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One Small Step, One Giant Leap for our Community

As part of the Communities in Transition (CIT) Health & Wellbeing programme, Ashton Community Trust, in partnership with Lighthouse and YeHa were delighted to host a virtual North Belfast Health Summit to explore the work of community initiatives currently being delivered across the North Belfast area.

This event brought together panels of experts in a series of webinars to outline developments in CIT projects and help understand their positive impact in North Belfast and beyond.

Discussion Themes:

  • Health and Wellbeing
  • Capacity Building
  • Urban Regeneration
  • Community Safety

We invited local residents and those who are actively engaged at a grassroots level to sign up and participate in any or all of our live event sessions.

Health Summit Events

Reconnecting North Belfast to the River

North Belfast is cut off from the city centre, the river and its regeneration by a broad swathe of roads since the 1970’s. The current proposals for the York Street Road Interchange project seeks simplify traffic but its impact  will only deepen and embed this physical disconnect for all, it will create a large dead zone that cuts off North Belfast from the city.

An Alternative Road Interchange design is possible, one that priorities re-making the local streets through, allowing the prospect of long term reconnection. Vibrant streets can support walking, business and living to link communities and let them avail of economic and educational opportunities of the city.

There is a chance to connect all of North Belfast communities back to the river

The webinar will introduce this connecting strategy and the discussion will explore what it could mean for the  wider city and for the health and well-being of communities.


  • Mark Hackett – Architect, Ashton Community Trust
  • Tony Fretton – Architect
  • Dr Ken Sterret – Retired Planning at QUB – School of Natural & Built Environment, Queen’s University Belfast
  • Terri McKeown – Sailortown Regeneration
  • Mary Black – Healthy North Belfast Critical Friend (Independent Facilitator, retired Public Health Agency)
  • Prof Michael McGarry QUB – Professor of Architecture – School of Natural and Built Environment, Queen’s University Belfast
Great Places North Belfast

The North Belfast Heritage Cluster is a group of fourteen non-profit Listed Building owners on the Donegall Street, Clifton Street and Crumlin Road axis. These streets represent one of the few ways into North Belfast.

The discussion will introduce the current Heritage Fund project and its work, and look especially at the urban issues of remaking junctions and healing severance. Critical to all this work has been to develop walking and cycling routes for North Belfast to connect to the rest of the city. The project looks at wider themes of health, wellbeing and how communities of interest can stimulate positive transition.


  • Paula Reynolds Chair (organisation TBC)
  • Prof Alastair Adair Ulster University
  • Mark Hackett Architect, Ashton Community Trust
  • Nicola Waddington MAG member / architect (Ministerial Advisory Group – MAG)
  • Community member from North Belfast Heritage Cluster
North Belfast Garden Grid

During 2020 ten community organisations working with Ashton co-designed a solution for the large number of problematic and wasted sites in North Belfast. The strategy will bring these sites into use and link them into a ‘grid’ of spaces under a common land management organisation as a social enterprise plant nursery. This Garden Grid will form a resilient network to tackle space and transition neighbourhoods.

The Plant Nursery will use ‘pop-up’ container and mobile planting techniques to allow the wide variety of sites to be adapted quickly with minimal capital. A head gardener leads a team of trainees to make productive use of the spaces and work with residents on issues of health and well-being, street safety and food growing initiatives.


  • Mark Hackett Architect, Ashton Community Trust
  • Prof Aoife Houlihan Wiberg Chair of Research in Architecture, Ulster University
  • Jürgen Patzak-Poor Architect – Berlin, former Belfast resident
  • Sean Byers Just Transition
  • Prof Duncan Morrow Ulster University
Changing Behaviours, Changing Lives - The Role of Psychology

People’s experiences of COVID 19 and of lockdowns have demonstrated the importance of neighbourhood and communities in our lives. Without strong neighbourhood connections, we have seen people from many different groups rendered more socially, economically and clinically vulnerable to psychological distress and poorer wellbeing.

Throughout the rest of the UK, psychologists are becoming embedded in communities, working from a community centred approach to help tackle health inequalities and improve population health and wellbeing.

With no such Community Psychology services regionally, we need to think how applied/practitioner psychologists (e.g. clinical psychologists; forensic psychologists; health psychologists; sports and exercise psychologists) might adapt their practices to better engage with ‘neighbourhood’ working.

This panel is a stepping stone in that direction. Chaired by Professor Nichola Rooney, consultant clinical psychologist, we will discuss how simple, but important, messages from a range of psychological backgrounds might be brought into our communities to help people change their behaviours and improve their wellbeing.


Panel Chair:

  • Prof Nichola Rooney Chair Division of Clinical Psychology NI

Panel members;

  • Dr Noel Brick, Sports and Exercise Psychologist, UU
  • Dr Emma Carroll, Consultant Clinical Psychologist, NHSCT
  • Dr Jenny Groake, School of Psychology QUB
  • Dr Liz Simpson, Health Psychologist. UU
Empowering Young People to Make Their Place

Our understanding that both public health and community safety are inextricably linked is ever-evolving. In this event, young people from New Lodge and Ardoyne, who are helping to shape positive social change across the area, will tell their stories that have led them to participating in and leading creative initiatives in their communities that promote positive mental health, healthy living, urban regeneration and much needed services for young people.

Over the past year, 20 young people and youth leaders from Ardoyne and New Lodge took part in an appreciative inquiry regarding community safety in the area. They carried out over 100 interviews with local residents. The appreciative inquiry focuses on what is strong, not what is wrong in the area so that these strengths can be built on in the future. During this event, we will share headline findings, including a podcast by the young people, reflecting on their experience and findings.

Reflections of partnership working across the areas and further afield are presented through two projects. Urban Scale Interventions’ ‘Bright Ideas’ North Belfast and The Agency, a creative entrepreneurship programme with young people aged 15 to 25 developed by Marcus Faustini in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro and brought to the UK 2013 by Contact, Battersea Arts Centre (BAC), and People’s Palace Projects (PPP).

Other voices on our programme will include youth work practitioners who are actively promoting healthy living and wellbeing when shaping creative approaches to youth work delivery and championing positive social change across North Belfast.


Chair – Eliz McArdle, YouthPact Manager & Lecturer in Community Youth Work, Ulster University.

Presentation – Janice Smith – Lead consultant on Appreciative Inquiry & Community Safety Planning aspects of CIT Programme.

Presentation – Suzie Henderson, Head of Creative Development at Contact, Manchester & joined by Ade, one of two authors who wrote ‘Something To Say’ the result of a project developed through The Agency.

Presentation – Cathal Tunney – Team Lead, Urban Scale Interventions.

Panel Session – Eliz McArdle, Cathal Tunney and Suzie Henderson joined by Katrina Newell, Ashton Community Trust & Sean Devlin, YeHa.

Young People – Interviews include Kaitlynn, Catriona, Liam & Jodie.

For fast access to specific points in presentations and interviews please use the following Video Timestamps:

00:13:40 – Intro

00:18:45 – Janice Smith, Lead consultant on Appreciative Inquiry & Community Safety Planning CIT

00:39:10 – Young People Interviews

01:07:00 – Suzie Henderson, Head of Creative Development & joined by Young Person – Ade

01:21:10 – Cathal Tunney – Urban Scale Interventions

01:31:25 – Panel Discussion

02:09:47 – Closing Comments

Ashton is the lead partner in the CIT Health & Wellbeing programme, delivered together with YeHa and Lighthouse.  This initiative is part of The NI Executive’s Action plan, which is also supported by Co-operation Ireland.

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