Big move for Community Group

THIS week marked a new era in the history of community development for the residents of the Caw/Nelson Drive area.

On Monday the Community House at Auglish Court closed and staff and volunteers made the short trek to 205-211 Sperrin Park to spend their first official day in their new home - Crescent Community and Cultural Centre. In addition to a new address, the group also has a new telephone number, 028 7131 8100.

The founder members of the original ‘house’, 15 years ago, were Drew Thompson and Joy Kelly, who were given the use of 15 Auglish Court by the NI Housing Executive in 1997, and the facility was officially opened in May 1998 by the then Mayor, Alderman Joe Miller.

Linda Watson, co-ordinator for the group said: “I had been involved with the community group as volunteer and treasurer since 1998 up until 2006 when I was employed as the co-ordinator. I am sad to leave the community house but we have long outgrown it and exciting times lie ahead as we move into our new centre in Sperrin Park. We can look forward to 2013 when we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Nelson Drive Estate and also the UK City of Culture knowing that we have a wonderful new community centre in which to hold our activities and programmes.”

According to Founder member Drew Thompson, the new centre has been a long time coming. Formerly a block of four derelict communal flats, planning permission was applied for and was granted three years ago, at which time the Action Group started the not so easy task of trying to source funding to renovate the building. They had all but given up hope but two years ago the Board members took the decision to fundraise, open up the flats and try at least to make the ground floor useable.

After that they were on a roll: Through funding under DSD Neighbourhood Renewal a small pot of funding became available to allow the group to have the PVC windows installed and shortly after that funding through the CFNI Fair Share programme provided the group with the opportunity to completely refurbish the ground floor of the building. At the same time the Housing Executive had a heating scheme operating and agreed to install gas heating, while local contractor PK Murphy kindly installed a new kitchen.

Towards the end of 2011 the group received the remainder of the funding. DSD Neighbourhood Renewal funded the new lobby and rear extension allowing a lift to be installed and City of Culture Capital Funding through ILEX and the Arts Council of NI provided the cash for the upper floor and the new IT suite. In February the City Council pitched in with a new wall, railings and paved area to the front, leaving them with full disability access, up-to-date IT suite, large multipurpose rooms and office accommodation.

Founder member Joy Kelly said: “It will be very emotional for me to leave our community house which has served us well over the last 14 years. I have many happy memories which I will take with me to the new centre and look back with pride on the work that Caw/Nelson Drive Action Group has been involved in for the community knowing that I have been a part of their success.”

Drew, who is also the current Chairpman of Caw/Nelson Drive Action Group, said: “It has been a long time in the making but the end result makes all the hard work worthwhile. We have many people to thank over the last 14 years, Joy Kelly, the dedicated staff and volunteers and our two former vice chairs Marie Cole who died in 2005 and Carol Simpson who died in 2011. Both gave a lot of time to the community house helping to make it the success it is today. I would also like to thank NI Housing Executive, funders and all the consultants and contractors who have been involved in the renovations over the past few years.

This is not the end of the hard work for the group as planning permission has been granted for the development of Kilfennan Valley Park. Caw/Nelson Drive Action Group will work in partnership with Derry City Council to source funding to provide a new Play Park and Multi Use Games Pitch for the area.