Creating a new future for port towns in the Irish sea basin, based on a deeper understanding of their past


This four year project – ‘Ports, Pasts and Present: Cultural Crossings between Ireland and Wales’ – is a joint initiative with University College Cork (UCC) and Wexford County Council in Ireland, and in Wales with Aberystwyth University and the Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David. The project is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Ireland Wales Cooperation programme and is led by UCC. 

“I’m really pleased to announce this incredibly exciting new project, which will help turn five Welsh and Irish Sea ports into vibrant tourist destinations in their own right. Our ports make a critical contribution to our economy – providing jobs and added value to local communities. UK and Welsh business depends on ports in order to move their goods efficiently and quickly between Wales and Ireland. This new project will help enhance our ports even further, by bringing their unique cultural heritage to life, allowing people to understand the rich and economic and cultural roles they’ve played in our past, and the vital roles they play today and in the future.”

Eluned Morgan, Welsh Minister for International Relations

Executive Summary

The ultimate changes sought and the final outcomes for the project are:

• Coastal communities enjoy an increased awareness of their cultural heritage and develop new opportunities for heritage tourism.

• Port towns become ‘stopping places’ and ‘spending places’ rather than just ‘through places’ for tourists, with an increase in tourism-related employment

• Tourism Networks are formed between twinned Irish and Welsh ports, linking local authorities, tourism-related SMEs, community organisations and creative individuals on both sides of the Irish Sea.

Specific Objective

There has been a movement of people between Ireland and Wales for thousands of years for reasons of trade, leisure, religious, political and family and also in times of war. Our countries have experienced shared histories and profound differences. Ports on both sides also share a history of absorbing migrant labour from other cultures and languages. The PPP operation explores the cultures of the port areas of Dublin, Rosslare, Holyhead, Fishguard and Pembroke Dock and will bring this heritage to public awareness, both within coastal communities and to increase visitor numbers and enhance visitor experiences. In doing so it will increase the capacity of coastal communities to utilise their natural and cultural heritage as a driver to economic growth. 

The project aims to bring life and colour to the ports, enhancing the experience of modern travellers of all ages and interests, and encouraging people to spend more time and money in these towns. It will do this by working with tourism stakeholders and local communities to make passing tourists aware of the deep history of these places. Specifically, the project teams will produce information in various formats, working with port authorities, transport carriers, tourism agencies, and local artists and writers to generate new tourism sites/sights/traffic, and commission creative works in the visual arts, literature and film. New audiences will be sought through digital technology including apps and social media. Irish and Welsh language material will be fully integrated throughout the project content.

PPP will help to make port towns, as a result of their rich cultural heritage, enriching places to visit. In doing so it will significantly develop new opportunities for heritage tourism based on enhanced use of cultural heritage as a driver to economic growth.

To achieve these objectives the project team will set up a series of tourism networks linking local authorities, tourism-related SMEs, community organisations, arts organisations, and creative individuals on both sides of the Irish sea – including a tourism web-forum, information sharing networks, and community events. 

Implementation, changes sought and impact

The operation concerns 5 coastal communities participating in cross-border cooperation in linked cultural heritage tourism activities. Changes sought are to sustainably realise the potential of natural and cultural assets. By raising awareness and fostering a renewed engagement with the past, the operation will increase capacity for community development of these heritage resources. It will also help to encourage tourists passing through port towns to make longer visits and to stop and spend time in these places of transit.

Outputs

• New tourism network, linking 5 coastal communities participating in cross-border cooperation around cultural, natural or heritage tourism.

• A broad range of media aimed to encourage tourists visiting coastal communities and port towns to spend more time and money.

• Creative outputs which engage tourists with the cultural heritage of these coastal communities.

• 2 FTEs in supported enterprises.