Derry chosen for pilot M&S community drive

Pictured at the launch of the initiative are representatives from M&S Foyleside and Crescent Link, Foyle Search & Rescue, and Mayor of Derry & Strabane District Council, Alderman Hilary McClintock. (Picture Brian Thomspon Photography)
Pictured at the launch of the initiative are representatives from M&S Foyleside and Crescent Link, Foyle Search & Rescue, and Mayor of Derry & Strabane District Council, Alderman Hilary McClintock. (Picture Brian Thomspon Photography)

Staff from Derry’s Marks & Spencer stores are to make over a garden for those bereaved by suicide as part of a two-year pilot project being rolled out in the city.

Derry is one of ten regions across the UK to be chosen as part of a major community transformation project being launched by the retail firm.

A range of actions will be trialled in the city aimed at tackling issues that matter most to local people, including unemployment, skill shortages, loneliness, poverty, and mental health and wellbeing.

Derry is the only location in the north of Ireland to have been selected.

Staff from M&S Foyleside and Crescent Link stores will be making over Foyle Search & Rescue’s Memorial Garden.

The garden, which is used by families of those who have lost loved ones to suicide, volunteers, and as the location for the North West Bereaved Support Group to meet.

M&S Head of Region for Northern Ireland, Ryan Lemon, along with the Mayor of Derry & Strabane District Council will be attending to lend a helping hand.

Mayor McClintock said: “The Council is delighted to be working in partnership with M&S on initiatives that will encourage community engagement and interventions that will benefit local communities. I am delighted that Foyle Search & Rescue are one of the pilot projects included in the scheme.”

Steve Rowe, M&S CEO, said: “We’ve looked at what matters to communities, which are issues like access to work-place skills, social inclusion, support for mental health problems and believe we can play a key role and make a real difference to community life.”

He added: “We’re starting with ten so that we can learn, adapt and develop an agile approach that will transform 100 communities by 2023.”

Alongside Derry, the other nine communities M&S is currently in discussions with are Birmingham, Bradford, Glasgow, Liverpool, Merthyr Tydfil, Middlesbrough, London Borough of Newham, Norwich and Rochdale.