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 

Father And Son Team Behind Massive Culture Night Installation

Monumental Ogham Grove interactive structure will dominate Writer’s Square

Father and son team Gawain Morrison and Dylan McCaughtry will bring an ancient Celtic language to life with a massive construction across Belfast’s Writer’s Square for this weekend’s Culture Night Belfast.

Having worked on music videos, short films and art projects they are now preparing for their most ambitious project to date, with fellow designer Neil Beattie.

Visitors to Writers’ Square will wander around massive tree-like structures, learn about the Druidic Ogham language, and interact via a QR code trail telling the story of this part of Celtic history that goes back to pre-Roman days.

Having worked together on projects since Dylan was 14, it was natural for both to take on the Ogham Grove installation and have a special touch for Gawain.

“It’s lovely because as we both get older, we have other lives going on,” he said. 

“We’ve got things that take up our time and so the time you get to spend together and do things is very important. Getting him to do something like this is creating a memory.”

It helps that both are on the same page creatively.

“We get along and we’re quite similar in our mindset,” explained Dylan. 

“It can be a bit challenging in that I’d be more in the construction side of things and he’s in creative management, so it’s marrying the two things. There were different things we were able to achieve in bringing this vision about.”

The Ogham Grove structure represents a different Culture Night experience, as the weekend has been re-structured due to Covid-19 restrictions.

For Gawain the idea of a city garden was an exciting prospect.

“The brief itself for this years’ Culture Night was very open in terms of where you could go with it, but something to do with the site’s specific structure,” he explained. 

“People will be able to take it in and be part of.

“The fact that it was all themed around the city garden and the trees and some of the other things they’ve got coming down the line from planting a million trees and sustainability, all fitted with what we wanted to do and what we thought we could achieve.”

With such an ambitious project Gawain knew his son had the skills to help bring it to life.

“For the last ten years, Dylan has been working in film and TV and working on major shows like Game of Thrones and Derry Girls,” he said, adding: “He has worked across all manner of departments, from armoury, to set design, to costume, to tents and flags and everything in between.

“He has an incredible breadth of skills across the creation process using different materials and knows how to make temporary structures look and sound for people to be able to engage in, work around and be operating safely.”

With sustainability part of the brief every aspect of the construction is from reclaimed or upcycled materials that will be reused or repurposed afterwards, even the screws.

“A lot of the construction will be made out of pallets for the large alphabet section,” said Dylan.

“The reason behind that is because they are multi-use, they’re structurally sound and once we’re done with them, they can go back into the distribution system.

“The rest of the wood…the majority of it is reclaimed wood, stuff that has been used before and was just going to be thrown out, so we’re giving it that last little use of life before it goes on to its next use.”

There are no parental tensions as Gawain and Dylan have worked on ambitious tasks together before, such as the music video for the multi-instrumental hit artist BeardyMan.
“It’s totally fine working with Dylan,” said Gawain. “We don’t live together so he gets to close the door and walk away from me.”

Dylan is thankful to be working with his dad on Ogham Grove after the months of lockdown and restrictions.

“We got to spend more time together, which we haven’t been able to do in the last few years. It was great to hang out.”

And, as his dad says he also reminds him to take a break from the intensity of the project.

“He’s quite good at telling me to stop,” said Dylan. 

“We don’t stop thinking about what we have to do but it’s nice that he can tell me to switch off.”

The working relationship goes back to when Dylan was still at school.

“I was about fourteen years of age and dad was producing short films,” he said. 

“He would have brought me in to teach me stuff. I was an extra pair of hands. He was always encouraging and forcing me to get stuck in even when sometimes I didn’t want to.”

Gawain explained why they decided to use the Ogham alphabet as the touchstone for the mammoth installation.

“It was one of the first writing systems created by Druids to pass on knowledge,” he said. “It also harmonised with everything.

“It harmonises with trees, your environment, it makes sure that you’re living within your means, you’re living sustainably and it also then was the formation of the poetry, the music, the creative and the arts, all of this woven together is what made for a very healthy, fascinating lifestyle.”

Translating it into a 21st Century installation will involve lighting and music and for Dylan that fits into his recent work.

