Decade of Commemorations Leveraging the Past to Impact on the Present

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References: Leask, A, Yeoman I, (1999) Heritage Visitor Attractions an Operations Management Perspective, Publisher Cassell Lowenthal, D (1979) “Environmental perception: preserving the past” Progress in Human Geography Vol 3, P. 549 – 559

5.7 Conclusion and summary This chapter has set the broad context in which this research was based. The focus of the chapter was to provide a narrative of the different traditions on the island of Ireland and forms of dissonance but at the same time demonstrate how commemorations could impact on peace building and community cohesion and explores possible leveraging tools such as mythology that could be marketed as a tourism tool during DOC. The next chapter explores the different categories of events that DOC could deliver and the commercial potential contained within that area.

Chapter 6

Potential Event Trends and Themes for Decade of Commemorations - Creating Commercial Opportunities

6.1 Introduction

This chapter provides the reader with a range of potential themes and categories that events delivered through Decade of Commemorations could fit into. This chapter will discuss speculative events that could be developed that reflect upon the period 1915 and 1916 and potential event models that could be utilised around the key commemorations of The Somme, Gallipoli and Easter Rising. This can assist with assessing the type of tourist that potential events could be marketed to. The chapter aims to assess objective b and the commercial potential for events.

6.2 Commercial Opportunity or Respectful Commemoration?

Decade of Commemorations will encapsulate a ten year period from 1912 – 1923. Events that will take place across the decade will discuss the historical events of the time, reflect upon and evaluate the impact and legacy the events of 1912 – 1923 have had on our current society. Whilst Northern Ireland has developed an events strategy (NITB, ca 2013) within its tourism policy its approach to Ireland and GB has been to market itself onwards. Ireland has been behind large events initiatives such as The Gathering 2013 and has a festival and events funding programme for national events through Failte Ireland and a tourism policy (Failte Ireland, 2014) which contains a visitor experience type ‘Living Historical Stories’ and a market segment ‘Culturally Curious’ which living cultural heritage on the island of Ireland could be categorised into and capitalised through. Further, this policy document stresses that ‘There will be an examination of additional opportunities to present Ireland’s cultural and sporting heritage to visitors’ (Failte Ireland, 2014 P.25).

The argument for adequate policy to be further developed jointly by both governments on the island of Ireland around all island tourism events can be reinforced when Foley, Mc Gillivray and Mc Pherson stated “Events and festivals are, in economic terms, considered to be net generators of tourism producing both additional visitation and revenue to a destination” and “A link has been established between an increase in tourist arrivals in East Asia and the Pacific and the middle east” and ‘strategic changes in bidding for events and marketing in these regions” Foley, McGillivray & McPherson (2012 P.33/34). Further to this NITB (ca 2013, P.7) state “All aspects of culture, heritage and activities play a vital role in event experiences” and that tourists are now seeking ‘experiential tourism’ (ca 2013, P.9) in which they “encounter something different not necessarily a destination or a product but an ‘experience” and that the NITB objective is to create a culture where citizen and tourist can experience and attend a whole calendar of events. An opportunity exists to develop the cultural heritage within which music is at the forefront in communities on the island. In particular around the border area and north of Ireland. This tourism tool has potential to be developed and connected particularly to ‘culturally curious’ tourists and ‘living heritage’ which is embodied by community musicians across the island.

6.3 Drawing on myths and cultural legends to bring a city to life

To engage citizens and tourists as potential attendees the ‘experience’ must be evaluated and designed for Decade of Commemorations events. Zherdev (2014) states that cities are trying to attract ‘mobile citizens’ by ‘transforming cities and cultural spaces into experience spaces’ and a variety of activities and festival atmosphere can be the most important aspect to a participant’s attendance at an event. Zherdov further states that the cultural component and enticement and development of a creative class can assist in the festivalisation of a city. Empowering the creative class to take ownership of DOC as a theme could stimulate content for DOC events. Thus, allowing culture to be the force rather than politics and political agendas that citizens and tourists who ‘happen’ upon events engage with. Within the period a comparable could be drawn culturally on themes such as ‘Inion Na Heireann’ and ‘Sons of Ulster’ which could discuss these movements but also the romantic connotations contained within them such as the study of Gaelic, Irish literature, history, music and art. Further exploration could examine the creativity in the generation of tableaux vivants and ‘Bean Na hEireann’ magazine and the masculine blood soaked militaristic Ulster ideology generated under the Sons of Ulster pseudonym. Drawing a comparable and equivalents in the symmetry of the decade is key to ensuring inclusive engagement. An unidentified Unionist source stated “What the Sinn Fein strategy won’t tell you is about 2015 or 2016 is how we are moving and how culturally we are a very different country and different people today, the population split of the time is completely different, for example there are only small numbers of protestants in the RoI population. Britain will be discussed across the world apart from in Ireland. You will not get cultural connectivity until the imbalances in the narratives are addressed” and “I think the nature and complexity that was alive in Ireland during DOC is interesting and attractive to a big range of people not just because of local issues. It’s a microcosm of change that swept through Europe at the time and symbology that is still alive today, it’s not a museum piece. Most of the places have relevance today”.

