Community groups and small businesses urged to attend free ‘Smart Villages’ event at Ballykeeffe Amphitheatre

Community groups and small businesses urged to attend free ‘Smart Villages’ event at Ballykeeffe Amphitheatre

Kilkenny is counterbalancing the EU-wide focus on ‘Smart Cities’ with a ground-breaking ‘Smart Villages’ initiative which kicks off this month and will help small businesses, community activists and groups to ‘Think Smart’ about the future options for rural communities.

Kilkenny LEADER Partnership (KLP) wants to help towns and villages think in new and dynamic ways about their future. It wants community groups, activists and small businesses to work together, be innovative and think laterally to future proof by looking at transport, community facilities, their local food supply and chain, environment, sustainability and so much more. It has funding available for planning, training, capital, marketing and more to make rural communities smarter and more sustainable for generations to come.

While the capacity of the digital revolution remains a key instrument in the Smart Village ‘tool-kit’,  KLP CEO, Declan Rice said, as much attention now needs to be paid to all types of connectivity, linkage and networking in improving services and products to help communities make rural areas in Kilkenny attractive to their current inhabitants, potential residents and visitors. 

The first of six free Smart Villages - Look to the Future information and training workshop explaining the initiative gets underway in the open air at Ballykeeffe Amphitheatre in Kilmanagh on Thursday, August 13, from 4pm.  The venue, once a disused quarry, was specifically chosen as an example of a smart and visionary community which turned an abandoned quarry into a renowned venue for music, rock climbing, theatre and more, Mr Rice explained.

All community groups, small businesses and anyone interested in the future of their community is urged to register and attend the free event. A series of information and training workshops on future options for rural communities will follow in the coming months. It is intended these will cover areas such as environment, mobility and connectivity, community services and more.

Guest of honour on August 13 will be Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan, TD, and the MC is renowned broadcaster and journalist, Helen Carroll. To comply with strict COVID restrictions, intending participants must register their interest by emailing or phoning the LEADER office on 056 7775211. Places are strictly limited and will be filled on a first come, first served basis.

“KLP has been involved in the development of the Smart Village concept from the start and has attended numerous meetings in Brussels, elsewhere and online as the concept has been forged,” Declan Rice explained.

“Very early in the development process, KLP and other Irish LEADER participants were struck by the ‘key and lock’ or ‘train and track’ analogies of LEADER as an efficient engine of Smart Villages. We can provide funding for planning, training, capital, marketing and coordination of broad-based initiatives to make rural communities smarter and more sustainable.

“LEADER as a whole is the perfect complement to the Smart Village approach.  It’s made for it- hand in glove.  KLP wants to embrace the opportunity that Smart Villages presents.  We have engaged Workhouse Union from Callan to provide six information and training events for communities and small businesses in the concept over 2020 – ’21.  KLP hopes the Smart Villages- Look to the Future series will kick-start interest and engagement as KLP starts to consult and plan on its next LEADER programme application,” Mr Rice said.

KLP holds its election every three years and it is also reaching out to new members ahead of that election in September/October. Anyone interested is urged to register and attend the session in Ballykeeffe or get in touch with LEADER or any existing members.

Separately, KLP also has a €2.5 million fund that it wants to invest in community projects before the end of the year. It is still seeking expressions of interest and applications from groups and individuals for qualifying projects.


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