Janice Beggs is “Local Campaigner of the Year” at Sheila McKechnie Awards
PRESS STATEMENT: Northern Ireland Foundation
23 March 2017
Today, Thursday the 23rd of March, Janice Beggs was presented the award of “Local Campaigner of the Year” at the Sheila McKechnie Awards, for her sterling work on the “Carnegie Oldpark Project”, at an event in London, in the House of Lords.
Janice Beggs was born and raised in the Lower Oldpark community in North Belfast, an area which suffered immensely during the Troubles in Northern Ireland.
Since becoming the Manager of the Lower Oldpark Community Association (LOCA) in 2009, Janice has worked consistently over the years to improve her community, by campaigning for better and more social housing provision, safer civic spaces, greater resident security, increased policing at volatile and dangerous interfaces, as well as forging partnerships with neighbouring communities.
Accepting the award at a ceremony at the House of Lords, Janice said: “I am very honoured and thankful for this accolade, which is shared with Jim Wright (Chairman of LOCA), the dedicated committee and staff of the Association, local residents and our good neighbours across the wall.”
The Carnegie Oldpark Library is one of the three Carnegie Libraries in Belfast, which the philanthropist Andrew Carnegie gifted to the city over a century ago. This superb historic building was abandoned by the public sector more than a decade ago.
All these years, Janice Beggs has held a candle for community ownership of the splendid 1906 Carnegie Library, as a centrepiece for neighbourhood renewal, regeneration and the development of neighbourhood enterprise.
After years of hard work, Janice is seeing her vision come true. In November 2015, she went to the public auction of the derelict building, with £1,000 in her purse, (her life savings), and persuaded the eventual buyer to partner with LOCA, to restore the Library to its original state and to licence its future use for community benefit.
Today, Janice Beggs is co-chair of the “Political Panel”, the “Patrons’ Panel” and the “Restoration Panel” of the Carnegie Oldpark Project”, working with the Northern Ireland Foundation towards the completion of this great project.
The Sheila McKechnie Foundation, a charity that supports new campaigners and runs an annual awards scheme, decided to award Janice Beggs as “Local Campaigner of the Year”. The SMK’s Chief Executive Sue Tibballs said: ‘The SMK Campaigner Awards provide us with a unique opportunity to support some of the inspiring, innovative and often courageous people who are speaking out to effect change.’
About the Lower Oldpark Community Association
The Lower Oldpark community, is a PUL (Protestant-Unionist-Loyalist) community, scarred by the violence of North Belfast’s past. The Lower Oldpark Community Association is a local community-based centre that was funded 1974, and provides a wide range of services for the community, including: playgroup, housing advice clinic, women’s groups and youth diversionary programmes.
About the Northern Ireland Foundation
One of the key areas of the Northern Ireland Foundation’s work is civic leadership and community development. The Carnegie Oldpark Library historically served as a community resource, consistent with the vision of philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, and one we wish to restore.
The NIF is new to heritage and heritage buildings, and we would like to review our operating structures, so as to make appropriate changes to enable us to carry out a restoration and reuse community project. At this point, we have identified a local project partner, the Lower Oldpark Community Association (LOCA).
About the Sheila McKechnie Foundation
The Sheila McKechnie Foundation (SMK) is in the business of helping people and organisations effect positive and lasting social change – whether in their local community or right across the globe.
We teach and support all these campaigners, from those who are just starting out to experienced campaigners in large organisations.
We bring the campaign community together to share new ideas, knowledge and resources, helping people and organisations campaign more effectively and efficiently, build confidence, nurture talent and accelerate impact.
The SMK Campaigner Awards celebrate the best campaigns and campaigners – whether working locally or nationally, and from individuals and community groups to people working in large organisations. Our interest is in finding those who have made change happen – most effectively, creatively and courageously.
The Carnegie Oldpark project is supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund, and by the Architectural Heritage Fund.