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Belfast City

Belfast Gets Ready To Make Purple Flag Bid

Belfast’s bid for Purple Flag accreditation kicked off recently as a number of stakeholders in the city completed an initial self assessment.

A delegation from the City’s Business Improvement Districts Linen Quarter, Cathedral Quarter and Belfast One were joined by representatives from Hospitality Ulster, Belfast Chamber, Translink and the PSNI took part in the exercise to health check the City Centre in the self-assessment.

Similar to the Blue Flag scheme for beaches and the Green Flag scheme for parks the Purple Flag accreditation displays that a town or city is a safe and pleasant place to visit, night and day, for residents and visitors.

The self assessment involved examining the post 5pm Belfast experience including retail, hotels, licensed venues and cultural spaces.

It also considers elements around safety, accessibility and place which all contribute to the City being a welcoming and vibrant space.

The group heard the regular weekend briefing sessions that happen between PSNI and a vast array of volunteer organisations including a briefing around missing and vulnerable persons which has helped dozens of individuals this year alone.

Chris McCracken, Managing Director at Linen Quarter BID, and Chair of Belfast’s Purple Flag steering committee, said:  “Purple Flag status for the city would recognise Belfast as a truly international destination to live, work and shop. Belfast has a safe and vibrant night time economy with brand new destinations, such as the Linen Quarter, starting to emerge. However our self assessment indicates we need further investment in transport, signage, cleansing and promotion, as well as additional initiatives to support the evening offer for families, culture and arts, and non-alcoholic alternatives.”

Gareth Neill, CQ BID manager said: “It was with great reward to meet the fantastic organisations SOS BUS, Street Pastors, and Community Rescue Service who give up 1000 of volunteer hours to ensure the night-time economy is a welcoming and safe space for residents and visitors. The City Centre has significant growth ambitions for residential, commercial and tourism markets. With a significant increase in city living through the private residential market over the next 12-18 months and the ever expanding hotel sector there is a requirement to ensure that Belfast meets the aspirations of new residents, employers, and tourists, along with what is expected from an international city.”

A multi-stakeholder steering group, led by the Linen Quarter BID, is managing the business-funded project with the aim of applying in October 2019 to the governing body, the Association of Town Centre Management (ATCM) to secure Purple Flag status in February 2020.

Belfast has a significantly younger population so part of the task force’s outcome will be ensuring there is a vibrant, mixed use and quality City Centre which is vital to catalysing additional economic rejuvenation.

Clare Maguire, Managing Director at Belfast One said: “Providing a quality and unique offering will also be of huge benefit to some of the 250,000 business visitors to Belfast annually or for the national conference market which currently stands at 60,000 attendees (£45m p/annum) who all want a vibrant and enriched experience of the City.

“Currently the City Centre does not have one managed approach to its evening economy strategy. There are a vast array of stakeholders and partnerships in play and Purple Flag allows a coordinated and programmed opportunity.”

For more information go to cathedralquarterbelfast.com

Belfast City

Gala Dinner to mark 50th Anniversary of Famous Rugby Schools Cup Win

Pictured are the Boys’ Model 1971 Rugby School’s Cup winning team.

Belfast Boys’ Model School Bursary fund is set to host a gala dinner to raise essential funds for the educational charity and to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the school’s Rugby School’s Cup win. 

The dinner, which is being held in the Europa Hotel at 7pm on Friday 8th October, will be hosted by BBC’s Mark Simpson and will look back on the Boys’ Model School’s major accomplishment of becoming the first and only non-grammar school to get their hands on the coveted Rugby Schools Cup.

To add to the celebration, the dinner will also remember the 25th anniversary of the “golden soccer year” in which Belfast Boys’ Model School swept the board in all football competitions across all age groups and recognise current cultural achievements at the School.

The event will also welcome special guest speaker, Frank Wilson, a former Boys’ Model teacher and player on the school’s winning team in 1971. Frank will look back fondly on and discuss his time playing at the school as well for Ulster and Ireland, the latter of which he wore the number 15 jersey in the 1970’s.

Former Head Boy, Head of the Civil Service and charity board Chair, Sir Nigel Hamilton expressed his joy that the dinner will be reflecting on and celebrating a key date within the school’s history:

“We are delighted that, after a tough year for everyone, the celebratory dinner will be a memorable event and an opportunity for former students, staff, friends and family of the Boys’ Model team to meet together and look back fondly on an important piece of history for the school and its players, past and present.

