THE Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has given preliminary approval for a grant of just under £250,000 to a new project to encourage communities living along the rivers and coast of County Down to work along side their local museums and heritage organisations to learn more about their heritage and to develop the skills required to care for, interpret and conserve important local sites.
The project will be delivered through a partnership between Down County Museum, Newry and Mourne Museum, Ards Borough Council, Banbridge District Council, the Mourne Heritage Trust, the Northern Ireland Environment Agency and the National Trust and will provide opportunities for community groups to take part in an interesting and varied programme of learning and practical projects relating to their local history, archaeology and culture.
One of the innovative elements of the project will be the creation of a Down Heritage Network which brings together representatives from community and cultural groups and the museum and heritage sector to share their expertise and jointly undertake the production of resources and education programmes focused on the heritage of the local areas.
The project has received a first-round pass, which means the project meets HLF’s criteria for funding and has the potential to deliver high quality benefits and value for Lottery money. The project partners, in consultation with participating community groups, now have up to two years to submit fully developed proposals for the full grant.
Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund Northern Ireland, Paul Mullan, said: “We are delighted to give initial support to this project, this is a fantastic project idea that covers a breadth of heritage themes and that will see experts from a variety of different organisations working with local communities to explore the various heritage themes. This will also benefit those communities through their acquisition of heritage skills.”
The heritage of communities living along the rivers and coast of Down encompasses a rich local history, including archaeological sites, mills, harbours and resorts. This project aims to develop heritage skills among local people which can be used to assist in the long term sustainable protection and interpretation of sites and collections in the community. The project will deliver a number of linked smaller projects which enable groups to carry out local research and fieldwork and produce a range of interpretative resources focused on their heritage. A community heritage training programme will also be developed and will include training in running reminiscence sessions, filming and oral history gathering, community archaeology and fieldwalking.
It is hoped that this large-scale partnership initiative will lead the way for other heritage project partnerships and projects across the County.
Groups wanting to learn more about the project and wishing to join the Down Heritage Network should contact Linda McKenna at Down County Museum.