and 11th December

16th, 17th and 18th December

Each tour lasts approximately 45minutes.

Allan Hartwell, Managing Director of Market Place (operators of Belfast Christmas Market) said “Belfast Christmas Market has become synonymous with the start of the festive season in Belfast, a season we want everyone to enjoy. Over the years we have introduced a number of initiatives to make the Market a more welcoming place, and this year we are delighted to be working with the Now Group. We are particularly excited to be offering the popular Buddy Tours, led by the wonderful NOW participants who will give their unique take on all that’s on offer.”

Photo shows Diane Hill, Business Development Director at NOW Group with Market Manager Andy Pidgen and Conor McCallan.

Belfast Christmas Market runs from 16 November until 6pm on the 22 December. Opening hours are: Mon – Wed 10am – 8pm, Thurs- Sat 10am – 10pm, Sunday 12noon – 6pm.

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