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Sculpture Park Opening

Saturday 1st April saw the official public opening of the Belshaw's Quarry Sculpture Park.

Visit our biggest project to date: The Sculpture Park is located at Belshaw's Quarry National Nature Reserve on Benson’s Rd, Lisburn, Co.Antrim, N.Ireland. BT28 3UU

Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) are the managers of the reserve and when approached about the concept they realised the significance of connecting art and geology together and described the concept as a very innovative use of the facility.

An initial brief for the project was developed between WDCA and NIEA. After an enthusiastic response from sculptors from throughout Ireland at a public meeting in March 2016, funding opportunities were sought.

Multiple opportunities were investigated but in the end a successful application to the Alpha Programme enabled the project to be formally launched in early Autumn 2016. The Alpha Programme was launched in 2008 by Alpha Resource Management Ltd, a dedicated waste management and green energy company based at Mullaghglass. The Alpha Programme is managed by Groundwork NI and uses funding through the Landfill Tax Credit Scheme to help improve the lives of communities within a 10 mile radius of Mullaghglass landfill site.

Forty Four expressions of interest were received with twenty two sculptors submitting their proposals to the brief for eight but potentially up to sixteen sculptures. Based on the competitive tender responses, a set of eight sculptures were selected by the five person assessment panel.

The six sculptors are:

Jason Mulligan from Dromore Co Down and Maidenhead, Kent (Nodule),

Ngaire Jackson from Hillsborough (Hydrosphere and Dark Whisper),

Jodi Coyne from Co.Wicklow and Belfast (Earth as a Machine),

Compass North Glass artists Patricia Crossey from Ballinderry (Volcanic Slice) and

Tracey Crossan from Newry (Geological Cake),

Brian Connelly from Bushmills (Plate Tectonics & Mini Earthquake),

Kevin Killen from Loughinisland (Coccolith).

Research suggests that Belshaws Quarry geologically themed sculpture park is the only one of its type within an ASSI in Europe.

From the outset it was evident that multiple sculpture projects are unusual and that co-ordinated effort by all concerned would be essential.

The project itself could not have been possible without the permission of the site owners NIEA and all involved on the project are especially grateful to the team at NIEA for their support.

Any project such as this has many risks associated with it but the team within the Alpha Programme and their fund managers Groundwork NI require particular thanks for their guidance and support.

The selection panel was also especially pleased that Banbridge sculptor Jasper McKinney MBE could provide his expert advice.

The installation phase of this project presented its own challenges, including the weather but hopefully your visit will be a good one.

Please stay to the set out pathed areas and of course note that surfaces inside this former limestone quarry are natural and un-even.

The suppliers and contractors on this project are listed below:

Ridgeway Plant Hire (Gabion Cages),

Stoneyford Engineering (Support steelwork),

Whitemountain Garden Services (localised pruning),

Finance Redirect (Insurance),

Xcel Signs (signs),

Easyprint (T shirts),

Sam McConnell Agriculture Merchants (various items),

Emerald Lawns (rollout turf),

Tommy Crossey (bark chippings),

Trummery Quarry and Whitemountain Quarry (stone for gabion filling),

Kens Hardware and B&Q (hardware),

Phillips Fireplaces (specialist grouting service) and The Little Green Allottments (parking),

Henry Price (road sweeping and country smells),

Sew Knit of Lisburn (opening ceremony ribbon),

Ulster Star Newspaper (publicity).

Particular thanks though must go to the sculpture installation team from Michael McCormack Contracts (Mike, Toby, Shortie) supported by Robert Phillips.

The project WDCA committee met many times throughout the project and, as a team, really helped with the smooth running. Other volunteers that heard about the project through Next Door social media also gave up their valuable time to help out at a sculpture workshop, preparation work for the installations and at the opening.

Northern Vision Television (NVTV) have very gratefully lent their support by recording a half hour documentary and news piece on the project. Those pieces will be broadcast in April 2017 and will subsequently be available on the Internet.

The Whitemountain Area was put on the international art map when Jennifer Morrow from Whitemountain townland made it through to the Grand Finals of the BBC Big Painting Challenge that was screened globally.

Jennifer was guest of honour at the opening of Belshaws Quarry Sculpture Park and who knows what collaborative ventures or inspiration Jennifer might get from her involvement with this project.

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