A NEW event taking place this week aims to change the image of the Holyland as a no-go area on St Patrick’s Day.

The Spring Gathering Festival, which is being co-ordinated by the South Belfast Partnership Board, will enable families to celebrate St Patrick’s Day and the story of St Patrick as a refugee, highlighting the Holyland as one of the most culturally and ethnically diverse places in the north.

The Partnership has been working closely with local community associations from Holyland, Botanic and College Park Avenue and with churches in the area to make the festival a success. The plan is that this festival will grow over the years to become the main St Patrick’s Day event in the area.

Bríd Ruddy of the College Park Avenue Residents’ Association said the idea was to create a safe space for people to celebrate the day of Ireland’s patron saint.

“We welcome visitors from across the city to join our family friendly festival,” said Bríd. “We will be celebrating the many positive aspects our community in the Holyland area has to offer.”

The Spring Gathering will include music, dance, storytelling, food displays and children’s activities, including traditional street games. Attractions include a Chinese dragon cance, street sports and global roots music in a marquee on Rugby Road. There will also be a communal lunch and workshops on seed planting, upcycling and healthy food.

The Union Theological College in Botanic Avenue will be open during the day for heritage tours conducted by the eminent historian Dr Eamon Phoenix. It is the first time the college has been thrown open to the general public.

Local churches Fitzroy Presbyterian and Iglesias ni Christo will also have a series of family events taking place and will serve refreshments to visitors. Queen’s University Belfast has provided support including free use of its facilities for meetings. Briege Arthurs, CEO of the South Belfast Partnership Board, said the purpose of the festival was to reawaken the community spirit and reflect the lives of the many different people living in the area.

“As a vehicle for regeneration in South Belfast our ultimate aim is to bring about positive changes and attract more families back into the area,” she said. “We want to rebuild the community and create a better social mix of people living here to benefit the whole city.”

For more details about the Holyland Spring Gathering go online at www.facebook.com/events/401302593565574