Unsung heroes have their faces projected onto Stonehenge as a thank your for keeping Britain’s best-loved heritage sites going during lockdown

William Colvin

By Storybeat, 0203 026 3780

TV historian Sir Tony Robinson this week bestowed a unique honour on an NHS finance officer for playing his part in keeping the UK’s heritage alive all year round, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In the form of a night-time installation, Stonehenge was lit up with the faces of eight individuals who, with the help of National Lottery funding, are supporting heritage projects across the UK. This includes William Colvin and his work to save the deconsecrated Cushendun Old Church from dereliction.

The historic takeover of Stonehenge is the first time the 5,000-year-old sarsen stones of the world-renowned site have been dedicated to individual members of the public.  

Photo credit: Matt Alexander/PA Wire

A video projection of Sir Tony acted to first illuminate the historic stones and introduce the momentous display.

The Church opened as a community arts and cultural venue in July 2019 and is at the heart of community activity in this isolated rural village of Cushendun, county Antrim, in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Over the years, William has worked ceaselessly for the group, his IT skills being essential for things such as setting up the website, e-mail system and document sharing. 

However he is being honoured for his work in bringing the community together, which has proved vital, and has seen the Church become a thriving arts space over the past 18 months.

William Colvin (Chair) of Cushendun Building Preservation Trust.

“There’s nothing else like it. Cushendun has remained unchanged for probably the last 120 years, and this building is slap in the middle of it. It would become an eyesore if it came to ruin, so it has therefore been very important locally that this doesn’t happen. 

It was given a new lease of life as a community arts and cultural venue when it finally opened after 13 years of work in July 2019. The project, which received support from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, also featured on BBC’s Restoration Village where it was voted a regional winner.

“Apart from a pub and a tea-room there is no central meeting space in the village for people to get together. Since opening last July, we’ve had non-stop bookings – most of whom had lived their whole life in the village but had never been over the door.”

Lockdown however forced the church to close.

““The bit that I found hardest was having to shut the gate and hang the closed notice on the door. I felt quite depressed about that, particularly as it has taken 13 years to get to where we are. However since we’ve re-opened, it has been very widely used by the local community.” 

With lockdowns and travel restrictions becoming the new normal, green spaces and historic sites have played an increasingly pivotal role in people’s lives. 

The homage comes as the results of new National Lottery research announced today highlight that 70% of people in Northern Ireland credit visiting outdoor spaces with having a positive effect on their mental wellbeing this year, and over a third say visiting heritage sites makes them feel more relaxed and less anxious in difficult times

However William knows none of what they have done would have been possible without the support of The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

“The National Lottery has been the principle funder throughout and we’d be lost without it. It really has been invaluable. It also gives you credibility when seeking outside help,” he added.

“Part of the application process is making sure that the group is resilient enough to see it through to the end and beyond. Yes, we couldn’t do without the financial support, but to have the safety blanket of somebody on the other end of the phone was incredible.”

Heritage sites across the UK are being supported by the National Lottery through the COVID-19 pandemic with some of the £30m raised each week for good causes by National Lottery players. 

The Old Church Centre official opening July 2019

Sir Tony Robinson said: “I love the fact that Stonehenge is being lit up as a tribute to some of the country’s key project workers and volunteers, letting the public know about the hard work they’ve been doing to keep our heritage accessible to everyone using National Lottery funding.

“Without the graft and tireless effort of these wonderful people, our much-loved heritage would be more at risk than ever this year.”

Ros Kerslake CBE, chief executive of the National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “The National Lottery is playing a crucial role in supporting heritage sites and projects during the crisis, but it’s the important role of that the thousands of amazing individuals, some of which we are celebrating and honouring today, that keep these places going and make our visits memorable.”

Please click ‘play’ on the image above to view a short video on the project.

Thank you to the National Lottery Heritage Fund for allowing CBPT to share this video on our site.


Moira O’Neill commemorated with Blue Plaque at Cushendun Old Church Centre

The Ulster History Circle has commemorated Moira O’Neill (the pen name of Agnes Higginson Skrine) 1864-1955, Poet and Novelist, who lived in Cushendun, by unveiling a blue plaque in her memory.

The plaque was revealed at the Old Church Centre by Sally Phipps, granddaughter of Moira O’Neill, on Saturday 19 October 2019.

A popular poet, Moira, born on 13 July 1864 in Mauritius, was inspired by the romantic landscape of the Glens of Antrim.

