Entertainment

Bangor Court House wins 2023 National Lottery Project of The Year award

The Bangor arts venue beat 16 competitors in a public vote to win the award, which also includes a £5,000 cash prize

Snow Patrol man Gary Lightbody with Alison Gordon and Kieran Gilmore from the Open House Festival celebrating the announcement of Bangor Court House as the winner of The National Lottery Project of the Year title in the 2023 National Lottery Awards
National Lottery Project of the Year 2023 winners Snow Patrol man Gary Lightbody with Alison Gordon and Kieran Gilmore from the Open House Festival celebrating the announcement of Bangor Court House as the winner of The National Lottery Project of the Year title in the 2023 National Lottery Awards (Bill Smyth/Bill Smyth)

THE Court House in Bangor has been voted 2023 National Lottery Project of The Year, the first ever winner from the north.

Almost 4,000 projects from across the Britain and Northern Ireland were nominated for the annual award, which celebrates National Lottery-funded people and projects. The Open House Festival-run Court House venue was one of 17 finalists to face a public vote to win the award, which also includes a cash prize of £5,000.

“We are absolutely delighted to be the 2023 winners of the National Lottery Project of the Year Award,” says Kieran Gilmore, Open House director, “especially as this is the first time a project from Northern Ireland has lifted the trophy, and we’re beyond grateful to every single person who gave us their vote and helped make it happen.

Kieran Gilmore, director, Open House Festival, Alison Gordon, festival manager, Open House Festival and Wayne Hemingway, HemingwayDesign at the old Bangor court house. Picture by Declan Roughan
Kieran Gilmore, director, Open House Festival, Alison Gordon, festival manager, Open House Festival and Wayne Hemingway, HemingwayDesign at the old Bangor court house. Picture by Declan Roughan

“Back in the summer of 2013, when we held our first annual Open House Festival in Bangor, we had no idea that the Court House would become both our home and the only dedicated music and arts venue in the town, now city.

“But when we launched a crowdfunding campaign to save the old, empty building in 2017, the public support we received from our festival audience assured us we were doing the right thing.

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“Those same people supported us through years of fundraising and renovation and have now become our Court House audience too. They voted for us in their thousands to receive this award, and it belongs to them just as much as it does to us.

“We’d also like to thank The National Lottery Heritage Fund for nominating us for the award, and for all the support and encouragement we receive from them.”

The Court House in Bangor. Picture by MeetDean
The Court House in Bangor. Picture by MeetDean

Past and present

Built in 1866 as a branch of the Belfast Banking Company, the Court House building then served as a magistrates court from 1952 until 2013, when it was decommissioned and fell into disrepair.

In 2015, Open House became involved in a campaign to save and redevelop the building as a music and arts venue, securing a major grant of almost £1 million from The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

The Court House re-opened its doors in 2022 and according to Open House has already “welcomed 38,000 people across its threshold and hosted over 400 events showcasing more than 1,000 artist performances”.

Bangor-born Snow Patrol frontman Gary Lightbody presented the Open House team with their National Lottery Award earlier today.

“It gives me great pleasure to be able to present the team at Bangor Court House with a National Lottery Award as the 2023 National Lottery Project of the Year,” he said.

“The transformation of the old court house into an exciting, electrifying and energetic live music venue has meant so much to the city of Bangor and beyond.

“The fact that people voted in their thousands for this project to win this award is a testament to the dedication and vision of all those involved in bringing this building to life.”

Open House Festival volunteer and musician Richard Hodgen outside Bangor Court House
Open House Festival volunteer and musician Richard Hodgen outside Bangor Court House

A ‘magnificent achievement’

Dr Paul Mullan, Northern Ireland director at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “Congratulations to the Open House team on the magnificent achievement of being voted The National Lottery Project of the Year in the 2023 National Lottery Awards. Their passion and commitment has ensured the revival and rebirth of their building into a dynamic and modern cultural venue.

“It is our mission at The National Lottery Heritage Fund to not only invest in heritage but to invest in communities. The regeneration of Bangor Court House is a living, breathing example of this in action. National Lottery players can be proud of the role they have played in supporting such a fantastic project.”

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