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Belfast City

Linen Quarter BID Pioneers City’s First Parklet

Chris McCracken, MD of LQ BID, Minister Mallon MLA and Lord Mayor Cllr Kate Nicholl.

Linen Quarter BID has pioneered the Belfast City Centre’s first parklet, in conjunction with partners from Belfast City Council, the Department for Communities and the Department for Infrastructure. The 10 metre parklet, located on the corner of Linenhall Street and Clarence Street, was officially launched today by DFI Minister Nichola Mallon MLA and Belfast Lord Mayor, Cllr Kate Nicholl, alongside Peter Johnston, Director of BBC Northern Ireland and Chris McCracken, MD Linen Quarter BID.  

The parklet is a green oasis in the heart of the city, offering tremendous views of City Hall. The development provides an enjoyable social space and promotes the contemporary city environment that citizens have come to demand.

Linen Quarter BID is a not-for-profit business improvement district, that focuses on the long-term regeneration of the Linen Quarter area. The parklet represents one part of a £600,000 initiative to improve and enhance outdoor social spaces across the area, as part of the NI Executive Revitalisation Programme administered by Belfast City Council.

Minister for Infrastructure, Nichola Mallon MLA, commented: “Since becoming Minister I have made clear my desire to change the way we use our roads and streets and make sure they work for the whole community.  This new parklet is an outstanding example of how we can transform our public realm to offer thoughtful spaces that reflect the needs of people today.  I have an ambition to significantly increase opportunities for active and sustainable travel, to give everyone the freedom and confidence to be able to walk, wheel or cycle in our city safely so I am pleased that the parklet provides new bike racks as this will support more people to cycle into the city for work or leisure. 

“My Department will be working with Linen Quarter BID over the coming months to review additional cycling storage provision in Belfast.  This beautiful new green space will be enjoyed by tourists too.  I am delighted that my Department was able to support this innovative initiative and I look forward to seeing residents and visitors putting it to good use.”

The parklet, which is free for people to utilise, boasts a steel safety frame, non-slip composite wood boards and enhanced planting within a contemporary design. It provides cycle storage along with 15 seating spaces for public use – three of which are connected to an innovative outdoor work bench, facilitating a contemporary mobile work environment, whilst 12 seats are focused on providing opportunities for tourists and locals to socialise.

Outdoor Spaces Reimagined

Lord Mayor of Belfast, Kate Nicholl, commented: “It’s more important than ever that we think about how we use our outdoor spaces; this parklet is a great example of how an area can be reimagined and the aesthetic changed to create a welcoming, vibrant space in the heart of the city centre for those who work and live here, and for those visiting the city.

“We’re working with Department for Infrastructure and Department for Communities to roll out the next phase of A Bolder Vision – a wide-reaching vision that will significantly transform Belfast city centre. The parklet is a great example of that vision in action, reflecting the values and goals of A Bolder Vision, re-thinking how the city’s streets and places are used offering new opportunities to connect. We look forward to collaborating with Linen Quarter BID on the innovative developments it will introduce throughout the year.”

Enhanced planting throughout the parklet also extends to include hedging and flowers at the front and rear of the historic Thomas Thompson Fountain, providing a more pleasant urban experience in this busy pedestrian area, whilst also drawing more attention to the Victorian heritage of Belfast’s built environment.

Director of BBC Northern Ireland, Peter Johnston, said: “We have just announced plans that will make Broadcasting House more welcoming and accessible. We know the difference that the built environment can make for people who work in an area or are visiting it. And we are delighted that our plans are complemented by initiatives like this – and the wider transformation that is taking place within the city’s Linen Quarter.”

Linen Quarter BID partnered with local contractors to bring its vision of the parklet to life including Decking NI, McQuillan Companies, and Cameron landscapes.