Her best-known work, Songs of the Glens of Antrim, was first published in 1900. This volume includes 25 ballads and poems and was reprinted on numerous occasions.

The poems were written in the dialect of the Glens, chiefly for the pleasure of local people, although they enjoyed a much wider audience.

Moira married Walter Clarmont Skrine in 1895 and emigrated to Canada where they lived in a ranch in Alberta for around six years. She wrote a poem called ‘The North-West – Canada’, but she was most influenced by the landscape of the Glens and her work celebrates this beautiful area.

Her subjects include lakes and mountains, flora and fauna, townland names, as well as aspects of rural life and themes of exile and return. The Brabla Burn, which tumbled down the hill near Milltown, a cluster of houses behind Cushendun Bay, features in several of her poems.  From her residence at Rockport Lodge, she could look across the bay to Cushendun: ‘A house upon the sea sand, a white house ’an low’.

Moira also wrote three novels: An Easter Vocation (1893), a society novel set in England; The Elf-Errant, a story for children, based in Glendun, published in 1894 and which explores the cultural differences between Irish fairies who live there and a visiting English fairy; and From Two Points of View (1924), a novel set in England and Canada.

In 1921 she published a further collection of poems, More Songs of the Glens of Antrim, while her Collected Poems was published in 1933. Apart from her novels and poetry, Moira also contributed essays and reviews to Blackwood’s Magazine on subjects such as the Glens dialect, Shakespeare, Dante, and William Cobbett.

Her work influenced some of the leading names in the musical world. The composer Charles Villiers Stanford selected six of her poems for his song-cycle ‘An Irish Idyll in 6 Miniatures’ (1901). The poems he chose were ‘Corrymeela’, ‘Cuttin’ Rushes’, ‘Johneen’, ‘A Broken Song’, ‘Back to Ireland’, and one of the most famous songs, ‘The Fairy Lough’, about Loughareema, the vanishing lake near Ballycastle.  Moira’s poem ‘Sea Wrack’ was also set to music for voice and piano by the composer Hamilton Harty: 

‘We laid it on the grey rocks to wither in the sun,/An’ what should call my lad then, to sail from Cushendun? With a low moon, a full tide, a swell upon the deep/Him to sail the old boat, me to fall asleep…’

After their return from Canada, the family settled at Ballyrankin House, Ferns, in Co. Wexford, and Moira died there on 22 January 1955.  Her daughter, Mary Nesta Skrine (1904-1996) was the novelist and playwright ‘Molly Keane’, also known as ‘M. J. Farrell’, author of the black comedy Good Behaviour (1981). In 2016 Moira’s granddaughter, Sally Phipps, wrote the biography of her mother, Molly Keane: A Life.

The Chairman of the Ulster History Circle, Chris Spurr, commenting on Moira O’Neill’s achievements said:

‘Moira O’Neill had a special voice which found expression in sensitive poetry that contains many memorable lyrical images, and the Ulster History Circle is delighted to commemorate this distinguished writer with a blue plaque.

“She was highly regarded by other poets, critics and writers, and in his book In Praise of Ulster, Richard Hayward, who filmed Devil’s Rock in Cushendun in 1937, said that: ‘Her Songs of the Glens of Antrim cannot fail to be a permanent contribution to Irish literature’. Although Moira lived in Canada for some six years and later in the south of Ireland, the Glens of Antrim always held a particular place in her heart, and the church she attended remains an important landmark building.

“The Ulster History Circle is grateful to The Honourable The Irish Society for their financial support towards the plaque, to Cushendun Building Preservation Trust for their valued assistance, and to Cushendun Old Church Heritage Centre for permitting the Circle to place the plaque on the building where she worshipped.’ 


Runabay stuns crowds in first concert in Old Church Centre

The first concert in the newly restored Old Church Centre in Cushendun has been hailed as success, selling out weeks in advance.

Runabay,  a group of six talented young men from the Glens of Antrim, have created new Irish music that builds on traditional and folk foundations, but with a modern feel and rhythm.

The band filled the Old Church Centre with their original, atmospheric and soulful sound on Saturday 31 August .

The name of the band is particularly poignant as it is taken from Runabay Head which lies a few miles north of Cushendun.

Bridgeen Butler from the Old Church Centre said, “What a fantastic first full concert in such a beautiful setting. All of the band are local with one of the guys reared not far from the centre. As a boy he spent many days playing in the woods around the church, and now as a man, has returned to play his music inside it! A very poetic circle in his life.

