Like mother, Like daughter

When Coleraine singer Claire Smyth enrolled on an Ulster University Access Diploma in Social Sciences at Northern Regional College, she was following in her mother Karen’s footsteps. Claire was awarded her Diploma at the College’s annual Higher Education ceremonies in December 2022 while Karen, who completed an Access Diploma 15 years ago, found that it opened the door to a new career as a nurse. She is now a theatre sister at Causeway Hospital and studying part-time to complete a postgraduate diploma in Specialist Practice Nursing – Anaesthetic Nursing.

Karen explained: “I investigated the Access Diploma at Northern Regional College after a chance meeting with a former classmate who told me how it had allowed her to go university to study nursing.

“At the time, I’d a young family and was working in a school canteen. Although I’d wanted to be a nurse when I was younger, I thought I’d missed my opportunity, but that chance meeting changed everything.”

Inspired by Karen’s success, Claire enrolled on the Access Diploma and completed it with distinction.

Originally, she had intended going to university to study Psychology degree but has since decided to put those plans on hold:

“I got offers but decided to take a break from studying to focus on music full-time,” she said.

Claire performs a lively upbeat mix of Motown, pop and classic rock music under the stage name Nora Jane. Over the next few weeks, she will be performing at venues around the north coast including Anchor Bar, Portstewart, The Atlantic Bar, Portrush and Bertha’s Bar, Castlerock.