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Communities, families and local groups across Ireland invited to explore heritage for National Heritage Week


We were delighted to announce plans for a modified National Heritage Week this morning, which take into account ongoing restrictions on events and gatherings due to COVID-19.

Rather than focusing on the organisation of in-person public events, local heritage groups and organisers, families and communities are being invited to develop projects around this year’s theme of ‘Heritage and Education: Learning from our Heritage’. Coordinated by the Heritage Council since 2005, National Heritage Week has become one of Ireland’s largest cultural events, and will run this year from Saturday, 15th – Sunday, 23rd August.

The new approach is designed to promote the sharing of experience and knowledge. Expressions of interest and project ideas should be submitted to HeritageWeek.ie, and be carried out throughout June and July. Projects should be completed in time for National Heritage Week when they will be showcased. Accepted formats for showcasing may vary from online talks or exhibitions, to a video, podcast, slideshow presentation or blog, to media coverage, a dedicated website or moderated social media account, or by means of small, restricted social gatherings, which comply with official public health advice. All projects submitted will be considered for a Heritage Week Award.

Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan, TD, said: “My Department and I are delighted to support this year’s alternative version of National Heritage Week, which is always highly anticipated for its showcase of Ireland’s diverse heritage. This year, I hope that the community groups and heritage organisations – who are the backbone of National Heritage Week – get involved, as well as those who are new to Ireland’s varied heritage.

“The project dimension of this year’s National Heritage Week provides an opportunity to connect and reconnect with community and family – by phone, letters, emails or in other social-distanced ways, and particularly across generations – while working towards a worthwhile end. We are particularly keen to see projects being developed that have strong inter-generational participation: perhaps, where an older person teaches a child skills from their childhood. Younger people, particularly teens and young adults, could play a big role in showcasing projects in digital formats.

“I wish the very best to all those individuals and organisations undertaking projects, appreciate their dedication to our heritage and look very forward to seeing their projects showcased later this summer.”

To support project organisers in arriving at an aspect of heritage that they might want to explore under this year’s theme of ‘Heritage and Education: Learning from our Heritage’, three broad sub-themes can be considered for projects:

Heritage on your doorstep: Projects might research, and collect local knowledge about a monument or landmark; explore the origins of local customs or traditions and how these may have changed over time; examine how aspects of the local landscape, such as a canal, river or lake, have influenced a community; or capturing stories from local members of the community who have survived adversity (for example, the TB epidemic of the 1940s).

Relearning skills from our heritage: Projects could explore forgotten or overlooked skills with a view to sharing them among younger generations; document crafts, skills or trades that one’s community was previously well-known for; investigate traditional remedies unique to a locality which were used to treat common aches and pains, and record the stories of individuals who remember such remedies; research traditional food preparation or preservation methods throughout the ages.

The heritage of education: Projects might explore the history of an old school which has served many generations; better understand the role of a local hedge school; delve into the history of a monastic settlement; interrogate how the experience of going to school has evolved over time.

In addition to developing new research, projects could also revisit or build on a heritage project which may already have been started at an individual, family or community level. In this instance, the National Heritage Week project could involve showcasing research already done on a monument, a waterway, or a skill or tradition in the community, and finding new ways to grow awareness of it. The Heritage Council is developing a suite of resources to support projects, which will be made available on HeritageWeek.ie

The Chairman of the Heritage Council, Michael Parsons, said: “This year, perhaps more than any other year, National Heritage Week offers a moment for community engagement and social cohesion. Heritage – in all its forms – helps us to connect with our past, build resilience and enhance our health and wellbeing. For this reason, the Heritage Council is ensuring that Heritage Week goes ahead and we have modified our approach to ensure active engagement with our heritage, while protecting public health.

“During lockdown, many people around the country – in both rural and urban environments – have developed a greater appreciation for their immediate surroundings. The restrictions have caused us to reconnect with, and reconsider what can be found in our immediate locality, from noticing birds and birdsong, and changing patterns among plants and wildlife as spring became summer, to local built heritage and monuments. Others have returned to traditional skills, be that baking, growing fruit and vegetables or handcrafts, like knitting and embroidery.

“National Heritage Week, and particular this year’s theme of ‘Heritage and Education: Learning from our Heritage’ offers a chance to build on this renewed interest, by exchanging skills and knowledge in a community; exploring something new or diving deeper into the story behind something you may have recently discovered; or working as a family to renew a skill. I encourage everyone with an interest, enthusiasm or expertise in any facet of our rich heritage to consider putting together and submitting a project for National Heritage Week, and sharing it with our wider national community.”

National Heritage Week is also supported Fáilte Ireland and collaborative partners include the Office of Public Works.

Director of Product Development at Fáilte Ireland Orla Carroll added: “Engaging with stories and experiencing Ireland’s heritage offering has always been a key part of the visitor experience for and international visitors to Ireland. While Heritage Week has had to take on a new form this year, Fáilte Ireland is delighted to offer its continued support to an initiative that helps consumers expand their experience of Ireland’s landscape, history and culture in a way that provides a truly authentic experience.

“I would like to commend Heritage Week organisers who have, during a difficult time, encouraged people to reawaken projects, take ownership of the stories of their areas and translate them into consumable visitor offerings that locals can enjoy whilst adhering to public safety and Government guidance.”

Executive Chairman of the Office of Public Works, Maurice Buckley, said: “Heritage Week is always one of the highlights of the year for OPW, and while we may face unprecedented challenges in 2020, our staff are determined to find new and innovative ways for the public to engage with the amazing heritage sites in our care'.