Hooley on the Hill running all this week in the heart of the Waterside

The Disney Duo, Mickey and Minnie pictured with some of the children at Disney Day, part of last year's Hooley on the Hill Festival. DER3115MC055

The Disney Duo, Mickey and Minnie pictured with some of the children at Disney Day, part of last year's Hooley on the Hill Festival. DER3115MC055

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The Waterside’s annual Hooley on the Hill Festival organised by Hillcrest House and the Whistle Project is in full swing this week offering a host of fun activities for all age groups. This year many of the activities are taking place in the new Community Hub at Trench Road (the canteen unit of the former Immaculate Conception College) and the full programme can be viewed on The Hooley on the Hill facebook page. A taste of what’s on offer over the next few days includes a screening tonight of ‘Pride’-a film highlighting the issues facing the LGBT community with a discussion after the viewing. The event begins at 6.30pm and is free.

Tomorrow will see the ‘Wider Top of the Hill Walking Tour’ taking in various parts of the Waterside and it will depart from Hillcrest House at 11am.

Then, from 12-2pm the ‘Under the Sea Fun Day’ -a family event that will include face painting, balloon modelling, arts and crafts, nail painting amd much more. Kids are encouraged to dress up as their favourite under the sea characters, such as mermaids and pirates. Again, this event is at the Community Hub and costs just £1 per child.

From 4-10pm on Wednesday ‘One Big Whistle’ is the Top of the Hill’s very own music festival for young people and will take place at the Whistle Project’s outdoor pitch.

For the rest of the week, other events will include Kids Movie Morning, Creative Book Art Workshops, Men’s Shed Exhibition, Tea Dances, Picnic in the Park. Kids Super Hero Disco, a full Family Fun Day and The Bernard Park and Keith ‘Ox’ Ruddy Memorial Cup football competition.

Hillcrest House manager Karen Mullan told the ‘Journal’: We run a range of community programmes, activities and services at Hillcrest Trust. We now have three buildings in the area -Hillcrest House, Derryview and the Community Hub-the acquisition of that hall means we can now run larger events-particularly geared towards family events and we have a high degree of interest in those events and of course Hooley on the Hill is one our seasonal events. It comes straight after the completion of a four week Summer Scheme which was very successful.”

Whilst Hooley on the Hill is the main focus for this week, Hillcrest offers programmes on a year round basis with an increasing number of programmes run in full co-operation with their counterparts at Irish Street Community Centre.

“The barriers between Top of the Hill and Irish Street are no longer there and thankfully for the residents this has become the norm,” said Karen.

“Our own doorstep for example we have a Men’s Shed project and a very vibrant older women’s group. Both groups are hosting exhibitions of the work they have created throughout the year during this week.

“Again the Men’s Shed project was organised in partnership with Irish Street,” she continued.

Geraldine O’Donnell is the Strategic Development Manager at Hillcrest House and she told the ‘Journal’: “The programmes give families something to do. What we provide helps to do away with social isolation and gets the community to come together. In turn, this has a positive effect on mental health because it provides an alternative outlet.

“We’ve found over the years that the numbers attending the programmes has grown greatly. This year’s summer scheme involved 150 children and in the last four weeks they have been really active and we are now being widely supported by local residents.

“The young people really do work well with Hillcrest and The Whistle Project. A lot of them look forward to the summer. There’s a strong youth forum and a lot of them also volunteer to help out with the younger children at the summer scheme.”

The ongoing work at Hillcrest House has been bolstered with the employment of a full-time youth worker brought on board by the Education Authority. And the Authority is also in partnership with Hillcrest in terms of overseeing the completion of the long-awaited community centre at Top of the Hill - something which is being viewed as masterplan project that will provide community services for an area that has long outgrown the original Gobnascale district and now takes in approximately 1,700 homes.

It is hoped that Stormont’s Department for Communities will soon sign-off on the capital funding needed to construct the new centre.

Local GAA club Na Piarsaigh Doire Trasna has also finally secured land in the area for its own base - something which will boost not just the club itself but the local community as a whole.

Peace IV funding is also been sought to revamp the premises that once housed the former Clondermot High School. When completed this additional community facility with be a collaborative project between Hillcrest and Irish Street.

Rosemarie Griffin is the Community Development Worker at Hillcrest House, who creates and oversees the schemes attended by the youngsters in the district.

““We create a range of events that are designed for people in the area and we encourage them to take part.

“Some of these are activities that people may not normally participate in. We’ve run iPad usage and internet access sessions and invited groups like St John Ambulance in to show that people like that are a vital part of our community and should not be abused or attacked,” said Rosemarie.

“We’ve also run activities like Mind Challenge workshops for kids aged 5-11 to stimulate their minds, get them out of the house and away from their mobile phones.

“We’ve also encouraged healthy eating to get children away from sugary products and encourage them to eat fruit instead,” she continued.

Geraldine O’Donnell added: “It’s about educating young people without them realising they are being educated.

“We are building up their social skills. Because children are so into technology they don’t have the social skills that we had years ago. So we help build up their confidence and self-esteem.”

The Hooley on the Hill programme continues until next Monday, and the Hillcrest team will then be announcing plans for its autumn and winter programme - continuing the year long cycle of activities which always incorporate an input from local residents.

“The feedback given by residents from surveys about what they would like to see happen at the organisation is becoming ingrained as part of the programmes offered by Hillcrest House.

To find out more call at the centre or contact them via its Facebook page or simply telephone Hillcrest House on 02871 34 7515.