Rosemount Thanksgiving ignites community spirit

The original Rosemount Police Station, which stood on Creggan Hill until its demolition. (2211JC13)
The original Rosemount Police Station, which stood on Creggan Hill until its demolition. (2211JC13)

An ambitious intergenerational cross-community event will see up to 1,000 residents from Derry’s Rosemount area come together this Thursday evening, November 24, for a Thanksgiving feast in Brooke Park’s Activity Centre. ‘Journal’ reporter JULIEANN CAMPBELL reports that young people will prepare food and serve over 200 pensioners - and all in the name of community spirit!

This huge event, led by Rosemount Community Centre, aims to generate good relations in an area often beleaguered by negative press. Bringing the area’s pensioners and young people together in the spirit of caring and sharing, this event could prove a fantastic model to inspire other communities in the city.

Rosemount's MacNamara Band pictured in 1937. (2211JC12)

Rosemount's MacNamara Band pictured in 1937. (2211JC12)

Elaine Power, Development Officer of Rosemount Resource Centre, and community activist Dalton Kehoe have helped plan and organise this innovative evening of fun, food and friendly neighbours.

Speaking to the ‘Derry Journal’, Ms Power explained the ethos behind Thursday’s Thanksgiving: “Rosemount has been getting a lot of bad press in recent years with antisocial behaviour and the disengagement between the young people and the older community there. Basically, we wanted to do something to bring them all together and, so far, the community support for this venture has been unbelievable!”

“We decided to do a Thanksgiving event for the community giving something back. We called for volunteers to help organise it and five schools are involved in the event - St Anne’s Primary School; Model Primary School; Rosemount Primary School; St Eugene’s Primary School and St Joseph’s Boys’ School. They’ll be helping organise and will be providing entertainment on the night. Then we asked Brooke Park Activity Centre to host it, and they were only too happy to, so we’re catering for 220 people aged over 65! We must thank the Community Relations who funded the food for the evening too.”

With the event taking place on the US festival of Thanksgiving itself, Elaine Powers and Dalton Kehoe are confident that a good night will be had by all.

“We decided to make it cross community too, as Rosemount would originally have had quite a high population of Protestants who moved to the Waterside years ago. It was important that they knew about the event and that they were more than welcome to come along, if they wanted to.”

Mr Kehoe explained how they attracted people from outside the Rosemount area: “We went to Waterside Voices and put an advert in there to attract people who actually lived in Rosemount 40 or 50 years ago and might have moved away. We had some interest from the article and I think it attracted about 10 or 15 people to come on the night.”

In terms of inviting those in the Rosemount area itself, organisers had a novel idea.

“We wondered how we could involve the community in planning this,” Ms Power said. “So we organised for many of the young people from the community to go around and knock on the doors of the pensioners in each street and to give them a ticket inviting them to the event. We didn’t leave it there, though. We made sure the young people went back a few days later to follow up on their invite and find out if the older people were actually coming to the event, so it was two contacts which we are hoping helped them get to know who is living in their area and will hopefully do away with any fears they might have.”

As well as engaging with older people door to door, the younger population of Rosemount will also take a more active role in the evening’s festivities.

“The Rosemount Youth Forum are organising the hall, setting up the tables and putting up the photo exhibition,” Ms Power said. “Then we have the young men and women who will be doing the cooking too. We also have 40 young people serving the dinner and dishwashing and all sorts! And Damien McAdams doing the entertainment too.

“The interest in this event has been amazing,” Ms Power added. “It’s one of those things that we are hoping might take off. The main ethos was ‘let’s do something for the older people’ and so it just made sense to get the younger generation involved too. It’s all about getting to know your community and getting to know who lives next door to you and not being afraid in your own community.”

“When we calculated, we realised that just under 1,000 people are involved in putting on this event,” Mr Kehoe said. “A special thanks to everyone who is involved, including Brooke Park, and our apologies to anyone we might have left out.”

“People have lend us their old photos and we will be having a photo exhibition of about 1,000 photos of Rosemount on the night in Brooke Park Activity Centre too,” Mr Kehoe added.

While the Thanksgiving meal itself is catering for the over 65s, all are welcome to attend Thanksgiving after 9.30pm when the meal is finished. Contact the Rosemount Resource Centre if you are interesting in attending on: 71. 282829.