Work has now started on the long-awaited new Irish World Heritage Centre in Manchester twenty five years after the original centre opened.
The new centre in Cheetham Hill, Manchester’s most cosmopolitan area, will be unique in celebrating the history and contribution of Irish communities around the world.
The form of the new centre echoes that of an ancient Irish ring fort, with a large walled enclosure creating a unique outdoor public space.
This space is at the heart of a 25-acre complex at Queen’s Road and includes a new attraction telling the story of Irish people worldwide – but before visitors can reach this, they will need to walk through the ‘name walk’ featuring every Irish surname and walk across the water feature representing the crossing that every Irish person had to make to leave Ireland.
The first phase of the project will also include a multi-purpose hall, bar and restaurant, shop, travel agent and business centre – all boasting cutting edge technology and restaurant filled with produce from the centre’s own allotments and bee hives!
It will also include the foundations for phase two, a conference centre, which will go ahead once funds have been raised. This will include a hotel development, an area celebrating the Irish heritage and history with education space, leisure facilities and football pitches.
Councillor Sue Murphy, deputy leader of Manchester City Council and chair of the Irish World Heritage Centre project, said: "The new Irish World Heritage Centre will be another internationally-significant Manchester visitor attraction.
The existing Irish World Heritage Centre in Cheetham Hill is a popular community facility used by a wide range of ethnic groups. Cheetham is the most diverse council ward in the city, with 50 per cent of its population being black or minority ethnic.
But it is too small to meet demand and its current location has prevented it from realising its full potential. The existing centre will remain open while the new centre is built.
The new Irish World Heritage Centre is scheduled to open in summer 2012 and progress on site can be followed on their website: www.iwhc.com