More interest in Ebrington site

Brian Dougherty, Chairing a meeting of WAP.
Brian Dougherty, Chairing a meeting of WAP.

The Waterside Area Partnership is exploring the possibility of establishing a cultural hub at the former Ebrington Barracks.

WAP has submitted an expression of interest to Ilex who are looking at possible options for the site.

“This is a new concept and market for our Partnership but also represents a sustainable opportunity for the group to expand into the social economy sector,“ said Chairman Brian Dougherty.

WAP has already established a cultural forum to help deliver a workable cultural offering for residents of the Waterside.

“It would be impossible to achieve our aims operating from our present offices at Clooney Terrace,” said Mr Dougherty. “The Clooney Terrace office has helped many groups in the Waterside since we were set up but we don’t have anywhere to show tourists particularly those using the Peace Bridge and Ebrington Square what the Waterside has to offer. It would be ideal to have such a facility at Ebrington Square,” he said.

A draft plan drawn up by Brian O’Neill, of Enterprise North West estimates the hub could cost £300,000 to run over a three year period.

“Initial meetings with the Partnership have been used to explore potential business ideas that could enhance the product offering at the Ebrington site and a cultural hub with potential additional arts, cultural and tourism offerings has been identified as an idea to explore and develop further.

“A successful and sustainable Waterside cultural hub will play a major role in improving the cultural offer of the city, driving change in the city centre location and adding value to the cultural infrastructure of neighbouring communities across the Waterside community.

“Not least it will reposition and vastly improve the skills and offer of the Waterside, an urgent concern given the sub-region’s relatively low academic achievement levels and the positive role educational infrastructure can play in attracting and retaining a highly skilled workforce,” he said.

“It is important therefore that the cultural hub is positioned as a key intervention within Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure and Derry City Council’s legacy plans for the city.

“This will establish a cultural planning tool kit for the Waterside, drawing on the strategic priorities of key partners from the national to the local level, positioning culture at the heart of processes of regeneration and change,” he added.

The plan states that the Ebrington site is seen as an opportunity for the Cultural Forum to use as a space for displays, parades, country markets, vintage and crafts, exhibition and street theatre. The Partnership is looking into the possibility of refurbishing an existing building or building a new centre.

“The opportunities and vision will only be limited by the energy of the Forum to carry ideas forward,” said Mr. O’Neill.

The Partnership is planning to build on the success of tours of the Waterside over the past 18months some of which were heavily over-subscribed.

“We want to develop even more tours bringing in the historical element and if we can bring in more tourists will be good for business in the Waterside,” said Partnership manager Drew Thompson.