BANGOR’S Court House has reached the final of a prestigious UK-wide award – the first time anyone from the area has made it.

The arts venue, owned by Open House, is now hoping locals will back them in a public vote to score a win on the National Lottery’s Project of the Year competition.

Created from Bangor’s derelict former court, the venue on seaside Quay Street opened 11 months ago after years of lobbying to get the keys to the listed building and then a protracted period heavily renovating it into its current form.

Now, just shy of its first anniversary, the venue has won out over almost 4,000 rivals to be shortlisted for the prestigious lottery award.

It’s one of just 17 organisations across the UK to be nominated in the annual search for the nation’s favourite lottery-funded project.

If it wins the public vote, the Court House will be in line for a £5,000 cash prize plus a special lottery trophy.

To date, no Northern Irish project has won the contest, and this is the first time a Bangor-based organisation has made it through to the final.

Says Open House development director, Alison Gordon: “It is both an enormous honour and a massive surprise to receive this nomination.

“The support we’ve had from local people and our partners, including the National Lottery Heritage Fund, has had an incredibly positive impact on the work we’re doing.

“It would be wonderful recognition for all involved to be named National Lottery Project of the Year – and the best birthday present ever.”

The Court House has already had 35,000 people through its doors, attending shows ranging from established international names to up-and-coming local artists.

““We knew from years of running our annual August festival in Bangor that there was a thirst for a permanent music and arts venue in the city, which is what drove us to persevere with the Court House refurbishment project,” says Open House director, Kieran Gilmore.

“But even we didn’t expect the reception we’ve received since opening the doors last October.

“The majority of ticketed events sell out really quickly, and as around 50% of our events are free, including regular jazz, trad and DJ sessions, the building is always buzzing.

“We know that collectively all the people involved in the Court House have done something good for Bangor, and it’s humbling to receive this recognition from the National Lottery awards. Obviously we’d love to win it, for Bangor and for Northern Ireland, but getting to the public vote is an achievement in itself.”

Said Jonathan Tuchner from the National Lottery: “It’s thanks to National Lottery players, who raise more than £30M each week for good causes, that the work of these amazing projects is made possible.

“The transformation of Bangor Court House has had an incredible impact on their local community and they thoroughly deserve to be in the finals of the National Lottery Awards Project of the Year 2023.”

Voting opened this week and lasts until October 9.