LandAid in Northern Ireland

Elise Austin | 15.06.15

On Thursday 11 June, our Grants and Projects Officer Elise travelled to Northern Ireland to visit two inspiring charities who are tackling disadvantage. Here’s her write-up:  

Whilst Derry might share the title with Dubrovnik for the most intact historic walls in Europe, its lack of accessible social spaces are a barrier to cohesion. Thankfully, charities such as Foyle Women’s Aid are striving to put community places back on the agenda.  

On a long summer’s day, I visited one of their projects in Derry which aims to convert an old convent into a community jewel. The renovated building will house public facilities such as historical archives, a café and a space for young people. More innovatively however, these facilities will be set around a confidential holistic support centre for victims of domestic abuse. 

Drawing on US models, the 'one safe place' building will enable those seeking support access to all relevant welfare bodies within the centre, including the police and social services with accommodation at hand where needed.
 
Hopping over to North Belfast, the sun blazed as I made my way to the Carlisle Memorial Church for the second project visit of the day. The church, an iconic neo-gothic building commissioned by James Carlisle in 1875, is situated at the heart of one of the most troubled parts of the city. Due to considerable demographic change in the 1970s, the Church was forced to close its doors to the public and remained in disuse for three decades. 

Today however, new life is being breathed into the old church. The Belfast Buildings Trust bought the site with the aim of returning the building to community use, ultimately to serve as a catering academy for disadvantaged young people. 

LandAid is proud to have provided support to the initial phase of the project, the renovation of the church’s interior, which will be critical in getting Carlisle Memorial back into use by young people from across Belfast. 

Our grant has also made it possible to host today’s event - a celebratory anniversary of the Trust and a showcase of the completion of interior works - within the church itself. Colleagues from Pinsent Masons Northern Ireland joined me to hear inspiring stories of how the Trust has brought heritage buildings back into community use.
 
Full of admiration, I travelled back to London reflecting on the impressive individuals I'd met who are driving social innovation. LandAid will be keeping a keen eye on their development and look forward to further engagement in 2016.