“Rumour has it that the band may come back and perform for us again, so watch the website for details of this and other events in our evolving programme.”

Cushendun Building Preservation Trust has begun an ambitious plan to grow a programme of activities bringing quality arts and music to the Glens in a beautifully unique venue. The church offers a special ambience and classic church acoustics.

The venue is also available for hire for meetings, weddings, social events, exhibitions and heritage talks and seminars.

For more information, please check out the Old Church website www.theoldchurchcentre.com or contact Bridgeen on Bridgeen@cushendunbpt.org.


Cushendun to celebrate European Heritage Open Days

Next weekend we’ll be taking part in European Heritage Open Days, the long-running initiative which opens up to the public the doors of important, historical landmarks.

On Saturday and Sunday, Glenmona House will host a series of events and talks, with all proceeds going towards the restoration of Cushendun Old Church.

One of the highlights will be the ever-popular Book Sale, now in its 8th year, with hundreds of second-hand and vintage books up for grabs. We’ll also have our pop-up tea room on both days for visitors to enjoy tasty home-baked treats washed down with a tea or coffee.

Another highlight is a talk by conservation architect Peter Robinson of Alastair Coey Architects entitled ‘The Reuse of Historic Buildings’. He’ll discuss the importance of restoration and bringing old buildings back to life. This talk is free, but places are limited so make sure you sign up as soon as possible.

We would also encourage visitors to come along to our talk on the impact of tourism in Cushendun. This is part of the Peace IV project, “Understanding your Area”. Do you have memories of coming to Cushendun on your summer holidays? Maybe you stayed in one of the former hotels or were a regular at the caravan site? Come along with your old pictures, memorabilia, postcards and, of course, memories!

And if all that isn’t enough, as the summer draws to a close, what better way to relive the “Summer nights” than a showing of the classic movie Grease in our pop-up cinema in Glenmona! Hair gel and leather jackets permitted!

To book your place at Grease (£4) or the ‘The Reuse of Historic Buildings’ (free), please visit  https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/cushendunbpt

EHOD Flyer


Beat the builders to the best of the books!

Cushendun Old Church Project second-hand and local-interest book sale, September 9 and 10


There could be some tough customers hustling for bargains this year at County Antrim’s favourite seaside booksale in the National Trust village of Cushendun. The builders are due to start work shortly on restoring Cushendun Old Church to turn it into a community heritage and arts centre in 2018.

For that reason, the annual Old Church Project second-hand and local-interest book sale on European Heritage weekend (Saturday 9 and Sunday 10 September) will be held in elegant Glenmona House – facing Cushendun beach – rather than the Old Church itself. A wide range of quality ‘rescued’ hardback and paperback books will be on sale as well as new books of historical and local interest at competitive prices.

Volunteers from the Friends of Glenmona will be selling their splendid home-made cakes and buns with tea and coffee in the Garden Room, so if you can’t wait to get home to start reading that terrific novel you’d been looking out for, you can plonk yourself down on the terrace – or the beach – and get stuck in!

Earlier this year, Cushendun Building Preservation Trust, which is behind the Old Church Project and the book sale (as well as Cushendun’s popular Big Arts Weekend in the month of May), had the welcome news that major grants from Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund had secured the rescue of the Old Church after more than a decade of campaigning. The grants mean that this lovely 130-year-old building – which had been at risk of irreversible dereliction – has a sustainable future as a resource for the local and the wider community.

Other funders whose contributions are a welcome vote of confidence in the project are Ulster Garden Villages, the Pilgrim Trust and the All Churches Trust, but local fund-raising is still vitally important. So please come and support the book sale. And get in there before those bookworm builders!

Glenmona House will be open, and books will be on sale, from 11am to 5pm on Saturday 9 and Sunday 10 September. Refreshments will be on sale between 11:30  am and 3:30 pm.


Cushendun Big Arts Weekend 2017


EXCITEMENT is mounting in the lovely north-coast village of Cushendun as we prepare to launch our fifth annual Big Arts Weekend with a programme that is, yet again, lively, varied – and very ambitious! The festival organisers are delighted to have secured the participation of distinguished performers, lecturers and guides who are expert in a wide range of areas:  whether you are interested in drama, music, the visual arts, history, archaeology, gardening, poetry, language, cookery, or simply in forming a more knowledgeable acquaintance with the outdoor world and the local landscape, there is something here for you.

