HISTORICAL materials belonging to the late Fr Des Wilson will be made public for the first time as part of a series of events held to mark the 50th anniversary of Springhill Community House. 

Founded by Fr Des in 1972, Springhill Community House has been a pioneer of community empowerment and education for generations. 

Ahead of its 50th anniversary, which occurs this month, the organisation has received a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to publish previously unseen archived materials belonging to Fr Des including letters, recorded voice notes, pamphlets, photos and more. 

In a potted history of Springhill Community House, Ciarán Cahill – who currently manages the facility – told how its founders set about challenging the "years of official neglect" of the local community.

Springhill Community House was the brainchild of both Fr Des Wilson and Fr Hugh Mullan. The latter was among 11 people murdered in the Ballymurphy Massacre of August 1971 and would never see the facility open its doors. 

"Springhill would be his (Fr Des') home for the next 50 years during that time he built peace, created work opportunities, organised education programmes, held public inquires, staged entertaining and thought provoking plays," Ciarán said.

"All this to allow people to see the potential in themselves and to encourage them to take back control of their own future."

Speaking to the Andersonstown News, Ciarán said he is "very proud" to continue the Springhill Community House vision of community empowerment. 

"Our work has always been based on the needs of community, and it's something that we stick to to this day," he said.

In celebrating the 50th anniversary of Springhill Community House, Fr Des' archived materials will be collated for exhibition following an 18-month project. 

Commenting on the initiative, Ciarán said: "Really our long term objective would be to have the Fr Des Wilson Interpretive Centre that would house that archive and tell the story of Springhill Community House and everything that emanated from Des.

"It would include the story of the two priests that were killed in the community during the Ballymurphy and Westrock/Springhill Massacres. 

"As well as that you'll have the positive aspects about people who lived through difficult times and did things for themselves that nobody else would, and that included self-help projects, cooperatives, education – all of those things that people are involved in and are still involved in to improve the lives of everybody in the community."

Other initiatives to mark the half century milestone include the launch of a new book of Ballymurphy stories, theatre, and a film screening.