Campaigners win battle to transform Cushendun Old Church into arts centre
It's been a long and determined labour of love.
Campaigners battling to save Cushendun Old Church were devastated when it missed out on a windfall after reaching the final of the BBC's Restoration series in 2006.
Nine years later, the Co Antrim villagers are celebrating after finally securing the lifeline needed to repair the church and transform it into an arts centre. The Heritage Lottery Fund has earmarked £263,600 to restore the crumbling church following the nine-year campaign.
In 2006 campaigners entered Cushendun Old Church into the BBC's iconic Restoration series which was presented by Griff Rhys Jones.
The deconsecrated church was falling into disrepair and is listed on the Buildings at Risk Register, but thanks to the efforts of local campaigners, it reached the UK final of the BBC2 competition, only to fall at the last hurdle.
But they did not give up, Cushendun Building Preservation Trust chair Monica Morgan said.
"We were heartbroken when we failed to win the money to repair the church and turn it into a community centre, but we were determined to keep on trying," she said.
The campaigners finally got ownership of the building transferred from the Church of Ireland, then applied to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to secure the money they needed for restoration.
Now HLF has confirmed that the funding application has succeeded.
Paul Mullan, head of HLF Northern Ireland, said: "Everyone will remember this beautiful building when it featured on Restoration and it was so disappointing when it missed out on winning the funds.
"I really admire the campaigners for their perseverance and hard work.
"This will become a wonderful space for residents and tourists alike."