Courthouse to Art House with help of Community Shares
The Old Courthouse in Bangor could be transformed into a centre for the arts owned by the local community, if a proposal put forward by Bangor Shared Space is accepted by the Department of Justice.
Bangor Shared Space is a collective of North Down residents interested in the arts who came together three years ago with the idea and determination to find a venue that could really showcase the arts in Bangor.
The group are now receiving expert support from the Community Shares Ready! project, delivered by Co-operative Alternatives who are commissioned by the Building Change Trust to provide support for community share offers in Northern Ireland.
The Old Courthouse is owned by the Department of Justice and the group has presented the department with a strong plan that would see this interesting listed building, located on the seafront, opening to the public and increase the artistic profile of Bangor both locally and internationally.
As it stands, the building is unused and closed down and it is a missed opportunity to regenerate the area.
If the Department of Justice accepts the bid, the new venue would offer something for everyone.
Plans are to include theatre, workshops, courses, films, music performances and an art gallery, which potentially could showcase local work as well as bringing in internationally renowned pieces of art.
“There are so many artists in this area and such an interest in culture among the public, that we felt the arts could really be a catalyst to bring new life and interest to this part of town,” explained Bangor Shared Space chair Louise Macartney.
Adding: “A busy, popular arts centre at the seafront in Bangor has the potential to energise many other businesses in the area – such as shops, pubs, cafes and restaurants.
“It will also put the town on the map as a real haven for artists and an area where culture can thrive. We are excited to carry out further discussions with the department and to launch our Community Share offer as soon as possible”.
According to an independent report carried out for the group, the Social Return on Investment for this project should be approximately £3.34 for every £1 invested.
Bangor Shared Space have been developing a plan to raise finance via community shares which will help the group to “open doors” to the public. The group would sell Community Shares in the new co-operative enterprise to members of the public, who would then co-own the venture.
Tiziana O’Hara from Co-Operative Alternatives said: “This is such an exciting community initiative and a great opportunity for Bangor. The aim is to bring a building which has been abandoned by the authorities back to life.
“We are delighted to work with a group as committed as Bangor Shared Space who are putting local community benefit at the heart of their plans.
"By saving a neglected building they are able to bring economic, social and environmental benefits to Bangor”.
The Community Shares Ready programme is part of the Trust’s commitment to Social Finance.