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Ordered by The Committee for Culture, Arts and Leisure to be printed 23 May 2002
Report: 01/01 R (Committee for Culture, Arts and Leisure)



The Committee for Culture, Arts and Leisure is a Statutory Departmental Committee established in accordance with paragraphs 8 and 9 of Strand One of the Belfast Agreement and under Standing Order No 46 of the Northern Ireland Assembly. The Committee has a scrutiny, policy development and consultation role with respect to the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, and has a role in the initiation of legislation.

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The Committee was established on 29 November 1999 with 11 members, including a Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson, and a quorum of five.

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All correspondence should be addressed to the Clerk to the Committee for Culture, Arts and Leisure, Northern Ireland Assembly, Room 424, Parliament Buildings, Stormont, Belfast BT4 3XX. Tel: (028) 9052 1574; Fax (028) 9052 1063; e-mail:


VOLUME 2 - Minutes of Evidence

Minutes of Evidence Page

North of Ireland Band Association
Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association
Castleward Opera
Lyric Theatre
Brain Waddell Productions Ltd
Cinemagic Film Festival
Northern Ireland Film Commission
Federation of Ulster Local Studies
Belfast Public Libraries
Linen Hall Library
Environment Heritage Service
Centre for Migration Studies
Glass Ceiling Theatreworks
Museums & Galleries of Northern Ireland
School of Archaeology & Palaoecology
Ulster Historical Foundation
Omagh District Council
Irish Genealogy Ltd
Belfast Festival at Queens


Thursday 10 May 2001

Members present:

Mr ONeill (Chairperson)
Mrs Nelis (Deputy Chairperson)
Dr Adamson
Mr Agnew
Mr Davis
Mr Hilditch
Mr McCarthy
Mr McMenamin


Mr D Gourley )

Mr B Clements ) North of Ireland Bands' Association

Mr J Cassells )


The Chairperson: Good morning, Gentlemen, you are very welcome. If you make your presentation we will ask you questions afterwards.


Mr Gourley: Good morning. I am Douglas Gourley, Chairperson of the North of Ireland Bands' Association. I am accompanied by Mr Bill Clements, our secretary and Mr Joe Cassells, our representative to the European Brass Band Association. Before handing over to my colleagues, I want to tell the Committee a little about the North of Ireland Bands' Association.


The association was founded in 1907 and represents approximately 80 bands from all over Northern Ireland and County Donegal. The bands fall into four types: accordion, brass, concert and flute. Our association is non-political and non-sectarian.


The object of the association is to promote knowledge of music among its members. It does that mainly through the organisation of band contests. The North of Ireland Bands' Association (NIBA) organises the Championship of Ireland Bands' Contest in October each year in the Ulster Hall. The contests include the Championship of the World for Flute Bands. Leagues affiliated to the association will organise various own-choice and entertainment contests at many venues throughout Northern Ireland. The association also organises outdoor concerts for district councils in parks, town centres and seaside venues.


Mr Cassells: I am the North of Ireland Bands' Association representative to the European Brass Band Association (EBBA). EBBA is specifically interested in brass bands and is slightly different from NIBA as its represents a particular instrumentation rather than accordions, flutes and other types of instruments. EBBA exists to:

"Further and promote the intrinsic, aesthetic and social values of brass bands in Europe."


It was formed in 1978. We have members from 16 European countries, from the traditional home of bands in Great Britain and Ireland to countries which are developing an interest in brass bands, particularly Scandinavia and the low countries.


EBBA aims to meet its purpose by organising annual events. The main event is a band championship held in May each year in a different European city. This year we have made a bid to host the championship in Belfast in 2004. It is planned to be a five-day event, which we hope will attract 15 visiting bands and their supporters to Northern Ireland. It could attract 500 to 750 tourists to Belfast for those five days. The event will consist of competitions, concerts, workshops and youth events because EBBA also has an educational role in encouraging young people into bands.


If we are successful, we aim to attract a paying audience of 4,500 to 5,000 to the event, which we plan to stage in the Waterfront Hall. The event will take considerable administrative organisation, and we will do that voluntarily. Funding is proving to be almost prohibitive - about £75,000. Some of the event's expenses could be recouped through ticket sales and commercial sponsorship, but there is an estimated shortfall at the moment of about £34,000.


We have approached several public bodies including Belfast City Council and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. Both of those organisations were enthusiastic but pointed us towards the Northern Ireland Events Company, to which we have just recently made a bid. We continue to search for other sources of funding, public and private, to help us stage the event.


Mr Clements: I am Bill Clements, secretary of the North of Ireland Bands' Association. The chairman has spoken about the background of the association, and Mr Cassells spoke about our bid for the European championship. I want to talk about other aspects of the day-to-day work of the association. As the chairman pointed out, the association runs the Championship of Ireland Bands' Contest in October each year. That is held in the Ulster Hall in Belfast over two Saturdays and attracts bands from our organisation in Northern Ireland and also from the Republic of Ireland and Scotland. That contest could attract more bands, and therefore more tourists, if some assistance could be given with funding or bands' travel. For example, bands come from Dublin and spend about £300 on transport. If they win the contest they get about £150 in prize money. That is not an incentive.


We cannot afford to supplement that from our funds in any way. The North of Ireland Bands' Association feels that The Arts Council for Northern Ireland or the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, or both, could offer some small assistance towards travel.


As well as the main championship, three leagues are affiliated to the association. One is for brass bands, one for flute bands and one for accordion bands. Each of these holds various entertainment and own-choice contests at venues throughout the Province. These contests are the mainstay of the association's work, and that is why bands join it. That said, we undertake other work on outdoor performances. The association liaises with Belfast City Council to organise bands to play in the city over the Christmas shopping period and throughout the summer.


I have a couple of booklets for the Committee to look at. One is on the championship contest and the other is the Belfast City Council's Parks and Amenities Section leaflet on music in the parks. We supply many of the bands for the park performances. The Council also uses bands from the pipe bands' association, the Salvation Army and others. The bulk of the performances listed in the leaflet are arranged by the North of Ireland Bands' Association.


The association and its leagues also organise park performances in Lisburn and Bangor. Many of the bands, working individually with district councils, give similar performances at other venues in the Province, for example in Newtownabbey, Larne, Antrim and Coleraine. The whole programme goes ahead. Unfortunately, many of the events are cancelled due to bad weather or are rained off halfway through. Throughout the Province there are parks with Victorian bandstands. These were designed so that bands could play in parks and people could sit and listen to them on a Sunday afternoon. However, although some of these bandstands have been recently refurbished, many of them are in a bad state of repair.


Many of the parks and areas where bands play now bring them closer to the public, for example, the city centre and major parks in Belfast. The opening of the summer programme will be in Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park on Sunday 13 May 2001. Four bands will be there, but as there is no cover we are hoping for good weather. If we do not get good weather, all four bands will be cancelled. There is scope to help district councils provide cover, not just for bands but also for audiences. The Odyssey centre has been a great success as an indoor arena. There is scope for a similar outdoor covered arena where people could attend outdoor performances while protected from the elements. That way events could continue, provided the weather was not too bad. I appeal for that to be considered.


The bands' association and the flute and brass band leagues have arranged contests and performed at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum. In the last couple of years the money for these performances has dried up. These events were beneficial and attractive to tourists and visitors to the outdoor museum. It would be an advantage to us and to the museum if funding could be made available to support that.


I wish to speak about parades, pageants and other cultural presentations in which the association has no direct involvement but in which some of our member bands do take part. These range from St Patrick's Day parades to Orange Order parades to the Apprentice Boys' pageants. I noticed recently in the press that the Irish Government gave a substantial grant to the Apprentice Boys to assist in a pageant which has helped alleviate the difficulties of intercommunity strife that some of these events can engender. If funding were made available to some of these organisations to encourage them to attract quality bands such as are in the association, some of the other so-called bands could be eliminated from these events. By eliminating them, huge savings could be made in policing. That would help to phase out the troublesome element and introduce a better element to assist with some of these performances.


The Chairperson: Do you have examples of good use of covered outdoor facilities?


Mr Clements: In Edinburgh there is a major stage and seating on Prince's Street in the city centre where people can sit and watch performances, not only of bands but also of choirs and orchestras. I envisage something along those lines but with cover for the audience. The nearest thing that I have seen to it is in one of the Belfast parks where there is a bandstand and a small area in which people can watch the performance out of the rain. However, there are no real examples of it that I am aware of.


Mrs Nelis: You have done sterling work keeping together in the face of such a lack of resources and funding. The bands are renowned throughout the world, and I have heard many of them on the BBC.


There seems to be a distinct lack of bands in the Nationalist community that I represent. How would you encourage more bands to establish themselves in that community? Why is the Ulster Hall chosen every year to hold the championship? Do you plan to establish other venues where you might stimulate some interest from the Nationalist community? How many bands take part and how many come from the Republic of Ireland? How is it funded? How does the Northern Ireland Tourist Board assist in marketing this extremely important event? How do you think the Committee in its inquiry into cultural tourism could assist you? How could you assist us in developing the cultural tourism aspect of bands?


Mr Clements: As our chairman said, the association is non-sectarian, although I admit that most of the bands are from the Protestant and Unionist community. We do have some very good bands, particularly in the west of the Province and in Newry from the Nationalist community. In fact, last weekend the Strabane Concert Brass Band, which is from the Nationalist community - it grew out of St Colman's School in Strabane - represented Ireland and the association at the European championships in Montreux. That is one example of equality. The Strabane Concert Brass is in the top section of our brass bands.


There are two other bands in Strabane from the Nationalist community: St Joseph's Brass Band and St. Colman's Brass Band. All three are members of the North of Ireland Bands' Association. There is also St. Catherine's Concert Band in Newry, which shares accommodation with the Gaelic Athletic Association. They have been members of the North of Ireland Bands' Association for many years.


There is a dearth of quality bands from the Nationalist community, and I do not know what can be done to stimulate interest. St Joseph's Band has been doing some fine work in Strabane, and it has attracted funding from different sources in the last year for two major concerts that involved brass bands from England. They also had a week of band training sessions in schools in various sections of the community. Such activities help to stimulate and encourage interest in bands.


The championships were held in the Ulster Hall, and I think that about 50 bands competed last year. The bands fall into four categories: brass, flute, accordion and concert bands. The number of bands from the Republic varies from one year to the next. I think that there were three or four last year. There were bands from Drogheda and Dublin; the Dublin Concert Band was one of them. Two of the association's bands come from Donegal - Banna Druma Rann na Feirste and Mullaghduff Flute Band. Other bands from the Republic, such as Mullingar Town Band, the Stedfast Band and Ardee Concert Band, have come to the championships in the past. Not all of those bands come every year, but there is usually some representation. We usually attract one band from Scotland to the championship contest and one to the Flute Band League contest. The Scottish band in the booklet is Carluke Primrose Prize Flute Band from Lanarkshire.


Mrs Nelis: Does the Tourist Board help you?


