St. Joseph’s has been a landmark on Belfast’s docks for many years. Its spire was the last and first sight of home for its seamen as they saw it come into view on their approach to shore.
Hemmed in now by high rise apartments and car parks it was almost derelict.
However, in the last two years emergency repair funding has been sourced to save ‘The Chapel on the Quays.’ Deconsecrated, it can’t hold religious services, but it still holds the memories of the generations who passed through its doors.
Since we started repairs, we’ve had a number of offers to ‘develop’ it as investors see its potential.
However, it was built for and by the people of Sailortown, and we hold it in trust for them and the people of Belfast. We want to open its doors as a community hub where the community can meet again on a daily basis.
Although we have the holes in the roof fixed, evicted the pigeons and electric light, there are still leaks due to damaged rainwater goods. It’s too damp and cold for regular use we’re told by Health and Safety.
Once we get this fixed, we can open for ‘meanwhile use’, run activities for all and raise running costs by staging events. We’ve held a number of events, and have a list of prospective users too, but the way it is now we have to hire portaloos and noisy industrial heaters.
Sailortown has a new community now and many children living in the area. They call themselves the ‘Snailortown Kids’ and we’ve started a weekly club for them. These are held in a cramped office space in Winter and an underground carpark in better weather. There is no green space or play area. They and their parents have to cross seven sets of pedestrian lights to get to the nearest shop or school. Heavy docks traffic roll through the area as ferries offload cargo.
However, they are imaginative and creative, and our artists have enabled them to make a short Horror film in the ‘haunted church’, as well as a Halloween Maze where they ‘scared a kid so bad, he farted’. They charged a fiver entry to raise money for repairs so they can use the space all the time. They also raised money by selling their games, home-made tattoos and hairsprays at our Sailortown Barra Market.