“My work in the film and TV industry such as recently on Netflix’s School of Good and Evil, means I’ve been able to pick up through set making, building, prop making, construction, using different materials and finding different uses for different materials for the outcome of Ogham Grove.

“Each element signifies a different tree and different types of wood with its own attributes be that through magic, or spirituality or even the aesthetical nature of them.

“These will all be laser etched, you’ll be able to scan the QR code of them, you’ll be able to be involved in this learning process of the Ogham alphabet.”

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 led Susan Picken, Director of Culture Night and Cathedral Quarter Trust to a major review of the event.

“We had the last big physical event back in 2019, with CN and Culture Day, which was really successful with huge crowds,” Susan explained.

“It got really big and almost overwhelming, but people loved it.

“Then obviously COVID happened and that really made us think a lot about the events and what we were going to be able to do and think about how the event had evolved over time and was it still doing what we wanted it to do for culture in the area.”

Having seen the concept from the initial proposal, through to Neil Beattie’s 3-D models she is confident that Gawain, Dylan and Neil will deliver something to live long in memories

“It’s a mammoth installation with light and sound,” she added. 

“It’s going to be amazing, spectacular. Nothing like what people of Belfast have seen before or what people expect from Culture Night. It’s the one big idea that we’re really excited about.”

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.

Cathedral Quarter Trail To Lead Culture Night Visitors To The Ogham Grove

Over the coming weekend, Cathedral Quarter’s Writers’ Square will be the location for The Ogham Grove, a spectacular installation created by this year’s ambitious creative team for CNB21 Presents: The Ogham Grove.

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.

He explained: “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. 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. In order 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 Ogham Grove installation will be replacing the previous city centre based programme of street based activity and pop-up events. And although the plans for this year are monumental in size, Culture Night Belfast and CQ Trust director Susan Picken says 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 2021 edition of Culture Night will have a completely new format and a new approach designed for a COVID-safe, post-pandemic environment. A major difference this year is the decision to move away from the previous approach to programming.

“One of the biggest changes this year will be that we haven’t run an open programme for submissions as in previous years” said Susan. 

We won’t be asking for proposals for performances or events, instead we are working directly with our Creative Lead team to transform Writer’s Square with our exciting installation, The Ogham Grove, which will be running from Friday September 17 to Sunday September 19. This extended running time will allow more time and space to visit and experience over the 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.

Twin Brother’s Emotional Plea For Missing Model Derry Man Emmette Dillon

The twin brother of missing Derry man Emmette Dillon has made an emotional plea for help in finding the 33-year-old.

Ryan Dillon made a direct plea to his twin: “Emmette we love you and we want to help.  Please come home so we can look after you and find a way forward.”

Emmette was last seen just after midnight on September 3 leaving his apartment in Conar Court in Crawford Square in the city.

He is described as approximately six feet tall, slim, with dark hair and brown eyes and was last seen wearing all dark clothing.

The former Mr Supranational 2018/19 model and former staff nurse, Emmette, is known to have mental health and addiction problems.

His family last spoke to him in a telephone conversation on September 2.

“We have no reason to believe he left the country and police also believe this is the case,” said Ryan.” 

“We have no reason to believe that Emmette would hurt himself.

“Emmette is a loving son, brother and uncle and only wants to help those around him. However, he does have serious mental health issues which can impact his behaviour.”

Ryan appealed for any local businesses in the area to check their CCTV.

“We ask local businesses in the Crawford Square, Rosemount and Northland Road area could check their CCTV from the early hours of Friday 3rd September for any potential sightings of Emmette,” he said.

”We ask the public to remain vigilant and report any sightings no matter how small. We also ask everyone to share this message with those who aren’t on social media.”

Emmette, who was crowned Mr Derry in 2016, was a cancer awareness campaigner following the death of his mother and is described by family and friends as being very popular.

“Police have carried out door to door checks and acted on any potential sightings reported however the information we have is so limited,” said Ryan. 

“We believe Emmette’s phone has been switched off, so they are unable to use this as a method of tracing him.”

