Published: 25th May 2017
Celebrating 10 years of Preserving Belfast’s Maritime & Industrial Heritage
Today we are celebrating our 10th birthday! So many things have happened over the last number of years and we couldn’t resist having a quick recap.
Titanic Foundation was initially set up to support the development of a world class visitor attraction to position Belfast as the home of Titanic and deliver a step change in tourism growth. Supported by a range of public and private funders, our £97 million signature building was successfully completed and opened on 31st March 2012 marking the centenary of Titanic’s loss in 1912. Since opening, Titanic Belfast has welcomed a staggering 3.5 million visitors from 145 countries, generated an estimated £150 million new spend in the local economy and crowned the World’s Leading Visitor Attraction in 2016. Job done, objectives met!
Our charitable purpose is to preserve Belfast’s maritime and industrial heritage. Once Titanic Belfast was delivered, we didn’t need to look too far for our next two projects; the H&W Drawing Offices and SS Nomadic.
Due to open this September as a boutique hotel, we have spent the last five years working on a development option for the former Harland & Wolff Headquarters Building and Drawing Offices, successfully securing funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and working with Titanic Quarter Limited and Harcourt Development to deliver the project. Watching it’s transformation from a derelict building to a stunning hotel has been inspiring, and we’ve discovered many fascinating historical details, from original lino & ceramic tiles the same as Titanic’s smoking rooms and swimming pools, to revealing the windows in the Presentation Room. One of NI’s most significant and historic buildings is being saved for future generations and found a new future as a hotel and heritage space.
In April 2015, we acquired the SS Nomadic, the last remaining White Star line ship in the world. Built by Harland & Wolff, Titanic’s little sister and tender had already been fully restored by the Nomadic Charitable Trust and was residing in the Hamilton Dock. With our support, SS Nomadic is now integrated into the Titanic Belfast experience as the tenth gallery, welcoming over 250,000 visitors over the last 2 years. The relationship between SS Nomadic and Titanic Belfast delivers a unique, authentic experience for visitors and most importantly, supports the ongoing sustainability and preservation of this remarkable ship.
A key success has been the establishment of the ‘TQ Destination Forum’, containing representatives from the heritage sites, visitor attractions, venues, activity providers, community and education interests, and visitor services across the quarter, alongside the property owners and developers. In 2014 Forum members celebrated being awarded Belfast’s first World Host Tourism Hotspot.
Over the last 3 years we’ve established a dedicated team to deliver this work, including an annual intern from University of Ulster. Earlier this month, we were delighted to have won the Ulster University Impact Excellence Awards for Placement Employer 2017. In 2015 we welcomed over 40,000 visitors down onto the slipways as part of the Tall Ships Festival and to date we have had over 700 visitors enjoying & exploring TQ’s Maritime Heritage via our Titanic Taster Tours. We’ve also published 120,000 copies of our TQ Visitor Guide.
Underpinning all of our work over the last ten years has been our engagement with local communities. We always welcome the chance to hear stories from the shipyard, from former employees, to local residents and people with family connections to the area or an interest in maritime and industrial heritage!
For this coming year, we’ve got some exciting things on the cards including the restoration and display of an extremely rare lighthouse lens, which is of international significance. We were delighted to secure funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, along with support from Ulster Garden Villages and Belfast City Council’s Local Investment Fund to save and restore this unusual artefact, which, by the way, weighs ten tonnes and is 7 metres tall! The Great Light will create a legacy Belfast landmark, enhancing TQ’s position as a rich and authentic maritime heritage destination.
We are looking forward to seeing what happens between this birthday and the next. Thank you to all our partners and stakeholders for being a part of the journey so far!
Don’t forget to join us to celebrate our waterfront heritage & seafaring traditions at the Belfast Titanic Maritime Festival 16 to 18 June. This year our Big Titanic Picnic will be popping up next to SS Nomadic along with a street food market, wooden boats to model boats, nautical walking tours to Port to Starboard talks. The festival invites visitors to explore a spectacular heritage site and enjoy music, games, interactive exhibits, roving performers and lots more.