Gracehill Heritage

Gracehill Heritage

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DELEGATES from the United States, UK and Europe descended on Gracehill recently for a conference to discuss its World Heritage Nomination.
This was the third in a series of four international conferences, the previous ones having taken place in Bethlehem, USA and Herrnhut, Germany.
On Tuesday, March 22 delegates were given a tour of the village and entertained by a silver band. They received a warm welcome made all the more so by the bright Spring sunshine which persisted throughout the conference. A number of international delegates also attended via ZOOM.
Proceedings began with a short welcome service in Gracehill Moravian Church conducted by Bishop Sarah Groves.
Following the service a specially commissioned music video featuring pupils from some of the post primary schools in the Ballymena Learning Together group was launched.  This included an old song entitled “Gracehill” which had been found in the church archives. Later in the morning the musical theme continued with a lively and enthusiastic performance by the P3 class of Gracehill Primary School.
The two-day conference included a mixture of workshops and also tours of the Settlement to look at the historic planned layout, a number of the listed buildings including the newly restored Old Village Shop, which dates from 1787, in addition to visits to God’s Acre and the village Square where visitors were entertained by Ballyduff silver band. 
Workshops reviewed the documentation that is in preparation for submission to UNESCO in Paris as the next step in the application process nears completion. A conference dinner was hosted by the Mayor, Cllr William McCaughey, who presented plaques to visiting representative to mark their visit to the Borough.
Speaking at the conclusion of the Conference David Johnston, Chair of Gracehill Trust, said “The conference has been a great success. Not only did we get a lot of work done and deepen our international partnerships but we also were blessed with wonderful Spring weather and visitors saw Gracehill and Northern Ireland at their absolute best. We thank all those who work tirelessly year round to make Gracehill a special place for all to enjoy and where all are welcome.”
 Gracehill, Ireland’s only complete Moravian Church Settlement and Northern Ireland’s first designated Conservation Area,  has taken a vital step in their long quest for World Heritage Site Status.  It was recently confirmed that the village has  been added to the United Kingdom Tentative List for potential nomination to UNESCO for this coveted international award.
The Gracehill community have been working with international partners since 2002 to achieve World Heritage recognition.
In 2015 the Settlement of Christiansfeld, Denmark achieved inscription on the UNESCO List and Gracehill is now working with Bethlehem (USA) and Herrnhut (Germany) as part of a transnational nomination for extension of the Danish listing. This is being led by Bethlehem in Pennsylvania with the support of the US Government.
 The World Heritage List recognises sites of cultural and/or natural significance which are so exceptional as to transcend national boundaries and to be of common importance for present and future generations of all humanity. Northern Ireland has a single World Heritage Site, the Giant’s Causeway, which is a natural site.
If Gracehill is successful, this would be the first World Heritage Cultural listing in Northern Ireland.
Gracehill will now work with their international partners to submit documentation for consideration by the UNESCO committee. This process is likely to take several years.

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