School reunions, family reunions, and historical and archaeological-themed conferences are some of the ideas suggested for Kilkenny as part of the national initiatve The Gathering, which is aiming to attract overseas visitors to Ireland in 2013.
Meetings have been held in Castlecomer, Ferrybank and Kilkenny city to garner ideas for the initiative, with one such meeting held in the Newpark Hotel on Monday night.
The event saw locals come together for a series of “conversations” to come up with ideas that meet three criteria: They will bring in visitors from overseas, theycan feasibly be accomplished by local people and will be exciting and entertaining.
Introducing the evening, Mayor Seán Ó hArgáin suggested hosting an event that would bring together all of the holders of All-Ireland medals from Kilkenny; and Mooncoin’s Darren Holden of the band The High Kings, one of the Kilkenny “ambassadors” for the project, proposed hosting a major music festival to bring in international tourists.
The iniative, the mayor said, “has great potential for what can be done next year in these lean times for the tourism industry.”
He welcomed those who had come to offer their ideas, but added: “It won’t work unless there are considerably more people than there are here tonight involved.”
The wider involvement of the community was also emphasised by Fíonnan Nestor, who is leading the initiative for Kilkenny. Anyone who is planning to host an event can post it on the initiative’s website, thegatheringireland.com – where so far over 400 events have already been confirmed.
In addition to bringing in tourism revenue, the hope is to “develop a meaningful relationship” with the Irish diaspora, which includes 70 million people worldwide who claim Irish ancestry, Mr Nestor said. It also hopes to reach out to people who have an “emotional relationship” with Ireland through having studied or worked here over the years.