Mr Clements: No. We get no help with the contest; it is funded entirely by the association's funds and money collected at the door. The contest is run at a loss of about £2000 each year, so funds from the association's other activities must supplement it.


Mrs Nelis: How much does it cost to fund the championship?


Mr Clements: About £4,000. We recoup about £2000 from entry fees and money that the public pays at the door.


Mr McCarthy: I am delighted to see that your policy is non-sectarian and non-political. It is important that the bands in your association are from both sides of the community. You mentioned Belfast City Council, Lisburn Borough Council and North Down Borough Council. Are those the only councils that take part?


Mr Clements: No. Our association and the Brass Band League, which is part of our association, book the bands for those three councils. The association books about 80 band performances a year in Belfast; we provide a similar service in Lisburn and Bangor. Newtownabbey Borough Council stage about 40 band concerts a year, but other people arrange those. However, some of the same bands that we organise will be involved in those performances - bands make their own arrangements. Antrim and Larne at Carnfunnock have performances too. I believe that Derry City Council has band performances in the city sometimes.


Mr McCarthy: Does Ards Borough Council organise band performances?


Mr Clements: Ards Borough Council organises some band performances. The association once ran a very good contest in conjunction with Ards Borough Council. We met on three consecutive days - an accordion section on the first day, a flute section on the second day and a brass section on the third day. That contest was held in November 1998. The bands were delighted with it, people turned up and the mayor and other representatives were also very pleased. Unfortunately, however, nothing has happened since then. I have been led to believe that funding has been redirected, possibly towards the Pipe Bands' Assocation, but that is a matter for Ards Borough Council.


Mr McCarthy: You mentioned the Victorian origin of many bandstands. Has there been any improvement? I think that I have seen advertising for different parks.


Mr Clements: There have been improvements in some areas. An amphitheatre has been built in Carnfunnock Country Park, which attracts many visitors. Many campers also use the adjoining site. Larne also erected a new bandstand last year on the main street at Broadway.


Some of the bandstands in the parks in Belfast have been renovated, but the location of some of the bandstands is a problem. In Bangor a beautiful bandstand on the promenade past the Pickie Pool in Bangor was recently renovated. In Bangor, the council employs brass bands to play every Thursday night in July and August. However, the bands play at the Sunken Gardens, which is an open area in the centre of the town. It is a question of where people are and where they congregate. A bandstand which may have been in an appropriate place in 1890 might not be in a suitable location today.


Mr Davis: According to the programme, there has been no contest in some grades for 30 years. Was that due to lack of interest or were there no people from those grades?


Mr Clements: There were no contests in some sections, and there were various reasons for that. There was no contest in the unaffiliated brass section because that section was not established until 1993. There has been a decline in the number of concert bands in the north of Ireland, which is why there was no contest in that section. There were four or five concert bands in Belfast which no longer exist. Sometimes no one is available to compete in certain sections.


Mr Davis: Do you apply for or receive sponsorship from firms or from anybody else?


Mr Clements: No. We receive payment for the adverts in the programme. We have tried to get sponsorship in the past, but without success.


Mr Hilditch: I wish to declare an interest: I am the vice-president of the Carrick Whitehouse and Agnes Street Brass Band (CWA) so I know a bit about the problems that have been highlighted. You said that you tried to get assistance from Belfast City Council, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and the Northern Ireland Events Company. Have you received any help from the Northern Ireland Tourist Board?


Mr Cassells: I have not approached the Northern Ireland Tourist Board because the bodies that I approached all directed me to the Northern Ireland Events Company. I am leaving the matter until it has considered our application but I imagine that the Northern Ireland Tourist Board will become involved later.


Dr Adamson: When did the concerts at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum stop, and what were the costs to the museum over a season?


Mr Clements: The concerts stopped about two years ago. The concerts were organised through the Brass Band League and the Flute Band League. The Brass Band League held a contest and received about £800 from the museum for prize money. That was the total cost to the museum. The contest lasted a Sunday afternoon. In good weather it was held in the village square that is under construction in the museum; in poor weather it was held in one of the indoor accommodations.


Mr Gourley: On a wet day the Flute Band League contests were held in the community hall. We had solos and quartets, which include children; we had under-10s, under-13s, under-16s and seniors playing solos, quartets and trios to octets. That was also stopped. We do not know why. We got no satisfaction when we made enquiries. We were told that they were no longer required.


Mr Agnew: What are the criteria for joining the North of Ireland Bands' Association?


Mr Clements: We have not laid down criteria. The association is open to any band that is interested in competition. Membership is usually for a band rather than for an individual. A band makes a written application to join the association. The executive committee considers it, and from its own knowledge or enquiries it establishes that the band is of reputable character and suitable for acceptance. My experience over eight or nine years was that we accepted all the bands that applied. We find that bands wishing to take part in competition at that level are generally respectable and responsible, regardless of which section of the community they are from.


Mr Agnew: What is your membership fee?


Mr Clements: The membership fee is £25 a year for each band. We give each player a registration card with photograph and signature. There is a charge of £1 a person for registration.


Mr McMenamin: I am very fond of brass bands. Strabane has three major brass bands. At the moment one of our bands is representing Northern Ireland in the European championship. Why are they no longer eligible for lottery funding?


Mr Clements: That is not strictly correct. Considerable lottery money was given to bands for the first three years of the lottery. Then, for reasons best known to the Arts Council of Northern Ireland which runs the arts lottery in Northern Ireland, a moratorium was placed on funding to bands. It might be partly explained by a fraud that involved a trader but none of the bands. That was being investigated. When the format for lottery funding was drawn up, it suited bands down to the ground. If bands applied there were really no grounds on which the lottery would normally turn them down. People in other arts and crafts cultures, particularly those who work on their own in various art forms, had not the same ability to apply.


The Arts Council felt that bands were snapping up too much of the funding and it imposed a moratorium. It conducted a review which produced a report last summer. It recommended that funding for instruments et cetera be restored to one eligible band type each year. I recently received a letter from the chief executive of the Arts Council and I understand that that is the current position, but administrative delays mean that we have not yet received the application forms. That is due to start again soon.


Mrs Nelis: How much does it cost to set up a band?


Mr Clements: It depends on the type of band. For example, it costs about £80,000 to set up a brass band.


The Chairperson: When one considers the costs, it is a surprise that there are not more equipment suppliers trying to sponsor you. The Committee applauds your efforts on the European venture. All that we can do is to lend our support to those efforts. Unfortunately, we can make no financial contribution, but the Committee's support might be useful.


Thank you very much for coming here today. Your information will help us to make recommendations.


Mr Gourley: On behalf of the NIBA we thank you very much for listening to us.


Thursday 10 May 2001

Members present:

Mr ONeill (Chairperson)
Mrs Nelis (Deputy Chairperson)
Dr Adamson
Mr Agnew
Mr Davis
Mr Hilditch
Mr McCarthy
Mr McMenamin

Mr Shannon


Mr J Crozier ) Royal Scottish Pipe

Mr G Montgomery ) Band Association

Mr G Parks )

Mr N McCausland )


The Chairperson: You are welcome, gentlemen. The Committee is seeking as much information for the inquiry as we can get, and your contribution is important to us.


Mr Crozier: I will introduce my own team. Mr Eddie Montgomery is a retired pipe major from the North Belfast pipe band - the only pipe band within the Belfast City boundary. He still teaches classes in North Belfast.


Mr Gordon Parks is a retired leading drummer from the Field Marshall Montgomery band. The band is unique in that it has won the grade 1 award in the World Championships twice, under his leadership and that of his brother.


There were over a hundred bands in the branch when the organisation started in the late 1950's and early 1960's. That number has gone down to 96. When we had over a hundred bands, about 40 or 50 of them came from Belfast. Now there is only one.


The fourth member of the team is our vice- president and the Chief Executive officer of the Ulster- Scots Heritage Council, Mr Nelson McCausland. He is not a playing member of a band.


The Chairperson: Can you tell us about your work?


Mr Crozier: Our submission covered most of the things that we hope to achieve in the field of tourism. We have a tremendously attractive product that, properly handled and advertised, could be a real winner and attract folk on two major fronts: the spectacle at competition and the educational side.


In Glasgow, where there is a similar situation, a group of business men saw an opening for this type of development. They formed a consortium, applied to Europe and got a grant of over £1 million. I cannot confirm that figure - it is general scuttlebutt. However, that is what they are supposed to have received. With the money, they converted a massive old church at the top of Hope Street and the corner of Sauciehall Street into a music school and museum, with accommodation, lecture rooms, classrooms and a theatre. They have all the facilities one could wish for. Now it is booked out. People are coming from all over the world to book in to it.


At our school we teach a graded system, similar to the system for flute and piano and so on. That does not happen anywhere else in the world. Other students learn from tutors and by doing examinations, and from what they have learnt initially in their own bands. Here, we can take a student from the street who has never been in a band and who has never had a pipe or a drum in their hand, and we can teach them until they are proficient, if they are willing to stay the course.


That is a graded system, and the Arts Council has funded us for about the past 20 years. Unfortunately for the last five years the funding has been the same. We were based at Rupert Stanley college on Templemore Avenue in Belfast but the rent got so high that the grant from the Arts Council was almost paid straight out on rent. Therefore, we had to stop the central school. We had always had classes in the countryside, in Banbridge and Lisburn, etc, but we stopped them and took one third of the classes to Monkstown school. We had a good class in Enniskillen. We then negotiated and moved one third into Newry and one third into the Portora Royal School in Enniskillen. Two years down the line we were still receiving the same funding when petrol prices hit us.


Our instructors in Enniskillen came from Holywood, Derriaghy, Shantallow in Derry City and Dungannon. Putting petrol in tanks so that the instructors could travel back and forth on a Saturday from those areas to Enniskillen soon ate up the allowance that should have been used for teaching music. We had to close down our Newry class last year. However, the Arts Council has increased our grant so we will be able to start up in Newry again. We also hope to start a class in Strabane or in Londonderry County or Derry City. That will be a big step for us. Unfortunately, we do not anticipate going into one venue at the moment, although we could make better use of our teachers if that were possible.


In contrast with developments in Glasgow, we do not have any premises, part-time or full-time staff, computers or printers. Any facilities we have belong to somebody else who is good enough to let us use them.


It is possible to come to Glasgow from the United States and do a course in 14 days. It would take 14 weeks to do the course here because classes are only on Saturday mornings. Therefore, at the moment, such a course is not practical or viable. Having said that, our own school does have, and has had, students from England, Republic of Ireland and Scotland. Two New Zealanders also did a course at our school. That is an achievement because we think our different methods are superior, and some people obviously agree with us. Such courses could be a big tourist attraction - it would amount to a form of educational tourism.


We also have traditional and well-established competitions. There are only three venues in the North of Ireland that we go to each year and they are at the three main seaside resorts - Portrush, Newcastle and Bangor. We find when we go to other venues, including Lisburn -the next most popular venue - Armagh and Lurgan, that by the second and third year of using that venue the crowds have fallen away. Initially, they have not been to an event like ours for years, so they rush to it. Then, having seen it once, they do not want to see it again so soon. However, there are more tourists in the other resorts. Everywhere in Portrush, Bangor or Newcastle is booked out on the weekend the bands are there.