Themes that explore ‘gender’ and societal experience to compare modern and historical experiences should also be explored in the event themes. The recognition of the role mothers played in holding families together or who sent sons to war in 1914/1915/1916 as recruiting posters in Ireland encouraged women to push their men into battle needs to be examined.


A 1915 poster from the Department of Recruiting for Ireland. (Image: Alex. Thom & Co., Ltd., Dublin/Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.)

The role of prominent women such as Countess Markievicz, Mary Mc Swiney and Mrs. Pearse and issues such as “gender equality (universal male and limited female suffrage at that time); societal approaches to issues such as disability (Re: the high number of people returning from war with severe disfigurements and disabilities); ethnicity (the role and treatment of soldiers “from the colonies” etc.); and sexual orientation which allow an examination of how far we have come, or how far we still have to go, in terms of equality and recognition/tolerance/promotion of tolerance and good relations etc.” Stephen McGowan (DCAL NI Apr 2015) must also be examined in event themes.

Quinn, B (2013, P.43) stated “The key to a successful festival is to find ways to create space for social interaction and facilitates visitors ability to have personal experiences” and “the ‘festival itself becomes a destination rather than simply an attraction of place – based destinations”. In this respect the destination becomes secondary to the festival and examples of large scale civic events that have become synonmous for travellers to visit alongside the destination include ADE (Amsterdam), Timewarp festival (Mannheim) and IMS Conference and Festival (Ibiza). Particularly in generation Y, tribes form with a primary purpose (sometimes firstly on social media) to follow these place branded festivals and re-visit the destinations on a year on year basis to attend an umbrella of events that take place under the festival banner across a city or region.

6.4 Reaching out to Generation Y with DOC events

One of the difficulties of DOC will be reaching out to Generation Y and making dull listless history come to life and relevant for them. Strategies to engage them could include developing youth debates and conferences which exam P.H. Pearse motives and the role children such as the ‘St Enda’s Boys’ played in his campaign (Mac Lochalainn, P. 1990). Conferences could further examine the role of youth in social activism in the past and how that is mirrored in the present with the rise of nationalism across the islands and strong engagement of young people in campaigns (Scotland’s Moment, Irish Times 2014, LGBT Yes Campaign Ireland May 2015). The lives of young teens such as Kevin Barry (Cronin, 1965) who became martyred and played a key role in turning public sentiment during the decade and the general sentiment amongst Ireland’s youth as to the events of the time could be evaluated and discussed. Cultural civic events could be cross pollinated and contain DOC themes to incite thought, reflection and debate amongst Ireland’s young. For instance a seminar tent could be contained within a festival site of large cultural spaces such as NYE concert Dublin, Fleadh Cheoil Na hEireann and Maiden City Festival Derry. The role of seditious and free speech could be examined as how it was leveraged as a propaganda tool by both Britain and Ireland during the decade and movements such as the ‘Irish War News’ and ‘Mosquito Press’ (Gallagher, 1953) could be examined and discussed in their role in communicating to and inciting the young Irelander’s into the Easter Rising and War of Independence. Newspaper articles of the day could be examined and their sentiments of which records are contained in Kew Archives (Kew Archives, Apr 2015) and the current role of propaganda in news journalism and how things have changed from the past to present in terms of social activism amongst the young.

6.5 Using the city as a canvas for cultural connections and trails.

The city as a canvas model could see a flagship event take over a city with events also taking place in nearby periphery locations and this model rotating around the cities on the island. Whether that has to focus solely around Decade of Commemorations or could be broadened out to be a civic engagement and social festival is also debatable. Though this model has been applied somewhat to the ‘City of Culture’ model and the recent ‘Road to the Rising’ (Mar 2015) which were rolled out in Limerick, Derry and Dublin recently. Certainly a DOC theme would allow for conference content etc. and the whole remaining 7 year DOC period could be carved up into 6 month slots and cities assigned accordingly to act as a plan. IP, marketing and concept rights could be owned jointly by the two governments and then the cities could do the same event just in a different location every 6 months with different programming. This could possibly be a festival that could rotate around the islands which would build destination awareness and would strengthen cross border/cross island cooperation but it would have more impact being developed firstly to work north/south. However transport connectivity is an issue across the island that could impact on the development of a model such as this.

