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AHF Grant Grist to the Mill for Belfast Cooperatives

21 May 2024
Northern Ireland

The Architectural Heritage Fund (AHF) is delighted to have awarded a Project Development Grant to Trademark Training to help develop a Community and Cooperative Hub in a former linen mill in west Belfast. This was one of 10 awards made at the latest grants meeting, where projects across the UK were awarded funding totalling £86,440.

The mill was built in 1850 in an area of concentrated industrial heritage, forming part of the Forth River Mills, and was under the ownership of a number of linen companies until 1960. Most recently, it was used by Hodge Office Supplies. The substantial red brick building has now been vacant for 17 years and was added to the Heritage at Risk Register NI due to its deteriorating condition.

Located on North Howard Street, just behind the listed Conway Mill, the building is situated alongside a ‘Peace Wall’ between two ‘Peace Gates’ on the Falls and Shankill interface. However, it was once a shared space where people from both communities worked together.  Bringing it back into use could be transformative, as it would provide an opportunity to break down physical, political and social barriers, as well as reconnect the community with their industrial heritage. 

Trademark, the lead organisation on this project, is a social justice organisation committed to challenging sectarianism, racism and inequality by promoting diversity and equality. They form part of a collective of cooperatives and charities (First Street Community Benefit Society) seeking to develop the mill into a vibrant, dynamic and welcoming space catering for a range of needs.

The vision shared by project partners is a co-designed, multi-purpose building that ‘preserves the historic essence of the mill and meets the unfolding challenges and opportunities of the twenty-first century.’ In addition to becoming a venue for cooperative mentoring and development, and a communiversity, the building would also contain flexible workspace, a café, exhibition space and a museum. Additionally, an urban community garden would connect it to Conway Mill and Conway Street.

Trademark Training was previously awarded a Project Viability Grant for a condition survey of the mill in 2023. This new grant will allow the group to commission architects to develop their concept design and to further engage with stakeholders to progress the project, as well as cover associated project management costs for this stage. The AHF’s grant was awarded via the Harnessing Heritage NI programme, supported by the Department for Communities’ Historic Environment Division and Garfield Weston Foundation.

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