Despite the vast, rich and yet unique history and heritage of north Belfast, the area is overlooked when it comes to regeneration and tourism opportunities. The positive contribution all of this could make to the wider city tends to be is overshadowed by negative stories that reflect the impact of communities separated and torn apart by road development, deprivation and our recent past.
North Belfast is the forgotten jewel in the city’s heritage crown – consider either a one mile stretch from St Anne’s up the Crumlin or Antrim Road and you will take your way past a bounty of listed buildings, churches, schools and graveyards packed with the story of Belfast – its wealth, poverty, diversity and philanthropy. And it is not only the buildings which can help us view into the past but the stories and archives that they house.
Working together to bring some of this to light is the North Belfast Heritage Cluster – a network of 13 voluntary organisation who own or are responsible for these historic building and sites.
Yesterday representatives from the public, business and voluntary and community sectors joined with the Cluster to listen and share ideas for the future of this forgotten part of the city at a conference aptly named ‘Our Heritage, Our Future 2020’. Jointly organised by Ulster University as part of the ‘Great Place North Belfast’ project, this conference helped to facilitate discussions on the regeneration of the north Belfast area. Great Place North Belfast is a three-year project funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
“The North Belfast Heritage Cluster uses its heritage assets to help forge a new future for this part of North Belfast. Our vision, through this Great Place North Belfast project, is to create a more confident sense of place in partnership with others. Over the last 18 months, we have been working to improve the sustainability of our organisations and building and to create opportunities to improve access to these but more strategically to help catalyse the physical and economic reservation of this area” Paula Reynolds, Chief Executive of Belfast Charitable Society and lead partner on the project commented.
She continued: ‘we are working together to build connections with people, stories and heritage that will support change and create a better place’.
The event marked the mid-way point in the Great Place North Belfast project, allowing delegates to hear about the projects progress, including the latest Urban Design plans for the key junctions of Donegall and Clifton Street; the archive development project across all cluster members and finally plans for ongoing stakeholder engagement, ensuring that as many voices can be heard around the vision and priorities for north Belfast’s rich heritage.
Dr Duncan Morrow, Director of Community Engagement, Ulster University, added “This is period of great change and great opportunity in North Belfast. The University is already driving change to the physical landscape and we are committed to building close and practical partnerships with communities at local level for the future. Working with the Heritage Cluster through the Great Place Initiative has been an important part of that change as we work together to build on the many assets of the area to the benefit of the community. This half way conference in the initiative will allow us to take stock of achievements and to set goals for the next few years.”
To find out more about Great Place North Belfast, visit greatplacenorthbelfast.com or call 028 9099 7022.