31 Aug 2013

Facelift for empty shops in Northern Irish town

6:53 am on 31 August 2013

One of the homes of Irish whiskey is fighting an economic downturn by brightening-up derelict shops and houses.

Bushmills is best known as the town where the whiskey of the same name was distilled for the first time 400 years ago.

About a dozen vacant premises in the main street have been given a facelift, including an old-style cobblers where a worker in a flat cap mends shoes.

A bakery selling bread and cakes is depicted up the road and a barber shop and bookmakers are nearby.

Windows and doors have been painted on to empty houses, complete with people observing passersby outside. Elsewhere, Farmyard animals are drawn coming out of shop doors.

The "Brighter Bushmills Project" was set up last year: £30,000 was raised, some of which was donated by the distillery.

A second phase was completed in March of this year with the help of government funds.

The Northern Ireland government has spent £2 million over the past two years to tackle dereliction.

"Obviously (people) would much rather see the properties filled and in use all the time, but this is definitely the next best option," said council director Aidan McPeake.

"The village has been very popular this year. It's been very successful."