Belfast Telegraph

£1m grant will see abandoned church reborn as arts hub

By Connla Young

Sitting derelict for almost 20 years, Duncairn Presbyterian Church has been a blight on the local landscape.

But all that is about to change after the group that owns the landmark building, the 174 Trust, was awarded £1m by the Heritage Lottery Fund to help with vital restoration work.

Sitting on the Antrim Road, the church is now a sad shadow of its former self.

Now exactly 150 years after the church was built, it is set to be transformed from a decaying shell to a beacon of hope for all sections of the community in north Belfast.

The 174 Trust is a non-denominational Christian group.

Trust director, Reverend David Shaw, said: “The congregation numbers were dwindling since the 1960s and the Troubles didn’t make it any easier. The decision was taken to combine the congregation with Saint Enoch’s. Now that church has been closed as well.

“The 174 Trust is a Christian organisation but non-denominational. We are faith-based but not funded by any of the denominations and we work with them all. We have based the concept on the Culturlann concept on the Falls Road and we devised it about 10 years ago.

“We want it to be like Culturlann but even better. It will be a space for local people to visit, a functional arts centre.”

North Belfast Assemblyman Gerry Kelly said: “People talk about north Belfast being as a microcosm of the conflict. This place can be a cockpit in the post-conflict era.”

Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Northern Ireland, Peter Mullan, said: “The project will maximise the potential of this shared space, creating a range of new facilities to provide enhanced educational opportunities and access to a range of arts, heritage and cultural events for the local community.”

Background

Work on Duncairn Presbyterian Church began in 1861, 150 years ago. An award of £1m from the Heritage Lottery Fund will help transform the former church into an arts and culture centre.

The church stands at one of the gateways to the old Crumlin Road Prison.

Thomas Sinclair was associated with the church, and was a friend of Edward Carson.

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