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Claiming unused land and reaching out to neighbours is helping to build bonds in one South Belfast district

Meet the neighbours at local Discovery Day

By Paul Ainsworth

STRANMILLIS is showing communities across the city how to build better relations between locals, as preparations for a now-annual ‘Discovery Day’ take place in the South Belfast neighbourhood.

The event, which is set to take place in June, is the brainchild of the Old Stranmillis Residents Association, and is being promoted as an opportunity for locals to “meet the neighbours” while enjoying good food and music.

What makes the event even more special is that it allows locals to utilise a nearby piece of land that was otherwise going to waste and turn it into the venue for a summer party for everyone in the postcode.

Following the success of last year’s inaugural ‘Lagan Meadows Discovery Day’ on the patch of greenery off Sharman Road, the association decided to make the event an annual occasion, where neighbours could enjoy the unique charms of their area.

Speaking with the South Belfast News, association member Geraldine Cullen, who is the main organiser for the Discovery Day, told how an advert for a council funding scheme, encouraging the use of land owned by the local authority, was the spark that helped create the neighbourhood event.

“The land at the end of Sharman Road is, for the most part, not really used by anyone during the year,” she said.

“When I saw the advert I thought it might be the perfect opportunity to put it to good use for all local residents, allowing everyone the chance to meet and enjoy a bit of fun and good food. We don’t have a community hall or anything like that here, so why not use this space we have on our doorsteps and transform it into our own special venue?”

The residents invited a number of organisations to come along on the day last year, including the RSPB, to provide information on the unique wildlife in and around the Lagan Meadows area, while a children’s scavenger hunt and barbecue were enjoyed to the strains of a hired brass band.

Geraldine and others in the association are aiming for more stalls and music to provide a backdrop for this year while a popular ‘historical guided walk’ of the area is also set to return this year.

“Eamon Phoenix, from the Stranmillis University College, gave a brilliant guided walk of the area last year in the morning of the Discovery Day,” Geraldine continued.

“We live in a wonderful area, and it’s a great opportunity to accompany Dr Phoenix in learning a bit more about Stranmillis and the Lagan Meadows area, which is teeming with wildlife. We even had bird box building, which the children loved, and these are all going to be taking place again this year.”

Set to take place this year on Saturday June 16, the Discovery Day promises to be “bigger and better” than before, and Geraldine, who covers a lot of the promotion by posting leaflets single handedly, added: “We promote this as a chance to ‘meet the neighbours’, as in today’s society, many don’t have the opportunity to really get to know the residents of their own areas. Stranmillis is a community, and one where bonds are being strengthened by getting together in this way. All we can do now is hope the weather is as positive as we are on the day itself.”



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