Tuesday 20 March 2018

Five years to get creative!

Fingal County Council's Eithne Mallin tells John Manning how the local authority is planning to unleash the creative potential within the county

Eithne Mallin, who is co-ordinating Fingal’s ‘Creative Ireland’ programme
Eithne Mallin, who is co-ordinating Fingal’s ‘Creative Ireland’ programme

The creativity within every citizen of Fingal is set to be unlocked over the next five years as the county participates in a national initiative called 'Creative Ireland' aimed at encouraging the creative spirit in every aspect of Irish life.

The 1916 Centenary celebrations last year saw an unprecedented level of civic engagement in our culture and history and as legacy of that year-long event, both national and local government were seeking ways to keep that engagement going but with a new focus in mind.

The idea that emerged was to focus on Ireland's creativity, not only in the arts but in everything we do from sports, to how we conduct our business and how we engage with the wider world. A whole series of initiatives aimed at unleashing the creative spirit across the county will see their genesis over the next five years and the task of co-ordinating Fingal's 'Creative Ireland' programme falls to Fingal County Council's Eithne Mallin who is excited about the potential of the initiative.

Ms Mallin told the Fingal Independent: 'Creative Ireland is a legacy of the (1916) Centenary programme. I think what everyone recognised and national Government as well, was that the Centenary programme for 1916 was a far greater success than anyone anticipated and that the community engagement that was done by local authorities on the ground, with communities, in every county in the country was far greater in terms of its civil engagement was far greater than national Government had anticipated.'

To encourage that civic engagement to continue, a new programme was needed and the Creative Ireland programme was born.

The Creative Ireland co-ordinator for Fingal explained: 'It is a five-year programme based on five pillars, similar to the Centenary programme that was based on seven strands. It is a very high level, high ambition programme that is across departments at national Government level. For us at local Government level, within the local authority it is a cross-departmental culture team that we have put together. The work we did for the Centenary programme showed us that we were better together as a team than the individual silos we have in the arts office or the heritage office.'

The programme is based around five pillars that seek to enable the creative potential of every child in the country, enable creativity within communities, invest in creative and cultural infrastructure, make Ireland a centre of excellence for media production and 'unify our global reputation' which involves reaching out to the diaspora and the international community for their engagement in the programme.

The aims of the five pillars are 'ambitious' and 'wonderful' according to Eithne Mallin who said the five-year programme is 'an opportunity for us in 2017 and taking it on to 2022 to develop this whole creative picture for Fingal and if every county in Ireland does that, then we have a whole creative picture for the country and I find that really exciting'.

The council hopes it can help achieve the aims of all five pillars, but it is the second plank on the plan that it will be most effective in and that is reaching out to communities and fostering the creativity within those local communities.

To that end, there is an event on April 24 where the council want to listen to you and get feedback from the creative people of Fingal on what they want to see happen in the next five years and hear ideas to build 'sustainable creative initiatives' that may last well beyond the five-year time-frame of the Creative Ireland programme.

Ms Mallin explained: 'On April 24, we have a public information session because we want to engage with the wider community in Fingal to ask them, what they think they think the creative potential is in Fingal - what it is and what it could be. On that night, the Creative Ireland national team will come out to the Carlton Hotel on the old Airport Road.'

She added: 'The national team are coming out to tell the people of Fingal what Creative Ireland is, because people are struggling to understand it. The first reaction is often, will this bring more money or will artists get more money and in 2017? The answer is probably not (this year), because we are into April already and all the money has been allocated but on the 24th they are going to tell what the potential of Creative Ireland is for this year, and what it will be for the next five years.

'It will give us an opportunity for us to hear what they have to say but then we think it's an opportunity for people in Fingal to say what we are going to do for 2017, based on the fact that budgets are already allocated.

'The biggest thing that has come out some of the information sessions that have been held already, is that very often people still don't know that we are doing these things. And the biggest gain for people was the networking that went on the night between people involved in the arts, heritage, our built environment and digital media.'

Asked who she would like to see turn up for this open event, the Creative Ireland co-ordinator for Fingal said: 'It's for everyone - not necessarily just authors or artists or sculptors but everyone that feels they either appreciate creativity or they can bring something to the table and take part in this journey we are about to embark on. Our job is to present a plan for 2017 but also present a five-year programme and we want to engage with people so that we can hear what they say.

'They are going to come on this five-year journey with us and I just reckon they need to be there on the night and other events we are planning.'

The council official said the local authority want to see more than one-off events coming out of the process, and want to build 'sustainable initiatives' around the idea of creativity that will last the five years and beyond.

The council is also eager to get the message out that creativity does not live within the arts alone and can be found in every aspect of life in Fingal from sports to business and community work to our built environment as well as arts and crafts.

Ms Mallin cited sport as an example and explained: 'People even within the council struggle to think of something like sport as creative but it's how we do sport. We have Conan Byrne in Swords, and that goal he scored last Friday night was certainly creative.'

An annual event in Swords will be brought under the Creative Ireland umbrella this year when Cruinniú na Cásca comes to Swords Castle on Easter Monday.

The council is inviting you to join a host of crafters and artisan food producers at the Swords Castle Easter Market. The recently refurbished surroundings of the historic Swords Castle creates the perfect back drop for our Easter Monday activities which will include live music and entertainment, children's arts and crafts and lots more.

There will also be the opportunity to learn more about the history of Swords and its heritage sites with the Swords Heritage Trail open top bus tours.

The Creative Ireland co-ordinator said that inclusion will be a priority in the five year programme. She wants to see the council reach out to Fingal's new communities and make sure that the programme is accessible to all and free. 'Nobody will say I couldn't afford to send my child to that event, because it will be free - that is the objective and we will collaborate with anyone to make that happen,' she said.

The programme's success will depend on the buy-in of the community and to that end, Eithne Mallin encouraged everyone in Fingal to get involved. Ms Mallin concluded: 'We are a very creative local authority and we recognise this is a really important piece to the jigsaw of the services we deliver and the things that were involved in and we wanted to embrace this particular five-year programme and bring the people along with us in Fingal County Council because we can't do it on our own, by any stretch of the imagination. We might be the lead in the community engagement but we require all of the players and all of the stakeholders to be at the table to deliver on this creative picture for Fingal for the next five years.'

Fingal Independent