Northern Ireland news

Belfast Central Library steps in to support arson hit businesses

Four businesses whose offices were destroyed in the blaze in October were given space to work in Belfast's Central Library
Suzanne McGonagle

OWNERS of businesses impacted by the arson attack on Belfast’s Cathedral Buildings have thanked Libraries NI for providing them with "creative space" following the devastating fire.

It comes after four businesses whose offices were destroyed in the blaze in October have been given space to work in Belfast's Central Library for a year with furniture and other facilities also provided to them.

More than £3 million worth of damage was caused to the building, which was built more than a century ago, and was home to several shops and small creative businesses and studios.

The building had been a hub for the creative community, with several artists and a violin repair business among those to have lost nearly everything.

Following the blaze, Libraries NI came together with Cathedral Quarter Business Improvement District (BID) to offer some former tenants a space to work.

One business owner to benefit is Paul Kelly of design agency Form Native.

"Losing our studio in Cathedral Buildings fire was a profound setback for our design business," he said.

"The home, tools and archive of 20 years of practice all suddenly gone. It left us without a firm footing in any sense.

"Being offered the Creative Space in Central Library enabled us to find our place again in the Cathedral Quarter, where we belong. It gave us the time and space to reset as a business, stay connected to our community, and build a new positive plan for the year."

More than 50 firefighters tackled the blaze in October 2022


Tina Calder from marketing agency Excalibur Press said the security of being at Central Library was important for her staff and the ability to support clients.

"The impact of the fire on my business was significant. Not only did we lose physical space and items, but we lost the ability to service some of our clients due to the disruption caused in not having a physical space,” she said.

"My staff were left with nowhere to settle and I found it very difficult to lead my team effectively whilst dealing with the trauma and loss associated with the fire and not being able to find somewhere for us to work from as a team."

But she said the offer of the space at Central Library saw her "stress levels reduced significantly, my mental health improved dramatically, my staff were able to feel secure in their jobs and our clients were once again shown stability in our business".

Julie Reid from Libraries NI said: “After the devastating fire in Cathedral Buildings in October 2022 it has been a real privilege for Libraries NI to be able to help these creative businesses by providing use of space in Belfast Central Library.

"Since Belfast was established as a city 135 years ago, the library has helped to develop and support creativity and learning and we see the creative space as a natural fit.

“Belfast Central Library is strategically located in the Cathedral Quarter Business Improvement District and we hope that the ambition and vision for the redevelopment of the library will move forward providing the people of Belfast with a library that matches the aspirations of the city and the people.”

Damien Corr from Cathedral Quarter BID added that in the immediate aftermath of the fire, they had "set about searching for alternative accommodation for those impacted and lobbying for a support package from our statutory partners".

“The first thing that became apparent was the widespread willingness to help from right across the sectors and no more so than from Julie at Belfast Central Library.

"Julie was one of the first to respond to our call, asking 'how can we help and when do you need it?'

"The subsequent arrangement is a godsend to those who gratefully took up the offer and hopefully paves the way for future collaboration."

Northern Ireland news