Win a makeover and transform that public space

Schools and community groups are being offered the chance to win a £3,000 makeover that will turn a neglected area into flourishing green space

Jenni Barkley from Belfast Harbour with Neville Walker of Conservation Volunteers

EVERYBODY loves a makeover. Whether it's a single room, an entire property, or a '10-years-younger' personal makeover, there's nothing like a reinvention, revamp or total restoration to make us feel refreshed and revitalised. Garden makeover television programmes have proved popular entertainment in recent decades and ITV's Love Your Garden with Alan Titchmarsh still commands a peak-time slot.

But whereas they once meant a braless Charlie Dimmock, a rickety self-assemble pergola, and swathes of decking, tastes and preferences have thankfully changed since the naughties and these days more consideration is given to sustainability and biodiversity.

These values are celebrated in a new garden makeover competition that gives community groups, schools and playgroups the opportunity to transform their green spaces.

Billed as ‘bloomin' marvellous' initiative, the competition is organised by Belfast Harbour and Conservation Volunteers, and will see four groups from across Northern Ireland receive a makeover worth £3,000 each to help turn underused areas into vibrant community spaces.

Interested groups are being asked to provide a one-minute video clip to describe their space and explain why reclaiming it would benefit their community.

Helen Tomb, operations leader with Conservation Volunteers, said: “There is no shortage of spaces which, with some tender love and landscaping, could be transformed into useful community spaces.

“With Belfast Harbour's support last year we created six new school gardens for young people who have little or no outdoor space at home. They now have a green space to look after and play in, and are getting involved in new activities such as growing vegetables.”

Belfast Harbour's communications and corporate responsibility manager Jenni Barkley said: “This is a great opportunity for community groups to finally make use of that untended green space which might currently be nothing more than an eyesore.

"Gardening and outdoor activities – particularly in urban areas – have a proven track record in helping create healthier, happier communities so we're really encouraging groups to come forward with entries.”

Last year's winning makeover gardens were Bangor's St Comgall's Primary School; Lisnasharragh Alternative Education Project in Castlereagh; St Joseph's Primary School, Breda Academy and Glenveagh Special School all in south Belfast; and Glens Youth and Community in the west of the city.

Peter Forbes of Lisnasharragh Alternative Education Programme said the response of the children and staff to their new garden had been “phenomenal”.

“We're now using the space as a shared outdoor classroom with the neighbouring primary school where the children can grow their own food to take home,” he said.

“We're very grateful to Belfast Harbour and The Conservation Volunteers for this ‘bloomin' marvellous!' transformation and would recommend it to other groups.”

This is the second year of the competition which is part of Belfast Harbour's wider initiative aimed at improving the environment. The harbour has already set aside 195 acres to support nature conservation and runs a scheme to support biodiversity projects by its tenants.

:: Groups interested in the garden makeover competition should upload their entry to their social media page using #harbourinbloom or email it to

The best entries will be selected by Belfast Harbour and The Conservation Volunteers and announced in January. The winning spaces will be transformed next year by Conservation Volunteers.

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