WORK to restore and convert an old church building in Cushendun has been completed and the Old Church Centre, an arts, heritage and community space, is now open!
After thirteen long years of campaigning, lobbying, application forms and hiccups, restoration began in Autumn 2018, with the keys being handed over to the dedicated volunteer group, Cushendun Building Preservation Trust, last week.
The Old Church has been given a new lease of life and will be available for heritage events, drama, concerts, meetings, community activities and much more.
The building will also serve as an information and mini-heritage Centre in which visitors can learn about the glorious Glens of Antrim.
The restoration has been made possible thanks to funding and support from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, the Department for Communities Historic Environment Division (Historic Environment Fund), Ulster Garden Villages Ltd, the Pilgrim Trust and the All Churches Trust.
Built in 1840 as a Church of Ireland place of worship, Cushendun Old Church was de-consecrated in 2003.
Since then, Cushendun Building Preservation Trust has been campaigning for the building to become a community hub with a focus on the arts.
Fundraising efforts included the annual Cushendun Big Arts Weekend and the September Book Sale, which has been going for eight years.
At the official opening of the Old Church Centre on Saturday 6 July, Monica Morgan, Chair of Cushendun Building Preservation Trust, said: “For a long time we had a dream to make this facility a real focal point of the community, and to be at the official opening today is simply fantastic.
“At times it has been a tough, but we always knew this moment would come. It wouldn’t have been possible without the funders, volunteers, supporters and the local community.
“We can’t wait to see the buzz around the place in the weeks and months ahead!”
Anna Carragher, Trustee of The National Lottery Heritage Fund, added her congratulations: “We’ve travelled with this project for a long time, so we are absolutely delighted to see the restored church open and thriving as a community venue for arts, heritage and so much more.
“We love projects that breathe new life into our beloved old buildings and Cushendun Church is a fine example of this.
“The Trust have worked tirelessly to restore the building and we offer them huge congratulations on their hard work and commitment.
“It is thanks to groups like the Trust and players of the National Lottery that we get to fund wonderful local projects such as this one”
Mayor Sean Bateson from Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council also praised Cushendun Building Preservation Trust for their efforts and success reaching this great milestone: “As Mayor I am delighted that Council could play its part in this great achievement by providing finance through our Capital Grants programme.
“It is always a pleasure to see that support used to such great effect and I look forward to seeing the Old Church Centre fulfilling its heritage, arts and community commitments in this lovely space for many years to come.
“The Old Church Centre will be a wonderful asset to the villagers of Cushendun, the Glens people, constituents from throughout the Council area, and the many that will visit from further afield”.
The Cushendun Building Preservation Trust is keen to hear your ideas and suggestions for new events and performances for the Old Church Centre.
It is also looking for those with time and a willingness to enrol as volunteers.