Open House Festival’s Save Bangor Court House campaign has been gathering momentum in recent weeks, with several significant donations from local businesses, and a surge of personal contributions.
The non-profit charity launched a crowdfunding campaign in November of last year to help secure the town’s former Court House as a permanent festival venue, with a starting target of £30,000. To date, just over £27,500 has been raised, and whilst the festival team are thrilled at the public support, they want to keep the campaign going after the initial goal has been reached.
One initiative that will help push the fund over the starting target threshold is a Save the Court House Charity Ball, organised in partnership with Barclays Bank. After hearing about the festival’s Court House campaign, Barclays selected Open House as one of their annual community programme projects. The scheme matches pound for pound fundraising for local charitable causes.
“Barclays Northern Ireland staff, our clients and suppliers are delighted to get behind the Save the Courthouse campaign,” says Jonathan Spence, Head of Supplier Management for Barclays. “When we heard about Open House Festival’s plans for Bangor Court House, we knew it was a perfect fit for our community programme and approached them about holding a charity ball. So far our clients and suppliers have been amazingly generous with their sponsorship of the event and in providing auction prizes, and we hope to raise at least £20,000 for the campaign to save this historic building.”
The principle sponsor for the ball, which will be held at Clandeboye Lodge on Saturday 14th April, is local business, Bangor Fuels Group, with additional support from EY, Fujitsu Wilson Nesbitt Solicitors, and e.surv.
Kieran Gilmore, Open House Festival Director, is delighted by Barclays involvement in the campaign.
“The Barclays community programme is a genuinely altruistic scheme and we were honoured to be selected by the local team as their focus for this year,” he said. “We’ve been blown away by how committed the team are to ensuring the ball is a huge success and that it raises as much money as possible for the Court House campaign.”
Other recent significant local business donations have included £2,000 from publican Michael Brennan on behalf of Betty Blacks, and a cheque for £1,000 from Spectator Newspapers.
“Spectator Newspapers are thrilled to support this fantastic campaign,” said the paper’s Operations Manager, Neil Evans. “Issues that matter to the community are at the heart of our core values, and we welcome every opportunity to mobilise our readers to enact change in North Down and make a real difference to the lives of ordinary people in the community. “The August Open House Festival and their Save the Court House campaign are wonderful examples of how that change can happen.”
But with the amount of money raised so far getting close to the original target, Kieran feels the campaign still has a long way to go.
“We have been humbled by the number of individuals who’ve made a personal donation, and by the support we’ve received from some local businesses, and I’d like to say a heartfelt thank you to everyone who has supported us so far,” he said. “But although we’ve almost reached our initial target, we don’t want to stop here. We’re still waiting on confirmation from Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunal Service (NICTS) as to when we can get access to the building to begin the restoration process, and the more funds we have available, the easier that process will be.”
One of the few remaining Victorian structures on Bangor seafront, the iconic listed Court House building has been empty for the past five years and is in urgent need of repair. Open House Festival want to transform it into a thriving arts and entertainment hub at the heart of a new ‘creative Bangor’ with an initial short-term lease from NICTS, followed by full ownership via a Community Asset Transfer.
Tickets for the Barclays fundraising ball are on sale now and can be bought at www.openhousefestival.com or by phoning the festival office on 02891 471780.