Locally, our most prestigious contest is the annual Ulster Championship, and we usually have pipe band contesting only. However, this year we have introduced dance -not as a contest, but as a sideshow. We have worked with schools and included activities like sports and tug-of-war for people who want to use the periphery of the venue when the crowds are there.


In Scotland, some of the highland gatherings are centred around dance, and the pipe bands are pushed to one side. Others are centred around heavy sports, the caber and the track, and the dance and bands are pushed aside. Here the bands are strictly the core of our events.


We would be delighted to try to expand the event, and anyone who wishes to come along can do so. This year, for the first time ever, the Ulster Championships will be in the Ormeau Park in Belfast. The Ulster-Scots Agency has promised us additional funding so that we can bring in a display team of both heavy sports experts and highland dancers; the event will probably finish with the sportsmen tossing the dancers. The event would be a panoply, as we would have our local country dancers and recitals from the folk at Burns Club as well. In the indoor tennis area we will have other types of recitals too. We will also have the pipe bands.


Some 15 to 20 years ago the Royal Dragoon Guards made the hit record Amazing Grace, combining silver and pipe. It was a tremendous breakthrough which means our music is now both traditional and contemporary. We have bongo drums and maracas. You name it, we will play it. Some of it has been absolutely terrible and has never since been repeated, but at least we have tried it.


We encourage and welcome other groups and we will work with them to the best of our ability. Presently there are five major competitions and that is unlikely to change in the immediate future.


You win a championship in the pipe bands on the day. The world championship is like the FA cup; you win it on the day, even if you are a rank outsider and not in the major league at all - if you are the best on the day you are the world champions. The champion of champions is over the five majors. The Cowal championship was the recognised world championship before we were formed back in 1935 when the organisation in Scotland was instituted. The Cowal is held at Dunoon in Scotland on the very bottom of the peninsula there every year. The world championship is the largest competition; the Cowal ranks second, and in between you have the British, the Scottish and the European championships. The Scottish competition does not leave Scotland. The British and European competitions do move about, however, and have been held in Northern Ireland, as has the world championship. I have all sorts of figures on attendances if the members wish to see them. We are hoping this year to have the European contest in Banbridge.


The Chairperson: The members of the Committee have tabled questions and perhaps we can move on to those questions.


Mr McCarthy: Is the all-Ireland championship planned for this year? If so, where is it to be held? How many bands will come North for that?


Mr Crozier: This year's all-Ireland is in the North. The all-Ireland is biennial and has been held at Kilkenny Castle in the South for the last six years. It has also moved around in the North. It has been held more times in Donard Park in Newcastle than anywhere else and has also been held in Rostrevor. Mr Chairman, you were a representative there yourself.


The Chairperson: I was a chieftain.


Mr Shannon: I heard you were a bit of an Indian.


The Chairperson: I am recognised in my real position you know.


Mr Crozier: It was held in Kilbroney Park in Rostrevor but this year it is going to Omagh. It has never been in Omagh before. The 26 counties in the South have about 50 pipe bands and some 12 to 15 of those will come North for that competition.


Mr McCarthy: There is good potential for tourism in that.


Mr Crozier: Absolutely.


Dr Adamson: When were the European, British and World Championships last held here? What help do you think the Northern Ireland Tourist Board and the Northern Ireland Events Company could give to the association to continue to attract events to Northern Ireland?


Mr Crozier: The first of the majors came to Northern Ireland back in 1953, when the European Championship was held at Balmoral and arranged by the old Belfast City Council. We did not deal with the Royal Ulster Agricultural Society the way you might have to do nowadays. The 1953 event was such a success that the world championship came back to Balmoral in 1956 and then again in 1962. The situation then began to get a bit unsettled in Northern Ireland and there was a break of 32 years before we hosted another major competition. It was not until 1994 that we had the British Championship at Lisburn. Mr Davis of the Lisburn Council was instrumental in backing this all the way and bringing the majors back. This is done at national council level within our organisation. You have got to get the votes round the table, and I am afraid that for years people did not want their kids to come to Northern Ireland.


We then had the European Championship in Bangor in 1997, and the British Championship in Lisburn in 1999. Lisburn has applied to host another major competition, though I do not know when that will happen. Banbridge will host the British Championship this year. The Ulster Championship in Belfast is a pre-runner to the European Championship which will be hosted by Belfast City Council in Ormeau Park in 2002.


Unfortunately, we never seem to be able to enthuse the Tourist Board with our vision of the attraction. In the early years we had many meetings in River House. The Tourist Board hosted press launches for us that lasted approximately one hour.


Down the years, someone would have come along to contests and presented a cheque for £25 and a cup. That was all we got for years, until the Lisburn event. I do not know who got the Tourist Board involved to such an extent, but on that occasion it certainly came alive and played a big part. The lady concerned was Mrs Jackie D'Arcy, a real live wire. She has not been there for some time, however. She chaired the meetings that managed this big endeavour.


There were many meetings with all sorts of people who had not been there for 32 years and with people we did not know. There were two gentlemen who never spoke until almost the end of the whole series. I asked them who they were, and they happened to be observers from the Northern Ireland Office. They had seen and heard enough to back the council. We do not know if the council got any financial help from anybody, but if they did it went straight to the council and never came through the pipe bands. I hope the council did get it, but we are not concerned with that.


We always thought that the Tourist Board could have taken care of our publicity, as they have the machinery to do it. There is a calendar of events, and we always send the Tourist Board our yearly programme - and I will leave copies of that for everyone - but information was always wanted for the printer three weeks before the date. Four weeks ahead was too early, two weeks was too late. We never seemed to get onto half of the publicity sheets, even those to be handed out in Portrush. The local one mentioned the contest that day, but the tourist information did not.


In general, we always felt that the Tourist Board could have done a lot more to generate publicity; and we found that they never did anything financial.


There was a shortfall between what Banbridge Council could come up with and what the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association (RSPBA) headquarters in Scotland required to bring that contest to Banbridge. Our organisation is in four sections, and the local council got the County Down section to apply. The grant was given, but it went straight to the council. We are fantastically pleased to be granted it.


Dr Adamson: Could the Northern Ireland Events Company give any help in future?


Mr Crozier: Absolutely. There is no doubt about that. What happens in Europe, at such places as Alden Biesen - and starting from scratch - is just unbelievable. A tender to take the European Championship to Belgium has been submitted, and there is travel assistance. The bands are getting £500 apiece just to go and bring the crowds in. We do not have any incentives or support like that. I do not know what the Tourist Board does with regard to activities such as fishing, but I have seen leaflets that promote certain leisure activities. We have nothing like that.


The Tourist Board could sell competitions. If Tourist Board staff even came and told us that they were running a heritage, cultural or musical event and asked us to organise a date, we would be glad to do that.


Mr Agnew: It is nice to see Eddie Montgomery here. He was playing at Windsor Park on Saturday, and the pipers were the best players on the field.


Do you take part in European festivals of piping? Why do you think the Northern Ireland Tourist Board is reluctant to support your events?


Mr Crozier: We just never seem to be able to enthuse the Tourist Board. I do not know why. We made presentations as requested, but the staff kept changing. When Mrs D'Arcy left we had little contact. The last man I was put in contact with was Mr Feargal Kearney, who was very good.


He had two or three meetings that came to nothing. He promised that a committee was being formed for culture and the arts and that we would definitely be represented on it, but we have never heard of the formation of such a committee. I have been in touch with him for about four or five years, and I have asked him to come to various competitions. He came to Bangor once, but he just stayed at the back of the arena. He came in about 5 o'clock for the finale and would not join the platform and party or meet the Mayor. I do not know how long he stayed.


He included me in an invitation to attend a function on tourism in the Wellington Park Hotel. There were representatives there from the Ulster Museum, the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, hoteliers and the small boarding houses, and I was on my own. It was organised by a commercial firm in tourism and the lady in charge was French. When I mentioned Brittany, she told me that she had been to the competition in Brittany. During the lunch break she showed me an article about Brittany in a magazine. It gave the figures - 44,000 attended on such and such a day - and so on. We told the tourism representatives, but they did not seem to be aware of that.


That function was not the proper forum for us. Those people were trying to fill their boarding houses. We could have filled their boarding housing, but only on a specific weekend, and only if they had a venue that was suitable to hold a band contest in. That was our only function, and I cannot understand why we never received any more support from them.


Mr McCausland: We have encountered these difficulties with the Tourist Board for a number of years. In 1997, when they commissioned their report on Tourism in the Arts in Northern Ireland, it identified the world championship pipe band competition, the opportunities that that opened up, and the various other cultural elements associated with it. That was an important document because it highlighted the Ulster-Scots tradition and the piping tradition as potential major attractions here. Those issues were taken up with the Tourist Board, and together with the Ulster-Scots Heritage Council, we had a number of meetings with them. It may have been due to apathy or a lack of energy, but nothing happened at those meetings. We went along and talked but there was no end result.


That report and a subsequent 1998 report on the cultural sector strengthened the emphasis on the Ulster-Scots tradition and the profile of the pipe band world. Opportunities for festivals and summer schools had been opened up. All of those issues had been highlighted in their reports, but the Tourist Board never seemed to do anything. Despite the positive outcome of the reports, the meetings never produced anything.


Mr Agnew: Tell us a little about the European Festivals that you take part in.


Mr Parks: Bands including my own have competed and given concerts for many years now, not only in European Festivals.


Mr Agnew: Is yours the Field Marshal Montgomery Band?


Mr Parks: Yes. We have also competed in festivals in America and Canada for a number of years. It is only when you travel that you become aware of the worldwide interest in cultural and cross-cultural issues, and that is worth utilising. I have just returned from Florida where I was teaching for two weeks. As a result of that visit, 50 people are coming to Portrush this year from the South Eastern United States Association to see how we run the organisation in Northern Ireland.


That is a tremendous opportunity, and it is untapped. Part of our problem has been that the pipe band world has not been particularly good at marketing itself in the past, although in recent years that has improved with lots of television coverage. By broadening the appeal beyond bands into dance and into sports, we can craft a tremendous opportunity for tourism within Northern Ireland. I cannot think of any better way of strengthening the link between culture and tourism than by looking at the pipe band scene on a worldwide basis.


Mrs Nelis: Thank you for your presentation, Mr Crozier. I believe that there is tremendous potential to develop Mr Parks' ideas. You answered a lot of my questions when you spoke of the development in Glasgow. It sounds visionary, and we would like to develop something like that.


I will repeat my questions, because I think it is important in terms of assessing the potential for a summer school here. Have you done any research? I am sure that you have benefited from collaborating with the Scottish school. I agree with you that these schools are a major draw, not just in terms of promoting your music, and the culture, but also for tourism and economic benefit.


