Free Derry Museum revamp gets green light

View of the entrance to the Museum of Free Derry at Glenfada Park. (Pic by Mark McCauley)
View of the entrance to the Museum of Free Derry at Glenfada Park. (Pic by Mark McCauley)
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Derry and Strabane Council has plugged a funding gap to enable the new Museum of Free Derry at Glenfada Park to go ahead.

The Journal has now learned that the redevelopment project had been in peril recently due to imminent funding deadlines.

Derry City and Strabane District Council have now confirmed however that they have committed a “substantial” contribution towards the £2.2m project to get it over the line and prevent outside funding being lost.

After over five years of planning and lobbying by the Bloody Sunday Trust and others, work on the redevelopment is now expected to begin within a matter of weeks.

Planning permission has already secured for the project.

The council’s decision to help secure the project was taken at a recent, private meeting and received cross-party support.

The plans for the revamped Museum of Free Derry- which will be part-funded by Tourism Northern Ireland and the Department for Social Development - include a new-look, expanded museum telling the story of the local community, with a focus on Bloody Sunday, the Civil Rights Movement and the early Troubles. It will also house a large archive, conference area, new exhibition spaces, and visitor facilities.

Stephen Gillespie, Director of Development with the Council, said the money would enhance Derry’s tourism offering, and ensure a major opportunity to secure outside investment was not lost.

The decision was taken after it emerged that the Bloody Sunday Trust was facing a significant funding gap after exhausting all other avenues.

“They were at a very critical stage where basically if somebody didn’t fund an element of gap funding they could lose the project,” he said.

Previously released images featuring an aerial view of how the new museum will look.

Previously released images featuring an aerial view of how the new museum will look.

The local council was approached and Mr Gillespie said that from a tourism perspective the redeveloped museum “blends in exactly with what we are trying to do so it was vital this funding was secured.”

“If there is money being levered into the city for any aspect of what would be out Corporate Plan, it would be a poor day if we can’t get involved to try and help lever that money in as opposed to the money being lost,” he added.

Sinn Fein Councillor and tour guide operator Mickey Cooper said: “This will allow the museum to grow and develop to meet the rising demand from international and local visitors.”

Colr. Cooper said the museum was “instrumental in telling the story of our recent history in Derry” and predicted a hike in visitors to the Bogside, with more announcements for the Triax area expected shortly.

If there is money being levered into the city for any aspect of what would be our Corporate Plan, it would be a poor day if we can’t get involved to try and help lever that money in as opposed to the money being lost.

Stephen Gillespie

“This funding from council compliments the funding from DETI and DSD, and demonstrates Council’s commitment to developing tourism.

“Countless visitors from across the world have come to the current museum at Glenfada Park, the scene of a number of the murders carried out on Bloody Sunday, and have been hugely impressed by the facility,” he said.

SDLP Councillor and Bloody Sunday Trust board member Brian Tierney said the Museum would help cement the Bogside’s status as a major draw for tourists.

He said: “This is a major investment not only for the Museum of Free Derry or in telling the history of Bloody Sunday, but also for the development of the Bogside area.

“This will create a hub within the Bogside while also linking the area to the Walls, the Apprentice Boys Hall, the Tower Museum.

“This new hub is about more than the events of 30th January 1972, There is the Civil Rights movement, the Battle of the Bogside and events up to Bloody Sunday and then up onto the present time and the campaign for justice.”

Earlier proposals of his the back of the Museum will look.

Earlier proposals of his the back of the Museum will look.

The Museum of Free Derry building was in a derelict state before being redeveloped.

The Museum of Free Derry building was in a derelict state before being redeveloped.