25 years of SuperValu TidyTowns: from local initiative to national obsession
Published 06/04/2016 | 13:29
SuperValu are celebrating 25 years of sponsorship of Ireland’s SuperValu TidyTowns competition. A Fáilte Ireland initiative, the competition which began in 1958 was started to inspire civic spirit, expand the tourism market and to encourage people to take pride in their locality, is now a national institution.
When you think back to 25 years ago, Ireland in 1992 was a very different place. Donegal win the All- Ireland Football Championships, Mary Robinson was in Áras an Uachtaráin and Roddy Doyle published The Van. The country was a vastly different place than it is today. The Celtic Tiger was yet to roar and Riverdance was a twinkle in Michael Flatley’s eye. Ireland was a meeker, quieter, more inward looking place and there were only the stirrings of a national pride that would ultimately blossom into an international identity on a local and global level.
SuperValu TidyTowns was instrumental in bringing people together at a local level to take pride in their locality, encouraging people to work together to aspire to be the best community in the country. Competition brings out the best in us; it is one of the drivers of the SuperValu TidyTowns competition. The competition, which is administered by the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government since 1995, has seen the friendly rivalry between local and national committees evolve to a national obsession.
SuperValu came on board in 1992 to sponsor TidyTowns in what was a very natural fit. There are 221 SuperValu stores around the country and many of them are a fundamental part of the town, embedded in the fabric of the local community.
“SuperValu stores are an integral part of communities throughout Ireland. We believe in the power and value of helping to build vibrant local communities through providing employment, supporting local producers, local initiatives and local clubs. SuperValu TidyTowns brings people together to work for a common cause, making our towns and villages better places to live and ensuring we are providing sustainable communities for future generations to come,” says SuperValu’s Managing Director Martin Kelleher.
The competition continues to evolve with the different challenges local communities have to face. In the 80s, litter was still a real blight on the local high street and the SuperValu TidyTowns competition was an important contribution on changing how we think about our towns; throwing litter on the street today would be unthinkable. In the recession, when rural towns were decimated by emigration and closed retail units, pride became imperative for local communities.
“Last year, we introduced two new awards – the SuperValu Diversity Award and the SuperValu Youth Award. The addition of these accolades was a real endorsement of the growth of the competition and its ability to attract all age groups and embrace all cultures within our communities. Both awards generated an overwhelming number of entries and we will continue to drive further participation this year,” says Kelleher.
Probably SuperValu TidyTown’s greatest achievement has been not only bringing people to work together, but to also instil and inspire pride in a local area that continues to grow year on year. None of the competitions’ winners are prepared to rest on their laurels, but look to defend their position as Ireland’s tidiest town.
Locals in Malin still remember the 3rd of May, 1992. That was the day President Mary Robinson visited the small Donegal village to unveil a plaque celebrating their SuperValu TidyTowns National Winners Award Competition.
“That win 25 years ago was the start of a great run for us,” says committee member, Anne Monagle. “For example, we’ve gone on to win either silver or bronze almost every year since the millennium.”
“Continuity has been very important for us. The 10-person committee includes four members who have served since we won in 1992. We’re a small place, with a population of a few hundred, so we’ve always found that small things make a difference. For example, we don’t allow posters to be put up during election time. It isn’t a law, but we ask people to comply for the sake of our village and they’re happy to help out. You really notice that extra bit of tidiness when you arrive in Malin.”
“I’m delighted the way community groups, religious groups and the G.A.A work together for the benefit of the area. This gives us all access to a team of people in community employment groups, so there is no shortage of manpower and womanpower for community projects around Malin.”
The competitive spirit is alive and well in Malin. “We’re always looking for ways to improve the town, see if we can turn those silver and bronze medals into gold. So, for example, we have a new wildflower garden and bird-watching spots at the entrance to the town. And our community garden, which is allotments for locals, is fully up and running now. Working together, we really feel like we are pulling out all the stops this year.”
And will they win? “Well, if the sun shines on Malin, it’s one of the most beautiful places in Ireland. So we’re hoping for good weather when the judges arrive!”
SuperValu are very proud of their partnership with the TidyTowns competition over the last 25 years and will value it for many years into the future.