Project to celebrate 50 years of Craigavon

Terence O'Neilll
Terence O'Neilll

The history of Craigavon is set to be commemorated in a project to mark its 50th anniversary, thanks to a £43,500 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

‘Capturing Craigavon’ will see oral history research and documentation carried out to explore the heritage of the ‘new town’, what it was like to move there and the challenges of creating a new community.

Memorabilia and artefacts will be gathered, and the project will be publicised in a series of films as well as online.

Catherine McNeill, from Brownlow Festival Committee, organisers of the project, said, “The story of Craigavon is a very interesting tale itself, but it also marks a number of important changes in the history of Northern Ireland during the past 50 years.

“This community project aims to explore and document the social history of Craigavon, charting the events, stories and implications of its founding from conception in the 1960s, through the decline of the late 1980s and ‘90s and to regeneration and renewal of the 2000s to the present day.”

Named after the first Prime Minister of Northern Ireland – James Craig, 1st Viscount Craigavon – the new development was a key part of a new NI envisioned in the 1960s.

Then Prime Minister Terence O’Neill wanted to replicate the designed-towns model then common across the UK, with famous examples including Milton Keynes which was first designated as a new town in 1967.

The development was of its time, with significant room for cycle paths, a preponderance of roundabouts, and mixed housing estates – entirely separate from industrial zones – with their own retail hubs.

However, plans that would have seen Craigavon as the centre of a new urban area stretching from Portadown to Lurgan never fully came to pass.