Northern Ireland

Irvinestown children make flowers for Ulster in Bloom

Paper flowers and real flowers side by side
Image caption Can you spot the difference between the surfinia and the stand-in?

Like everywhere else, a town in County Fermanagh felt the effects of the hot weather and the hosepipe ban.

The theme for the Irvinestown 17th annual summer scheme is Flower Power.

It coincides with the 40th Lady of the Lake Festival.

But while the 200 children and over 60 volunteers and staff made the most of the good weather, the effects of the sun meant disappointment for a town desperate to win an Ulster in Bloom title.

Jenny Irvine is the Chief Executive of the Arc Healthy Living Centre.

She said the children of the town made a special effort for the Ulster in Bloom competition.

Image caption 'All for one, and one floral'

All to little avail. But not easily deterred, the children turned to arts and crafts to try to save the day.

"The call for flowers came and we decided they didn't necessarily have to be real flowers, so the children have been hard at work making Irvinestown blooming marvellous," said Ms Irvine.

The children have spent hours piling, pleating, twisting and pulling thousands of pieces of crepe paper with pipe cleaners to make flowers to decorate the town.

Hours of work have been supervised by leaders and peer mentors, like Abigail.

"When you get to P7 you can't go to Summer Scheme anymore," she said.

"But you want to still do it, so the only way is to be a Peer Mentor."

Image caption Rachel and her friends could give the local florist a run for their money

Abigail and her fellow volunteers have cut up the multi-coloured crepe paper squares that make up the 'flowers', being assembled by children like 10-year-old Rachel.

"You get eight pieces and you stack them on top of each other.

"You wrap pipe cleaners around them and then fold them up."

She carefully demonstrated each move under the watchful eye of Lucy Linton, a former participant herself who came back as a leader.

"I guess even though you know other kids, on day one you're still apprehensive, you're not sure what to expect," she said.

"And I guess I know the impact it has on the community too, so I know that you're meeting people you may have seen about but you may not have necessarily spoken to, so it gives that all-round sense of friendship and meeting people you simply may not have crossed paths with before."

While the whole town was encouraged to weigh in on the bid for flower-filled glory, the project has helped fill some of the long holidays for the children.

"Our research from last year shows it makes a huge difference," said Ms Irvine.

"We know that the summer holidays are a very long time in Northern Ireland, and it can be very difficult, particularly for families from poorer areas.

"The issue of food poverty, the lack of opportunity to engage and educational attainment all slip when children aren't engaged in purposeful activity," she added.

Ms Irvine says the summer scheme goes some way to alleviating that.

"The basis of it is really making memories, that they have a wonderful summer and we're part of that."

Image caption The 'flower power' team rose to the occasion and went from post to post petaling their wares.

The peer mentors joined forces with the summer scheme mascot Ronnie, to 'flower-bomb' parts of the town.

Hopefully the sun will come back to preserve their handiwork just a little longer than the real thing.