This year’s Heritage Angel Award winners have been announced and Portico’s Neil McClure has won the award for the Best Rescue of an Historic Building.
The Heritage Angel Awards Northern Ireland, funded by the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation and the Department for Communities, celebrates the efforts of people who go to extraordinary lengths to protect, save and share their local heritage.
Neil McClure has been the driving force behind the restoration of the Grade A listed building in Portaferry, formerly known as Portaferry Presbyterian Church, and its transformation into Portico Arts & Heritage Centre.
Neil set up the charity The Friends of Portaferry Presbyterian Church (FPPC) in 2007. Under his leadership as Honorary Secretary, FPPC acquired the church, established its national value as a grade A listed building, raised 1.6m in funding and devised an innovative concept of space sharing between congregation and community, religious and secular use, positioning the congregation as tenants and opening up the venue for the whole community to enjoy.
After being presented with his award at the ceremony in Derry, Neil said: “I’m delighted to accept this award on behalf of everyone who has been involved in the restoration of Portico. I’d particularly like to thank the congregation for enabling us to open the doors of this wonderful church to the whole community.”
The results of Neil’s efforts are clear to see in Portaferry: the congregation has a stunningly restored church and the wider community has a fabulous venue for events of all kinds.
Culture-lovers no longer have to travel a two-hour round trip and Portico’s legion of volunteers have a new sense of pride in what they do for their community.
The Upper Ards now has its own heritage gallery documenting its fascinating history using the latest technology and tourists now flock to see the building, creating wider economic regeneration ripples across the whole town and area.
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