Northern Ireland

Festival to bring communities in Belfast together to 're-imagine shared space'

 A unique community-driven festival will bring people together by re-imagining Botanic Avenue in Belfast
A unique community-driven festival will bring people together by re-imagining Botanic Avenue in Belfast A unique community-driven festival will bring people together by re-imagining Botanic Avenue in Belfast

An event will be held in south Belfast later this month aimed at bringing people together to "re-imagine shared space" in the Botanic Avenue area.

Organisers of the Open Botanic Festival want members of the public to see what it would be like to "experience the diverse, busy thoroughfare in a totally different way".

The event, on September 24 from noon to 3pm, will showcase one of Belfast’s most popular city streets as a place fully accessible to pedestrians and cyclists.

Forward South Partnership, through the Open Botanic Festival, is leading the discussion around changes to the streets of Belfast with fewer cars in order to give better access to pedestrians and cyclists, reduce pollution and improve health.

Groups from the Holyland, Donegall Pass, Sandy Row, as well as Anaka Women’s Collective, Sustrans, The Friends of the Field, the South and East Belfast Bands Forum and Yallaa, a group that promotes Arabic culture are involved.

There will be a temporary cycle path on one side of Botanic Avenue with a range of fun activities including music, workshops, food, health and community stalls.

Briege Arthurs from Forward South Partnership, which is organising the festival, said it is a "chance to open up discussions about regeneration and greening spaces".

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“We wish to foster a welcoming environment for all people," she said.

"As our community grows and changes, our streets should try to meet their needs and Botanic Avenue has so much potential for that. 

"This event is a chance for people to have a say in the future of the avenue.”

Six community organisations have been taking part in workshops in collaboration with the Architecture and Planning Department at Queen’s University Belfast to talk about how they would like Botanic Avenue to evolve and to design community kiosks to showcase the culture and heritage of the area.

Master’s student Emily Ireland has been leading a team working with the groups.

“The community groups have been so positive about wanting to engage in the festival and to come together to share their ideas about improving the area as well as celebrating the things they love about south Belfast," she said.

"There have been so many themes that are similar to all the groups who want to see more engagement between communities going forward.”

Businesses in the area are invited to participate in Open Botanic, with the Belfast Empire Music Hall set to offer food tastings and live music during the festival.

Dean Miller from the music venue said: “The increased footfall on this day will give all businesses the opportunity to showcase what they have to offer.

"It will be fantastic to welcome so many families and all of us can benefit from this.

"This is such a good use of the space, that it would be great if we could do this once a month.

"We would like to see discussions around evolving the Avenue further in such ways, for example, we think a cycle lane would of great benefit - people who walk or cycle are surely more likely to stop at the local businesses.”

For further information, please visit www.forwardsouth.org.