CAIRDE Teo Visit to Inverness and Stornoway
25 – 28 November 2014
CAIRDE Teo has a number of key objectives that the organisation is aiming to achieve in 2015/16 following our community exchange visit to consult with the marketing, finance and admin team at An Lanntair Cultural Arts Centre, staff at Culloden Visitor Centre in Inverness and representatives from the Dept of Human Resource Management, University of Strathclyde. Chief among our objectives are:
- Develop a business plan for a new Irish language café social enterprise before April 2015.
- Acquire suitable premises and secure sufficient resources to fit out a new Irish language café before December 2015.
- Train six Irish speakers to manage and run a modern, fit for purpose Irish language café in Armagh City Centre before October 2015.
- Develop a business plan for a new, bilingual Gift Shop and Visitor Centre by April 2015.
- Acquire the necessary capital equipment, premises and other resources to open a Gift Shop and Visitor Centre by September 2015.
- Train four individuals from the local community to manage and run a Gift Shop and Visitor Centre in Armagh City Centre before December 2015.
With these key objectives in mind, the emphasis of our meetings and engagements in Scotland centred on:
- a focus on how Gaelic could be a differentiating factor for the community/enterprise;
- the use of Gaelic as a medium of communication within the community/enterprise;
- the promotion of joint initiatives and opportunities between CAIRDE Teo and An Lanntair;
- recruitment and training of bilingual staff for community enterprises.
Representatives of our social enterprise team – Julie Ní Néill and Máire Ní Phronntaigh – embarked on the visit to Scotland in late November. Unfortunately, adverse weather conditions on the day of arrival prevented air transfers from Inbhir Nis to Steòrnabhagh and meant that practically all of day one was lost in the airport awaiting updates of when it was safe to travel. Nevertheless, upon arrival at An Lanntair on the second day of our trip we had an excellent meeting with representatives from senior management and the hospitality and catering departments of the Western Isles leading arts and cultural centre.
Management at An Lanntair took us on a guided tour of the facilities and provided us with a detailed briefing on how the site had been acquired and how the capital build project had been advanced over a period of almost 20 years. Catherine Maclean, the Shop Manager & Special Projects Curator, outlined in detail the mechanics, rewards and pitfalls of running a cultural arts centre including useful information about administration, funding, retail development and project management. We also learned about the socio-demographics of the town which has a population of less than 10,000, approximately half of whom are speakers of Gàidhlig.
Further meetings with representatives of the restaurant team elicited extremely valuable information on the day to day logistics of running a bilingual café. Interestingly, the café is an entirely separate franchise from An Lanntair’s main enterprise. The reasons for this were outlined and offered us several new perspectives in terms of the various options available to our own proposed bilingual café facility in Ard Mhacha.
Upon returning to the mainland on Day Three, we had scheduled visits in Inbhir Nis to meet with representatives of Culloden Visitor Centre and the University of Strathclyde. Both engagements were extremely productive and highly informative.
The new Cùil Lodair Battlefield Visitor Centre and Exhibition opened in December 2007 and is owned by the National Trust. The previous facilities had struggled to cope with visitor numbers at peak times. The new centre and exhibition allows the whole Culloden story to be told in an innovative and interactive way which appeals to all the family. Many lessons were drawn by the CAIRDE Teo representatives on how a vibrant, modern cultural centre can be run with the requisite investment and support. During our day spent at Cùil Lodair, staff guided us through the centre’s modern, environmentally friendly facilities, their Living History presentations, the excellent visitors’ restaurant, the busy (and lucrative) gift shop and the dedicated facilities for education meetings, research, presentations, seminars, product launches and functions.
Our final engagement in Inverness was with representatives from University of Strathclyde’s HRM department, Professor Paul Stewart and his colleague Dr. Brian Garvey. The University of Strathclyde is committed to the aspirations and objectives set out in the National Plan for Gaelic and the Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005 and has identified commitments and allocated responsibilities for ensuring that Strathclyde contributes as best it can to the future sustainability of the Gaelic language and culture in Scotland. Their representatives discussed with us the potential of bilingualism to be a USP in our plans for a community enterprise café and gift shop within the forthcoming cultúrlann in Ard Mhacha. They provided us with literature on recruitment, socio-linguistics and the University’s ‘Gaelic Language Plan’ formulated in 2012 at the request of Bòrd na Gàidhlig. This plan has been prepared by the University of Strathclyde within the spirit of Section 3 of the Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005.
CAIRDE representatives have already arranged to develop further linkages with the University of Strathclyde School of Business and will attend a seminar at the University in January 2015 to develop a three year strategy for inter-cultural education and social enterprise projects in Europe with a strong Irish language dimension. In addition, representatives at An Lanntair and Culloden have kindly agreed to offer us further business and project development advice as and when required. University of Strathclyde has also agreed to arrange return visits to Armagh in order to help mentor CAIRDE officers during set-up of our new enterprise projects.
In summary, CAIRDE Teo officers agreed that their See Us! Trip marked a very important milestone in their plans to create two new cultural enterprises that will add to the growing tourist and visitor infrastructure in Armagh City. The trip has reinforced our determination to develop an Irish language enterprise hub in Armagh City that will stimulate the creation and development of start-up cultural enterprises through training, support and the provision of affordable premises. Many lessons were learned, contacts made and valuable experience gained over the course of three hectic days.
CAIRDE Teo would like to thank CeangalG See Us! Exchange Programme for their financial assistance and we look forward to developing future initatives with the CeangalG team.
Is mise le meas,
Máire Ní Phronntaigh, Retail Development Officer
CAIRDE Teo, Sráid Thomáis, Ard Mhacha, BT61 7AE