If you look at the marketing end of it, you have 50 people coming over from Florida as a result of Mr Parks' trip there. That potential could be capitalised on worldwide. I know that it is very disappointing to have to go to the Tourist Board all the time, because they are not visionary enough to see potential there. Their perceptions are very limited. You should go back to them afresh. Perhaps you could tell me if you have approached any other organisations. I am thinking particularly of pipe bands, but am also interested in the uilleann pipes. The popularity of pipe bands in the international market escalated after the Chieftains' concert in China.


Mr Crozier: The summer school in Glasgow is run in mid-July. The contest season starts in May and goes right through to the first Saturday in September, so it is difficult to run anything except in the middle of July, when it all ceases. We do a fortnight of solid classes then. You can get round it.


In Scotland they can have teaching in their schools. We have been trying to arrange that here, but our education system disallows it. There are peripatetic teachers in on occasions, but that course runs for a few weeks and is then stood down. The demand in the schools is tremendous. We knew that. We were approached by Na Píobairí Uilleann from Henrietta Street in Dublin, to see if we could get together and make a proposal that would appeal to Co-operation Ireland. We met for a year. They funded us for a year to meet in Dundalk and make a presentation to them, which we did. We got £90,000 for two-and-a-half years.


That funding came in three tranches. One was for four concerts; two in the north, and two in the south. That will finish with the last concert in Armagh in a fortnight's time. Another is for a history video and recording CDs. The third and biggest tranche was for education. We made 80 presentations in 80 different schools, all in the first six months. The fact that the visits were funded meant that the schools were fighting to get one.


The presentation team comprised an uilleann piper, a flautist, a Highland piper, and a drummer. The fifth member varied; it was normally either a storyteller or a singer. We are still getting letters asking when we are coming back. If somebody comes up with another £90,000, we will be there again. The demand was tremendous.


Mrs Nelis: Do you see potential in establishing a summer school?


Mr Crozier: Absolutely.


Mr Parks: The teaching methods in Northern Ireland are renowned throughout the world. Our graded system has led the way for many years. As a result, there is great interest in our teaching system, because it produces players much more quickly, and at a much higher standard. That is also an attraction, and summer schools would certainly be well attended.


Mr McMenamin: You are very welcome gentlemen, and I applaud your efforts and all your work. Do you have a development plan? Do bands from the Nationalist tradition take part in your competitions?


Mr Crozier: We have several development plans which are all dependent on finance. I am the longest serving member here this morning. Since 1962 we have been trying to talk to a committee of this eminence that might be able and willing to do something. We prepare these plans and then never hear anything more. When someone suggests premises and asks us to produce a plan, we will produce whatever they want from then on. The idea at the minute is just to try and knock as many doors and bang as loud as we can to try and get recognition.


We are not the only ones. Our companions in the other tradition are in the same boat, and we go to the same meetings all the time. We have been granted £8,000 by the Ulster-Scots Agency to do research. That will be a godsend, and with that, we hope to formulate the sort of plan that will appeal to everybody.


The second part of your question is dead easy. There are not two traditions in the pipe bands. One fifth of our organisation comes from the Nationalist tradition. We have Colmcille from Shantallow in Derry City; St Mary's, Derrytrasna; and St Patrick's Castlewellan at Annsborough. We have about five saints' bands from around Fermanagh. I cannot remember the names of all of them. All are involved and compete quite happily.


I will not name the band, but we had a chap called Dowling from the Arts Council who came along to present the prizes, and he was remarking on the great mix. He was listening to a drumming display. I asked him if he realised who he was watching, and he said three drummers. So I told him the two drummers on the outside are in the uniform of, and are from the RUC, and the drummer in the middle is from the Shantallow in Derry. Tell me, where else you would go where you would be likely to see that?


The Chairman of the Fermanagh section is Pat Murphy. They hold the same offices, they compete intensively at all levels, and we get on extremely well with our counterpart in the South, the Irish Pipe Band Association. The first all-Ireland was held long before we were even formed. The pipe bands in Northern Ireland belonged to the pipe band league, which was part of the North of Ireland Bands' Association, and they got together in 1946 with the Irish Pipe Band Association, and held the first all-Ireland in Iveagh Gardens in Dublin. It has been going continuously, without one interruption of any sort on a sectarian level, all down the years. I can assure you that absolutely yes, not only do bands from the Nationalist tradition compete, but in many cases they go away with the prizes too.


The Chairperson: Unfortunately Jim Shannon was delayed, and was not able to join us earlier. He would like to ask a final question.


Mr Shannon: I apologise for missing your presentation. I come from the Ards borough council area, an area which has a great tradition and interest in the pipe bands. I am quite interested in the development plan that you referred to. Ards Borough Council is going to host an Ulster-Scots festival next year. We want to mix pipe bands with dance, music, verse, and storytelling. While Newtownards will be the focal point for of the festival, it will include other areas within the borough as well.


What help could we give together to such a festival, to ensure the promotion of the Ulster-Scots tradition and culture in that area? You mentioned that the championship was in Omagh this year. May I suggest that Londonderry Park in Newtownards would be a very good venue for next year.


Mr Crozier: Over the 50 years since we started, it has been politic with us to go where we are invited. We do not ask people if they want us to come to them, we wait until we are invited. We cannot always go, because there are not enough Saturdays in the year - I wish that there were. We meet interested groups, along with two or three of our officers, to discuss plans for a Scots night or contest.


Mr Shannon: We can find your address in your booklet.


Mr Crozier: The booklet contains all the sections and branch officers. The details of Fred Walker, the executive officer, can also be found there.


Mr McCausland: The Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association is the largest member organisation of the Ulster-Scots Heritage Council. We did not give a submission directly to the Committee, but we have produced a document which explores various aspects of culture and tourism. We will leave copies of that and are happy to come back another time.


The Chairperson: We are happy to accept that. The Committee is keen to get as much information as possible in this inquiry. It is a visionary inquiry. We could be laying down the framework for many years to come, which could be very exciting.


Mr McCarthy: One gentleman said that he was delighted to be at this Committee, the first for 30 or 40 years that is prepared to listen. That is a tribute to this Committee. We hope that we can help you.


Mr Agnew: During the Cromwellian period, the pipes were banned because they were thought of as weapons of war. During World War I, Scottish pipers frightened the life out of the German soldiers. One German general nicknamed them "the ladies from hell". Indeed, I bought a video in Scotland on the history of the pipes entitled "Ladies from Hell".


Mr Montgomery: Everyone in this room knows of the difficulties that the Northern Ireland tourist industry has suffered in recent months. I am not just involved in pipe bands; I am also a businessman. The amount of revenue generated and of peripheral benefits that flow to the retail, catering and accommodation sectors of local communities is unbelievable. The venues where those major competitions are held are one example. A little encouragement from everybody in this room can go a long way to counter the detriment that the tourist industry has suffered recently. That is very important.


Mr Agnew: Will it have a detrimental effect on the result of the Irish Cup Final on Saturday?


Mr Montgomery: That is nothing to do with me.


The Chairperson: Please feel free to send on further information. Your presentation has been worthwhile and helpful.


Thursday 10 May 2001

Members present:

Mr ONeill (Chairperson)

Mrs Nelis (Deputy Chairperson)

Mr Agnew

Mr Davis

Mr Hilditch

Mr McCarthy

Mr McMenamin

Mr Shannon


Dr R Schierbeek )

Mr I Urwin ) Castleward Opera

Mr I Lindsay )


The Chairperson: Gentlemen, you are very welcome. The Committee recognises the importance of your presentation and we will ask some questions on it afterwards.


Dr Schierbeck: Thank you. I am Roelof Schierbeek, chairman of Castleward Opera, Mr Urwin is our artistic director and Mr Lindsay is our finance director.


Mr Urwin: May I pass round a profile of Castleward Opera. It is not quite up to date but it provides some background on us, where we have come from and where we hope to go.


For the last 17 years we have devoted ourselves to generating excellence in opera in a unique space in the barn at Castleward, which has, over time, become a theatre. That has developed from being just an operatic performance into an experience, and most people who have been to Castleward agree that there is something unique about it. Not only do we create high-quality, professional opera, we also create - with the help of the estate - a unique atmosphere and environment. We have been called the Glyndebourne of Northern Ireland - indeed Ireland - and anyone who has been to Glyndebourne might agree that, although it is beautiful, what we have in Strangford is unique. Over the years we have found that the high quality that we have created has attracted limited numbers of tourists. There is a very good reason for the limited numbers, which I will come to later. We have been able to generate an image which has been very important for Northern Ireland. We have shown that there can be normality and that people here can enjoy themselves at a time when the world's press was showing bombs and bullets. Castleward Opera has been shown coast-to-coast in America; European journalists have visited and written extensively about what we do; and journalists from Great Britain do the same every year.


The Northern Ireland Tourist Board sponsored us for a while and it continues to use the image of Castleward in its publicity material. We have always been grateful for its support, but its ethos changed a few years ago and we no longer receive any financial support from it. It continues to use Castleward as a good image for Northern Ireland. We are also grateful to Down District Council which has supported us throughout, and Mr ONeill was very much to the fore in ensuring that support. We are always limited by the financial resources available.


We try to present a two-opera season; one opera is not really a season. Occasionally, however, finances do not permit that. This year is an example because we will be presenting one opera 'The Marriage of Figaro'; last year we presented two, 'Madame Butterfly' and 'Martha'. We try to present a season which encompasses one very popular opera and one which is not very well known but which has qualities that should be better known.


The Northern Ireland audience is no different from audiences anywhere else in the world in that it will always want to come to the popular opera with which it is familiar. It is more difficult to persuade people to come to the opera that they do not know so well. We try to develop taste, but that involves cost. If we do not succeed in selling to the maximum advantage we lose money and end up staging one opera.


The advantage of presenting two operas, one of which is unknown, is that we can attract national and international journalists. They will not want to see a 'Madame Butterfly' or a 'Marriage of Figaro' because they can see those anywhere. However, 'Martha' and 'La Somnambula' attracted international journalists. In that way we can generate a broader picture of what is happening. We can make a major contribution in our single location at Castleward with the help of tourism. We can generate greater interest by staging a particular type of opera.


Very recently we saw the development of opportunity in Derry. I went to see the development of a new theatre there and I suddenly realised that it was not a theatre but a tremendously exciting complex. It is possible to utilise that resource to create a Castleward experience in the north of the Province. We all know what happened in Wexford. Over the years it has created an opera festival which is now internationally recognised and a very important part of tourism in that part of the world. There is an opportunity to use Derry's resources to create a Castleward experience; to introduce picnicking into the complex and develop it to attract tourists to that very beautiful part of Ireland.


That is an idea that I have, but these ideas can only be realised with the necessary finance. If finance were available, we could make a major contribution to the development of tourism in that area.


We cannot give you figures on who came from outside Northern Ireland to Castleward. An analysis that we did found that 17½% of our total audience came from outside Northern Ireland. Many of them came from the Republic while others came from England, Scotland, Wales, the Isle of Man and America. Indeed, a group of 20 Americans will be attending Castleward this year.


