CeangalG’s first major event, the Selling Our Story conference, ended after a very inspiring two days in Donegal with a call to action to cultural tourism operators.
Winding up the conference which was held in the shadow of Donegal’s iconic Mount Errigal, the CeangalG Marketing Manager Concubhar Ó Liatháin told over 100 delegates that ball was firmly in their courts to take action to develop five new cultural tourism products by the end of 2014.
The Ceangal G marketing manager emphasised that the project, funded under the Interreg IVa programme by the Special European Union Projects Body, would be on hand to offer marketing and training support.
The aim of the conference was to inspire action and to get people thinking in new ways about how best to sell our story,” said Concubhar. “The conference was structured with this in mind – with inspirational addresses from experts and practitioners and then workshops to set people on the right track and finally a further call to action.”
The conference began with CeangalG’s website launch on the evening of 27 February in the idyllic setting of a craft centre just adjacent to Ostán na Cúirte, the venue of the conference.
Minister for State for Gaeltacht Affairs and local TD (MP) Dinny McGinley launched the website while recounting his own links with Scotland where he spent Summers during his student years as a bus conductor in Glasgow.
I can boast that I introduced free travel to the many people from Donegal who were working in Glasgow long before it was introduced at home in Ireland!”
Next morning bright and early in the conference venue, events were commenced with a suitably inspiring musical item. Leading Irish singer Grainne Holland from Belfast, one of the conference delegates, sang an Irish translation of ‘Canan nan Gaedhal by Murchadh Mac Pharlain(1901-82, ó Mhealabost, Oileán Leodhais). If her rendition would’t inspire our delegates to action, it’s hard to know what would as it was a genuine ‘hair standing on the back of your neck moment’.
Co-author of the Irish Edge, Dr. Finbar Bradley was commissioned by CeangalG to undertake research to uncover the best examples internationally of cultural tourism projects which have thrived using a minority language. Dr. Bradley was able to draw on examples from Ireland and Scotland, of course, but he also spoke of projects in South America, Finland, the Basque Country and New Zealand in his address. His central point was that in a world which is becoming increasingly small due to technological advances, our sense of our own place gives us a distinct advantage in the marketplace. A substantial part of that distinction is our own language.
In a globalised world, making sense is more important than making stuff,” he said. “Promoting and using our own language is not just about the language, it’s about our own sustainability into the future.
A panel of practitioners from Ireland and Scotland gave a wide range of experiences to the conference after the break. Liam Ó Cuinneagáin’s account of the growth of the Oideas Gael project in Gleann Colmcille held up to all in the room the transformative effect a successful cultural tourism project can have on a rural location. Oideas Gael is now held up as the exemplar of language tourism in Ireland and regularly hosts celebrities and political leaders at its Irish classes. The presentation by Mary Schmuller from Ceolas gave an insight into the challenges of running a festival on the Isle of Uist while Deirbhile Standúin’s account of the establishment of Cnoc Suain, a cultural retreat in the Conamara Gaeltacht, was harrowing and inspiring.
Lunch was followed by the keynote address from Cilian Fennel, former head of programmes with TG4 and now an international consultant on storytelling. He told of the early days of the Irish language TV station – now approaching its 20th birthday – and how the station took a conscious decision to break with stereotype images associated with the Irish language to establish the station as a vibrant and vital element in modern Ireland. They unashamedly went after the younger audience. “Beautiful women speaking beautiful Irish”, was one of the early motifs of the station – and it still stands.
His most prescient advice came in his assertion that those working in the Gaelic sector – be it in Ireland or Scotland – have a great opportunity to make significant progress with our products.
Be truthful, and if you can’t be truthful, change your behaviour until you can,” he said.
There was a good attendance for the workshops in app building, signage and social media, areas which were selected as likely sources for the five products to be developed as a result of the Ceangal G conference.
Feedback from conference participants was very positive and the atmosphere excellent throughout the event.
We’re delighted with the success of the conference and we will now focus on helping participants in developing their products,” said Fionbar Ó Baoill, Ceangal G’s Donegal based Training Manager.