Calls for Belfast's ballroom of romance to bloom again
It's the art deco dance palace where generations of romances were forged. But the once spectacular Floral Hall is now an eyesore, crumbling away at the entrance to Belfast Zoo.
However, the massive social media response to the Floral Hall's plight over the past 72 hours proves there's a lot of love for the decaying dancehall. That's according to civil servant Heather Henderson, who says the Save The Floral Hall Facebook page has won more than 1,000 followers since she and her friends set it up on Saturday.
"The Floral Hall was built in the 1930s and was used as a dancehall for many years. It catered to all parts of the community, but the art deco building closed in the 1970s after the Troubles started," Heather said. "It was played by Pink Floyd, The Small Faces, Lulu and all the showbands, but it closed in 1973 and has been empty ever since. It's in an awful state. I used to look at it as a child and think: 'What is this poor, sad building?' It's a shame it's sitting there falling to pieces." Restoration was estimated at £5.5m in an economic appraisal by Belfast City Council in recent years.
According to councillor Clare Hanna, this has been complicated by a "big asbestos problem". Heather said: "We're debating setting up a Friends of the Floral Hall group on Facebook. We've been getting a lot of happy memories on social media - lots tweeting to say that their mum and dad met and fell in love through the Floral Hall. I'm sensing a lot of love for the building." The council said: "Belfast City Council is aware of the public interest to restore the Floral Hall. The council is currently investigating costs to repair and paint the external walls. The council will continue to look at future options for the hall, but there are no investment plans just yet."
The Floral Hall was designed by DW Boyd, opening in 1936 in the Bellevue Pleasure Gardens. It became a hugely popular venue, hosting more than 130,000 people in 1947 alone. It was played by showbands as well as Pink Floyd, The Small Faces, Lulu and Gene Vincent.