First Shutters Up Night was a surefire street success!

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When the shutters went up on town centre shops on a normally quiet Tuesday night last week, hundreds of people turned out to support the move.

The idea was to take people back to the old days of window shopping in Ballymena - and it worked!

Whether you were in the car, on a bicycle or walking the dog, everyone was invited to hit the streets and they did so in large numbers.

Those who came into the town were treated to work by local arts groups and artists, entertainment from buskers and bands on street corners, and musical entertainment which was to be found in local cafes and hotels, supported by Radio Cracker playing live from the Bandstand.

Street Art in the form of a new project for the town called Art Park began the night before when a team of artists painted various parking bays with famous artwork from the Mona Lisa to The Scream, The Girl with the Pearl Earring by Vermeer and a scene from Picasso’s La Guernica on Wellington Street.

Two mural projects were painted live on the night at Meetinghouse Lane and The Bandstand featuring Ballymena as the national launch of a new campaign called #lovetoDRAW

Local cafes proved a huge hit as did street food, not least the on-street barbeque at Montgomery’s.

Local arts groups demonstrated how art can enliven and enrich public spaces, from Vis Art holding an ‘On The Rails’ art exhibition at the old Wellington Street Church to a huge drumming circle at EnGAGE Youth Centre also on Wellington Street.

Wellington Court was transformed into Play Street and featured a street full of activities just for children and the local Dog owning population were out in force supported by Dogs Trust and Jolleys Pet Store with breeds of all shapes and sizes stopping off at three ‘doggy street cafes’.

The event, organised by the Arts & Events Service of Ballymena Council in partnership with Ballymena Town Centre Development Group, was very well supported by local traders who kept their shutters up to show off window displays and help enliven the town centre, with some retailers even opening up for the event.

‘Shutters Up’ was also a partnership event with the very successful ‘Ladies Lock In’ at The Fairhill Centre and it’s now hoped the success and support for the evening may see it become an annual event.

Ballymena Mayor Cllr Audrey Wales who hit the streets herself in support of ‘Shutters Up’, said on the night: “It’s wonderful to see the town filled with so many people and such a range of activity on a Tuesday night in September - on what would normally be a very quiet night. This event is the result of an award from The Carnegie Trust UK for our recent Creative Citizens Programme and I am delighted to see so much support from local people and local groups taking part.”