6.6 Case Study: Edinburgh Festival City – Marketing a City Under One Banner/One Canvas

Edinburgh Festival City was created in 2007 as an umbrella company to market 12 major festivals and Edinburgh as a ‘festival city’. The 12 festivals have come together to create a ‘joint strategic direction and maintain their global competitive edge’. Within this, Festivals Edinburgh also has an innovation ‘festivalslab’ which discusses how the cultural sector engages with new technology. Festival Edinburgh has one ticketing system, marketing campaign and website through which they operate an ‘Application Programming Interface’ which is a technology that allows one data source to be used by all festival promoters for listings. The API services 2 client bases – press/media who can access all marketing materials and publicity for listings for use in their own channels and developers who use the listings for onward promotion in their apps and services. The approach is one of a collective.

An ambition for Decade of Commemorations events in Ireland could be the development of historic trails that lead people to key sites and locations where elusive and little known figures stem from across the island. This could be developed as a county by county resource (O’ Snodaigh A, Mar 2014) and then connected into a macro national narrative which could then be leveraged for tourism marketing purposes. A resource that could be used to research this is W035 a file that contains all the records on Ireland from the 17th C to 1922 in Kew Archives, London. Create a trail that leads people/tourists around the island to the key figures and stories of 1915 and 1916 which were possibly the main years of interest to Irish story in WW1 and Easter 1916 which will appeal to both unionists and nationalists. This can be done by researchers bringing together the figures of the story and connecting them and then placing the micro regional stories into an over-arching macro national narrative (Tunbridge, 1996)

Through this research a number of people from across the island from Mayo to Donegal to Dublin to Belfast to Cork that were involved in Easter 1916 have been identified which indicates that a range of people of different persuasion at that time could be found in the Somme and Gallipoli events. The ethos must be about connecting those stories and finding ‘comparable equivalent figures’ (Unidentified Unionist Source, Apr 2015) and then connecting the narratives to feed into tourism marketing. A model could be assigned and created on a similar basis to that of Edinburgh Festivals by creating a connection between all venues and communities in a city or a trail of cities around the a city or the island by connecting cities. The strategy could be to develop programmes that interconnect and compliment venues. Thus for example 10 key venues around the island could be assigned with a year from DOC period to examine and a trail could be created between venues see what happened year on year such as assigning 1913 to The Mac, 1914 to The Abbey Theatre and 1915 to The Playhouse etc.

Each venue must become identifiable with a strand or part of history that DOC connects to, thus the marketing that is created could relate to the venue and the year designated assigned to research, create new work around and foster collaborations within but also connect the story onwards to the next venue/year as referrals. To ensure that modernity is also examined in the context of the examination of the DOC year, parallels could be drawn between the past and present of each year e.g. 1913/2013. A strategy to engage locals through consultation and dialogue and experiential opportunities to engage could be put in place. The strategy could also engage tourists and affect both domestic and international tourism. To move people outside the cities and around the island “attract and disperse” marketing strategies could be developed. Place marketing/destination marketing of other regions and secondary cities could be done across key cities which have key transport hubs. Quinn (P.17 2013) describes that festivals are “socially and culturally important phenomena involved in the construction of place and community identity (as distinct from image identity)”. This provides a rationale as to why community and human capital should be engaged to assist with place or destination awareness building. It is the people who make a place and the place who make the people therefore human capital must be engaged to give a visitor an experience when delivering festivals during Decade of Commemorations.

6.7 Events Models and Trends

A number of event models and trends have emerged that could be leveraged during Decade of Commemorations. These include;

Mega Events were defined by Roche (2000) and are “events that are short duration but produce long term impacts” (Foley, McGillivray & McPherson 2012, P. 2) and “major one-time or recurring events of limited duration, developed primarily to enhance the awareness, appeal and profitability of a tourism destination in the short and/or long term” (Quinn, B. 2013, P.15). Quinn quoting Getz describes mega events as those ‘by way of their size and significance” that “yield extraordinary high levels of tourism, media coverage, prestige or economic impact for the host community or destination” (Quinn, B. 2013, P.15). The mega event definition is based on minimum 1 million visits, capital costs of minimum €750 million and the psychology of it being a ‘must see event’. The profile, impact, investment and spatial reach must reach across national and international boundaries to focus awareness on the destination and should also have government involvement and domestic/international broadcast media support. Whilst in some cases visitor numbers have dropped during the year of a mega event, there is also evidence that in following years there is growth in visitors to the region. These events can change the perception of cities or nations, generate economic development and investment, catalyse physical and social regeneration and allow opportunities for ‘celebration of local and national identities’ (Foley, McGillivray & McPherson P. 2, 2012). Though it is unlikely that the 1916 commemorations will be large enough to be considered a Mega Event there is a case to make Dublin the showcase hub for 1916 commemoration events and therein longer term projects be cultivated which could continue the legacy of an event and stretch across the regions and islands. The events also could be a catalyst for re-awakening and invigorating a nation that is currently emerging from a period of economic recession and depression amongst it communities. Large scale civic events could allow the peoples of the island to develop new strategies around what they wish their country to resemble in the future and invoke civic and community pride.

