A New Centre is Born

Following extensive consultations, workshops and public meetings the following objectives were identified for the forum’s strategic plan.


  1. to secure the future of community-led development in the Upper Andersonstown area through the provision of a sustainable new-build facility promoting the social, economic and cultural regeneration of the area
  2. to provide a facility which can accommodate accessible educational, training and personal development programmes for local women, young people and long term unemployed which will enhance their ability to secure meaningful employment
  3. to provide a facility enabling local people of all ages to expand and develop their creative talents through the mediums of art, culture and drama
  4. to promote social inclusion by developing the capacity of local people to participate in the strategic regeneration of their area through the provision of capacity building and community development training and opportunities
  5. to provide childcare facilities enabling all residents to avail of training and educational programmes and personal development opportunities provided
  6. to provide health and activity programmes for the elderly within a safe, attractive and accessible facility
  7. to provide facilities and programmes which enhance the personal skills and educational attainment of children and young people
  8. to provide support initiatives for parents, families and children
  9. to provide a community support facility that is fully accessible and acceptable to all
  10. to create local employment opportunities and improve service delivery in the area through the community-led revitalisation of a centrally located derelict site

In 1995 the key issue was finding a suitable location/building to base the organisation.  The Forum was working out of the old Tullymore Centre in Tullymore Gardens.  The building was in a state of disrepair and the first challenge would be to refurbish this building to ensure that it was safe to work out of.  The Forum had secured funding from the National Lottery and Belfast Regeneration Office (BRO) to employ a Project Manager, a Co-ordinator, a Women’s Training Officer and an Administrator.  This core team was tasked with implementing the Development Strategy.

First Renovation

The dilapidated nature of the site and the building determined the first phase of the campaign.  We needed to make the old centre habitable and safe.  We approached a range of funders with a proposal to renovate the old centre.  NIVT decided to fund the renovation of the old building which would enable us to start to deliver services to the community.

The renovation of the Centre allowed the Forum to start to deliver the following services:

  • Afterschool Club
  • Youth Club/Summer Scheme
  • Community Work Programme
  • Summer Scheme

The Afterschool Club

The Afterschool club initially worked closely with the local Irish Language Bunscoil to provide a programme for 4-11 year olds.

The Youth Club

The renovation allowed the Forum to open a Youth Club on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday night.  The first Forum Summer Scheme took place in 1997, catering for 200 local children.

The Summer Scheme also recruited 40 volunteers from the local community to ensure that we had sufficient ratios, adults to children, to allow the programme to be delivered safely.

Community Directory and Women’s Training Network Report

In 1996 all the groups within the area, under the guidance of the Forum, produced the first Community Directory for the area.  The Directory also gave notice of the intention to campaign for a new build community facility on the Tullymore site.

The following groups contributed to the Directory:

  • The Upper Andersonstown Housing Group
  • Arts and Culture Group
  • Festival Group
  • Women’s Network
  • Youth Network
  • Environmental Group
  • Development Group
  • Welfare Advice Group
  • UACF Afterschool Project
  • Crèche Project
  • Training Project
  • Volunteer Project
  • Barnardos
  • Bytes Project

The Directory was used to publicise the work of the Forum’s affiliated groups within the area. It was an essential tool in marketing and promoting our work to a range of funders and stakeholders.

The Women’s Training Network also published a training report, assisted by the Centre for Child Research at Queen’s University, which highlighted the training needs of women and the importance of a well-adapted Childcare facility.  This report formed the basis of the Forum’s future strategy and was incorporated into the Development Strategy.

The external environment was changing with the emerging Peace Process and incoming European money.  It was a good time to mount a campaign for the new build. The community endorsed the plan at a number of local consultations facilitated by Community Technical Aid.

The Campaign

The campaign for a new build began to gain momentum with the adoption of the development plan that incorporated drawings for the new build facility.  Community Technical Aid worked with the Forum on an Economic and Financial Appraisal for the development of the Tullymore Complex.

The economic appraisal was informed by:

  • The Socio-economic Needs Analysis of the catchment area
  • Discussion and consultations with community groups within area
  • Assessment of needs of community groups and projects in area
  • Assessment of existing facilities used by community groups and projects within area

In March 2001 the Tullymore Community Centre, funded by the International Fund for Ireland, Belfast Regeneration Board, and the Belfast European Partnership Board officially opened.

The forum had been expanding its services and increasing its employees and the new building would provide a launch pad into a new era of expansion and opportunity. In preparation for moving into the new facility the management of the forum endeavoured to ensure that all the functional areas required in running the organisation and building were filled by people who were competent to do so.

The organisation invested a considerable amount of time, money and effort in accessing training courses for management, staff and volunteers in addition to the provision of technical assistance required to set up appropriate systems and processes.

The forum had rapidly developed from an ad hoc network of local groups coming together to address social deprivation into a significant local service provider with a purpose built community centre. The new community centre was a significant environmental improvement to the area’s image eliminating dereliction, danger and antisocial behaviour from the Tullymore site.

The new build represented the successful implementation of the forum’s first development strategy and the transition from a campaigning organisation to a service delivery organisation. The new era required a review of our priorities and the development of a new strategy that would enable the organisation to utilise the facilities in the most effective and efficient way for the local community. The forum adopted the Comprehensive Community Building Framework Approach which promotes regeneration. The notion of a neighbourhood focused approach involved developing a strategy that could harness the interrelationships between social, environmental, and economic development to channel it in a way that addresses some of the key problems facing the estate.

The grand opening of the new Tullymore Community Centre

The grand opening of the new Tullymore Community Centre

This community building framework had four key principles which determined how the organisation would identify, organise, implement and evaluate its priorities.

1. Citizen Participation
The Community was encouraged at every level to participate in workshops, consultations and to join forum groups. The forum wanted to hear from the residents what they determined to be their most important needs. In order for the forum’s plans to be successful and relevant local residents needed to be the authors of these plans. The residents are well qualified to identify the key issues and ideally placed to ensure that plans to tackle these issues are realistic and deliverable.

Citizen participation also enabled residents to develop a range of skills and experience that would equip them with the capacity to ensure that the new build community centre was effectively maintained and managed. Through this process community leaders began to emerge with the skills, vision and belief to sustain and develop the project.

2. Locally Based Approach
Our strategy targeted social, economic and environmental conditions in a small manageable area. This enabled our initiatives to be more effective by concentrating limited resources in a relatively small area thus enhancing long term sustainability. The tight knit nature of the estate contributed to the effective mobilisation of the community to transform their environment and to access the new opportunities created by the new community centre.

3. Comprehensive Approach
We adopted a comprehensive approach that addressed issues such as poverty, inequality, lack of investment, and unemployment approaching these as inter related problems requiring a range of targeted initiatives.

4. Collaborative Partnership
A key element of our approach is working with a variety of community and voluntary groups, government departments and statutory bodies to improve the quality of life and range of opportunities for all the residents of the estate.