PUL cultural hub purchased in the Fountain

Highland Dancers perform during the 2014 Walled City Tattoo at Ebrington Square. Picture Martin McKeown. Inpresspics.com.
Highland Dancers perform during the 2014 Walled City Tattoo at Ebrington Square. Picture Martin McKeown. Inpresspics.com.

A new partnership of loyalist groups has purchased premises in the Fountain as a focal point for cultural activities in the city.

The new ‘Fountain Gateway’ facility won’t simply act as an “Orange version of An Cultúrlann” but will be the centrepoint of a new progressive and cohesive strategy for promoting cultural production among the Protestant, Unionist and Loyalist community in Londonderry.

These are among the findings and recommendations of a new ‘Next Steps Together’ report, which sets out how the new North West Cultural Partnership (NWCP) can grow as a lead cultural provider in the North West.

The partnership has buy-in from right across the PUL cultural community.

The Londonderry Bands Forum, Bready and District Ulster Scots, Sollus Cultural Productions, Blue Eagle Productions, the Sollus School of Highland Dance and the Bob Harte Memorial Trust, are the core groups behind it, whilst representatives from the Orange Order and Apprentice Boys have also informed the report.

The proposed Fountain hub at 20-22 Hawkin Street was purchased following a letter of offer of £150,000 from the Department of Culture Arts and Leisure (DCAL) in March.

Queen’s University student group, ‘Street Society’ has already produced design drawings including a black box performance space, band practice rooms, individual music rooms, dance studios, and office-space.

According to the report, the hub will be a pillar of the new NWCP and will be used to promote progressive and positive expressions of PUL culture.

“It was suggested that the hub be used as a base to develop positive role models, leadership and capacity.

“There were concerns about the success of a hub if it was used to ‘promote sectarianism and division’ as this would be seen as destructive to efforts to improve cultural inclusion in the North West.”

The report also adds that the hub must be sustainable.

“It was suggested that any hub should take account of demographics and seek ways to operate in a competitive funding environment.”