Derry City and Strabane police said: “We would ask that if anyone has any information that might assist in locating Emmette, they should contact 101 quoting reference number 1847 07/09/21.”

The Countdown Is On To CNB21 Presents The Ogham Grove

One week to go until thought provoking installation opens at Writers’ Square

With just one week to go before a very different Culture Night Belfast this year organisers are emphasising to visitors that “it’s definitely not the same as years gone by”.

Replacing the previous city centre based programme of street based activity and pop-up events, this year the creative team have revealed ambitious plans to create a vast structural, lighting and sound installation, The Ogham Grove, that will fill the Cathedral Quarter’s Writers’ Square.

Although the plans for this year are monumental in size, Culture Night Belfast and CQ Trust director Susan Picken says 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 2021 edition of Culture Night will have a completely new format and a new approach designed for a COVID-safe, post-pandemic environment. A major difference this year is the decision to move away from the previous approach to programming.

“One of the biggest changes this year will be that we haven’t run an open programme for submissions as in previous years” said Susan. 

We won’t be asking for proposals for performances or events, instead we are working directly with our Creative Lead team to transform Writer’s Square with our exciting installation, The Ogham Grove, which will be running from Friday September 17 to Sunday September 19. This extended running time will allow more time and space to visit and experience over the weekend.”

Despite CNB looking and feeling very different this year, Susan said Belfast artist and creative lead Gawain Morrison and his team will be creating an equally exciting new experience for Belfast with The Ogham Grove and it’s accompanying digital trail.

Susan added that Gawain’s plans are “spectacular” and will “provide a very unique experience to each person who visits throughout the weekend”.

“Gawain and his team of artists will transform Writer’s Square with this groundbreaking artwork that will invite visitors to explore the relationship with our native woodlands and the environment” she explained.

“This is a significant moment for CNB, not only is this our first large-scale artists’ commission but it also signals an exciting new format for the event as we move forward.”

The concept for The Ogham Grove takes inspiration from the ancient Celtic Ogham Tree Alphabet.

“Two monumental sculptures will be built in Writers’ Square, with themes drawn from our ancestral heritage and culture here on the island of Ireland” said Gawain.

“The Tree Alphabet will act as the primer for learning about the Ogham characters, their meanings, and their tree associations while the Celtic Ogham Year Wheel signifies the links with our natural environment, living in harmony with it, and the awareness of our place in the universe, the lunar and solar cycles that drive the life on this planet of ours, and all of how life lives–in balance and together.

“The Ogham Grove offers a window into an alternative interpretation of the world around us, highlighting the importance that nature played in the societies of our ancestors, enabling us to reconnect with this heritage in a playful, thought provoking and visually stunning way, at a time when the natural environment and spending time outdoors has never been so important.”

Gawain alongside his team, including artist and prop designer Dylan McCaughtry, designer, artist and engineer Neil Beattie, lighting designer Tomás FitzGerald and drum loop producer Damian Mills said the installation they are planing will leave visitors with “a monumental audio-visual experience that will be overwhelming both day and night.” 

He added: “The actual scale of the structure itself will be impressive. The fact that at night-time the lighting will come alive will give it a very different feel from the daytime and allow people to experience it in different ways.

“This will be a unique and sensory experience for anyone attending and will make for great photo opportunities” added Gawain.

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.

Belfast Harbour Announced As Culture Night 2021 Sponsor

Pictured from left is this year’s Creative Lead Gawain Morrison, Susan Picken (Culture Night Belfast & CQ Trust) and Jenni Barkley (Belfast Harbour Commissioners)

Culture Night Belfast is back this year with a new format and new approach thanks to the support of Belfast Harbour.

Last month the creative team behind this year’s Culture Night Belfast installation revealed ambitious plans to create a vast structural, lighting and sound show that will fill the Cathedral Quarter’s Writer’s Square.

Belfast artist Gawain Morrison and his team will turn Writer’s Square into The Ogham Grove, a monumental, immersive sculpture and accompanying digital trail which will create a whole new experience for Belfast. 

