AHF supports the 'Imaginarium' to explore the potential of flax spinning mill

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Sticky Fingers Arts, based in Newry, Northern Ireland, has secured a Project Viability Grant from the Architectural Heritage Fund to help it to explore expanding its creative activities into the underused 19th century flax spinning mill in Upper Edward Street.   The group, which created the multi award-winning Giant’s Lair Storytrail project in the nearby Slieve Gullion Park, has already begun to animate the imposing stone building with the first dedicated children’s arts and creative play space in Northern Ireland.

The Imaginarium is located in a neglected part of the city which is currently a designated Neighbourhood Renewal Area – one of 36 deprived areas in Northern Ireland highlighted as a priority for regeneration.  In recent years, the area has become home to many migrant families, sheltered housing projects, and is within walking distance to three large housing estates. The Imaginarium has been very successful to date in attracting families from what would be perceived as disadvantaged and under privileged backgrounds, as well as ethnic minority groups, and is keen to build on these relationships.

Sticky Fingers will use the seed funding to hold a number of open workshops with the local community, schools, artists and community representatives, to explore the best use of the building to meet the wider community needs, and to explore the different ideas the children and young people have already expressed for designing the space. The group will also engage an architect to collect all the information from the sessions and create a design that will work for the theatre, workshops space and other outcomes emerging from the consultation process. The findings can then be used to take the project forward and secure additional funding.

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Grainne Powell, Director of Sticky Fingers Arts said:

“The support from the AHF will ensure that we are able to fully engage with the local community on how best to transform our old mill into a creative, imaginative and magical space for all members of the community to enjoy. The advice, support and funding from the AHF will act as a catalyst, helping to ensure that this old building is protected and brought back to life for many more generations to enjoy”.

Editors’ Notes

The Architectural Heritage Fund is a registered charity, working since 1976, to promote the conservation and sustainable reuse of historic buildings for the benefit of communities across the UK, particularly in areas of deprivation.  It is the leading social investor and the only specialist heritage lender operating in the UK.

The Department for Communities in Northern Ireland, through its Historic Environment Division, and the Pilgrim Trust, has funded the AHF to deliver a two year programme of advice and seed funding to grow community enterprise through heritage across Northern Ireland.  

For further information contact: Rita Harkin, NI Support Officer: 07789 758080