The aim of Peace in the Park is to make the park surrounding St Columb’s Park House a shared and open space for all community members. The project works to animate the park with the goal of bringing community members together and reducing anti-social behaviour (and also sectarian tension as a result of the anti-social behaviour). So far, St Columb’s has focused on creating social events for park users and community members, and encouraging alternative sport use in the park (disc golf, ultimate Frisbee, parkour).
For the most part, the opening of a Peace Bridge in Derry/Londonderry has been extremely positive. However, over the summer tension erupts when young people from different communities gather in the park. Local community members feel threatened and this fear has previously escalated into violence. Reactive suggestions have been to close the Peace Bridge down at night, as well as a plan to fence off a large part of the park. We know from experience that when barriers are put up in communities, they are very difficult to ever take down, and therefore need to be thought through carefully. Research shows us that when people are using green spaces, anti-social behaviour is reduced. Over the last year, St Columb’s has designed a programme of events in the park.
As well as continuing this work, they would also like to engage in consultation with park users, community members and young people to create an action plan that is evidence based and community-led to animate the park.