Susan Picken, director of Culture Night Belfast and the Cathedral Quarter Trust, said the plans Gawain has presented are “spectacular” and will “provide a very unique experience to each person who visits throughout the weekend”.

She added: “Gawain and his team of artists will transform Writer’s Square into what can only be described as a stunning, immersive, hands-off cultural experience running between Friday September 17 to Sunday September 19.

“We are delighted to be welcoming the Belfast Harbour onboard as one of our sponsors this year.”

Jenni Barkley from Belfast Harbour said: “This is Belfast Harbour’s sixth year supporting Culture Night Belfast, it’s been fantastic to watch the event evolve year on year. Arts and culture is such an important part of this city and we’re delighted to see people taking advantage of the open spaces around the City. 

“Belfast Harbour’s ambition is to create a port for everyone and to develop an iconic waterfront and celebrating the city’s arts and culture is the perfect way of doing that. We want to see the city centre coming back to life with people from every walk of life enjoying the outdoors and experiencing this unique installation.” 

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 2021 edition of Culture Night will have a completely new format and a new approach designed for a COVID-safe, post-pandemic environment. A major difference this year is the decision to suspend the previous open submission programme and instead focus on creating one central experience working directly with artists.

“One of the biggest changes this year will be that we haven’t run an open programme for submissions as in previous years” said Susan. 

“There won’t be the usual on-street activity or pop-ups that people are used to. Instead, Writer’s Square will be transformed with an exciting monumental installation, The Ogham Grove, running from Friday September 17 to Sunday September 19. This extended running time will allow more time and space to visit and experience over the weekend.”

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

An Ancient Language, A Living Structure – CNB21 Presents

Creative lead unveils thinking behind Ogham Grove

This year’s Culture Night promises a spectacular structural, lighting and sound experience designed by Belfast artist Gawain Morrison around the ancient Druidic language Ogham.

Promising to be both large in scale with the opportunity for learning and contemplative Gawain believes the Writer’s Square transformation from September 17-19 will be something not to be forgotten at any time people visit it.

“We want people to be overwhelmed day and night,” Gawain explained.

“The actual scale of the structure itself will be impressive, the fact that these shapes and forms are there in maybe a way that haven’t been seen should also be stimulating and then the night time whenever you have the lighting really coming alive then it’ll have a completely different feel, but something to be remembered.”

Entitled Ogham Grove, Gawain, said the ancient Celtic Ogham Tree language reaches deep into the era where nature and myths intertwined.

“The Grove was very much based on the Ogham characters and the trees, the 20 trees that pagans and druids associated with everything to do with Ogham and its meanings,” he said. 

“Whether it was for the practical elements of it, the mystical elements of it, and the fact that it was the way to be able to transverse stories and pass on knowledge.

“All this very much fitted with not only what the city garden theme was, but actually so much more in the richness of all the things that we weave in and out of, the life that those people lived in pagan times.”

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 led to a major review of the event ultimately leading to Gawain’s artwork.

Susan Picken, Director of Culture Night and the Cathedral Quarter Trust said the enforced change will still leave people with a real sense of what art can do. 

“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,” she said. 

“This different format will allow us to focus on safety as well as making sure everyone has a great time.”

Gawain with his team, including artist and prop designer Dylan McCaughtry, designer, artist and engineer Neil Beattie, lighting designer Tomás FitzGerald and drum loop producer Damian Mills said the work on the installation has been hectic but enjoyable.

“From the moment that the Culture Night team told us we’d won this proposal through until now it’s been fairly full on and fantastic to be honest with you,” he said.

“We’ve been able to go from the high-level concept from the Ogham characters, the Ogham Grove through to how do we actually make this all happen and working with Neil and Dylan on the concept works

“We’ve had a lot of fun being able to come up with the different iterations, and ideas and materials and thoughts and then to prototyping an experiment with them and now we’re actually getting into the meat of it, we’ve got an idea of what we really need to be at and the next couple of weeks are going to be hard going but a lot of fun.”

Gawain said the location of the Ogham Grove was something they were able to build upon.

“The Writers’ Square lends itself to two structures that we’re putting in, we wanted them to actually feel like they fill those spaces,” he said. 

