Galliagh: an area that’s on the up!

In this article, local artist and writer JOE CAMPBELL reveals the scope of ambition in Derry’s Outer North district

Friday, 12th March 2021, 9:45 am
An artistic impression of how the new community hub at Galliagh will look when completed.
An artistic impression of how the new community hub at Galliagh will look when completed.

‘No-one can make you feel inferior without your consent’.

This quote, by Eleanor Roosevelt, has always struck me as so relevant to our own wee patch of the world.

Just because someone feels the need to look down on someone else doesn’t mean they are right and that you have to play along.

An artist's impression of the new community centre in Shantallow.

For myself, personally, that thought has always been very liberating and, as a result, I’ve never measured the worth of someone by where they live, how much money they have or how they frame their politics or religious beliefs.

I always judge someone by their attitudes to others and their manners and how they treat those around them.

But what leads me to really respect others is what they actually do, their achievements, their talents and their ambitions. Real achievement can only be measured in results.

For example, there is no bluffing around the establishment of a £1.3 million Health and Well-being Centre, like the one down in Leafair. A facility any progressive city, anywhere, would be proud of.

The Leafair Wellbeing Village.

Recently, I was invited to take part and contribute to an on-going reimaging process in the Outer North area of the city. That’s the Ballyarnett DEA (District Electorial Area) which includes Galliagh and six other areas: Skeoge, Madam’s Bank, Culmore, Shantallow East, Carnhill and Shantallow.

My humble contribution was to create some drawings and visualisations of some of the projects in the area. Whereas some areas are recent additions to the Ballyarnett DEA, others, such as Shantallow, Carnhill and, in particular, Galliagh, have a long history of involvement in community-focused self-improvement projects driven by community-based organisations.

But I wasn’t ready for the sheer scale of achievement (in many cases the work of lifetimes), the scope of the ambition and the real change that has already taken place in areas such as Galliagh, Carnhill and Shantallow.

When you stand back and look at what has been achieved, it throws a whole different light on the (at times negative) perceptions of those areas.

Studio 2 has a wide range of facilities.

Projects with empowerment, participation and social inclusion at their core have resulted in a long list of remarkable wins and successes.

Projects such as the two new community centres currently being built in Galliagh and Shantallow.

These are both state-of-the art, new major capital builds and will be home to a number of key community and voluntary organisations. Then there is the aforementioned Health and Well Being Village at Leafair which has four fully equipped changing rooms for the 3G pitch; it also has a very spacious multi-purpose room and other offices/small rooms available for hire. The centre is a non-profit organisation.

Children’s play is one of those things we take for granted.  It’s only when it starts to disappear that we realise how important it is. Because it’s when our kids are out playing that they develop independence, learn how to make risk assessments and grow in self-confidence and self-esteem.

It’s where they learn to get along with other children, developing the social skills to be neither bully nor victim in the future.

It’s how they become physically fit and develop the coordination and control that allows them to sit and learn in a classroom.

And, it’s also where they learn, through first-hand experience, about the world they live in. In light of that, new playground facilities have been established at Ballyarnett Country Park, Elaghmore, Marian Hall, Shantallow, Glenabbey, the inclusive Playtrail at Pennyburn and Racecourse Drive, with further proposals for Culmore, Templemore Sports Complex, Moss Park and Galliagh Linear Park - all established and driven by the Greater Shantallow Area Partnership, working with local people and statutory bodies.

But it’s not just health and well-being. The arts has been firmly established in the area with the development of Studio Two, a community arts facility centred at Foyle Business Park on the outskirts of Skeoge and Galliagh that has as its slogan: ‘ Create, Connect, Inspire’.

Studio 2 has a wide range of facilities and classes that range from art, dance, theatre, film, literature, music and the traditional arts of Irish dance and music. It also has future plans to expand and create a significant theatre/performance space for the Outer North Area.

There are also ambitious plans to continue the process. The Ballyarnett Local Growth Plan seeks to put social, economic and environmental well-being at the core of future projects. Some of which are: plans to upgrade the A2 Buncrana Road and the Racecourse Road, a new play area for Carnhill, a new community centre at Culmore as well as a ‘retirement village’ in the same area.

There are also heritage trails, greenways, the upgrading of Northside Village Centre and projects at Boom Hall.

Add to this the exciting prospect of the Eden Project being establish along the banks of the Foyle - a new global environmental attraction - and there is the potential to put not just the areas mentioned above, but the whole city, on the global map.

Derry/Londonderry has become a tourist destination and it is hoped that the talents of our young people can make Derry a significant player on the world stage. That ambition is made all the more possible by the facilities and assets that already exist in areas like the Greater Shantallow area…I could go on.

So, the next time we read of the exploits of a few wayward kids in those areas, hopefully we can remember all the other genuine, positive achievements and ambitions that exist and, perhaps, focus on the real story.