Wednesday 4 May 2017 is a day that will go down in local history as ‘Connected’: A Community Plan for Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough was launched in front of an eager audience of community representatives, statutory partners, elected members and council officials in a packed Mayes Hall in Craigavon Civic and Conference Centre.

The community plan, the first to be devised for the borough, is the result of 18 months of intensive collaboration between the council, statutory partners and communities to develop a shared vision for the area with the goal of creating a happy, healthy and connected community, a vibrant and sustainable economy and appealing places for living, working and learning.

As well as unveiling ‘Connected’, the event featured a host of guest speakers highlighting the importance and vision of the community plan and showcased the work of some of the statutory partners involved with the plan and the wonderful talent within our borough.

Donard School Choir kicked the afternoon off in style with a moving Makaton signing recital featuring the music of Leona Lewis and Adele. The Armagh Rhymers brought the magical ancient art of ritual theatre, music, song and dance to a spellbound audience and Ian Burrows from the Ulster Scots Community Network got toes tapping with a pitch perfect piping display.

Guests were also given the opportunity to try their hand at Boccia, a precision ball sport similar to bowls with the Lord Mayor scoring a perfect 100 points on his first effort! There was also the chance to see community planning in action when the council Sports Development Team got everyone rocking and rolling in their seats with some chair based exercise and then created a sense of tranquillity with an interactive Chi Me demonstration.

Speaking at the launch Lord Mayor of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon, Councillor Garath Keating said, “This first community plan is a wonderful example of seeing statutory partners, communities and people coming together to help to create a new vision which will improve the quality of life for everyone.  Not only does it acknowledge the importance of agencies working together but the opportunity given to local people to have their voice heard in making decisions that truly affect them.”

Department for Communities Director of Local Government Policy, Anthony Carleton added: “The Department is supporting the development of Community Plans with the focus on local people.   Community planning will improve the connection between regional, local and neighbourhood levels through partnership working, an integrated use of resources, and a focus on collaboration between partners for the benefit of citizens.

John News of Sport NI spoke of his organisations involvement with the plan, “We are delighted to be part of ‘Connected’. Working together with all the other statutory partners with the collective objective of benefiting our communities as a whole is a very worthwhile exercise. The launch of the plan is just the first step in a long journey that will guide and inspire future generations to continue working together to develop and strengthen their community ties.”