25 years: The promise of better days – how National Lottery funding helped transform Northern Ireland’s second city

Heleb Quigley
When I think back to the beginning of the relationship between The National Lottery and the city I can't help but reflect on how important and timely that connection was.

Indeed, 25 years ago was a time of great hope and greater belief as we saw the end of a violent and dark time in our history and the promise of better days emerging. It was against this backdrop that the relationship between The National Lottery Heritage Fund and this city began to take root.

It is no exaggeration to say that these investments have allowed buildings, previously held back by community division, to now be used in a more inclusive and shared way.

- Helen Quigley

Since those early days, that engagement has grown into a significant and impactful vote of confidence in the ambitions of our city and its people. Over the years, I have witnessed positive transformation in the physical, social and economic wellbeing of our city. This systematic support by The National Lottery Heritage Fund has been vital to the process of not only revitalising the built heritage of Derry~Londonderry but also the healing process that was much needed as the city came to terms with the hurt and pain of a troublesome past.

A transforming city

I see many examples of transformation – the refurbishment of a number of buildings adjacent to the 400-year-old historic monument that is Derry Walls. This investment has helped create a setting that respects the architectural heritage of the area while simultaneously generating a vibrancy that brings renewed life and footfall. Individual projects in this area which have been supported alongside the Townscape Heritage Initiative have quite literally given whole streets a new lease of life.

I could mention many projects ranging from the refurbishment work at the Playhouse, the Bishop's Gate Hotel and the Museum of Free Derry. All of these projects have contributed strongly to the sense of city renewal and they all share the common characteristics of job creation, provision of training and apprenticeships across various sectors but in particular retail, hospitality and tourism.

Some of these buildings were transformed from “at risk” status to award-winning projects which acted as a catalyst for small businesses as well as giving confidence to other investors in the area.

The importance of partnership

The thread that runs through all such projects is partnership. The investment relationship between The National Lottery Heritage Fund, the Department for Communities and other statutory bodies has paid very real dividends for all aspects of life in Derry-Londonderry.

It is no exaggeration to say that these investments have allowed buildings, previously held back by community division, to now be used in a more inclusive and shared way. While these new-found shared spaces - museums, church halls and monuments - are part of our divided past, they have now been reimagined as an important part of the process of reconciliation, healing and understanding within our communities and beyond.

After the first ceasefires

The city’s engagement with The National Lottery Heritage Fund came at exactly the right time. Back in 1994 when the first ceasefires were declared no-one had any idea what the future held. It was hoped that decades of conflict and destruction would be left behind, that our city could be re-built, jobs created, our civic pride restored.

When this city looks back it will see how important National Lottery investment has been in renewing the physical fabric of our commercial core and restoring our people's ambitions for a brighter, more prosperous future.

 

25 years of funding for heritage

Over the past 25 years, The National Lottery Heritage Fund has been the largest dedicated grant funder of the UK’s heritage. We’ve awarded £8bn to more than 44,000 projects across the UK.

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