As Straide Community Development Group prepares to reopen the Mayo village’s hall, they credit a process called Community Futures for making it possible.

By this summer, the Co Mayo village of Straide will have the equivalent of a brand-new multipurpose hall. The Michael Davitt Community Hall – closed now for some time – is to be resurrected.

When finished, the refurbished hall will have new windows, a new heating system, a kitchen, office space and toilets.

Carol Reading, vicechair of Straide Community Development Group, said: “We’re looking forward. We’re going to be able to use it for indoor football, badminton and birthday parties. We also aim to make it available for community events like month’s minds.”

The group gives full credit for the hall’s revitalisation to Community Futures, a county council-led process that has helped communities across Mayo to actively plan and deliver much needed projects.

While funding support usually makes all the difference to a project’s success, in this case it was Mayo County Council’s community development approach helping the Straide community see their priorities clearly.

The renewal works have been years in the planning, soaking up many hours of volunteer involvement and costing €167,000. But Straide stuck with it in spite of the obstacles, with help coming from LEADER and from the diaspora’s fundraising support.

“We have had families from the UK, America – and obviously Straide – contribute to the fundraising,” Carol said.

Straide Community Development Group chairperson Derek Murphy welcomed the LEADER funding: “There was no money spent on the hall since the 1980s and it needed an upgrade.”

Straide Community Development Group chairperson Derek Murphy and vice-chairperson Carol Reading with group member Kate O'Hara

Straide Community Development Group chairperson Derek Murphy and vice-chairperson Carol Reading with group member Kate O’Hara. Photo: Changing Ireland.

Looking to the Futures

Mayo Community Futures is a bottom-up, community-led process that gives all members of a community the opportunity to feed into an action plan for development. It aims to:

· help communities to prepare Community Action Plans,

· encourage more people to become active in their communities,

· strengthen and develop local community organisations,

· enable communities to identify and progress priority projects, and

· enable communities to effectively represent their interests at local, county and national level.

Kate O’Hara, secretary of Straide Community Development Group, said: “We got every group in Straide involved in the Mayo Community Futures process. It’s a great system; it gets all stakeholders involved.”

“Out of that, we created our development group and came up with an action plan. Mayo County Council run Community Futures, and it got us to do a household survey. We found out what the priorities were and came up with an action plan.”

“There are 60 children in the local primary school and they have no ‘halla’, no facilities, so the hall refurbishment was vital. We have a church, a pub and the museum in Straide, and we got to the point where the community needed space,” she said.

The Community Futures approach was introduced in 2006, and 30 Mayo communities have participated in it to date.

The process is administered by Mayo County Council and takes about six months to complete.

The main tools for encouraging participation are household surveys, stakeholder interviews, compiling a community profile, and organising a Community Day event.

Interested in reading more about the state of Ireland’s community development sector? Check out our latest issue.