Only a few days left to apply to the Acorn Fund

The Acorn Fund’s Legacy Grants will be closing soon on 15th November. Grants of up to £3,000 available for community and voluntary groups in the County Derry/Londonderry area for innovative arts and culture projects.

Supported by the Big Lottery Fund, the grants are part of the Acorn Fund’s City of Culture Legacy programme and are available to projects that use arts and culture within their communities to create social networks, encourage talent, develop skills and bring people together.

One group which has benefitted from the funding is Glasgowbury, which received two community grants totalling £4,000 from the Acorn fund in 2015 and 2016. They used the grants for the Rural Key Programme which helps young people from rural mid Ulster get experience in the music and creative industries. Glasgowbury has also provided mentoring to young people like Conor Donnelly who also received a £2,949 grant from the Acorn Fund in 2015 through the Inspire Bursaries.

Conor Donnelly with his mentor Dermot McBride
Conor Donnelly with his mentor Dermot McBride

Conor, 21, from Draperstown has a learning disability and struggled academically but always had an artistic talent and an interest in graphic design and digital animation. Living in such a rural area there weren’t many opportunities in arts projects so the Acorn Fund’s Inspire Bursaries offered a unique opportunity for him to develop his skills.

Conor applied for a bursary to allow him to buy a Laptop, Adobe software and a subscription to Digital Tutors which is an online learning platform. He also received one-to-one mentoring from Dermot McBride from Glasgowbury to learn how to use the software and build his skills in digital art and animation.

Conor said:

“My mentor Dermot was excellent, he helped me buy the equipment I needed and choose the right software. He helped me set up and install everything and we worked out a schedule together that suited my needs. I found the programs difficult at first but Dermot broke each one down each step by step, and now I’m going through it smoothly with no problems.”

Conor’s mentoring took place at the Cornstore Creative Hub, which is run by Glasgowbury. He attended Monday to Thursday with one hour of mentoring provided each day. Conor developed his digital art and animation skills by learning to use Photoshop and After Effects software. He used Digital Tutors for training as well as receiving mentoring and guidance during this time.

“It was a great experience to come into the Cornstore everyday and have access to a table in a creative hub. I’ve had an opportunity to talk to and learn from people who also have an interest in animation, poster designing and film making.”

Once Conor’s skills were developed and he gained more confidence being in a work environment he felt able to get a job volunteering in a charity shop. Conor also joined a Samba Band at Glasgowbury and joined their creative pathways project.

“I got a volunteer job a couple of days a week in a charity shop in Cookstown. I started off as an office volunteer for the charity, but once they heard that I knew how to design posters from the learning I had received at Glasgowbury, they asked me to design their poster. I now volunteer for them as a designer as well.”

Dermot McBride, Conor’s mentor at Glasgowbury said:

“It was great to see Conor’s confidence in himself and his artistic ideas grow as he developed his digital skills. When he first began, Conor seemed a little reluctant to show off his artwork and didn’t seem too confident about its merit, but as we went along he opened up more and his confidence in his own abilities seemed to strengthen and grow.”

Paddy Glasgow, who founded Glasgowbury and spent time with Conor during his mentorship said:

“I have seen a great change in Conor since he first started the program with Glasgowbury. He has learned many new skills and is able to communicate in a new more positive way.

“Conor’s mother Mary has also said to me that it has been good for her son’s focus and it was fantastic to get the grant support from Acorn and to have such a resource in the Glasgowbury Cornstore Creative hub in a Rural area.

“Thanks very much to Shauna and the Acorn Fund for supporting Conor at this time. I would recommend to anyone out there who could benefit from funding to contact the Acorn Fund team and explore opportunities.”

For more information on the Acorn Fund please visit

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