This year and in future we will be equipped to take a statistical approach and will know the numbers exactly. We have the right environment and with the right financial support - and it always comes back to that - we could do a great deal. We will have money from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. Opera is the most expensive and exciting art form; it is a minority interest, but that interest can be valuable. Through it we have been able to create a good image for Northern Ireland.


Mrs Nelis: I am pleased to hear the remarks about our theatre, as it is an innovative and exciting project and well suited to opera. There is a strong tradition of classical music in the Foyle constituency. I know how difficult it is to fund operatic projects such as yours, and your company has done remarkably well. You have prestigious and influential sponsors. What is the company's budget?


Mr Urwin: The budget varies from year to year depending on whether we do two operas or one. Mr Lindsay is our financial director and can be more specific.


Mr Lindsay: In the summer season we spend about £180,000. That is our expenditure this year. We spent about £82,000 at the Grand Opera House. That comes to about £260,000 to £270,000 for the year. The year before we spent a total of between £400,000 and £423,000. We staged two operas last year but have had to cut back this year and are doing one.


Mrs Nelis: Apart from your corporate sponsors, box office receipts and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland from where does your sponsorship come?


Mr Lindsay: We received £400,000 last year in total and we made a loss. The Arts Council of Northern Ireland gave us £150,000 and £135,000 came from box office receipts. We got £56,000 from sponsorship and £17,000 from trusts. We got a further £16,000 from the Arts and Business Pairing Scheme which gives pound for pound in certain types of sponsorship. If one adds that to our sponsorship - including the Arts and Business Pairing Scheme - we get about £72,000 from sponsorship. We also have various odds and ends. We run a ballot; we have friends who give us money and we have schemes for diamond and sapphire sponsors - individual rather than corporate sponsorship.


Mr Urwin: We can illustrate the difficulties we faced last year when we mounted a two-opera season and our income was substantially less. We have a very small theatre at Castleward and box office limits the amount we can generate. It is important that houses are 100% full, and when we stage an unusual opera, that can be difficult to achieve. It is important to develop taste, which cannot be done unless we develop people's interest by bringing operas like this to them. We were very disappointed that we could only produce a one-opera season this year. We would have loved to do another opera like 'Martha' - a beautiful piece which we staged last year. Those who attended both operas said "Martha was the one". It is a pity that attendances were not better. We are endeavouring to build the trust of the opera-going public so that it knows that when we stage an opera it will enjoy it. We have yet to reach that stage. We want to stage a two-opera season again, but it is difficult as we run the risk of losing money.


Mr Lindsay: The difference in box office between a popular opera and a less well-known one is about £30,000. That is the Grand Opera House season and the summer season.


Dr Schierbeek: We are between the devil and the deep blue sea. Over the last two years we lost over £60,000. There is no income against that, so we had to decide what to do. We could have done one of two things: we could fold or we could try our utmost to keep Castleward opera going because we feel that opera is important in the cultural life of Northern Ireland. The bank was not so sympathetic, and the directors had to give personal guarantees to the bank for the £60,000. That concentrated our minds on our no longer being able to lose £30,000 or £40,000 a year. That is why we staged one opera and we hope to claw back at least part of the losses.


Mr McCarthy: Is there room for Wexford Festival and Castleward Opera?


Mr Urwin: There is no question of that. I am certain that the environment that we can create is just as attractive as Wexford's. Wexford has hotels and plenty of accommodation; people can go to the opera but during the day they are surrounded by amenities and facilities which Strangford cannot offer. Mr John Herlihy of the Portaferry Hotel sells tickets for the opera in a packaged way. He brings people to his hotel, takes them to the opera and gives them a wonderful weekend. He can organise in a very small way to provide an entertainment for them that is broader than just the opera. The opera remains, however, the focal point of the whole experience.


Wexford does not need to do that; it can provide the hotel accommodation and there is a great deal to do in the facility. Derry can provide very exciting opportunities. It is a bigger city than Wexford and should have all its advantages - a theatre and a complex in the making which has no equal in Ireland. I do not know about England, Scotland and Wales, but the Derry project is tremendous. There is a great opportunity if somebody can seize it and make it happen. We can provide the product, but we come back to the filthy lucre.


Mr McMenamin: When did the Northern Ireland Tourist Board (NITB) stop providing you with financial support? Do you stage amateur productions or are they all professional?


Mr Urwin: The Northern Ireland Tourist Board has not supported us financially for over four years. The only tourist support is in Mr ONeill's area, which is where we are. The support is useful, but small.


We are a locally based company and we are professional in that we bring in professional singers but we have a local chorus. Several local professional singers can play smaller roles in our opera productions. Our orchestra comprises local professionals who are not necessarily full-time playing professionals but are largely teaching professionals.


We supplement that with an imported group of string players; that constitutes a band not an orchestra. They and the Ulster Orchestra play for us at Castleward. As they must do so many performances they probably play better than the Ulster Orchestra. Perhaps I should be more discreet on record.


There is an element of amateurism, but we do take it a stage further. Our latest venture is to stage concerts in Harry Ramsden's. We have also performed 'Così fan Tutte' in the Great Hall at Parliament Buildings. All the principals and everyone involved were local.


We go into Harry Ramsden's in October or November. We are talking to the Belfast Festival at Queen's and if we are included in that we will be performing in November. We will be staging a production of 'Trial by Jury' by Gilbert and Sullivan in Harry Ramsden's with totally local input.


Mr Davis: Do you market on the mainland or abroad?


Mr Urwin: No, we have not done that.


Mr Lindsay: We have a circulation list of everybody who has booked tickets to Castleward Opera, and some of them come from abroad. We also operate a sort of exchange with some of the Southern opera companies which allows us to use their circulation lists to contact their people.


Mr Davis: How does your relationship with the Tourist Board stand?


Dr Schierbeek: There has been no financial support for the last four or five years but it has tried to support us. For instance, it tried to bring over journalists from abroad and from England when we performed in Castleward House. That is useful. It tries to support us but does not have or cannot find the money - which is of course what we need most.


Mr Davis: Opera was usually regarded as an upper-class activity. Have you found over the years that there is more of a working-class audience now attending the opera?


Dr Schierbeek: Our problem is that we are seen in some circles as an upper-class activity. In reality of course, people from every stratum of society who enjoy music will come to see opera. For example, the Volksoper is the second opera in Vienna, not the stage opera. It is exceedingly popular and the whole population goes. The Viennese, however, have had several hundred years to develop it. We have only had 17. One of our aims is to bring opera to people in Northern Ireland who are interested in music and therefore into entertainment with a capital "E". We are trying as much as we can to get away from being seen as an organisation that appeals to upper-class people. That is one of our problems.


Mr Lindsay: One of our problems at Castleward is that we must charge quite high prices because of our financial situation. We are, however, doing concerts in other places. We are trying venues such as Harry Ramsden's - "Opera and Chips" - to appeal to a different audience.


Dr Schierbeek: I might add that those are extremely popular. They have twice been sold out for weeks before. People who have come for fish and chips will find that they get an opera thrown in as well. We hope that they will think, "That was marvellous; I will go again".


Mr Shannon: I was invited to Castleward when I had the privilege of being Mayor of Ards Borough Council. It was a wonderful day out, almost idyllic.


What statistics do you have on young people's interest in opera? Are young people involved in singing, stagecraft or direct teaching? How will you work towards the future?


Mr Urwin: We have a project running alongside this season's programme which involves schoolchildren. We invited several schools to design the set and costumes for the 'Marriage of Figaro'. That is happening at present. When we stage the opera they will all come down to Castleward. Their designs will be on display when the opera is staged and they will have the opportunity to talk to the designer and to the director and to attend dress rehearsals. That will be involvement.


Involvement on stage is difficult unless the opera has roles for young characters. 'Madam Butterfly', for example, has a part for a very young child, so last year there was a young child in the opera - but that is a different issue. We intend to involve as many young people as possible. In the period leading up to the season our musical director and director will go to various schools to talk to the students about the show. Those schools will then bring the sixth-formers to the public dress rehearsal, and that involves an element of education.


Mr Shannon: Do many of those students take part?


Mr Urwin: We consciously and constantly want to bring them into play. Music and singing in Northern Ireland have changed over the last 20 or 30 years. There was a time when people did not go away to music colleges. However, we now find that young people of 17 or 18 with promising voices leave for college in London or Dublin. We do not have equivalent facilities in Northern Ireland so we do not retain them. The best that we can hope for is to bring those talented people back when they have finished their training. We encourage those who remain to join our chorus, but it is difficult to find them.


Mr Hilditch: Was the potential for a Northern Ireland summer opera school assessed?


Mr Urwin: In the last couple of years the Arts Council has staged an opera weekend. Young singers from the North and the South attended masterclasses in Stranmillis and produced a concert at the end of three or four days. The students lived in and worked together during that time. Unfortunately, that event was in a sort of limbo - it happened but there was no actual end result. We proposed to the Arts Council that if it intends to continue with the project it should be structured around our season in June. That way the young singers could work on and develop a particular role over the weekend. They could then be given roles as understudies to attend performances and work alongside the professionals during the season. The Arts Council said that it was a good idea; but it is still at the good idea stage.


The Chairperson: Thank you very much, your contribution was a valuable one and contained many good ideas for us to examine and include.


The Committee recently visited Boston to study its culture and arts provision. Boston has a good reputation for culture and arts. The Committee was struck by the ability of those involved in culture and arts to raise private finance. Castleward Opera is a good example of a company in Northern Ireland that receives private finance; it is not found in many other areas. Although Castleward Opera would like more private finance, its success in identifying and raising that support is an example to other companies in the private sector who want such backing.


In the longer term there will not be sufficient public funding to do everything that we want to do in the arts. Castleward Opera deserves a great deal of credit, and I know that you work very hard at it. Castleward Opera's contribution to music and opera in Northern Ireland has been phenomenal. Even the financial difficulties of recent years that you described contain a lesson. There is much valuable material in what you said and I thank you for it.


Tuesday 15 May 2001

Members present:

Mr ONeill (Chairperson)
Dr Adamson
Mr Davis
Mr Hilditch
Mr McCarthy
Mr Shannon


Ms J Moore ) Lyric Theatre

Mr P Dalgety )


The Chairperson: Good morning. You are very welcome. We will give you the customary time of 10 minutes to make your points, and then we will ask questions. Would you like to begin?


Ms Moore: The Lyric Theatre will be celebrating its fiftieth anniversary this year. We are known as the leading producer of professional drama in Northern Ireland.


Over the last five years there has been a number of changes in the different aspects of the business and various projects we are involved in. We put product on the stage in Belfast, and we are also involved in touring throughout Ireland and internationally. We host productions from visiting companies and distinguished artists. We also commission plays, and many original pieces premiere at the Lyric.


Another aspect to our business is our youth activity in the form of 'Youth Lyric'. We put together various packages for local children throughout Northern Ireland. This work is primarily centred in Belfast and Antrim.


