The Crescent building begins life. At the cost of £7,000, Margaret Byers, an advocate and pioneer for women's’ education opens the Ladies’ Collegiate School. It was one of the first purpose-built schools in the country for girls.
During Queen Victoria's jubilee year, the queen issued a royal command that the school be renamed Victoria College in recognition of the outstanding achievements of Mrs Byers and her staff.
The college grew and prospered, but as time went by the constraints of the gradually aging building led to the eventual relocation of Victoria College to it’s present-day home in Cranmore Park south Belfast. At this time, the building’s future was in some doubt, as plans for a ring road through the area threatened it with destruction.
After some years of disuse, in 1977 the building reopened by Roger Courtney as the Crescent Youth Resource Centre. The crescent quickly became home to a wide range of arts organizations including theatre companies, dance groups, punk bands and Neighbourhood Open Workshop (NOW). Two youth clubs met on the ground floor and an Art studio was developed on the top floor with Pottery Kiln and a photographic studio.
Martin Donnelly took over as the coordinator of the Crescent Youth Resource Centre. Belfast's first vegetarian restaurant, Zero's, opened as a cooperative in the Crescent. Linda McKeown from Zero's organised a very popular weekly disco - which still brings back fond memories to many who used to visit. The Crescent rebranded as Crescent Arts Centre.
The wholesale failure of the building’s electrics almost closed the Centre once more, and a converted ‘Save the Crescent’ campaign led by the then director Noreen O’Hare included a march the the CIty Hall to draw attention to the campaign. The Crescent was even debated and defended in the House of Lords.
The Crescent Arts Centre secured a mortgage to buy the building outright from the Department of the Environment. The building was still in a fairly bad state from its earlier unoccupied years and funding for a large scale refurbishment was badly needed.
The Crescent reopens following an 18-month restoration project and now flourishes as a vibrant Arts Centre, offering unique spaces for artists, craftworkers and creative arts businesses.
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