I’ve lived in this community my entire life.

In this area you always felt a strong sense of community. There are a lot of families like ours who have been here 30+ years. They had children who have chosen to stay in the area. The housing waiting lists of Grosvenor/Roden Street is quite high – which is a good sign.

It’s really hard to get a house here – it’s not so hard to get a flat.

My family home was social housing… it was very, very poorly designed. It was one of the first properties in this estate, built about 1975.

view through doorway to divan bed

The estate was designed in a rather peculiar way where the homes were back to front. 

So, what looked like their front was actually their back. It meant that if you were in your living room the property facing you were looking out their bedroom.

There wasn’t a lot of distance given for gardens.  In fact there were no gardens, you only had a yard.

In the centre of the estate was a football pitch – for want of a better term.

Basically, it was a hard surface with walls and football posts painted on.

As the estate grew it became a problematic as a place where lads gathered. But when there were festivals and things it was also a place where people in the community gathered for positive types of activities.

When the Troubles/War….whatever…. started for security reasons, they seemed to design the estate with a lot of alley ways that were one-way.

You can’t come out at the bottom end.

It’s not the worst thing actually –  it probably stops the joyriding.

inside view of front door in black and white

I’m in this house 16 years. I bought it from my sister.

Four of us, live here – off and on. There’s myself and my partner, my niece who fluctuates in and out of living here, and my dad – when he can’t stay round there on his own.

My sister had purchased the property from the ‘Right To Buy’ scheme from the Housing Executive.

She wanted to move at that time and the guy that I was seeing at that time needed to move from his house too so we rented off her for a while here. Had all those factors not been in play I probably wouldn’t have left the family home.

I’d probably still be there.

I kept it as it was for a while, then over the years I put two new kitchens in and paved the front and back.

Redecorated…. put a new bathroom in.  I was considering a loft conversion when my niece was here but it was very expensive and a lot of hard work so I just never got round to it.

bedroom and window of community space

Because this was an ex-Housing Executive property the bedroom sizes  are far better I think  than Housing Association properties.

They are far better than some private builds that I’ve seen. I think it’s quite well designed.

On this side it’s a Housing Executive property. There’s a nice lady in there. Next door is an owner-occupier, she is a young professional from Dublin. I quite like that she sees living here is viable for city centre commuting. 

I’m very proud of the community and surrounding areas.

There can be some fluctuating anti-social issues because it’s still an area of multiple deprivation. But there is still a sense, a real good sense, of community pride.

fluffy carpet and ornaments

My brother said: “knock all your walls down and have it totally open plan”.

He was saying: “knock this down and knock that down it will be massive”. I mulled it over and then I thought:  when you are cooking there’s the mess.

It’s not big enough for open plan.  So, no major drastic changes. Just a few cosmetic…. a bit of structural.

chimney breast and wall-mounted Tv

Sometimes in relationships you like separate rooms. You like a bit of space.

I had a real wooden floor, and it was lovely but it got badly marked because I never take shoes off.

The wall-mounted TV gives you more floor space.

I’d love to get rid of this whole thing (chimney breast) to give you a square living room,  but I know it would be a big job. This was an oil central heated property and I put gas in.

The PVC windows give you a nicer bay window –  you’ll find in this area quite a lot of the homes put those in.

The windows before that were just flat. You didn’t realise the difference it made until you changed it.

fireplace and woman seated

We have a shared alley way between this house and the house next door.

If you didn’t get on – it would probably be problematic. But we do get on so that’s fine.  

Next door is an older lady and it’s a social housing home. At any time that could be re-allocated and change hands so I wouldn’t rule out that you could have noise issues.

I wouldn’t say the plumbing here is fantastic. That might be right across the general area and community. A lot of sewers run underneath Distillery street and there’s actually a massive one under the leisure centre. Of late there’s been an issue with rats.

With the Westlink improvement scheme you had a big spike in the number of rats running about.

It’s not a bad house for storage. It’s well designed.