An hour-long walk on Saturday morning will provide an opportunity to explore the many literary associations of Cushendun’s ‘Five Big Houses’, and our continuing sense of the importance of literature is reflected in our programme.  The festival will begin on Friday night with a performance of Songs and Poetry of the Easter Rising.  On Saturday afternoon, a Creative Writing Workshop led by Medbh McGuckian, an Irish poet of international acclaim, will give an innovative twist to the popular Share a Poem session; earlier that day, Professor Frank Ferguson will speak about John Hewitt and his contribution to Ulster Scots.  Theatre events range from a stand-up comedy event on Friday night, to Donal O’Kelly’s award-winning Catalpa, to the Lurig Drama Group’s rehearsed reading of John Patrick Stanley’s play, Doubt. Children will be able to take part in a ‘Play in a Day’ drama workshop.

Music for a Spring Evening is always a highlight of the festival: this year we are thrilled to welcome the Voices Together Community Choir to St Patrick’s Church on Sunday evening.  Earlier that day, Cushendun musician Glenn Simpson will play in the Old Church, against a backdrop of sculpture by Raymond Watson and a photographic exhibition mounted by local young people.  Glenmona House will be the venue for a lecture by artist and historian Hector McDonnell on megaliths in the Glens, and for a talk by Conor McCormick entitled ‘A Year of Colour in My Garden.’

Exciting outdoor events include a two-day course on foraging in the Glens, a guided walk through Ballypatrick Forest, and our popular Dawn Chorus walk in Cregagh Wood.  There will be the usual range of outdoor family activities and, on the final afternoon of the festival, an opportunity to sample the delights of the Naturally North Coast and Glens Artisan Market.

The weekend is organised by Cushendun Building Preservation Trust (CBPT) in support of the Old Church Project.  CBPT gratefully acknowledges the Department for Communities, and Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council for Community Festival Funding.  It also wishes to thank the Heritage Lottery Fund, the National Trust, the Heart of the Glens Landscape Partnership Scheme, McBride’s bar and the Cushendun community for their contribution to the festival.


Download prog button
Click here to view the programme and to purchase tickets




Heroic Book Rescue at Cushendun’s Vintage and Secondhand Book Sale


As part of European Heritage Open Days Weekend, Cushendun Building Preservation Trust (CBPT) is hosting its annual Vintage and Secondhand Book Sale in Cushendun Old Church on the 10th and 11th September.  The Book Sale also offers an opportunity to visit the Old Church, a lovely 1840’s country church in the picturesque National Trust Village of  Cushendun.

Now in its sixth year, the Cushendun Vintage and Secondhand Book Sale has become a popular stop for locals and Heritage Weekenders visiting North Antrim and the Causeway Coast.  We will have on sale a great range of bargain hardbacks and paperbacks – everything from fiction, crime and biography to travel, cookery and children’s reading – as well as our traditionally rather good tea and coffee, scrumptious cakes and buns supplied by our neighbours in Glenmona House.

If you would like to donate any books for this event, you can do so at the shop in Cushendun, Cushendall Golf Club and the Ferry Terminal at Ballycastle.

In addition to the Book Sale CPBT is auctioning  a stunning oil painting of Cushendun Bay by early 20C artist John Whyte, best known for his ‘Lowry – esque’ paintings of Belfast. The painting is a rare view of Cushendun at the time of the Rope Works and before even the Maud Cottages were built, though the familiar sweep of the bay remains unchanged to this day. The painting has been generously donated to CBPT to help raise funds for restoration of the building. It will be on view in the Old Church throughout the weekend and will be sold to the highest bid (reserve £200) received by 5pm on Sunday 11th September.  For further information email info@cushendunbpt.org  with the subject line WHYTE PAINTING.  We are also delighted to announce that accomplished musician Glenn Simpson will be performing as part of the weekend amongst other performers (tbc).

We would like to thank everyone for your continued support which allows us raise awareness about CBPT and the upkeep of the Old Church until such times as we are in a position to complete the restoration.



BAW 2016 Brochure cover jpg.jpgFriday 29 April to Monday 2 May

BREAKING NEWS … Two of Northern Ireland’s top bands, The Ingram Brothers and Rory Conway with the Convicts, will perform live at the launch night of the 2016 Cushendun Big Arts Weekend, transforming Knocknacarry Hall into a party venue for the evening of Friday 29 April!

