Conference: Heritage as an Engine of Economic Growth in Mid-Sized Towns: The Review

 

As I said earlier, I went to a conference under my blog name not knowing what to expect. I expected many archaeologists or heritage-like people to be there. Yeah there were a few conservation officers here and there but I was surrounded by a lot of architects, town planners, council workers, those kind of folk. What did I expect from a conference being held in Wood Quay Civic offices? Anyway it was intimidating sitting in a room full of professional strangers wearing a badge about being a blogger, but hey, it’s what I signed up for.

The official title of the conference was ‘Heritage as an engine of economic growth in mid-sized towns’ and was organised by The Heritage Council, pretty nice people from what I’ve seen of them. The main points from people in general were around using heritage as a means to making money. The main problem I personally had with the idea was the ‘goal’ of making money. I think it’s a good goal, and needed practically, but heritage is primarily about heritage. It’s there to inspire, to fascinate, to question, to love. For me, this conference wouldn’t have been considered a few years ago because only now do people now feel the need to justify heritage in terms of money. People mentioned that it wasn’t all about money which was nice though. The 2nd speaker spoke particularly on how heritage can give a sense of place and identity, build community, foster learning, can train people and then stimulate the economy.

The speaker list is below with the title of the talk from each one. The interesting points to note were number 4, who talked about an old workhouse being converted into a shopping centre and how they tried to retain the original feel of the place while people went shopping, with apartments above. For me, it didn’t work. Maybe it can’t work, maybe it can, but this particular project was compromised too much. Number 6 was the ‘typical’ talk where the town of Cashel wanted to ‘buy in’ to the Rock of Cashel and it’s 250,000 visitors every year. They wanted tourists to go to other sites in the area, and to spend money in Cashel and link the two together. The main proposal was to offer a connecting way through the private land between the town and the rock.

I ended being inspired and happy that I live in Maynooth, which has a lot of heritage, though so much more of it could be on show. Practically it seems the Heritage Council will support people and their projects, but there wasn’t exactly a unified plan upon leaving.

If you wish to find out more on the other talks, drop me a post. Otherwise I’ll leave you with this final point. Many people in the room were bemoaning the state of Ireland with it’s bad development and planning…but wasn’t I in a room FULL of planners and council workers?

A big thank you to the Heritage Council for organising the conference

Talks:

1.David Geddes, Principal Associate, Colliers International
Why every town should make the most of its historic environments

2.Craig Bullock, Environmental Economist and Research Fellow, School of Geography, Planning & Environmental Policy, UCD
The economic benefits of protecting built heritage – evidence from Northern Ireland

3.Louise Harrington, Heritage Consultant and Part-Time Lecturer, School of Planning, UCC
Four towns in the southwest and their different scenarios

4.Cormac O’Sullivan, Senior Architect/Planner, Bluett & O’Donohue Architects
Conservation and development in historic towns: the contribution of, and impact upon, sites of heritage significance, the McDonagh Junction Development, Kilkenny

5.Orla Murphy, Architect and Lecturer, School of Architecture, UCD
StreetLife

6.Clare Lee, Executive Planner, South Tipperary County Council
Destination Cashel, Planning and Tourism in Cashel, Co. Tipperary

7.Aileen Aherne, Manager, Youghal Socio-Economic Development Group
Youghal’s journey in using heritage as a driver for economicgrowth

Panel Discussion
Theme: How do we get heritage to help the economy of a town?

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One comment on “Conference: Heritage as an Engine of Economic Growth in Mid-Sized Towns: The Review

  1. daithi82 says:

    I agree with your perspective on heritage. I think the Heritage Council does a fantastic job despite it’s funding being constantly slashed and proposals by the government to merge it with other agencies. I think the problem heritage in general faces is that it is not always easy to make a direct profit on it. Sometimes the benefits will be more indirect. Just because we are going through an economic crisis doesn’t mean we should abandon all the things which contribute to our sense of identity.

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