An exhibition which chronicles the vital importance the Inner City Trust has made to Derry city centre and further a field, will open in the Garden of Remembrance in Bishop Street next week.
The collection of photographs on display recreates various parts of the city centre and with before and after shots, the viewer quickly sees just how much work the Trust carried out within the city.
From humble origins, the organisation was founded in the late 1970’s at a time when Derry City Centre was basically a bombed out mass of derelict sites.
Following the vision of Paddy Doherty or as he is better known in the city, ‘Paddy Bogside,’ a group, the North West Centre for Learning and Development, was established.
It’s main aim was to try and tackle, at a local level, the long term unemployment rate within the city.
The first project undertaken by the group was the refurbishment properties at 3-5 London Street.
The photos vividly portray just how derelict the city centre was when the work began.
The Centre for Learning and Development soon became the Inner City Trust and attracted the attention and support of both Bishops and various other business people.
Growing from these beginnings and making use of the government-sponsored ACE Schemes. the Inner City Trust was soon redeveloping a range of the bombed out sites across the city centre.
Following the work in London Street the Trust moved to work on sites in Shipquay Street, Bishop Street and Society Street quickly transforming the city centre into what it is today.
At one stage there would easily have been more than 300 people working for the Trust on a range of construction projects.
But Paddy ‘Bogside’ was ahead of his time in many ways and was not simply interested in creating construction jobs.
The Inner City Trust also became involved in educational projects such as the Derry Youth and Community Workshop which aimed to bring women back into the workforce, women who had left to have children or whatever.
As the Inner City Trust expanded, so too did the vision for the city centre and the group undertook a major project with the building of the O’Doherty Fort which now houses the Tower Museum.
Aware that ACE Scheme workers would not suffice for a project of this magnitude, direct labour was used to create what is now undoubtedly one of the landmarks of the city centre.
But the Inner City Trust was not finished there and Paddy ‘Bogside and the very able staff he hadsurrounded himself with, had an interconnected view with the Fort leading to the next project, the Craft Village, linking in with the Calgach Centre and the former Tower Hotel.
The young people who worked for the Inner City Trust received a thorough grounding in their trade. The Trust did not believe in the Training School method of building something to learn the trade then knocking it down and building it again.
The Inner City Trust sent its young people out to actual construction sites where their work was meant to last in what was simply on the job training.
The group worked on projects, not only within the city centre, but further afield such as the Foyle Arts Centre in Lawrence Hill and even on a project on Rathlin Island.
Young people also took their skills abroad with trips to some of the inner cities of the U.S. and even a three months programme in a squatter camp in South Africa.
With a relentless search for funding, the Inner City Trust scoured the globe for support.
One humorous tale was of a building the group refurbished in Shipquay Street which was called either Boston House or Philadelphia House - depending on where the funders were coming from!
Staff remember being dispatched with ladders to remove one sign and replace it with another as the different funders made their way to Derry. But the Inner City Trust looked at the bigger picture as well and tried to tackle some of the serious poverty it encountered.
One staff member recalled the canteen that was established where workers could have a four course meal for next to nothing, just to ensure that they had at least one square meal a day.
The exhibition is a ‘must see’ for anyone who wants to retrace the development of Derry City Centre from a bombed out husk to what it is today.
Anyone who worked for the Inner City Trust is encouraged to come along and see for themselves the records of the various projects the group undertook. many of them, such as the Nerve Centre, integral parts of the fabric of the city centre.
Stand anywhere within the city centre and the chances are you will be looking at something constructed by the Inner City Trust.