Since its inception in 1981, the Inner City Trust has worked to improve the physical, economic and social well being of the historic Walled City.
Over the past three decades, it has invested millions of pounds in a variety of innovative and visionary regeneration projects to help breathe new life into the inner city.
A new ‘Garden of Reflection’ project is a key element in the Trust’s ongoing strategy to renew, regenerate and revitalise the city centre and it certainly ticks all the boxes.
The Trust is the lead partner in the project which is funded by the PEACE III Programme through the European Union’s Regional Development Fund, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body. The project partners are DiverseCity Community Partnership and Derry City Council.
Design work on The Garden of Reflection, located to the rear of Holywell Trust’s new building at Bishop Street, is currently underway and the project is scheduled for completion later this year. The garden itself will be accessible from entrances in Bishop Street, Pump Street and London Street.
Helen Quigley, Managing Director of Inner City Trust, says she hopes the Garden of Reflection will transform this part of the city centre into a truly diverse space where everyone, visitors and local people alike, will feel comfortable.
“It is designed as a neutral, non-threatening place where people can go to either reflect privately or to take part in any of the events to be delivered there,” she says.
“We hope this city centre ‘oasis’ will become known as a convenient and popular meeting place and give people a good reason to explore this part of Derry.
“The success of the London Street Gallery during City of Culture really helped put the Cathedral Quarter on the map as a creative hub. The Garden of Reflection will draw more people into this area, giving them an opportunity to discover the excellent work of both the established and emerging artists currently working in the vicinity.”
Gerard Deane, Programme Co-ordinator for The Garden of Reflection, outlined the three elements to the project:
“The three key elements to The Garden of Reflection project are: the garden itself; a programme of events to promote reconciliation and healing; a lighting installation.”
The garden design incorporates a central courtyard with hard and soft landscaping and seated performance space with an extendable canopy, three tier amphitheatre, a poetry wall, a story booth, an overhead oakleaf entrance pergola at Pump Street, a water feature and a variety of public artwork installations.
Landscape architect and lead consultant John Eggleston, of MWA Partnership Ltd, explained the concept behind the design for the Garden of Reflection.
“One of the central features of the design is the blue paving which winds its way through the garden. This represents a river and a ‘journey’ through the garden which will be symbolic of life’s journey.
“Along this journey, landscape features will be incorporated to enhance the visitor’s experience of the journey.
“The journey of life is reflected by the three stages of a river: the youthful stage at the main garden space is a meeting, mingling and viewing area; this leads on to the middle age stage at the re-imaged shop fronts of the existing craft units and, then, on to the ‘old age stage’ at the Pump street entrance.
“The existing archway at Pump Street will be refurbished with a new artwork gateway incorporating signage and lighting, leading visitors along the walkway past contemporary plant containers to the end of their journey - or the start - depending on their approach,” says John.
The Bishop Street entrance to the garden will be accessed through the existing attractive Georgian doorway of Number 16 – which will be sympathetically refurbished – bringing visitors into an open gallery space. Disabled access will be through the existing shop front at Number 16, with a new accessway made for wheelchair access into the Courtyard of Reflection; this will ensure that the garden is completely accessible to all users. A new lift will be incorporated into Number 16 Bishop Street together with a complete refurbishment of this building.
Access from London Street will be via a gated entrance which will lead visitors through a passageway opening onto the centre of the garden.