Innovative Representation

Chris McCracken, Managing Director of Linen Quarter BID, said: “The parklet is an innovative representation of our understanding of the post-pandemic world and the on-going demand for outdoor shared places where people can safely socialise and enjoy their city. A recent public consultation we carried out revealed that 91% of people are in support of the removal of car parking spaces, if doing so enhances pavement space and pedestrian areas, so this is a true reflection of the progress people want to see.

“To restore economic vitality to Belfast, we need to create a public realm that is focused on health and well-being and the parklet has been well thought out to ensure it contributes to how the diverse demographics of our city live their lives. We have ensured it incorporates opportunities to work and socialise, all against a background of enhanced greenery.

“We are delighted to work in partnership with the Department for Infrastructure, Department for Communities and Belfast City Council to deliver projects that will continue to meet the city’s aspirations. Over the summer, we will be installing a Boardwalk at Linenhall Street which will extend service opportunities for hospitality businesses, enhanced lighting in Blackstaff Square, and new planting right across the Linen Quarter. Our largest project, a new social hub at Brunswick Street, will include a container café, open air seating, an outdoor stage and games area, creating an entertainment hub for families, friends and tourists to enjoy.”

For more information on upcoming developments across the Linen Quarter, please visit linenquarter.org.

Belfast City

Spectacular Ogham Grove Opens Tonight In Cathedral Quarter

Cathedral Quarters Writers’ Square will tonight (September 17) be transformed into a spectacular installation from the creative team for CNB21 Presents: The Ogham Grove.

From 6pm tonight through until Sunday evening visitors can experience an interactive celebration of the ancient druidic language, with massive representations of trees, sounds and lighting weaving a path of learning about the language and the chance to win prizes.

Ogham Grove replaces the previous city centre based programme of street based activity and pop-up events.

Although the plans for this year are monumental in size, Culture Night Belfast and CQ Trust director Susan Picken said visitors should not expect the same on-street celebration as years gone by.

Prior to the pandemic, Culture Night had been one of Belfast’s largest free events, a cultural celebration that attracted almost 90,000 local, national and international visitors to the Cathedral Quarter and Belfast city centre. The impact of COVID has led to a major review of the event however.

Susan said: “Culture Night 2021 will be much smaller in scale and scope and will take the form of an on-site installation that people can drop into and enjoy over the course of the weekend – this different format will allow us to focus on safety as well as making sure everyone has a great time.”

The brains behind the concept include creative lead Gawain Morrison, artist and prop designer Dylan McCaughtry, designer Neil Beattie, lighting designer Tomás FitzGerald and drum loop producer Damian Mills.

Gawain Morrison said that the concept of The Ogham Grove “draws inspiration from the ancient Celtic Ogham Tree alphabet which dives deep into the era where nature and myths intertwined”. 

This year, as well as experiencing The Ogham Grove itself, visitors will be able to take part in an accompanying interactive experience that will lead them through the Cathedral Quarter, and also take them on a journey of personal discovery.

According to Gawain the immersive nature inspired trail and competition will mean visitors can take something special away from the experience.

“For somebody who will be coming to this, the several points of access means it is going to be a very experiential and sensory experience,” he explained. 

“I hope that as visitors walk around whether it’s in the day or night, that they will take something away from it.”

Across the Cathedral Quarter area, there will be five zones each representing one of the five families of the Ogham alphabet.

To be eligible to win a prize, participants must find and scan a QR code found on one of the trail’s bespoke wooden plaques and take note of the lines of poetry displayed.

Prizes to be won include vouchers for restaurants, gift tokens to purchase your own pieces of art and tickets to shows coming up in the Cathedral Quarter and will be announced at the end of the Culture Night weekend.

This year’s Culture Night Belfast is supported by Belfast City Council, Arts Council for Northern Ireland, Tourism NI, Belfast Harbour Commissioners and Translink.

To keep up to date with all the CNB Presents The Ogham Grove updates go to culturenightbelfast.com or follow #CNB21 on social media

Issued by Excalibur Press on behalf of CNB Presents: The Ogham Grove 

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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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