Group continuing efforts to shape a more 'Positive' story of Carrickfergus

An award-winning community group is continuing efforts this year to shape a more ‘positive’ story of Carrickfergus.

A live music session at The Talking Shop in November.
A live music session at The Talking Shop in November.
A live music session at The Talking Shop in November.

Positive Carrickfergus is a group of people who live and work in the town, all of whom are doing their bit to make the area a great place to live.

Growing from a Facebook group established in October 2017, the organisation became a Community Interest Company in September 2020.

Since its inception, it has been involved in a large number of initiatives, from the ‘Sails and Tales’ maritime exhibition at the historic Kelly’s Coal Office to the ambitious ‘Wildest Dreams’ postcard project.

The Positive Carrickfergus ‘Wildest Dreams’ postcard project.
The Positive Carrickfergus ‘Wildest Dreams’ postcard project.
The Positive Carrickfergus ‘Wildest Dreams’ postcard project.

With a volunteer-led Board of seven members, the group runs all its activities from The Talking Shop, its base at The Courtyard, Scotch Quarter.

Lee Robb of Positive Carrickfergus said: “We received £37,500 from the National Lottery Community Fund in October 2020 to explore the future of Carrick with its residents.

“We opened a new community space - The Talking Shop - in The Courtyard where we could gather insights and ideas about what people want for the town and develop new relationships.

“This project included our Wildest Dreams postcards - more than 10,000 were distributed across Carrick in March and April 2021 and more than 100 were sent back to us that are still on display in our shop.”

A report is due to be launched soon on the findings of the scheme, which posed the question to local residents: “What’s your wildest dream for Carrick?”

The group’s location in The Courtyard allowed them to organise music events in the garden during the summer with Carrickfergus Traditional Music Session and Flame N’Ukes, as well as with Third Carrick Band at Christmas.

They also hosted live music with three musicians from Hong Kong over a weekend in November. “Music was one of the things that people said they wanted more of in Carrick on their Wildest Dreams postcards,” Lee explained.

Sails and Tales success

Meanwhile, the ongoing Sails and Tales exhibition explores 800 years of history through key events and stories relating to the maritime history of the town.

From January to April 2021, in the depths of lockdown, local people came together online to share their memories, interests, and photos, helping to shape their exhibition at the refurbished Kelly’s Coal Office.

Built around 1910, the building was constructed by local businessman Charles Legg, and the coal office and business was bought by John Kelly in 1921. Marked with the iconic ‘K’, it has been known as Kelly’s ever since.

Within a changing 1960s economy, the business closed in the mid-60s, and the building fell into disrepair, eventually being placed on the Buildings at Risk Register.

“Thankfully, the current owner was able to secure funding from the Carrickfergus Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI) in 2017 and the building has been brought back to life. The coal office is now home to the family-run business Robinson’s Shoes,” Lee added. “We will shortly launch a virtual reality tour of the exhibition which was funded through donations from the community.

“As well as gathering people’s harbour stories online last year, we held a number of online events at the start of 2020 before opening our shop in June 2020.

“We’ve held a range of conversations in the shop, music events, art classes and collaborative mapping workshops, taking people on a tour of the town and coming together to make maps that tell their stories of their towns and their aspirations for the future.

“We’ve also supported local businesses and community groups who have used our shop space for meetings and as a pop up shop.”

Plans for the year ahead

As for the coming year, Positive Carrickfergus is putting together plans to take forward the Wildest Dreams work and developing projects with a number of other organisations, such as Mid and East Antrim Borough Council and the Eco Rangers.

Their work was also recognised in December 2021 as the Best Community or Social Initiative award at the Carrickfergus Business Excellence Awards.

To find out more about the group and any upcoming events, visit the website at