We’re thrilled to have a star studded line up of guests and to welcome Frank back home for a re-presentation of the Schools Cup which will be a very special moment for us all. Most importantly, this evening is about supporting our young boys to give them the opportunity and encouragement to excel. We hope that everyone comes out to support this worthy cause on Friday 8th October.”

Established in 2015, the charity provides bursaries to Boys’ Model pupils going into third level education, encouraging boys who are otherwise hesitant to pursue third level education, many of which are the first member of their extended family to go to university.

To date, the charity has provided funding of £61,000 to 25 pupils and this year will allocate seven awards.

Frank Wilson, former Boys’ Model teacher recognises first-hand the work of the charity and the effect the money raised has on the students involved:

“The bursary fund is essential in encouraging boys to raise their aspirations and help them further their education. The dinner will be a great night for all involved and a great opportunity to not only reflect on great times but also look forward to the future.

With the challenges of the pandemic, it’s more important than ever that we support young talent to further their education and open up more opportunities and we hope that this dinner will go a long way in raising much needed funding. It’s also a great way for us to connect with the local community and welcome more friends to the charity and we look forward to seeing old and new faces alike on the night.”

Guests are encouraged to book tickets early for what promises to be a great event for a worthy cause. To purchase a ticket for the event, visit here or email fund@boysmodelbursary.com

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Belfast City

Cathedral Quarter BID Celebrates Success Of Street Beat Police Presence In Area

An initiative that saw additional dedicated police officers patrolling Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter has been welcomed as a proven success story by Destination CQ’s manager Damien Corr.

The Ballot for the continuation of the Cathedral Quarter Business Improvement District (BID) is currently open until September 22. In an independent survey carried out in advance of the ballot, the Street Beat (#streetbeat) programme was seen as one of the key projects that adds value for businesses and organisations in the area, over 90% of respondents prioritised it for inclusion in the Business Plan for the next 5 years.

The StreetBeat officers are paid for by the BID and are additional to the normal policing provided by PSNI. The initiative was a direct response to local business owners’ concerns regarding antisocial activity within the areas. 

BID manager Damien Corr said: “As the businesses are paying for the service, it was essential that they felt in ‘control’, accordingly the officers have a designated phone which our Cathedral Quarter businesses can call direct 07787432635. This ability to bypass the general PSNI Switchboard is key to a more effective localised response.”

The officers patrol the area on foot and in their distinctive CQ street beat branded vehicle, dealing with anti-social behaviour and criminal activity. They also visit premises offering practical security and personnel safety advice and equipment.

StreetBeat PSNI officer Michael Gillies added: “Being given the time and support both by the BID and PSNI management, I have been allowed to focus my work specifically within the Cathedral Quarter and its needs. 

“This has helped to strengthen relationships already made with businesses and also to forge new ones. It’s back to basics Neighbourhood policing, only this time the neighbourhood is my local business community”.

However, the future of the scheme in the Cathedral Quarter relies on a ‘yes’ vote for a new five-year term for the Business Improvement District organisation Destination CQ.

With ballot papers already issued and voting by post closing on September 22, Mr Corr is keen to remind voters of what could be lost without their votes.

“The BID levy payers have told us that they really appreciate the work done by our Street Beat officers who, between them, have provided 2080 extra policing hours targeted patrolling,” he said. 

“They were particularly effective over lockdown when lots of properties were left unattended. Our officers continued to patrol, checking on closed business premises and providing assurance and practical assistance to those who continued to work.

“It is a simple reality, that unless we get a yes vote in the ballot, aloof this additional targeted policing will be lost to Cathedral Quarter.”

Sorcha Woolsy, Operations Director of Beannchor with a number of businesses in the BID area said the BID has carried out a number of projects that have impacted the Beannchor suite of businesses.

“The one that really stands out to me is the provision of the City Centre Beat Officers,” she added.

“It’s a really good example of an initiative that a BID can provide that an individual business could not on their own. 

“For me, it is imperative to vote yes on the re-ballot of the BID. The collective energy and brainpower and money of a group of businesses all pulling in the same direction for the betterment of this area will inevitably gain better results than individual businesses doing little bits and pieces on their own.”

For more information on the work of Destination CQ and Street Beat go to cathedralquarterbelfast.com or contact Damien Corr on 02890 314 011.

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