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National Lottery funding supports Garvagh community to tackle climate change

A Garvagh based project has received £150,000 from The National Lottery Community Fund’s Climate Action Fund, to bring people together to explore what nature can teach us about innovation and sustainable design. 

The ‘Forest Did It First’ project will use the grant to study the ecosystems which have naturally developed around Garvagh Forest and the Agivey River. Bringing the community together will help them to connect with nature, promote the value of the forest, river and land, and to improve wellbeing. 

Learning will be shown using creativity and the arts such as storytelling and film, with the aim of looking at ways to tackle climate change, reduce the loss of species and habitats in the local area, and to explore how we can live more sustainably. 

This new project is being run through a partnership made up of The Hare’s Corner Cooperative, Big Telly Theatre Company, Rural Community Network and Wild Awake. 

The Forest Did It First Partners: L-R Zoe Seaton, Big Telly. Karin Eyben, Hare's Corner Cooperative. Aidan Campbell, Rural Community Network.

David Keys, Chair of the Hare’s Corner Cooperative, explained:“We are delighted to receive this National Lottery funding for this new and exciting project in Garvagh, and we would encourage local people to get involved over the next 18 months, to improve their area. 

“With expertise from the four partners, the project will have the skills to improve local knowledge of ‘biomimicry’, which is where people can learn from and ‘mimic’ ecosystems that nature has already expertly developed. 

“We look forward to working with schools and local communities to begin exploring how the learning can contribute to innovation, design and rethinking our relationships with the natural world.” 

Richard Dawson, from Wild Awake said: “We’re excited to start working with groups of all ages, to learn about the rivers and forests and use our shared knowledge to build more resilient and sustainable communities which are inspired by nature.” 

Creativity and the arts will help people use the learning to build connections and understand the strengths and challenges facing the community and the local environment. 

Zoe Seaton from Big Telly added: “We will be working closely with all ages in the community to use storytelling to create new experiences, inspire positive impact, and promote a more sustainable future.” 

Key to the project will be an action research programme led by the Rural Community Network to develop a portrait of place which will describe, using available statistics and local stories, how well people feel they, and the rest of the natural world are doing and local priorities over the next decade. 

Aidan Campbell from Rural Community Network said: “Involvement from the local community and sharing their ideas is key to the success of this project. This project will be about inspiring conversations and actions towards a more climate resilient community.” 

The National Lottery Community Fund is committed to supporting communities to be more environmentally sustainable. This is a key mission in their new grant-making strategy, It Starts with Community, which sets out the vision to 2030. 

Kate Beggs, Northern Ireland Director of The National Lottery Community Fund said: “We’re pleased to support the Forest Did It First with this £150,000 grant, which has been made possible thanks to money raised by National Lottery players. 

“Through our Climate Action Fund, we were looking for projects that use nature to encourage more community-led climate action, and this project is a great example of that. 

“We look forward to seeing the impact on the wellbeing of the local community, but also on improving environmental sustainability using ideas from the nature on our doorstep.” 

For more information about the Forest Did It First Project contact Karin Eyben on 07966202184,

For more information on funding from The National Lottery Community Fund visit 

Notes to Editors

About The National Lottery Community Fund

We are the largest non-statutory community funder in the UK – community is at the heart of our purpose, vision and name. 

We support activities that create resilient communities that are more inclusive and environmentally sustainable and that will strengthen society and improve lives across the UK. 

We’re proud to award money raised by National Lottery players to communities across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and to work closely with Government to distribute vital grants and funding from key Government programmes and initiatives. 

As well as responding to what communities tell us is important to them, our funding is focused on four key missions, supporting communities to: 

1. Come together 

2. Be environmentally sustainable 

3. Help children and young people thrive 

4. Enable people to live healthier lives. 

Big Telly Theatre Company

Big Telly Theatre Company is a registered charity which brings world class theatre to small communities in Northern Ireland as well as bringing their voices to the world stage. They are a conduit between rural communities and urban platforms, providing a space for exchange, brokering wider conversations about the local, the global and our place in society. They are pioneering playmakers, using creativity as a catalyst, and placing people at the centre of their work to provoke thought and explore the possibility of change. They believe in the transformative power of the arts. They believe in this place, in the people who call it home. Big Telly is core funded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and receives support in kind from the Causeway Coast and Glens Council. 

Hare’s Corner Cooperative

The Hare’s Corner Cooperative is a membership-based organisation providing support to creators, makers, facilitators and dreamers to do what they love with the care of people and the natural world at the heart of their practice. The Cooperative emerged out of the Garvagh People’s Forest Project which came to a close in 2022. 

Rural Community Network 

The Rural Community Network (RCN) is a registered charity and regional voluntary membership-based organisation supporting rural communities across Northern Ireland. RCN works with rural communities to address issues relating to poverty, inequality, community and good relations and strives to develop the capacity and skills of groups to articulate their voice at a policy influence level. 

Wild Awake 

Wild Awake is a not for profit social enterprise. Its purpose is to develop and provide learning which inspires change towards a more sustainable planet, and support people to live healthy and happy lives which respect natural limits. It achieves this through providing learning which reconnects people with the natural world through first-hand experience. It brings educational expertise in terms of curriculum development, writing learning resources, educational strategy, training and consultancy. 

Climate Action Fund - Nature and Climate

This funding aims to help communities across the UK to address climate change. We’re looking for projects that focus on the link between nature and climate. We want to fund projects that use nature to encourage more community-led climate action.

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