I don’t like clutter – but I don’t mind stuffing wardrobes with clutter as I am a bit of a hoarder.

ornamental mirror

I like soft furnishings.. and a bit of ornateness.

Palette-wise… I love green and more muted colours.

Previously, the kitchen had a hallway. It was a terrible shape, tiny. So I knocked that down. It wasn’t big enough for an island.

ornamental light fitting

I’d love real flowers all the time – but sure you’d be in the millionaire category.

I like good solid doors so I changed the doors, I didn’t want glass here. You like a bit of privacy.


You are conscious that it isn’t ‘the biggest house in the world’. You keep your mood up with lighter colours. 

For me, it’s about.. not over-spending on your furniture but sort of all-right quality. Sofa-wise I went cheaper this time because I can be quite untidy with sofas.

Kitchen… I just like a muted palette.

The house gives me a nice sort of feeling.

The rooms upstairs… the bigger bedroom… and the other two rooms  are very liveable. Although I think the bathroom could be bigger, it’s not a real deal breaker.

green painted dining area

I like picking up different stuff in places. I bought those when we got engaged.

The kitchen table came from Creations. Upstairs… a local furniture shop for the bed – they don’t need replaced that often. Oh, and The Hospice Shop.

My mum would have been a fan of charity shops.

You could get real good quality second hand furniture in them. She would always have had a good eye would have picked something up for me.

My mum always said: “It’s not where you live, it’s how you live.”

view down stairs to table and door

People here take great pride in their homes. There are some fabulously decorated homes in this area

You have some real gardening enthusiasts in this community.

Once one person does something on the street  it has an effect on everybody.  In all of the streets you’ll find maybe 2 or 3 people who are very house proud and it just keeps everything up.

Litter is an issue in the area though.

Generally in Belfast…it’s terrible. Some vandalism…and graffiti on walls that gives you that ‘ghetto’ look.

Throughout this community there would be a lot of homes that are very well furnished.

I would say mine would be about mid-range. Mine wouldn’t be at the higher end.

lamp and corner of sofa

My mum always loved TK Maxx for different types of things. I think that lamp was TK Maxx but it’s not the original shade.  It got dirty and I’m struggling to get the proper size, it was  massive.

I love the bottom of that lamp.

There’s a wee nest of tables there. I remember going to buy those with my mum and getting them into the car. And I can remember having the conversation so these …would be quite emotional for me. I would be very attached to them.

There is an elephant upstairs from my mum’s home and I’ve always loved it.

It’s was just something you always looked at at the top of the stairs. You always knew you were home…. So it’s made its way here.

garden in rain in community

You can see the top the garden it’s a bit like Alcatraz.

I had ivy – which I loved but it was dense. It was growing right over into the Royal.

I’m going to put up fake ivy because I kind of like a bit of privacy. The back yards could have done with 10 extra feet.

Previously, there was a massive oil tank here – honestly it could have powered the Royal. We got rid of that. There were really dense weeds and nettles and things so we had to clear all of that.

I had stones for a while and I quite liked the stones but they got everywhere. So, I just got a cheap paving guy out to do it. It gave you the ‘whole sort of space’. I would love grass… but sure.

barbed wire on wall

Years and years  ago there was an army barracks at the top of Roden Street.

That was demolished.

Those houses on the front were always 3-storey. There was an alleyway at the back of those and Mickey Marley lived there. That  story that he kept his horse at the back yard is true. When you were coming down from school along the alleyway the horse’s head was sticking over the top.

flower arrangement to community space

I have always liked living here because of the community and the proximity to the city centre and the Royal Hospital.

You forget how lucky you are to be so close to the hospital.

When my mum was ill… in the long nights,  If anything happened you were straight up there in an instant.

The footfall going up and down the Grosvenor Road from as long as I can remember has been diverse.

I just love living in this area and community.  You can be in Botanic gardens walking in 25 minutes and are near Queen’s University so you can have one foot in both worlds.

Living here you never feel trapped here.… you can just walk out and away.

Nuala Rooney

I am designer, educator and researcher developing creative and holistic human-centred insights within the social/spatial sphere.

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