Sustainable heritage and biodiversity to the fore: Heritage Council launches National Heritage Week

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The Heritage Council has called on heritage newcomers, enthusiasts and experts of all ages across Ireland to focus on sustainable heritage and biodiversity when registering events and digital projects for inclusion as part of National Heritage Week 2022.

Organised by the Heritage Council, National Heritage Week will run from Saturday, 13th August — Sunday, 21st August, and has become one of Ireland’s largest cultural events.

Representatives from the Ellen Hutchins Festival — an annual celebration of Ireland’s first female botanist that includes a range of activities encouraging exploration of the natural and cultural heritage of Bantry Bay — as well as participants in the Cork Migrant Centre, the Lantern Community Project and the Men’s Group in Cork, joined the Heritage Council at the launch at Nano Nagle Place to showcase their respective work in sustainable heritage and biodiversity.

National Heritage Week makes a full return to in-person events this year. However, following a hugely successful pivot to an online-only format during the pandemic, which saw record-breaking participation across the country, digital projects will again be accepted and showcased online, to sustain the high level of interest in National Heritage Week among the public.

When responding to this year’s theme of sustainable heritage and biodiversity, in-person event and digital project organisers are encouraged to have an open mind. Events and projects might involve the preservation of native species of plants and animals and their habitats; explore sustainable farming practices; contribute to urban greening and community gardening initiatives; research an element of the Irish landscape to increase local and national appreciation and preservation; grow native plants or foods; practice foraging; or use traditional recipes or cooking methods. European Heritage Days, the joint programme between the Council of Europe and the European Commission that works to highlight the richness and cultural diversity of Europe among Member States, chose Sustainable Heritage as this year’s overarching theme.

Speaking at the launch, Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan said: “Given the urgency of the biodiversity emergency and the pressure that nature in Ireland is under, it is welcome to see the Heritage Council adopt biodiversity as one of the themes for National Heritage Week 2022. At the National Biodiversity Conference earlier this month, the Taoiseach said that it’s time for a ‘new era of stewardship’ of the natural world. With this in mind, I’d like to encourage groups and organisations across the country to think about the nature-related events that they could run in their communities, and submit them for inclusion in the National Heritage Week programme. Our natural heritage is precious, and protecting and conserving it is something that everyone can take part in and enjoy.”

As well as natural heritage and biodiversity, in-person event and digital project organisers are encouraged to view built and cultural heritage through the lens of sustainability. This might involve identifying a skill or tradition that has been passed from generation to generation, within or between families or communities. Such skills or traditions might include the practice of historic building techniques such as thatching or dry-stone wall building; engaging with artistic heritage such as tin smithing, stonework, textile creation, or other crafts; celebrate the Irish language or Irish culture through history, music, folklore or dance.

Chair of the Heritage Council, Martina Moloney explained: “Ireland’s heritage is rich and varied. It encompasses our language, music and dance, art and storytelling, food and cooking, ancient buildings and monuments, and traditional skills such as basket-weaving and lace-making. There is something for everyone. As custodians of this heritage, it is incumbent on all of us to examine how we can preserve, sustain and share these unique skills, traditions, art forms and ways of life, while engaging contemporary audiences. They help to define our identity. A particular highlight of National Heritage Week during the last two years was seeing the innovative ways that people used technology and digital media to promote Ireland’s heritage and enhance accessibility, something that I hope will be continued this year.”

Participation in National Heritage Week is open to individuals, families, communities and organisations. New and experienced heritage enthusiasts alike are encouraged to get involved.

CEO of the Heritage Council, Virginia Teehan said: “A thread that runs throughout National Heritage Week and the wider work of the Heritage Council is to maximise interest, meaningful inclusion and heritage sharing. We are appealing to in-person event and digital project organisers to consider and involve groups or individuals in their community who might not have local roots, or who might have sensory or accessibility needs. Similarly, organisers might work with minority community members to explore a previously-overlooked aspect of local heritage and amplify its story.”

In-person events and digital projects should be completed in time for National Heritage Week (13th – 21st August) and submitted via www.heritageweek.ie. Digital projects can be uploaded to the National Heritage Week website until Tuesday, 23rd August 2022. The National Heritage Week website, including the portal for submitting events and projects, is now fully available in Irish and organisers who wish to are encouraged to submit their submissions in Irish.

In-person events may consist of walking tours, lectures, film screenings, exhibitions, craft workshops or other interactive activities. Digital project formats may vary from online talks or exhibitions, to videos, podcasts, presentations or blogs, a dedicated website or social media account.

Fáilte Ireland is joined by the Office of Public Works (OPW), the Irish Landmark Trust, and the Local Authority Water Programme are all partners of National Heritage Week 2022. At county level, National Heritage Week is co-ordinated and supported by local authority heritage officers, their colleagues and with numerous local heritage groups and organisations.

Re-iterating its support for Heritage Week, Orla Carroll, Director of Product Development, Fáilte Ireland said: “From parklands and waterways, to historic sites, Ireland’s heritage attracts domestic and international tourists to all four corners of the country. As our tourism industry recovers, Fáilte Ireland is pleased to once again support National Heritage Week to ensure individuals, groups and families can get out and explore all that the country and its heritage attractions have to offer.”

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