We have an education office whose work involves education and outreach. We have started an affiliate schools programme whereby schools, for a modest sum to cover administration costs, can join the Lyric affiliate scheme and avail of a number of benefits such as study guides specifically geared towards Lyric productions.


There are free preview tickets for teachers and 50% discounts for students. Students do not have to come to the theatre with their teachers, as the whole idea is about breaking down traditional barriers and encouraging young people to think of theatre as they would think of a night at the cinema.


We have established a schools liaison committee. Its purpose is to help us plan our programming by ensuring that we are informed by various educational individuals, whether they are teachers or members of the education and library boards. We find out what teachers and students require and determine what we can do and how we can fit into the whole education spectrum.


The education office is also looking at areas for funding. There are a couple of projects that we are considering, and again it comes down to funding. They primarily centre on trying to bring out the attributes of disadvantaged children. The idea is that creativity has a knock-on effect that encourages development in young people.


We have another affiliated programme, which is a drama studio for over-21s. They can see this as a hobby - something interesting to do after work or study.


Youth Lyric is for five-year-olds through to age 21. As I said earlier, it is based in Belfast and Antrim. We have the largest theatre school in Northern Ireland and the largest youth theatre group in Ireland - with approximately 650 members.


We also have an affiliation with Queens University whereby there is mutual understanding and sharing of information. Students come to the Lyric on work placement in different departments such as production, stage management, education office and marketing. The idea is to provide an all-round experience.


We have just launched a new initiative, which is to provide theatre tours. It has been very successful. It is amazing that so many people want to have the tour - to be in the place where Liam Neeson once dressed to go on stage.


As regards the current relationship between the arts and tourism, I am a member of the Belfast Arts Marketing Group. About 10 member groups regularly meet and discuss ideas. It is a type of open forum where we can work together to progress marketing in the arts.


We have had a lot of contact with the Belfast Visitor and Convention Bureau both as the Lyric Theatre and through our membership of the Belfast Arts Marketing Group. We have used this as a way of taking forward our ideas and publicising what we are doing, our schedules and our programmes. We have contact with Belfast City Council and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board. However, in saying that, there is no specific strategy in place for arts organisations and members of tourist organisations to work together in a discussion forum - almost like a tourist partnership. Such an arrangement would be very beneficial.


There are two specific needs as far as a cultural tourism strategy is concerned. One involves children and young people. The other relates to tourists, whether domestic or international.


We have ideas for getting visitors to avail of our services. One is through information technology. International visitors normally find out what we are doing through the World Wide Web - everyone uses it nowadays. Integrated web sites, where someone could search under 'Northern Ireland' or 'entertainment' and hit the Belfast Visitor and Convention Bureau web site, the tourist information web site, or the Lyric's own site, would ensure that there was that link between all of them. It would provide a more holistic view of Northern Ireland and its facilities.


There are also cultural tours, which could be treated in the same way as historic tours and places of interest tours in Northern Ireland as regards signage.


There are two very interesting ideas relating to bringing people together. One is a cultural festival, such as the Galway Arts Festival or similar festivals run throughout the world. It would be a matter of gaining arts venues, taking ownership of the festival and organising a schedule of events - 'a cultural festival'.


Obviously we have the Queen's Festival, but the idea is that the cultural festival would take place during the summer period when many arts organisations go 'dark', close, or have a limited schedule of events. There is a lot of room for discussion.


The final idea is for a cultural young persons' camp during the summer months. Obviously a lot of sport takes place, and I remember being involved with a lot of my friends in Sport Unity when I was younger. Young people want to be with their friends, but they also want to be doing something active. The idea is that there could be workshops involving local children and art directors, designers and so on. Through our schools affiliation programme, we provide workshops, for example, in costume design, if it is a period production, or in set design, for example, unusual sets - at the moment we have a revolving set on the Lyric stage as part of the set for 'As the Beast Sleeps'.


Many theatre-related workshops could be set up. However, there are other aspects such as dance. It really comes down to the need for a discussion forum where individuals from arts groups and tourism sectors can come together, design a programme of events and put that forward into the medium and promote it.


Ultimately, that is what we are looking for. Colleagues in other arts organisations feel it is critical that we look at a tourist strategy involving the tourist sector and cultural venues such as ours. We need to come together to discuss and put forward proposals.


The Chairperson: Thank you very much. Do you want to add anything, Mr Dalgety?


Mr Dalgety: One of the models that is interesting to note, as far as the cultural festival is concerned, is Pitlochry Festival Theatre in Scotland. Pitlochry lies between Perth and Aviemore. The Scottish highlands are a major tourist area, and large numbers of people go there. Like Northern Ireland, the area suffers from inclement weather from time to time. Pitlochry Festival Theatre runs a series of plays during the summer months - the period when the Lyric is 'dark' and, as Ms Moore said, when most of the other arts venues are quiet. Pitlochry Theatre runs three plays per week on a two-night rotational basis. This would be ideal for tourists because if they are in Belfast and the weather is not so good - as is sometimes the case - there would be something for them to see and enjoy.


The standard way of putting on shows in the Lyric is to run a play for three weeks. If tourists are going to be here for a couple of weeks, that is not going to be of any interest to them because they are only going to be able to go to the theatre once. Rotational repertory theatre, which used to be very popular in the early part of the century, would be ideal for tourists. Northern Ireland's immense history of association with drama gives us a huge opportunity to look at this. Unfortunately, it all comes down to funding.


As Ms Moore said, a strategy involving Government and the tourist sector working with people from the arts to develop a programme that is relevant to those sectors has massive possibilities. I know many people who come to Belfast during the summer months, and there is literally nothing on. We could develop a programme that would be relevant. However, it is down to partnership. We need to work with other people. The Lyric Theatre would not be able to implement such a programme by itself and currently would not be able to afford it.


Mr Davis: Ms Moore mentioned a forum for discussion. Many district or borough councils have set up tourism offices and arts facilities. Sometimes people seem to talk only about Belfast. What relationship does the Lyric have with other district councils regarding forum discussions?


Ms Moore: As regards touring productions, we have a very close relationship with regional arts venues such as the Riverside Theatre in Coleraine, the Millennium Forum in Londonderry, the Market Place in Armagh, the Burnavon in Cookstown and the Ardhowen Theatre in Enniskillen. We are in the process of setting up a new initiative - the Lyric touring partnership - which will increase that communication.


At local council level, the tour venues have built up a good relationship with local councils due to the way they were set up and because of the way they are funded. We would glean information from those arts venues and by talking to senior management there.


Mr Davis: Would they be invited to your forums?


Ms Moore: They have already been invited through the Lyric touring partnership. Members from each of the regional venues have joined with the Lyric Theatre and we discuss ideas about programming and what their needs are at specific times of the year.


Dr Adamson: The theatre benefits from some promotion via organisations and other web sites. How effectively do those organisations and web sites promote the Lyric Theatre?


Ms Moore: It is an area that could be developed, as some web sites provide more information than others. It comes down to the links between web sites. I looked at several web sites yesterday as I try to keep up-to-date with what is happening. Our site has links with other sites for information purposes. Organisations such as the Belfast City Council have links to the Lyric's web site. Those links are very important in providing information about programmes and events. However, there should be more links. It is about having a more pro-active approach to ensuring that programmes are updated.


Dr Adamson: How easily can tourists buy tickets?


Ms Moore: That is an entirely different issue. At the moment we can take bookings via the web site, but the bookings have to be confirmed by phone. We do not have a secure line to take credit card details, and that kind of technology costs a considerable amount of money. We need to come together, as a group will benefit from sharing information and reducing overheads.


We are members of the Belfast Arts Marketing Group, and online purchasing was one of the key areas that was identified as needing to be developed. Queen's University used the group for its festival and it was extremely successful. The initial outlay for such a group is very expensive and therefore the whole issue of funding must be examined.


Dr Adamson: I go to a local cinema. It is very easy to book tickets online and the system is really effective.


Ms Moore: People want to be able to book tickets from their desktop, especially when they are looking for information online and have programme details. It is frustrating when you can look at the information but cannot actually purchase tickets.


Our web site provides a layout of the auditorium and you could select your seats. However, it would be really nice to have the online facility to book them. It would also help our box office staff as they would no longer have to process the booking and contact the individual.


Mr Dalgety: I am sure that members of the Committee have probably purchased flight tickets from airlines such as Easyjet or Go simply using the Internet.


We had an interesting informal meeting with Philip Hammond of the Arts Council recently. The Lyric Theatre, the Ulster Orchestra and the Grand Opera House share a booking system, which is now seven or eight years old. The Arts Council and the Lyric would be very interested in a booking system that would encompass all of the venues in Northern Ireland. For instance, venues being used by the Lyric touring partnership could be pulled together so that tourists could book tickets in advance on the Internet by accessing one booking system. The Arts Council is very interested in doing this, and the technology is certainly available.


Ms Moore: It would be easier for the venues also. At the moment, gleaning market information from our systems is quite cumbersome. It would make a great difference if all of the venues worked together and there is certainly a desire, from a communications standpoint, to do so.


Mr Dalgety: The venues do not see themselves as competing against each other. Venues such as the Market Place in Armagh, which has just opened, Ardhowen, Omagh and Ballymena, when they open, will augment the existing venues.


It is about having a strategy that would involve everybody. An overall booking system involving all venues would be very beneficial. However, that seems unlikely due to lack of funding. It would be attractive to tourists because they could book tickets wherever they were in Northern Ireland and see the shows that they wanted to see.


Mr Hilditch: Do you know how many out-of-state visitors attend Lyric Theatre productions?


Ms Moore: Most of our market comes from Northern Ireland. We have limited details about the number of international visitors. However we have had many international visitors, such as Germans and Americans. It is a growing market, and international promotions and networks set up to promote the Lyric Theatre would help.


Mr Hilditch: That is one barrier. Are there any others?


Ms Moore: The Internet is one way of crossing the barrier. Tourism trade fairs are another means. There are different ways of promoting all aspects of Northern Ireland. The Internet is the most accessible.


There has been talk of the Lyric taking its current production to New York. That would help people look towards Northern Ireland for reasons other than the political background and troubles. International touring works both ways. It increases our voice at an international level and encourages people to look towards Northern Ireland as a place worth visiting.


Mr Hilditch: Has the Lyric taken a production to New York before?


Ms Moore: A number of years ago we took 'Philadelphia, Here I Come!' on a very successful tour to the States. Liam Neeson is our patron, and it does not do us any harm if he comes to our productions in the States as he did when 'Philadelphia, Here I Come!' was on tour there. Those types of ambassadorial roles can increase awareness.


Mr Dalgety: 'Stones in his Pockets', which recently opened on Broadway, was a massive box office hit. Originally it was a Lyric production, and it is a good advertisement for the Lyric and Northern Ireland. It is doing very good business over there at the moment.


Mr McCarthy: Is there a particular tourist market segment for theatre? If money were not a problem, what would be your key priority in helping you to deliver a better standard of product to the tourist?


Ms Moore: In putting our document together I read many viewpoints on the cultural tourist. The cultural tourist has a specific profile. Most will have been to university and will have a higher than average income. They are willing to spend more money when they go on holidays, and we are in a good position to help them spend that money.


