Belfast Telegraph

Vandals who hit us can use our new facility: 174 Trust

by Laura Hyland

A community group in north Belfast has received funding which it hopes will benefit the individuals who vandalised the premises for months.

Following a 10-year wait, the 174 Trust has been awarded almost £1m in aid of restoration purposes for Duncairn Presbyterian Church from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

The listed building located on the Antrim Road will contain a new welcome area, cafe, exhibition and theatre space, office accommodation and activity rooms.

The 174 Trust will use the £959,600 to transform the church into a Centre for Arts, Culture and Heritage.

Director of Trust 174, Rev Bill Shaw said: “The vandalism is thankfully no longer at the level we had before Christmas.

“We are hopeful that some of our activities may be of use to the individuals who carried out the anti-social behaviour.”

The site was acquired by the 174 Trust in 1995 and is currently used by local groups and organisations for activities as diverse as boxing, after school clubs, community physio therapy services and Irish dancing classes. Over 800 people access these services, but the Church building has suffered serious deterioration from weather damage and vandalism over the last ten years and is currently considered ‘at risk’.

It is currently used by local groups as a venue for activities including boxing, after school clubs, community physiotherapy services and Irish dancing classes.

Mr Shaw added: “Once the church has been transformed, it will benefit not only the local community, but people from the city and beyond. The sky’s the limit,” he said.

An ambitious programme of community-focused events and activities is what the restored church will be offering.

Mr Shaw added: “There will be a performing arts space for plays, music, talks and lectures. Schools from across the city will be able to make visits and benefit from our facilities.”

The new project will restore the historic fabric of the church building, halls and manse.

Extensive conservation works will be needed to preserve the building and will include repairs to the Scrabo Stone exterior and the roof and floors, reusing existing materials where possible.

Speaking about the reusing of existing materials, Mr Shaw said: “Permanent displays will be erected using memorial tablets and stained glass windows to tell the story of the church and those who worshipped there. The building's architectural heritage is being brought to good use so that people can use it.”

Head of HLF Northern Ireland, Paul Mullan, said: “The restoration and reuse of this local landmark will help to make a real difference to the people of North Belfast. 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 to become involved in, learn from and enjoy.”

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