independent

Wednesday 23 April 2014

Gathering momentum

'SO OLD, SO NEW' - CO. WEXFORD REACHES OUT

At the Wexford Gathering meeting (from left) Ann Waters Hook Lighthouse; Catherine MacPartlin, Ferns Gathering; John Hegarty, Chairman, Wexford Gathering Steering Committee; Fionnan Nestor, Failte Ireland; Jimmy Gahan Conference of International...

THREE used to be 'a crowd', now it's a 'gathering'.

That was one of the messages the Wexford Gathering committee delivered to the people of Wexford as they took time out for an update on progress during a Gathering 2013 breakfast briefing in the County Buildings last week.

Wexford Gathering committee chairman Cllr John Hegarty said that all across the county people are getting ready to welcome all those with a connection to Wexford, ' be it blood or emotional'. He said the reason behind the breakfast meeting was to report on the initiative's developments to date, and to 'prove Gabriel Byrne was talking blarney' as he jokingly put it.

This was in response to actor Byrne's widely reported comments ridiculing the Gathering 2013 tourism drive as a 'scam' and branding the Taoiseach's speech launching the initiative as 'offensive'.

Cllr Hegarty told the attendance in County Buildings that the year long programme of gatherings will 'give everybody a chance to reach back to the ideals which Ireland is based on'.

At every possible opportunity the organisers are promoting the message of Wexford being 'so old, so new', he said, billing the county as a place with a rich heritage and equally a modern business community and society. This, it is hoped, will help sell the county as a must-visit tourist destination to those abroad.

Wexford's official 'gathering calender' is quickly filling up with a diverse range of events. 25 'gatherings' have already been confirmed in County Wexford, with a further 15 on the drawing board.

Catherine MacPartlin of Ferns Development Association gave details of a three-day festival which is planned to take place on June 7, 8 and 9.

She said the village will be overrun with historic characters such as Diarmuid MacMurrough and Brian Boru as the residents stage re-enactments.

With a strong focus on local history, Ferns Castle will become the focal point of the weekend, with tours organised to raise awareness of the village's 'own rich heritage'.

A history of a different kind will be explored at Hook Lighthouse when a gathering of light keepers from right across Ireland and, Europe take a trip down memory lane.

'Much has changed since lighthouses became automated in 1996,' said Ann Waters of Hook Lighthouse, when she addressed the crowd at last Wednesday's meeting.

In keeping with Wexford's rich maritime culture, Lorraine Galvin of the John Barry Maritime Festival briefed the crowd on her plans to expand on this year's festival and make the 2013 event bigger and better.

Lorraine has already set about forging links with the US Navy in a bid to attract a large number of American maritime enthusiasts to travel to Wexford for the festival.

Sabrina Kavannagh of the Wexford Gathering committee explains that any occasion can become a gathering once a connection is made with someone abroad and they are invited to come to Wexford during the year.

'People think it has to be a big do but it doesn't, you could just invite a couple of friends to visit you for a catch-up and that is a gathering,' she said.

In order to encourage everybody to take part and invite friends, family or colleagues to visit Wexford, postcards have been posted out to all homes carrying the catchline: 'Come visit us in 2013 and be part of it!'

For larger-scale events, voluntary groups will require a little help in getting things off the ground. With that in mind local authorities have been allocated a budget of €1 million to support local groups who can ensure that their event will attract a minimum of ten overseas visitors.

The minimum grant is €500 and the maximum which will be paid out is €2,500.

To further assist voluntary groups, Amanda Byrne of Wexford County Council has hosted four community training workshops throughout the county to help those groups and organisations organising events.

To find out more about The Gathering visit www.thegatheringireland.com or call 053 9196557.

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