Centre aims for Derry 'urban gaeltacht'

Published Wednesday, 29 January 2014
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An Irish language arts and cultural centre is expanding into a nearby former Presbyterian Church in Londonderry, as its chief hopes to build an "urban gaeltacht" in the city.

Centre aims for Derry 'urban gaeltacht'
Cultúrlann is expanding into the disused church building nearby. (© UTV)

Since the Cultúrlann opened on Great James Street, it has been inundated with demand for its classes and facilities.

"We moved into the Cultúrlann in September 2009, we had anticipated that we had enough speace for 10 years ahead, within 12 months we were out of space," Chief Executive Gearóid Ó hEára explained.

"We are actually teaching 400 people a week in Irish classes, 26 different classes day and night, we are teaching 200 people in traditional music classes and singing and dancing and everything else.

"So we're absolutely out of space."

They have bought the nearby former Great James' Street Presbyterian Church, or Glassworks as it known, to help cope with the demand.

The grade B church building opened in 1837 but over 30 years ago the congregation moved across the Foyle to the Waterside and the expansion could save the at risk building from dereliction.

The group says it has contacted members of the former Great James Street Presbyterian Church and hopes to build links with the congregation that once worshipped here.

Mr Ó hEára hopes the buildings will eventually become part of an "urban gaeltacht" in the city.

The purchase is being backed by a Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) grant scheme supporting the built heritage of the City of Culture.

SDLP Environment Minister Mark H Durkan said: "Glassworks is a hugely important listed building within the city. Not only is it a fine building in its own right but it is also an important part of the Clarendon Street Conservation Area.

"As we have seen from the success of 'Other Voices', Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann and other events held in the building during 2013, it is also a very fine music venue."

This purchase will allow plans to be put in place for the building's conservation and for the venue to become an important part of the legacy of the City of Culture.

Environment Minister Mark H Durkan

It is one of a number of investments being made to build on the legacy of last year's events.

An extra £400,000 from the Big Lottery Fund will go to the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland towards community arts and culture projects across Co Londonderry.

The announcement comes on the back of the lottery's Culture for All programme, which invested £1.6m into activities related to last year's celebrations.

Culture Minister Carál Ní Chuilín has previously pledged a three-year scheme to build on the cultural legacy in the North West including £2m for projects in this financial year.

The latest investment will be targeted at the Acorn Fund - an initiative by the Community Foundation for Ireland that helps community projects to grow.

Shauna Kelpie, from Acorn Fund commented: "The promise of the City of Culture was to reach 100% of the population and that's a very difficult ask in one year so with the Acorn Fund, we're trying to do that."

She explained the fund targets those more marginalised in society or in need of extra help such as children and young people, homeless people, people with disabilities, and those in rural areas.

Joanne McDowell, from the Big Lottery Fund added: "In terms of those groups who maybe aren't able to access other resources, small scale investment, we believe, can make a huge difference and it's very much about the group having confidence to bid for money and to think about how they can develop what they want to do locally."

© UTV News
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5 Comments
sean in belfast wrote (275 days ago):
cad é an pointe a labhraíonn aon duine na hÉireann i dtuaisceart éireann mhair anseo tríocha bliain riamh chuala a úsáidtear é i mo shaol !!
pip in belfast wrote (275 days ago):
why waste that kind of money on a dead language that noone uses ?
Charles in Lisbellaw wrote (275 days ago):
Now that's a really useful "cross community" venture that will do so much to bridge the sectarian divide in Northern Ireland, NOT. I suppose we will get to see the ridiculous spectacle of a shinner who cannot speak Irish properly, but rather mutter and stutter their way through a few words that they tried to learn that morning, by way of a bit of tokenism !!. Were it all not so destructive in its conception, it would be hilarious. As a fluent Irish speaker myself, I find the way the shinners (The majority of whom have neither comprehension or ability in the language) use the Irish language as a political battering ram, quite obscene.
Pól in Doire wrote (275 days ago):
Deá scéal! Doire abú!
mick in derry wrote (275 days ago):
great news!
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