Business Insight

Big Belfast city centre thank you to all key workers

The big thank you message projected onto Ulster University's York Street campus.
Geraldine Duggan

AGAINST the tragic reality of Covid-19, it remains important to take time to recognise all that is being done by people coming together in these challenging times.

That is the motivation for the ‘Big City Centre Thank You' campaign.

Belfast City Centre Management (BCCM) has worked closely with the business community for over 20 years, and for my part 14 of those years.

During that time, I have seen many significant challenges; the crash of 2008, the flag protests of 2012; and more recently the Bank Buildings fire in 2018 to name but three.

Whilst Belfast city centre has repeatedly picked itself up and dusted itself down in the face of crisis, this global pandemic leaves us all bewildered and unsure in what condition we will emerge.

The vast majority of the city centre is deserted, yet approximately 50 retail outlets continue to operate – those designated as essential providers, including pharmacies, banks, food suppliers and newsagents.

In addition to these outlets, there are professional service providers, unable to work from home providing services behind closed doors or by appointment, such as opticians, some accountancy firms, solicitors and insurance companies, but mostly smaller businesses.

If we are all to stay at home, then where are these customers coming from? In addition to well-established and newer residential communities in and close to the city centre, there are many frontline and office based essential workers working in the city centre, keeping the heart of the city centre functioning during these uncertain times.

These include the NHS, PSNI, emergency services, Translink, Royal Mail, Belfast City Council, Belfast Harbour, voluntary organisations and central government staff such as the Department for Communities, processing increasing numbers of Universal Credit applications enabling families to put food on their tables.

These essential workers travelling into and through the city centre need to access essential products and services without making further unnecessary trips or travel journeys.

To acknowledge and pay tribute to the vast array of individuals who, in the course of any given day, will complete thousands of tasks that make life positively better for wider society, I am grateful to both Galaxy Facilities Management and Ulster University partnering with us to deliver a positive visual messaging campaign - the ‘Big City Centre Thank You'.

Foremost, the campaign seeks to show our appreciation to the NHS and healthcare workers who work tirelessly to support our sick and infirm. The NHS logo will be displayed as a shining Beacon of Hope for us all on the façade of the Ulster University.

Below, will be a rolling display of agencies and businesses whose key workers continue to play a vital role in supporting our community and who also face and meet the challenges presented in these uncharted times.

BCCM's core purpose is to promote a vibrant city centre. For now however, please follow government guidance and unless your trip is essential, stay at home; protect the NHS; save lives.

Geraldine Duggan (g.duggan@belfastcentre.com) is the city centre manager at Belfast City Centre Management.

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