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Workspace Chronicle. Celebrating 30 years of serving the community.

Workspace Chronicle. Celebrating 30 years of serving the community. Download The Workspace Group Chronicle


Thirty years ago Draperstown was aptly described as the place where the bus came, stopped, turned round and then went back to where it had come from.

It was a vulnerable, declining place fixed firmly on the economic margins. And it was declining from a low starting base rather than from one of prosperity. Emigration was a fact of life, jobs were scarce, local industry was underpinned by a fading textiles sector and prospects seemed grim.

Unveiling 1985

The official unveiling in 1985. Pictured are George Mackey, Chief Executive LEDU, Cllr Mary McSorley and John Donnelly, Chairman Workspace

But there were also great local strengths. These included strong heritages and traditions, a powerful sense of community, entrepreneurial flair, a belief in hard work however and wherever it could be found and a passion for self-help and local co-operation.

Draperstown’s problems were not unique and were equally experienced by much of rural Ireland. What was different about Draperstown was the local power and energy that were generated to tackle the problems. In too many other places it was a case of “nobody shouting ‘Stop!’” Here it was instead a case of many, many candles being lit to clear the darkness. Workspace was and is at the heart of that.

Those candles have since made Workspace and Draperstown shining lights in the local development world. Because local life is varied and because Workspace is market-driven, it has developed a very wide-ranging portfolio. Its business activities and areas of interest now include business start-up/growth support, childcare/ after-school provision, insulation, energy efficiency and heat recovery, employability programme delivery, property/workspace for rent, recreation and leisure, recruitment, rural and urban regeneration, social inclusion and training.

Workspace’s original seven Directors

Workspace’s original seven Directors.

Workspace is, in fact, open for a great deal of business.

Sperrin Bakery were one of the first tenants of for a great deal of business.

Sperrin Bakery were one of the first tenants of for a great deal of business. Workspace in 1985 and are still baking away

The Story So Far

  • Local people first came together in 1981 to talk through how the area’s chronic unemployment might be tackled
  • By 1984, a Training Workshop was up-and-running and the community had raised £40,000 in share capital to take things forward
  • The subsequent purchase of a vacant local shirt factory to provide workspace for small businesses clearly signalled a new start arising out of old closures
  • Strong Rural Development Programmes and the allocation of economic development powers to Councils in the early 1990s aided the momentum
  • Later in the 1990s society’s growing energy efficiency concerns saw the creation of Homeseal: energy is now a major part of the Workspace portfolio
  • Workspace then helped ‘pumpprime’ the Rural Housing Association, Townland Community Radio, Country Markets, The Rural College and many other major initiatives
  • Workspace is not an insular organisation and has business interests across Ireland and Britain
  • The company’s group structure covering eight different businesses provides flexibility, focus and the constant ability to react to community and market needs and trends
  • Quality is a core Workspace value and is evidenced by IIP and ISO 9001/18001/14001 accreditations as well as a long list of prestigious awards
  • The Group now operates from 15 different locations


Up and Up

In its first formal year, Workspace had a high level of activities generating £59,000 of income and had created assets worth £63,000. Ten years later it was earning £1.94m and had grown its asset base to £1.16m. Today its annual income is £12m and its assets are worth £6.1m. It started with a group of volunteers and it now directly employs 172 people. That puts it in the ‘top 1%’ of businesses in NI by employment size. It’s very fitting that a Draperstown initiative should grow mighty oaks from tiny acorns!

Chamber Award 2013

Workspace won UK Chamber of Commerce Award for Sustainability in 2013


An Enterprising Programme

Workspace’s roots lie in training and specifically in the Moyola Community Workshop set up in 1984. Since then it has become central to the delivery of virtually every major government employment, training and skills development initiative. That amounts to well over 20 in total. Workspace’s delivery is consistently excellent with performance targets exceeded time after time. An example of one was our Up for Work programme which helped 267 unemployed people locally to get back into permanent jobs.

From Strength to Strength

Workspace is unequivocally a social enterprise and has always worked to a clearly-understood model. It combines tried-and-tested business practices with good commercial acumen to deliver social results. The company actively celebrates profit and then promptly re-invests that profit to achieve new results. Workspace puts in. It doesn’t take out. Its results are inspirational. And it’s all strategically led by volunteers.


Draperstown is now a vibrant area, with a young and growing population.
People now want to move here and peace, technology and new ways of doing things have transformed life. But the basics remain the same. How can we continue to keep our young people at home? How can we develop good jobs locally? What are the community needs that are not being met? How do we make sure our people have the knowledge and skills they need to take them on through the 21st century? How do we react to global trends and patterns? How can we be comfortable with and within ourselves? How can we improve our local quality of life? Most crucially of all, how can we use business to help address these issues?

Workspace will continue to look for answers to these questions. We didn’t set out in the 1980s to do a time-limited piece of work. Instead that work goes on. That cause endures.

Our success is a combination of many people and organisations including members of the local community who provided initial funding, our directors, management and staff, the various government departments and agencies we work with and of course our customers who are our products and services. Many thanks to all for the magnificent team effort.

Workspace. Passionate about business delivering to our community

1985- 2015

Our Locations

  • The Business Centre
    Draperstown, BT45 7AG
  • The Business Centre
    80-82 Rainey St
  • Magherafelt, BT45 5AJ
    2nd Floor, Molesworth Place
  • Molesworth Street
    Cookstown, BT80 8NX
  • 7A Port Road
    County Donegal
  • 1-4 Parker Ave, Castledawson
    Magherafelt, BT45 8AR
  • Dungannon Enterprise Centre
    2 Coalisland Road
    Dungannon, BT71 6JT
  • Omagh Community House
    2 Drumragh Avenue
    BT78 1 DP
  • 2nd Floor
    Spring House
    Springwell Street
    Ballymena BT43 6AT
  • The Old School House
    19a Church Hill Road
    Ballymena BT42 2NL
  • 10 Cheston Street
    BT38 7BH
  • 12e Market Square
    BT41 4AW
  • Farranshane House
    1 Ballygore Road
    BT41 2RN
  • 14a Old Glenarm Road
    BT41 1RW
  • Business Centre
    River House, Castle Lane
    Coleraine BT51 3DR
  • Unit 4a
    Kayley Industrial Estate
    Richmond Street
    Ashton Under Lyne
    Manchester, OL7 0AU