Street murals paint brighter picture of county town future

Street murals paint brighter picture of county town future

7 April 2021

A NEW town committee has been formed to significantly raise the profile of Downpatrick with those involved determined to put transparency at the heart of everything they do.

While the coronavirus pandemic has had a major impact on the group’s plans over the past year, the vaccination roll-out programme and steady decrease in positive cases provides it with hope for the future.

As one of the province’s county towns, the new committee aims to do all it can to improve the town’s image and identity in the months and years ahead.

The group is focusing on the bigger picture and insists that it is “in it for the long haul” to ensure Downpatrick becomes a better for place for its residents, businesses, community and visitors.

And given that the town is the burial place of Ireland’s patron’s saint, the new committee believes it has a firm foundation on which to build for the future.

Philip Campbell, who has been appointed chairman of the new group, said it not only recognises Downpatrick’s tremendous potential, but realises that a staged approach going forward is vital.

“Those of us involved in the committee are very eager to do more to raise the profile of the town and all that it has to offer. We are also particularly keen to lead from the front and drive forward new ideas,” he said.

“We have drawn up an action plan with short, medium and long term goals which we plan to implement in stages. We hope to be a breath of fresh air.”

The new group, which includes a number of representatives from the business community, emerged from the successful DownTime Festival which had its inaugural launch in 2019, but did not take place last year due to the pandemic.

Philip, who also a key member of Down Community Arts, said the initial focus is on small gains to build up confidence, with the emphasis on larger projects moving forward.

Future areas the town committee will focus its efforts on include the local economy which will be particularly important in a post-pandemic world, social heritage, the environment and the arts.

Just recently, the group played a key role in eye-catching mural projects on a gable wall at Mullan’s Bar in Church Street and a wooden hoarding around the former Downe Hospital site which was transformed to depict local historical scenes and characters.

This particular project was undertaken in conjunction with the Downpatrick District Electoral Area and local primary school children and funded by a number of organisations.

And this May, Downpatrick town centre will be awash with fragrance and colour after the group purchased £2,000 worth of hanging baskets which will be offered to the business community to put up.

Philip said the new group recognises that the town needs a lift and hopes that its efforts will act as a catalyst, encouraging others to come forward to do their bit for the town.

“We intend to be a breath of fresh air, coming forward with new and innovative ideas and want to lead from the front,” he continued. “We are keen to exploit Downpatrick’s potential and make the town a better place for everyone.

“We aim to utilise the county town status and build for the future. We want to be unique and different and are more than keen to play a leading role and go after our goals.

“It is time for Downpatrick to move forward and with our members coming from a variety of backgrounds, diversity can be one of our strengths. We have young people who are forward thinkers with an eye on the big picture and who want to go after our goals.”

Philip said while a summer festival last year would have been one of the new committee’s first major ventures, it remains a key goal going forward, even though such an event may not be possible this year.

And while he admits that it’s still early days, the new group, which includes representation from the Downpatrick Community Collective, hopes to achieve its goals and, crucially, bring other people with it.

“We have an action in place and transparency will be a key issue for us moving forward,” insisted the committee chairman.

“We want people to know what we are doing, who is responsible for it and why we are doing it. We also have plans for a litter pick later this month in conjunction with a local youth group and hope that others will join us when we confirm the details.”

One of the longer term goals will be securing disused premises with the help of the local authority to start a community project building floats for next year’s St Patrick’s Day parade which the group hopes will be a fantastic showpiece event.

“Perhaps we could help source funds with prizes for the best floats across a number of categories which has the potential to encourage greater community participation,” he said. “There may even be scope for visitors to play a part in helping make floats.

“We would also be keen to see the festival parade coming back into community ownership with the local authority doing what it does best in terms of looking after the necessary legislation and other key issues such as crowd control, publicity, road closure legislation and liaising with other key agencies.

“We believe there is much to look forward to and we are very excited about Downpatrick’s potential. We want people to buy into what we are doing. We have one agenda — making the town a better place to live for everyone.”