“We’ve separated them into two, one is a primer for the tree alphabet as we call it, where the information that we have involved either by reading or interpreting through the lights, you’ll be able to learn about the Ogham characters, and then the second piece which is at the end of this big structure is the Ogham wheel.

“This is where you’ll be able to sit and contemplate or you’ll be able to drum if you wanted to drum on it, but it will also be the centrepiece, it’s the focus of the Ogham wheel, the tree centre.

“The scale of these, the reason we’ve made them this large is so you can take a moment, wander round it and actually be contemplative.”

The Creative Lead’s experience as a creative director and producer for events, media and technology in TV, films, music videos and a range of other arts is such that the project appealed to him.

“My specialism is about taking creative concepts through to reality,” said Gawain.

“It is about being able to take something that is a little nugget somewhere ‘out there’ and bring it out to make something that people can experience or view.”

However, he and his team were keen to make sure that there was an environmental element to the project, that reflected modern concerns and tapped into the Druidic care for nature.

“It was something that was very important to us, and I believe that everybody that will be involved in this project is concerned about the sustainability and making sure that the materials used in this are not just new and thrown away, which is a sad part of a lot of large temporary structures that are built for arts or for film,” said Gawain, adding: “We wanted to be part of the ‘one more use’ thinking where you accessing products that are in a flow from one use to another and intercept them as part of the process flow, whether at the start of their journey or towards end.

“Using products and reusing products was a very important part of not only our concept but the actual structural and sustainable delivery of this.”

And, the principles underpinning the Ogham language means that visitors to Writer’s Square can access that belief.

“It was one of the first writing systems,” Gawain explained. 

“It was created by Druids to pass on knowledge, sometimes for land boundaries and marking territories. It was also for directions and for passing on this knowledge and the fact that it was a writing system that was hidden is really fascinating. It was also a subversive language for when the Roman Empire and Christianity was starting to move across Europe.

“It was the fact that it harmonised with everything, it harmonises with trees, your environment, it makes sure that you’re living within your means, you’re living sustainably and it also then was the formation of the poetry, the music, the creative and the arts and all of this woven together is what made for a very healthy, fascinating lifestyle.”

This year’s CNB21 Presents: The Ogham Grove 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.

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.

CQ BID Celebrates Five Years Of Being Voice For All In Cathedral Quarter

Cathedral Quarter Business Improvement District, Destination CQ, has for five years been the collective voice for every business in the area, lobbying and consulting with local and regional government and government agencies.

Destination CQ Manager, Damien Corr said the ability to go to these organisations and speak for everyone in the Cathedral Quarter, Smithfield and Union, is one that can’t go unnoticed.

“We are involved in most stakeholder groups in the city and that’s something that our levy payers don’t see a lot of,” he explained. 

“It takes up a lot of our time but it’s very worthwhile.

“The ability to lobby for individual businesses, or for the entire area, direct to departments is important, and we work away on issues until we are successful or reach an acceptable compromise.”

The pressures of the pandemic, shop closures and the complete halt to tourism have affected the economy as a whole but it also had a significant effect on the Cathedral Quarter. This inner-city neighbourhood, characterised by arts, culture, restaurants, entertainment and independent shops relies on tourists and visitors to survive.  

Over the past five years, Destination CQ has represented business interests at City Reopening Stakeholder Group, City Centre Anti-Social Behaviour Action Group and the Small Business Forum.

At present there is a ballot to continue the BID’s work for a further five years and voting Yes to the BID means local businesses can present a unified front and have a collective voice when engaging with the various stakeholders, either local government or assembly level.

When asked about the importance of banding together to present a collective voice, Sorcha Wolsey, Operations Director for the Beannchor Group and Destination CQ BID Board member said it was important that businesses come together.

“The collective energy, 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,” she said.

The business improvement district has been actively championing the area, partnering with promotional activities such as the government’s ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme to help restaurants in the area recover from the effects of the pandemic. 

There have been numerous BID led initiatives that greatly benefited businesses in the neighbourhood. Culture Night and Restaurant Week are just some examples of the projects that make CQ a vibrant place to do business. 

