30th Sep 2021 in Arts

The biggest public space in the Cathedral Quarter, Writers’ Square has been to the fore in recent weeks as crowds have returned, under strictly managed conditions, to live events. Organisers of the MELA Festival, the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival and Culture Night have all used Writers’ Square as the central location for the events.

Anne McReynolds, Chair of the Cathedral Quarter Trust, has urged the Executive to ensure that Writers’ Square remains in public use.

“In the last month we have seen the resurgence of Cathedral Quarter as a live destination venue and Writers’ Square has been right at its heart. Even with a reduced capacity and under carefully managed conditions, it has been uplifting to see people embracing the spirit of Belfast and attending live events again.

“There is currently a threat to the future use of Writers’ Square as a public space due to the plans of developers behind the Tribeca project. The public space is currently owned by the Dept for Communities and we want the Minister to preserve the unique balance that exists in this part of Belfast. We have written to the Minister to ask that any future development brief gives appropriate weight to the cultural and artistic heritage of the Cathedral Quarter.”

Sean Kelly, the director of Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival said

‘The Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival Marquee returned to Writers’ Square after a gap of several years and we were reminded of what a vital social space it is for the city. Over 11 days, thousands of festival attendees enjoyed shows by artists including Sharon Shannon, Kila, Bronagh Gallagher, Foy Vance and Lisa Hannigan and the Square, with the beautiful backdrop of St Anne’s Cathedral, proved the perfect setting for our first festival in 18 months.

“To lose Writers’ Square at a time when the city needs open spaces more than ever to our mind constitutes an act of cultural vandalism and one which we will oppose vociferously.”

Director of the Cathedral Quarter Trust and Culture Night Belfast, Susan Picken, stressed the need for Writers’ Square to be protected as a publicly owned and accessible space.

“We had an amazing few days with CNB Presents The Ogham Grove over the weekend, with more than 8,000 visitors. Only this space could have accommodated both the spectacular large-scale art installation and the crowds who came to celebrate art and culture in our city. I am really worried that if a commercial office block is permitted to significantly reduce the size of Writers’ Square it will mean the Square is not useable for the exciting cultural events our city centre desperately needs. In effect this vital public space will be lost to private development and there will be a permanent impact on St Anne’s Cathedral and on the cultural life of the city.

“There is a growing recognition that a healthy city requires public access to safe, open space. Writers’ Square is alive, it helps to foster positive mental health in Belfast and we need to protect and foster that. We want to build on the success of this year and into the future and Writer’s Square will be critical to our future plans.”

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