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Armagh playing key role in plans for international festival for St Patrick

Armagh is hoping to play a lead role in the creation of an international festival celebrating St Patrick and Northern Ireland’s Christian heritage.

A high level paper is still being prepared on the festival plan, which would be seen as ‘globally unique’, and Armagh City and District Council is excited about the potential.

At a recent meeting of the council’s executive committee, Sinn Fein Councillor Mary Doyle described Armagh as the “jewel in the crown” of all those areas involved in the project.

Preparatory work is currently being undertaken to develop a sustainable international festival, a project initiated by a public sector consortium, comprising the local authorities of Ards, Armagh, Ballymena, Down, Newry & Mourne, North Down and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency.

Tourism specialists BTS were appointed to prepare the business case for the festival and submit the project to Northern Ireland Tourist Board (NITB) for event funding.

The overall goal of the project is: To develop a compelling, self-sustaining, authentic celebration that builds on the existing events and activities undertaken to date in communities;  To celebrate St Patrick, St Patrick’s Day and NI’s Christian heritage; Establish an internationally attractive festival.

St Patrick and Christian Heritage are iconic elements of NI’s cultural identity. The project partners want to find a way to capitalise on these elements to: enhance the promotion of NI to out-of-state audiences; increase international visitors; and generate economic benefit in their local areas.

NITB established an International Tourism Events Fund as part of the Tourism 2020 strategy and the partners believe that making the business case and applying to the Events Fund will help meet these objectives.

According to BTS, events and festivals can be powerful tools that have the ability to give NI a competitive advantage, benefitting the image, economy, tourism performance and future potential of the region. They can enhance its reputation as a destination to live, work, visit and study. Events can also stimulate the economy, generate new jobs, business and training opportunities, whilst attracting visitors at times of the year when there is surplus capacity, such as in the accommodation sector.

BTS is currently gathering opinions and views about what the festival might comprise, before testing these and preparing the funding submission.

Their view, and that of the project partners, is that while this at planning stages and no commitments yet exist for the international festival to take place, they need to be sure that stakeholders can have their view and are made aware of the way the project is developing.

Picture: Rosie McCool from Armagh at a previous St Patrick’s Day celebration in Armagh

by Conor Greenan Photography

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