A NEW pop-up coffee shop is providing employment, skills and opportunities for young people at a North Belfast interface.

New Ground opened their pop-up café in Girdwood Community Hub in December and celebrated their official opening today, Thursday.

The project is part of the youth programme at Cliftonville Community Regeneration Forum (CCRF). The coffee shop is operated by young people that have taken part in a long journey from creating the initial concept and building a business plan to ongoing training in first aid, food hygiene and barista training.

Fiona Hamilton, from CCRF praised the young people for coming up with the idea.

"The concept came about two years ago when our young people got together and came up with the idea of opening a coffee facility at Girdwood," she said. "Without our key funders, it would not have been possible. These include Belfast City Council, Department For Communities, The Executive Office, GLL and NI Water and Children in Need to name but a few.

"It not only will deter young people away from the interface but they will gain real life experience, skills and confidence from working in the coffee shop."

Brogan O'Dwyer, from nearby Cliftonville Avenue has taken on the role of managing New Ground.

"I didn't go to school much and dropped out of tech but I then got involved in CCRF and for the last two years was involved in developing the idea of New Ground Coffee," she explained. "Since opening in December, I have been part of the team and have learnt new skills and gained employment at the same time, all while making the best hot chocolate!

"I was able to gain qualifications in food hygiene, barista training and customer service. I have came so far and I am grateful for the opportunity to manage this coffee shop."

Lord Mayor Ryan Murphy who officially opened the facility praised everyone behind the project.

"I am delighted to be here to officially open New Ground Coffee. This isn't just a coffee shop. It is providing opportunities for our young people," he said.

Lord Mayor Ryan Murphy with Fiona Hamilton from CCRF

Lord Mayor Ryan Murphy with Fiona Hamilton from CCRF

"I can remember myself being 16 and 17-years-old and trying to get into employment but not getting the job because I never had any experience.

"It is absolutely fantastic that CCRF have put confidence in our young people to come up with a concept like this. The coffee shop is almost like the missing piece of the jigsaw at Girdwood and we know there is much more to come with the next stage of the hub's development.

"New Ground Coffee is a very welcome addition to the local area and I wish everyone involved the best of luck going forward."

Amy Quigley, a pensioner from Tennent Street, said she is looking forward to more regular visits to the coffee shop.

"I am part of a cross-community group through the Lower Oldpark Community Association (LOCA)," she said. "I think it is a fantastic idea and a great addition to Girdwood. We have been coming since it opened at the end of last year and I am looking forward to coming here more often."