Music

Snow Patrol's Gary Lightbody crowns Bangor music venue National Lottery Project of the Year

Bangor music venue The Court House has been named the National Lottery Project of the Year, after being profiled for The Big Issue's Venue Watch

Gary Lightbody os Snow Patrol presents The Court House with teh trophy for National Lottery Project of the Year

Gary Lightbody presents the National Lottery Project of the Year trophy to The Court House's Alison Gordon and Kieran Gilmore. Photo: courtesy of The Court House

The Court House in Bangor – recently profiled in The Big Issue’s Venue Watch as the ‘plucky music venue bringing a faded seaside town back from the dead’ – has become the first Northern Irish venture to win National Lottery Project of the Year.

Snow Patrol singer and Bangor native Gary Lightbody visited the grassroots venue today (14 December) to honour them with the award.

As reported in The Big Issue in October, the Court House was shortlisted for the prestigious prize in recognition of its extraordinary impact on the Bangor community. Before they opened, the city had no dedicated arts venue.

In October, co-founder Alison Gordon appealed to Venue Watch supporters to get behind their bid to win the prize – which was decided wholly by public vote. At that time, they had already beaten off competition from almost 4,000 projects to be one of 17 finalists. That campaigning has now paid off with a win, and Gordon thanked our readers for the support.

“To win the National Lottery Project of the Year award by public vote is phenomenal,” said Gordon. “It’s not just our project, it’s Bangor’s project.”

Gary Lightbody said it gave him “great pleasure” to present the award. “The fact that people voted in their thousands for this project to win this award is a testament to the dedication and vision of all those involved in bringing this building to life,” he added.

Once a popular seaside destination, Bangor has suffered from social and economic decline in recent years. But after opening this year, with help from almost a grant of £1 million from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, The Court House is changing that.

“The Court House is bringing people back to the seafront, reconnecting people with the city,” she said. “People are once again turning towards the sea, towards music and arts and leisure and culture and tourism and hospitality.”

In its first year The Court House welcomed 38,000 visitors and hosted more than 400 events showcasing more than 1,000 artists. Almost half of those events were free to attend, and 55% were led by artists and creatives from the local area.

Dr Paul Mullan, Northern Ireland director at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, congratulated the team. “Their passion and commitment has ensured the revival and rebirth of their building into a dynamic and modern cultural venue,” he said.

“It is our mission at The National Lottery Heritage Fund to not only invest in heritage but to invest in communities. The regeneration of Bangor Court House is a living, breathing example of this in action. National Lottery players can be proud of the role they have played in supporting such a fantastic project.”

The National Lottery Awards are the annual search for the public’s favourite National Lottery funded people and projects. They celebrate the inspirational individuals and organisations who do extraordinary things with the help of the £30m raised for good causes every week by National Lottery players.

The trophy comes with a £5,000 prize, which will go towards the non-profit venue’s ongoing mission to bring a cultural resource to Bangor, and to offer a springboard to the next generation of artists – who may just become the next Snow Patrol.

Though they are doing incredible things for Bangor, they are working against a backdrop of crisis in the grassroots music sector, and a “bleak” funding landscape in Northern Ireland, where the political stalemate in the Assembly is having a direct impact on large swathes of the region’s social fabric.

Gordon hopes the National Lottery award will help The Court House make the case for their impact when they’re securing funds to keep the much-loved venue open and thriving.

  • For more information about The Court House or to book tickets – the best way to support any grassroots music venue – go here
  • Sign up to join The Big Issue’s Venue Watch campaign and get regular updates here.

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