DTNI member Open House Festival has secured the asset transfer of Bangor Courthouse, representing the first Community Asset Transfer at nil value since the policy was introduced in 2016. If you’ve been following the story you will be aware that £30,000 was required for urgent capital works to the listed Victorian building on Bangor seafront which would allow them to acquire the asset on a temporary basis until such time as full re-development is possible. That money has now been secured thanks to a hugely successful crowdfunding campaign and a combination of fundraising activities, and grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund (NI), The Architectural Heritage Fund and Ulster Garden Villages.It has taken four years’ work and collaboration with various bodies to bring the transfer to completion, and is a perfect example of how the CAT policy can and should work.
DTNI identified the project back in 2014, which was originally driven forward by Bangor Shared Space. Unfortunately for them plans were not quite ready to come to fruition at that time, but fortunately DTNI was able to recruit OHF who were able to demonstrate capacity and festival director Kieran Gilmore then worked with us to refine the application.From the DTNI pool of consultants came accredited SROI practitioner Karl Leathem to measure the social return on investment; as well as business mentor Stephen McGarry from Gauge NI, for social impact measurement. DTNI was the facilitating body responsible for negotiating the transfer from the NI Courts & Tribunal Service/Department of Justice, and brokered the support of both the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Architectural Lottery Fund for additional funding. The positive impact that this project has the potential to bring is immense. OHF have been running the festival in Bangor for a number of years now, always putting together a thoughtfully-curated lineup (see the OHF website for their 2018 programme). To have a permanent venue for art, music, theatre and film will be an incredible boost for the town – not just culturally, but socially and economically too. These are the benefits that community ownership can bring and DTNI will continue to work on behalf of its members and the wider third sector for the community right to bid and to own (read about our campaign for Community Rights legislation).