TLP Participant Story South Belfast: Mervyn Smyth

Mervyn works with Belfast Exposed and did the TLP in the Belvoir, Taughmonagh, Finaghy, Annadale/Ballynafeigh area of South Belfast in Autumn 2021.

He completed the course alongside participants from: Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, GEMS NI, National Museums NI, Donegall Pass Community Forum, NI Assembly, Chinese Welfare Association, Cats Protection and Forward South.

“What the TLP does is give a voice to people on the ground who are affected at a real level, rather than those out of the area who think they know what those on the ground want and need. The TLP opens up dialogue.”


Introduction and Motivation

Before signing up to the programme, were you aware of any other similar programmes in your area?

No – saw it on the NICVA site and was interested in doing this.

What motivated you to sign up to this particular programme over any others?

I liked that the TLP engages with community sector.

Experience and Learning

What topics stood out for you?

  • Leadership models – looking at own leadership styles. Who am I?
  • Networking with other groups and communities – the difference experiences we all brought to it.

What are you likely to ‘take back’ to your life/work in the community?

  • Networking opportunities
  • Realising when looking at yourself, others are in different timescales to yourself – driving things forward needs agreement with others; and keeping the right people on-board if that means working to their timescales. Had a recent example working with a Travellers group, importance of taking the time to gain trust.

How would you summarise your experience of the programme in 1 sentence or in 3 words?

Informative, educational, and great fun to meet new people I wouldn’t usually have met.


Is there anything you could or would do now that you wouldn’t have felt able to do before?

Approaching people who we haven’t worked with before and taking time to understand their needs and values, and to respect those values. Take other groups’ parameters into account.

Are there people/agencies you feel able to talk to and work with now that you weren’t before?

  • Yes – funnily enough, we started work again with the Department of Justice on a different level and NHSCT. Holylands Support Group – and looking to engage with Siri (also on the programme). And connecting a Yoga Teacher with a group who were looking for someone. It opened up new avenues.
  • Writing a BCC application, and have included the Holylands in this to assist a photography project; and to make this happen.
  • Working with GEMS before the TLP, and this has helped cement that relationship.

What difference will this make to how you engage in your interface area?

Realising we network more effectively as Belfast Exposed, opened up communications. Understanding what people are doing

What difference will the course make to the interface area overall? Especially in terms of relationships, collaboration, and increased understanding in the area?

What the TLP does is give a voice to people on the ground who are affected at a real level, rather than those out of the area who think they know what those on the ground want and need. The TLP opens up dialogue.


Which issues in particular do you think you might get involved in?

  • Engagement with the Holyland and the FSP Holyland Capacity Worker (as above)
  • Involved with the South Belfast TLP Project and the walking trail.

How will you apply new ways of working, ideas or approaches?

  • We have regular staff meetings and also strategy meetings. Bringing ideas to staff meetings, sharing, hearing voices of all staff, and this informing the strategy.
  • For example, we now have an intern with us from Canada – bringing new ideas, and understanding the context of the archive, and feels more empowered to do this. Feeling part of the organisation and the direction the strategy is going in. A real improvement to the organisation.


To what extent do you think these changes would have occurred in the absence of this course? i.e. would you have developed these skills and be motivated to do something new anyway?

  • Probably not, the archive was always left to me and so much was in my head. Now have the skill to share ideas and share responsibilities.
  • Taking new projects further forward with TLP colleagues – which would not otherwise have happened.
  • Enjoy that there is no hierarchy amongst participants, learning from others’ experiences in many different ways.

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