Junior Ministers inspired by transformative Urban Villages projects

Date published: 20 May 2021

Junior Ministers Declan Kearney and Gordon Lyons have hailed the positive impact The Executive Office’s Urban Villages Initiative is having in Derry~Londonderry.

Junior Ministers Declan Kearney and Gordon Lyons received a warm welcome at Cathedral Youth Club in the Fountain estate.

The Junior Ministers spoke of the inspirational work taking place on the ground that is creating meaningful and lasting changes, following a visit to a number of Urban Villages-supported projects in the city on Wednesday.

Junior Minister Kearney said: “It was really great to meet so many people with a heart for supporting the communities in this part of the city, people who have a real passion and desire to improve these areas and create safer and thriving places for residents and visitors.

“We met some truly inspiring people at Cathedral Youth Club in the Fountain estate and at the Gasyard Centre in the Bogside. I was hugely impressed hearing about their experiences and how they have met the challenges presented by the pandemic and continued to meet the needs of people on the ground.

“The work of building good relations and community transformation being achieved through these projects is evident, and their contribution is to be applauded as they enable their communities to become thriving places.”

Junior Minister Lyons said: “It has been great to be here in the city and to visit these projects that are supported by The Executive Office’s Urban Villages Initiative.

“The future of children and young people is one of our key priorities and I was extremely impressed by projects such as Cathedral Youth Club and the Resilience Project.

“The potential of these projects is clear and it was heartening to see how these projects play such a pivotal role in supporting our young people.

“The integrated approach being taken is built on a range of partnerships and collaborations that can better connect the communities now and provide for a safer and shared future.

“I believe they can be truly transformative in improving community relations and building towards a more united and shared society.”

Junior Ministers Gordon Lyons and Declan Kearney heard from Gasyard Centre manager Linda McKinney, Michael Cooper and Cormac Keenan about the ambitious plans for an extension and new exhibition space at the Lecky Road community facility.

Junior Ministers visited the recently completed extension and renovation of the Cathedral Youth Club in the Fountain area, where they met Centre Manager, Jeanette Warke MBE, along with members of Gasyard Wall Feilé’s Streets Alive programme.

Ministers heard about the wide ranging Streets Alive project that works across the Bogside, Bishop Street and Fountain area, connecting and collaborating with groups to create events, exhibitions and activities that have engaged local people and created a draw for visitors into these areas.

During the pandemic the programme has adapted and developed an innovative digital and outdoors strategy, particularly to support those most vulnerable and isolated while creating quality content that has drawn views from way beyond the Urban Village area.

Ministers also visited the Gasyard Centre, where they saw plans for the development of a Cultural Tourism Exhibition and renovation of community facilities that will soon be underway.

They also met representatives from the Bogside and Brandywell Health Forum’s Resilience Programme, which has adapted during the pandemic to continue delivering services and supporting children and young people.

Junior Ministers Declan Kearney and Gordon Lyons with the group behind Eden Project Foyle.

Ministers also took time to visit the site of the proposed Eden Project Foyle to hear about ambitious plans for the creation of a potentially transformative project to turn 225 acres of land adjacent to the River Foyle into a world class visitor destination, heritage project and educational environment.

Notes to editors: 

1.  The Urban Villages Initiative is a headline action of The Executive Office’s Together: Building a United Community (T:BUC) Strategy.  It is designed to improve good relations outcomes and develop thriving places.

2. The five Urban Villages areas are: Ardoyne and Greater Ballysillan (North Belfast); Colin (West Belfast); EastSide (East Belfast); Sandy Row, Donegall Pass and the Markets areas (South Belfast); The Bogside, Fountain and Bishop Street (Derry~Londonderry).

3.  The Urban Villages Initiative is currently supporting a number of tourism and regeneration related projects in Derry~Londonderry including the redevelopment of Meenan Square, New Gate Arts and Cultural Centre, and the Gasyard Heritage and Exhibition Centre.

4.  The department may take photographs and videos at announcements and events to publicise its work.  Photographs, interviews, videos or other recordings may be issued to media organisations for publicity purposes or used in promotional material, including in publications, newspapers, magazines, other print media, on television, radio and electronic media (including social media and the internet).  Photographs and videos will also be stored on the department’s internal records management system.  The department will keep the photographs and recordings for no longer than is necessary for the purposes for which they have been obtained.  The department’s Privacy Policy is available on our website.

5.  For media queries contact The Executive Office press office via email: press.office@executiveoffice-ni.gov.uk

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