IGN Insights

Belfast Stories

Centre for Progressive Policy Francesca Cave square

Francesca Cave

IGN programme coordinator

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Belfast Stories is a flagship project of the £850m Belfast Region City Deal that will see a 5,000 square metre site transformed into a state-of-the-art, interactive and immersive visitor experience that will celebrate the stories of Belfast. It will catalyse inclusive growth by:

  • Designing vibrant social spaces for visitors and local people to enjoy
  • Putting people at the heart of the design through inclusive engagement, co-design and ongoing collaboration
  • Connecting communities and building civic pride

A transformative opportunity

The new destination, due to open in 2029, is located on a key city centre site located on the edge of the city’s Cathedral Quarter and adjacent to the new Ulster University Campus. Belfast Stories will transform a much-loved heritage building on the site and regenerate the area. Visitors to Belfast Stories will be encouraged to explore the city as the stories will continue to be told in the neighbourhoods. Belfast Stories aims to encourage more people to visit and spend more time in the city and region.

As a major new development, Belfast Stories aims to deliver social value by ensuring the purchase of goods, services and developmental works makes a positive difference to the people and communities of Belfast. Belfast Stories will also support opportunities for skills development and new jobs, and will actively target priority groups ensuring they are able to benefit from the investment. A Belfast Stories Inclusive Growth group was established early in the project to ensure that the breadth of opportunities during pre-construction and construction and post opening are both considered and maximised.

Skills audits are being progressed to identify the various skills opportunities in construction, tourism and hospitality, and creative and digital technologies. Collaboration with the local universities, further education colleges and the voluntary and community sector will help to identify and promote learning and skills opportunities for local people.

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Connecting communities

Belfast Stories will reflect the unique spirit of Belfast through the telling of stories using a variety of media and a mix of immersive experiences, enabling international and local visitors to connect with Belfast and one another.

The Council will embark on an unparalleled programme of story collection using agreed principles to gather old and new stories told from multiple perspectives, by the people who call Belfast home. A key priority is to ensure that everyone who wants to can tell their story. These stories will be shared and celebrated through exhibition and screen-based galleries, with input from local creatives to bring the stories to life. The experience will be supported by animated public indoor and outdoor spaces and award-winning local food and drink.

Development through inclusive engagement

Belfast Stories is committed to engaging with stakeholders and in 2022 held a 14-week public consultation to raise awareness in communities about what the project is and find out how they would like to be involved. Working with the design teams, the project will agree an ongoing engagement plan, establish agreed inclusive design principles for the project, and identify opportunities for co-design and user input. This will ensure more impactful investment and the development of a high-quality accessible place.

An Equity Steering Group was established in 2022 to ensure the voices of people and communities that are often excluded from decision-making processes are heard. The group includes people from different faith, political and cultural backgrounds, people from ethnic minorities and the LGBTQIA+ community, neurodiverse people, disabled people, older and younger people, and carers and people with dependants. Its purpose is to ensure that everyone has the same opportunity to take part in Belfast Stories, from helping to make the design of the building and its experiences more accessible, to identifying ‘missing voices’ and co-producing engagement opportunities.


Belfast Stories contributes to placemaking by growing the local economy and enabling a renewed, vibrant city centre where people want to live, work, visit and invest. By amplifying local voices and strengthening connections, it stands as a transformative development that can drive inclusive growth across the lifecycle of the investment for the benefit of local people.

Photograph by William Murphy, CC BY-NC 2.0