Hallmark events: These could be major fairs, festivals, expositions and cultural and one off sporting events which are held on regular or one off basis. These events are generally inseparable to the place where they are held e.g. Rio carnival (Foley, McGillivray & McPherson, 2012), Oktoberfest in Munich and Chelsea Flower Show in Britain (Allen, O’Toole, Harris, McDonnell, 2011) and ‘such events, which are identified with the very character of these places and citizens, bring huge tourist dollars, a strong sense of local pride and international recognition’ (Allen, O’Toole, Harris, McDonnell, 2011

P. 13). In terms of Decade of Commemorations Dublin could be branded the ‘City of Insurrection’ for 2016. Though tourism bodies might not wish to align their identity strategies with this theme especially given that the country may wish to project a positive image of emerging from recession rather than one beset and engrained in political histories and ideologies. The potential however is that this could inspire other global cities and nations and therefore assist with brand development, destination awareness development and generate increased international tourism.

In terms of Belfast this city could be branded the ‘City of Resistance’ and within this framework, analysis and discussions undertaken through conferences or hallmark events that examine the role that resistance played in keeping Belfast and Northern Ireland in the Union. Derry could be described as the ‘City of Defiance’ where Nationalists fought back against Unionist agendas and so on. Other cities and counties that played a role during the events of 1916 such as Galway, Cork, Mayo and Wexford could also be ‘themed’. Themes like these could be applied during the 2016 year and bespoke events could take place across a city such as conferences, seminars and lectures. What is important is that equal visibility is applied in terms of destination marketing. Therefore the strategy should not be just applied to one city but to a number of cities across the island throughout 2016 and equal brevity applied in all marketing.

Festivalisation and Eventification of Cities

In the context of festivalisation a signature event could be scheduled to rotate through the cities on the islands every 6 – 12 months over the remaining 7 year DOC period as a peace building, cooperation and joint islands/cross border marketing initiative. Underneath this over-arching macro event a hive of smaller festivals (eventification) could take place. Pratt (2009b) notes that “creative and cultural industries policy in the UK, as elsewhere, has seized upon the idea of ‘creativity’ as a primary source of competitive advantage in post-industrial city economies” and “most policy intervention has either prioritised city based cultural-creative clusters or hubs where culture is on display and consumed as part of tourism, entertainment or experience economies. Elsewhere cultural activity has been leveraged in attempts to solve (or more accurately salve) deeply embedded social problems” Foord quoting Pratt (2009). As destinations are now secondary around key event concepts and ‘tribes’ are following event models such as these, the rotating of an event could create a trail for a tourist to follow on a year on year basis. Further to this development of human capital that has cultural connections can only enrich and impact on economic development in Ireland. The creative economy and arts led regeneration are key components of ‘festivalisation of cities’ and urban development concepts. Zherdov states “The creativity approach brings about prioritisation of human capital. The so called creative class which is supposed to enliven economic and cultural life of a city or quarter’ and the ‘creative city, usually comes down to two strategies (in many cases combined) namely creating cultural and knowledge clusters, and organising either mega and (or) numerous small cultural festivals” (Zherdov, 2014, P. 11). An event such as the ‘Web Summit’ has done this effectively by introducing ‘Fringe Summit’ which spans across Dublin city and is open to the public and ‘Music Summit’ which hones in on technology applications in the music sector to its programme. The technology community has largely replaced the creative community. All creatives must now be technology literate to be modern and relevant. Connecting the technology community with the arts/creative community to generate new concepts, events and products that theme upon DOC themes could be a fruitful exercise that would also engage Generation Y. Also leveraging technology would allow large scale sponsors with Irish offices such as Google, Facebook etc. to develop platforms for new work that is drafted in older arts forms such as the songbooks and cultural materials from the decade. This could be delivered through creative competitions, collaborations between cultural houses and technology firms and this could result in generating sponsorship. Further to this there is no reason why a concept similar to that of ‘Web Summit’ could not be developed with commemoration themes at its core and act as a web to attract groups such as the 700 cultural groups (DCAL NI, 2011) active in Northern Ireland for commemorative purpose. Analysis needs to be undertaken to assess how many comparative groups exist in ROI to ensure peace building would be enacted equally.

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