Board member and Director of Quigg Golden, Gavin Hendrie said Cathedral Quarter needed a body to explain the issues and promote the area.

“We need a champion for the area,” he explained. “We need the BID to help advertise the CQ as a place to come, to maintain the sense of vibrancy that we’ve known in the past and perhaps lost in the last 18 months.”

Supporting local businesses remains one of the three pillars the Business Improvement District plans to focus on in term two. Collective advocacy is still a priority with creating a strong alliance among stakeholders and ensuring BID members’ voice is heard in key city-wide discussions.

Les Hume, Vice-Chair of CQ BID explained why it is crucial to be represented as a collective:

“By being part of a collective we can present a reasoned, well thought through debate, we can actually bring our concerns and our troubles to the people who make the key decisions,” he said. 

“I think that in the next five years we’re going to have even greater challenges as we try to build Belfast back better.

“To vote yes for this BID process means that your voice can be heard, along with mine hopefully. Together we’ll make Belfast better.

“Individually we will struggle. That’s what I think is good about a Business Improvement District, so please do consider voting yes.”

For more information on how the work of Destination CQ BID can benefit your business go to cathedralquarterbelfast.com or contact Damien Corr on 02890 314 011.

Exploring Enterprise Programme Open For Applications

Calling All Budding Entrepreneurs & Those Who Want To Improve Their Employability Prospects

Enterprise Causeway is offering people the chance to begin to chart the way to setting up their own business or investigate new employability prospects through its free Exploring Enterprise Programme.

Open to those who are unemployed, or working less than 16 hours per week, the course helps participants assess business ideas and job opportunities through group training and individual mentoring.

It aims to help increase confidence, create a personal development plan and explore either the possibility of starting a business or a new job.

Leo Mullan, Business Advisor at Enterprise Causeway, said the programme has already proved to be hugely beneficial for many people.

“Over the past number of years we have had some wonderful success stories, with participants on the programme starting businesses in nearly every industry sector and other participants finding employment”. 

“You do not need to have a business idea to join the programme and all learning takes place in an open, non-threatening environment”.  

Running over six sessions in total, two mornings per week (Tuesday and Thursday) participants can work towards achieving a qualification in Business Enterprise. You can gain an understanding of the concepts involved in starting a business, an insight into marketing a new business and a grasp of key finance principles.  Participants can also avail of help developing their CVs, writing job applications and searching for further education/training courses  

Previous participant, Robert Wiggins of Wee Jeans Café in Coleraine, said he had initially intended to go on the course to learn key financial skills but the Exploring Enterprise Programme offered much more.

“One skill that I learnt that was a big help was advertising and management skills as well,” he explained. 

“It also helped me bring me out of my shell because you were in a group with people, you got to talk to them and find out different opportunities that they were doing, and some of them were interchangeable and over the course we were able to help each other out.”

Christina Smyth used the course to help her start Nellie Doodle Aprons, and after a friend recommended it to her was able to take much from the course.

“I think it was actually just that I knew nothing about starting a business and it was so encouraging,” she said.

“The four main skills I learnt from completing the course were management skills, financial skills, product development and marketing.

“I think I would have been terrified at the thought of doing something like this time last year and since completing the course I just think, I’m just loving this. The creative freedom and the satisfaction of doing something I love has just been brilliant.”

After working for seven years in both England and Northern Ireland, physiotherapist Brianne O’Neill decided to set up her own business. 

She explained: “I enrolled on the Exploring Enterprise programme after meeting with a business advisor at Enterprise Causeway and it has helped me to develop my business, marketing and financial skills”. 

Meanwhile, participant Richard Moore gained employment in youth work and said: “Completing the course helped him structure programmes for his youth work and had provided him with a sense of achievement”.

The Exploring Enterprise Programme is funded through the Northern Ireland Social Fund 2014-2020, Investment for Jobs and Growth Programme, The Department for the Economy, Causeway Coast & Glens Borough Council and Enterprise Northern Ireland.   

Do you have a business idea you want to explore? If so, call Robin on 028 7035 6318 or email eep@enterprisecauseway.co.uk.