Calls to Make Belfast's First 'Pop-Up Music Park' Permanent Grow

The pop-up musical play-park that opened in Belfast city center last August has received such a warm reception from children and families during the coronavirus pandemic that there have already been calls to retain the park as a permanent fixture.

At its launch, the council said the project was a trial "as an example of how we might reimagine our civic spaces to encourage innovative use" and was originally planned to stay in place for two years.

However, the park has received so much praise - including being featured in a Los Angeles Times article about "clever Covid-19 design solutions from around the world" - that it could now remain a permanent city center feature.

The space at Cathedral Gardens underwent a huge makeover last year to create a new landscaped area and family-friendly zone. The multifunctional square, the first of its kind in the city, was transformed and now features a giant spinning wheel, outdoor musical instruments, a swinging bridge, and colorful mushrooms on a carpet of rainbow grass. New seating and ‘bendy’ benches and picnic benches were also installed to encourage people to relax and linger in the colorful new surroundings.

The project was funded by Belfast City Council as part of its ongoing city center revitalization work and Lord Mayor of Belfast, Alderman Frank McCoubrey said at the time that it was hoped the new park would be "enjoyed by the people" and would "provide a welcoming place to stop with a coffee, or for families to play together and enjoy a picnic".

"What’s really special about the park is that it’s been designed for kids, by kids, and I really think that’s fantastic," he said.

"We talked to playworkers and children about what we should include in the park and they provided us with a wish-list. We took that feedback on board, and it shaped the design of the park and the equipment we’ve installed – we even delivered on the unicorn grass!"

The park opened on a trial basis and is expected to last two years, if the project is considered successful and feedback is positive, the council and its city partners will consider something more permanent for the Cathedral Gardens.

Mayor McCoubrey added “feedback from other similar projects have indicated that people want to see our city streets and open spaces to be more welcoming for children and families.

“We’ve been working with the Department for Communities and the Department for Infrastructure to look at how we can reimagine our city center as part of our emerging ‘Bolder Vision’ for Belfast.

“As the current restrictions begin to ease, and we all adapt to a different way of moving around our city center, having these safe, family-friendly open spaces will be an important part of our future resilience and recovery.”