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Calls for restoration of Floral Hall at Belfast Zoo

Ballroom of Romance a sorry sight

By Michael McHugh

Published 12/02/2016

The Floral Hall today
The Floral Hall today

It is the art deco dance palace where generations of romances were forged.

But the once spectacular Floral Hall is now a crumbling eyesore at the entrance to Belfast Zoo.

Floral Hall in its heyday
Floral Hall in its heyday

Almost 3,000 people have now signed a petition calling for the famous old hall to be restored.

The structure was once the venue for dances, concerts and weddings, but it closed in the early 1970s as the Troubles wrecked the city nightlife. It has since been used to store animal feed.

Roy Orbison and Pink Floyd are among the acts who once played there.

The petition said: "We are appealing for Belfast City Council to seek out all available funding sources and to restore this magnificent art deco building for future generations to enjoy.

"The Ballroom of Romance, as it is affectionately known, is loved by many people across all divides in Northern Ireland and beyond. It stands just inside the entrance of Belfast Zoo - a sad relic of the Troubles that sounded its demise."

More than 2,850 people have supported the campaign so far.

The council said it was seeking opportunities to attract investment to the Floral Hall.

"However, given the estimated cost of restoring it and bringing it back into use again, it is essential that there is a strong business case which can demonstrate that it would be sustainable," a spokesman added.

Jive night at the dance hall
Jive night at the dance hall

The cost is thought to run to £5m.

Built in the 1930s, the Floral Hall was Belfast's pre-eminent entertainment venue for over 35 years and hosted many showbands in the 1960s.

It formed the centrepiece of the Bellevue Gardens on the slopes of Cavehill but is now a pale shadow of its former self.

The Belfast Buildings Trust said it had been in negotiations with the council about the possibility of restoration.

A spokesman added: "Discussions are now centred on the possibility of providing a wedding and conference facility alongside an education facility for the zoo that would help with regeneration in north Belfast.

"In advance of this, the trust is launching an oral history project to gather and document the memories associated with Floral Hall and to capture the public's affection for the building."

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