The Lyric is a producing theatre, that is our interest, and if money were no object we would just want to continue producing. Occasionally the Lyric has programmed host productions because it is cheaper than producing something ourselves. If we had unlimited funds we would keep producing.


Cultural tourists want to see locally produced theatre of a very high standard. When we put together the Lyric touring partnership and went to the venues it was very interesting to hear their audiences' views on the Lyric product. The feedback was excellent - they said that our standard was very high. It would be very advantageous to have enough funds to continue producing a high quality product for the theatre in Belfast and to be able to take productions on tour.


Mr Shannon: My questions are primarily about summer tourists and summer schools. You mentioned cultural tours. Do you see that as a focal point for summer tourists? What can we offer tourists? You have given us a good idea of your plans for schools. How do people get involved in that? The Committee has been very fortunate as it has given us the opportunity to see the talent in the Province, and we are all very impressed. How can we encourage children from our constituencies to get involved in summer schools?


Ms Moore: I said that we are trying to target students in disadvantaged areas. That is the key area because the reality is that creativity breeds progress. Our education officer and executive producer have put together a programme, and we are currently looking for funding for that. The programme is called the 'Star project' and it involves getting young kids excited about theatre and involved in it. Excitement breeds creativity and enthusiasm.


If we could get kids involved in workshops we would then train tutors to work with them. Essentially this would be a Lyric product. We would be in charge of it and our own staff would manage it. It would be another step to have tutors who would work with the children and identify specific areas, such as performance, stage management or set design. Youth Lyric, as its administrator told me, is not just for children who want to become actors and actresses or for people who want to become directors working in the creative industries. Youth Lyric is there to give children confidence. The child who has no confidence, whether it is due to a physical, mental, or social problem, tends to be able to overcome that easier when he is put in an environment where he is allowed to be creative.


The administrator said that some kids come to Youth Lyric, and they will be quite timid. However, after a few sessions they start to relax and come out of themselves. If you give children that little bit of confidence then you are helping them realise their potential. We can progress the 'Star project' in disadvantaged areas by getting tutors in place and running it as a permanent programme. We do not have the facilities to manage it all of the time, but someone from the Lyric could set it up.


Mr Shannon: Would the tutors go out to schools?


Ms Moore: Initially, yes. However, there could also be community centre involvement.


The cultural young persons' camp would not centre on disadvantaged children only; it would focus on children generally. The Lyric Theatre could not stage a cultural festival or a cultural young person's camp on its own. It would be too much for our infrastructure.


A look at the attributes of the other arts organisations shows that dance is becoming popular again in Northern Ireland. Dance NI has been set up, and it is a very pro-active group. Cinemagic is also a pro-active organisation in its field. As a group, we could put together a very interesting package that children could become involved in.


Children are very heavily involved in the Ulster Youth Theatre, where they get an insight into stage management and it also broadens their spectrum of interest in the arts as a whole. You do not know where you will find the next Liam Neeson or the next great artist. Until we create opportunities, we are never going to find them.


Mr Dalgety: The Ulster Youth Theatre forms the basis for a possible model in that it could be a residential school held every summer. It has been affiliated with Queen's University and made use of the unused halls in Queen's University and other venues in Belfast for a large number of young people of secondary school age.


Projects of this nature have proved extremely successful, not just promoting people to be actors but also, as Ms Moore said, by allowing people to pursue different careers. Those projects can build confidence enormously. The knock-on effect has been fabulous. However, they are expensive.


Mr Shannon: What about cultural tours for visitors during the summer?


Ms Moore: I have been speaking about different products to a representative of one of the touring companies. They currently collect and provide information, but there is no pro-active strategy to promote the different facilities available. I found it astonishing that the representative's job was to simply collect information about what is on during a given month or period.


We need to be more pro-active in identifying groups and targeting their specific needs. We need to identify delegates who are coming here for a period of time and who want to combine business with sightseeing and culture in Northern Ireland.


There are places to see and many wonderful arts venues that are selling more than one product. The Market Place in Armagh also has an art gallery. Those are "living" places that tourists could come to see as part of a cultural tour and be involved in. However, promotion is important, and a holistic approach is needed.


The Chairperson: Obviously, you have had good working relationships with Belfast City Council. You also mentioned the Northern Ireland Tourist Board (NITB). How useful have you found the NITB?


Ms Moore: Most of our connections are with the Belfast Visitor and Convention Bureau. I have limited contact with the NITB. There is room for improvement in how we can increase our communication links. Most of our current promotion involving contact with outside bodies is primarily based in Belfast as well as the arts venues based in Northern Ireland.


The Chairperson: Thank you very much. It has been very helpful. Perhaps some of your ideas will find their way into our report.


Tuesday 15 May 2001

Members present:

Mr ONeill (Chairperson)

Dr Adamson

Mr Agnew

Mr Davis

Mr Hilditch

Mr McCarthy

Mr Shannon


Ms J Coyle ) Brian Waddell Productions Ltd

Mr R Williams )


The Chairperson: Good morning. You are very welcome.


Ms Coyle: We diligently read through our notes for guidance yesterday and produced a single sheet memorandum that we thought might be useful. We do not know whether it is necessary, but it summarises the salient points of the bigger report.


We are from Brian Waddell Productions Ltd (BWPL). I am head of film and drama development at the company. I am also a freelance arts journalist, broadcaster and theatre critic, so I bring those various skills and sins to my work at BWPL. Mr Williams is a former solicitor who looks after our legal and financial matters and is our in-house executive producer.


BWPL is the longest-established independent production company in Northern Ireland. The company regularly appears in the top 50 UK independents, so we are very well known outside the island. Brian Waddell is a former controller of programmes at Ulster Television. He established the company in 1988. We have built up an excellent reputation, particularly in the areas of leisure and lifestyle programming, arts, factual documentaries and children's series. You probably know us best for titles like 'Gourmet Ireland', 'The Rankin Challenge', 'The DIY Show' and 'Opening Nights' - all of those come from our stable.


Just over five years ago, it became evident that the independent sector should enter the arena of film and television drama. It was a brave new world for all of us, but we felt that if we were the company we thought we were, then we should enter the arena. I set up that unit and invited scripts and submissions from aspiring writers from Northern Ireland. We have had a busy slate of development, although we have not yet achieved production - and that is the salient point. We are still working very hard with a lot of energy, passion and emotion, although there is a lot of disappointment. One has to be tenacious, and we have shown that quality. We have been going now for five years and we are due a break. We are open to any suggestions and lobbying and any help that the devolved Assembly can give to our industry.


Our industry has so much to offer in terms of cultural tourism. We know that Northern Ireland is such a beautiful place. I came here 20 years ago to make a radio programme and I am still here. There are plenty of people like me who come and do not want to go away. It seems such a waste that the beautiful island we live on has not made its way into a network drama series.


Look at the way that 'Monarch of the Glen' publicises the western islands. 'Heartbeat' does the same for the dales of Yorkshire, and before that there were series such as 'All Creatures Great and Small'. So many of the beautiful areas of the British Isles have appeared on television, and that publicity has done so much for their tourism industry. Northern Ireland has yet to make that mark. Even BBC Northern Ireland, which has been so successful in the area of television drama, set its very successful series 'Ballykissangel' in County Wicklow. It is a problem.


We currently have two feature films in development. One is a thriller set in contemporary Belfast - the Laganside development - and it moves to Liverpool, alternating between the two cities. It does a lot for the profile of Belfast. It is a very gritty, hard film for grown-ups. My kids will not be going to see it, although they hear all about it. They will be going to see the other film, which involves time travel. It is set in modern-day County Armagh and was inspired by a trip I made to the Navan centre many years ago. It is called 'The Power Stone' and is for family audiences. A teenage boy and an American girl who is over for one of our clan gatherings are taken back to the days of the Ulster legends through their possession of an ancient power stone. It is a bit like 'Lord of the Rings' and is a romantic adventure. We have development money, but we do not yet have production money. That is where we are at the moment.


Mr Williams: The central premise of our submission has already been made clear. We want you to take on board the value of securing a long-running television series. That is the most valuable thing that could happen. I could see that you were in agreement when we were talking about 'All Creatures Great and Small', 'Inspector Morse', et cetera. There is a very clear underlying principle that these things have a huge impact on people's perception. There is no doubt that that translates into tourist spend.


Since the release of "Captain Corelli's Mandolin", Cephalonia has been inundated with tourists. It has gone from being somewhere that none of us had heard of, to somewhere that everyone has. If we accept the value of those productions, why have we failed to secure one for Northern Ireland? What can we do, and how can you help us along that route?


We would be naive to ignore the impact of what is euphemistically called "the troubles". Obviously that acts against us, but times are changing. There is a huge opportunity to overcome that negative image and replace it with any number of equally valid images of Northern Ireland. The most interesting part of the jigsaw is that we actually have a hugely successful drama department in Belfast, but it has a tendency to make its programmes in places like Wicklow. That is not a criticism; it is partly hard economics and partly the perception of its audience, as it interprets it.


Some of the things that we want are, perhaps, beyond the remit of the Assembly. There is no doubt that incentivising production, be that television production or film production works. Section 35 of the Finance Act 1987 - now section 481 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 - was hugely successful in the South of Ireland, and not only financially. It has also had a huge marketing effect. People became very aware of section 35, and they became very aware of the South of Ireland as a potential production location. That generated a whole buzz that translated into a number of films, such as 'Saving Private Ryan'. Some were not set in Ireland - they used it as a location - and some were actually reflecting Irish culture and Irish themes.


Similarly, the Isle of Man has been very successful in bringing in production. It is worth pointing out that production has a direct impact on marketing value as well as on tourism. Obviously, if you bring a big film or television production into an area, that has a direct impact on spending, not only in the tourism sector, and it can help sustain that. We are asking you to consider how you can help with incentives, and that is our most important point.


Our second aim today is to support and sustain the Film Commission, which is doing good work in all these areas. However, it seems to spend too much time trying to secure its own funding at the expense of actually doing its primary function.


In our submission we tell the story of 'Stranger'. Ms Coyle has already referred to it. We went down to the wire with that production. Ultimately, there was a political will; there was something driving the BBC commissioning editors, saying that this was definitely going to a region. It went to Wales; it did not come here. I am no expert in lobbying and political pressure, but I believe that if we had pushed the right buttons or spoken to the right people, it might have come here and not gone to Wales. That would have been very good indeed.


Mr Hilditch: Do you have links with the tourist industry? What could both sectors do to work together more effectively? For example, does the tourist board bring commissioning editors to Northern Ireland to look at locations?


Ms Coyle: I spoke to Feargal Kearney, who looks after cultural tourism at the Tourist Board. At the time, the creative industries were being discussed as real entities, not just something that floated around in arty people's minds. I asked him how the Tourist Board could help companies such as ours, as our work could certainly help their cause. He was very interested and we had a good discussion.