The finest way to welcome in the month of May has to be at the Big Arts Weekend in the beautiful seaside village of Cushendun. The weekend-long festival has a ‘bringing it all back home’ theme this year, not to mention a touch of stardust. Harpist and singer Amy McAllister, who grew up in the Glens of Antrim and now performs all over the world, will give a concert in St Patrick’s Church, supported by Cushendun Folk Choir, and there will be exciting contemporary theatre by Rasharkin-born actress/writer Mary-Frances Doherty, in a double bill with Cushendall-based Lurig Drama Group – as well as talks, walks, exhibitions and outdoor fun for children and families.harp beach (1).jpeg

This will be the fourth Big Arts Weekend and once again there will be many free events in a programme that offers something for everyone and draws on Cushendun’s history as a place beloved of creative people. There will be talks by contemporary writers including Roisin McAuley, Anne-Marie Fyfe and Damian Gorman, all closely associated with the area, as well as a unique look at the life of the enigmatic Roger Casement – diplomat, poet and rebel, executed for his role in the events of 1916 – who was a regular visitor to Cushendun.

Established favourites like Share a Poem, as well as family fun, including the popular sandcastle competition and face-painting, will all be back, alongside some brand new events. Play in a Day, a fun children’s drama project culminating in a performance, is scheduled for Saturday, and Naturally North Coast and Glens artisan market will bring their hand-crafted goods and food to Cushendun for the first time on Bank Holiday Monday.

Cushendun’s Big Arts Weekend is organised by Cushendun Building Preservation Trust (CBPT) in support of the Old Church Project. The Old Church itself will be open all weekend, hosting a magical moths-and-butterflies art installation, and resounding on the Sunday afternoon to the sweet strings of Cushendun-based musician Glenn Simpson. There will be story-telling with Liz Weir, and more art on show at the open exhibition in Glenmona House, where you’ll also find delicious treats at the pop-up tea shop.

CBPT thanks the Cushendun community, as well as the Heritage Lottery Fund, Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, the National Trust, Heart of the Glens Landscape Partnership Scheme, McBride’s Bar and McCollam’s pub, Cushendall and Glenmona House Trust for all their support.

Tickets will also be on sale in the Corner House Tea Rooms, Cushendun on the weekends of 16-17 and 23-24 April, 10am to 3pm. Early booking is recommended.


The Story So Far

As many of you will know, in December 2014 we heard that our application to the Heritage Lottery Fund had been successful. We were awarded development funding of £22,800 to help us prepare our completed application for stage 2 funding (provisionally £263,600). HLF require a high level of detailed information and advanced plans before they award the full grant, so 2015 has been a busy year.
In March we appointed our Project Development Officer, Melanie Rintoul. Melanie ran the reminiscence sessions in Glenmona over the Big Arts Weekend and you may have met her there. She has collated some great stories about the Old Church, which we hope to publish as a booklet as part of the next stage of the project. She would love to hear from you if you have any memories of the Old Church you would be happy to share. Melanie has also been completing the more utilitarian aspects of project development including our Business Plan,  Activities Plan (heritage and community use of the building) and many funding applications.  The plans can be viewed by clicking this link: CPT01 DR03 Proposed Elevations and Plans
In May we appointed Alistair Coey Architects to draw up plans for the Old Church. We are delighted with the draft plans which are sympathetic to the original building whilst providing the services needed to make it a versatile and useable space in the long term. We have attached the plansto this e-mail and we welcome feedback but please be aware that these are only draft plans and subject to change.
We had one serious setback. The main HLF grant was part of a funding package which included funding from Ulster Garden Villages and a Listed Building Grant worth approximately £75,000. Due to government cuts the Northern Ireland Environment Agency withdrew all listed building grants in 2015 which, along with a slight rise in building costs, has left us with a funding shortfall that we need to make up before we can submit our stage 2 application. Inevitably this will hold the project up.  So far we have successfully managed to raise £15,000 towards restoring the stained glass windows – thank you Pilgrim Trust. We will persevere with applications to other funding bodies and fundraising activities and hope that we will have all the funding in place by the end of this year.


Cushendun’s Big Arts Weekend 29 April to 2 May 2016
The Big Arts Weekend is now an established event in the Glens of Antrim calendar and we have exciting plans for this year, so make sure to SAVE THE DATE.  Just to whet your appetite, we have Rory Conway and Band  to get the weekend of to a dancing start; something new is the  ‘Play in a Day’ drama workshop for young actors and on bank holiday Monday Ballycastle Town Market will be at Glenmona.
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