If I read what he said correctly, he seems to be saying that the Tourist Board could support us by promoting what we do and by giving one of the executive producers at the Film Commission money to go to New York to showcase films. For the present, however, there would be no direct financial help. I suggested that we might be able to take part in tourism conventions and leisure shows - the sort of thing that the British Tourist Authority (BTA) does at Earl's Court. I did not get hugely positive vibes. I think he recognised the virtue of the suggestion, but he felt that he was not in a position at the time to accommodate the sort of work that we do.


Mr Hilditch: The Tourist Board could send someone to America, but it could not bring people here?


Ms Coyle: That is what he was saying.


Mr Williams: I am afraid that my attitude to the Tourist Board is a little more negative. We have not spoken to it about television and drama productions, as we have not reached that stage. However, we have sold previous projects such as 'Gourmet Ireland' all over the world. I went to Hong Kong and found that 'Gourmet Ireland' was being shown there, and that the people I was staying with recognised Paul Rankin. We argue that that has great value. It presented pretty pictures of Northern Ireland, but the Tourist Board has never acknowledged that value. It is frustrating that the board does not seem to see that the products that we sell in the world marketplace have considerable value.


We are about to do a series on genealogy, which should have enormous appeal to an American audience. We have yet to approach the Tourist Board on this, so we cannot say what its reaction will be. I would like the board to develop a greater understanding of the potential in what we do.


Ms Coyle: In my previous life I worked for the Wales Tourist Board. Much of our work involved bringing in journalists from overseas and from other parts of the United Kingdom. I always felt that there was huge, unrealised potential in that area of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board's work. Film writers, film critics and motoring writers could be invited over to write articles, not just travel writers. A little more imagination and targeting of the work - work that feeds directly into the Tourist Board's remit - could bring enormous benefit. It just takes imagination. Companies such as Northern Ireland Railways and British Midland would join in to provide transport and promote their services, and that can only benefit all.


Mr McCarthy: You mentioned a television drama, and we are all aware of 'Ballykissangel', 'Heartbeat', and so on. Can you estimate the impact of those programmes on tourism?


Ms Coyle: When 'Ballykissangel' was about to be transmitted for the first time, Robert Cooper, BBC Northern Ireland's head of drama, said that 'Glenroe' was now a Bord Fáilte sign along the road to Dublin. His ambition for 'Ballykissangel' was for there to be a brown sign pointing to Avoca (Ballykissangel) - and that has happened.


Mr McCarthy: So there is an enormous impact on tourism?


Ms Coyle: Yes, it is huge.


Mr McCarthy: I recall that a film was made in our part of the world some years ago entitled 'The December Bride'.


Ms Coyle: Brian Waddell made that film for Ulster Television.


Mr McCarthy: It was excellent, but unfortunately it was not a serial, so it came and went.


Ms Coyle: It was filmed around Saltwater Brigg.


Mr McCarthy: That is my drinking den - though I should perhaps point out that I am a teetotaller. However, the church in the film was my parish church. I saw it in Dublin, and it was wonderful. I live in the area, and people still talk about that film when they visit. Do we need to improve our creative skills to get into that league?


Mr Williams: There is a little of the chicken-and- egg about that situation, but we certainly need more experience. You can have no impact on raw talent, for it is just that. However, you can have an impact on developing and training talent. Underlying financial incentives would act as a catalyst. The South can be used as an example. They would act as a kick-start and allow you to build something up that would ultimately become a self-maintaining structure, allowing you to sustain actors and bring through writers, producers and directors. At the moment we have the capability of making a television series here, but we could not make two at the same time. Making one is the limit of our ambition at the moment.


Mr McCarthy: We look forward to seeing something.


Mr Shannon: You are absolutely right when you refer to 'Monarch of the Glen' or 'Heartbeat' as series that have promoted those areas. One of the nice things about 'Heartbeat' is the 60s music, which is the reason I watch it. I can relate to that era. My children cannot, but they still like the programme. Perhaps one of the problems we have had as a country is that the drama industry has portrayed a very negative image of Northern Ireland. You can talk about the South's tax incentives and other reasons for basing productions there, but the commissioning networks have a role to play. Can you realistically see that barrier being removed? How can you change the image in question? Northern Ireland is not all violence or doom and gloom; it has a wealth of good news stories. Mr McCarthy referred to one.


Ms Coyle: We recognise that we have a serious responsibility in creating fictional film and drama - not in a horribly didactic, sermonising sort of way, but in showing the reality of life in Northern Ireland to a wider audience. I feel very passionately about that, for I am not from here, and I know what a great place it is to live, warts and all. There have been difficulties, but there is another side to life in Northern Ireland. It is a very interesting story. It is a very interesting place to live - the boxes within boxes that do not quite fit comfortably. There are interesting stories that a wider United Kingdom and overseas audience could be very engaged by.


We are constantly being asked by the broadcasters to come up with something different. We do not feel that that is a very tall order, because there has not been anything on the screen from here. In a sense, anything that comes out of Northern Ireland today, of Northern Ireland in the context of the whole island, and in the context of the UK - all of those interlocking relationships - are new stories. It is a question of saying to the commissioning editors, "We have the talent, we have the stories, give us that opportunity." It is difficult.


Mr Shannon: Do you feel that you have a serial out there that could be brought forward to promote Northern Ireland in the same way that other ones have?


Ms Coyle: Yes. We have had two. One that was turned down in the last month was notionally set in the fishing community of Ardglass. It was quite a gritty story, set in the present, with very good storylines and strong characters, telling stories of life here.


Mr Shannon: That is the sort of series that we want to see. An interesting story with good news, which has a bit of grit, and that at the same time can promote Northern Ireland, and the people in it.


Mr Williams: We agree. However, you have to remember that we, as a production company, are salesmen. We sell to the BBC, Channel 4, whoever. They dictate what product they want. In a way, I think that that is what we are saying to you. We can see value in a voice coming from somewhere else saying, "Look, we have these other stories to tell."


My personal point of view is that our faces and voices are under-represented on the networks, outside of serious current affairs and news stories. That is a point that we want to be presented by as many different people as possible.


Dr Adamson: Apart from the introduction of financial incentives, is there any more that can be done to help Northern Ireland to compete with the tax breaks and the attractive exchange rates in the Republic?


Mr Williams: Yes, there is, and some of these things are not necessarily that hard to achieve. The impact that the tax breaks had at the start was far greater than their value on the bottom line of the particular production, because it was a useful marketing tool. It caused people to look at the south of Ireland, and when they did, they were welcomed. Local councils, and people who looked after beautiful locations, were co-operative. They were not charging huge fees for the use of beaches. For 'Saving Private Ryan', they offered the Army to act as extras. Things like that have a massive impact. Allowing the Army to take part in 'Saving Private Ryan' probably had a bigger financial impact than the tax break did.


It is extremely useful to spread the word. It is about accepting the value of these things in the first place, which will then make you more flexible and open to trying to assist them when they come about.


There are film or television series being shot in New York all the time. There are people there whose job is to talk to the police and sort out what must be an absolute logistical nightmare - to shut off streets in New York. There is much value in being open and welcoming and in oiling the wheels.


Mr Davis: What do you think is most needed to allow the sector to develop, and who would be best placed to do it?


Mr Williams: There are a couple of issues there. I sense that you may be referring to the Northern Ireland Film Commission. The most effective and efficient way to help the sector is to have one focal point. I am strongly in favour of that. The Film Commission exists, but we may feel that it has focused too much on film in the past, and not enough on television, which is our core industry. That is something that Mr Taylor at the Film Commission is aware of and has been in the process of rectifying. Those at the Film Commission have done a good job. They are now internationally known and we should be supporting them.


Ms Coyle: Film development is a long, painful and costly process. Although 15 films of varying length have been made here - and there is a good tradition of making short films - we do not yet have a feature film industry. In a sense, we have no footsteps that we can follow in. It is difficult. Film-making is a fledgling industry. We all need to gain experience and to have expert opinion giving us advice. For instance, when we reach the end of the development process, and we have a script that we think is good enough to become a film, how does it become a film? How do we take that step?


It not only concerns money, but also professional expertise in the field. The right people must be correctly placed to give us advice and to make connections with funding organisations, film financiers and studios. We must go to festivals such as the Cannes Film Festival and promote our projects, because that is the marketplace. We can develop things here until we are blue in the face and think that they are all very nice, but it is a big, cold, competitive world. We need people who have the skills and contacts to help. When we have done it once, we will be better placed to do it again and again. The key is making that leap. That is the stage that we are currently at.


Mr Davis: You made the point that Northern Ireland has a wealth of natural beauty. That point is raised in other areas, such as tourism. When you are stating your arguments, is it just the natural beauty of Northern Ireland that you are putting forward? What other arguments are you putting forward?


Ms Coyle: That is covered by the kind of things that I outlined in my previous answer - the fact that Northern Ireland is a very interesting place to live. "Interesting" can have a whole variety of meanings. We cannot deny what happened in the past, but we can place it in context and use it as a springboard for going forward. There are so many positive aspects of life in Northern Ireland that have fed into that process. It would not be happening if it were not for the people, country, temperament, humour, history, conflicting and interlocking cultures and the way that people come together and fall apart - it is a great story. It is not all about pretty pictures and lovely countryside, but that is also important.


Mr Davis: I find it difficult to understand why you have fallen by the wayside when there are so many other agencies and organisations that are trying to help Northern Ireland.


Ms Coyle: I have spoken to people who control peace and reconciliation funding in the past. There are many funding bodies, such as Making Belfast Work. There are so many different things that we can offer through our work, but the minute that you mention film or television the word "commercial" comes into people's minds. We are never seen to be working for anything other than commercial or self-seeking purposes. Therefore, you are correct that we do fall by the wayside. Community arts is flourishing at the moment, and rightly so because it encourages social development through the arts. However, we are providing opportunities as well, and if money is being made out of that then that can only be a good thing too.


Mr Williams: "Commercial" translates into "sustainable," which means that you can become self-funding.


The Chairperson: Thank you. You have provoked some interesting thoughts and raised some important issues. When we come to put our recommendations together for the Department and the Assembly, I suspect that some of those thoughts and issues might find their way in.


Ms Coyle: Thank you. What will the next stage be for us? Will we receive a copy of that report?


The Chairperson: We will have to complete our inquiry. We have received 78 submissions, which is a very considerable response for a small place such as Northern Ireland. Some of the submissions, such as your own, were very comprehensive. We have still to complete the oral submissions. We will then draw all the evidence together to form a set of recommendations. At that stage, we will be able to print the report. Unfortunately that will take some time, but as soon as the report is completed, we will send you a copy.


Tuesday 15 May 2001

Members present:

Mr ONeill (Chairperson)
Dr Adamson

Mr Agnew

Mr Davis

Mr Hilditch

Mr McCarthy


Ms F Cassidy ) Cinemagic

Ms J Sharvin ) Cinemagic

Mr M O'Neill ) Dream Ireland Ltd


The Chairperson: Good morning, you are all very welcome. As you know, we usually have a presentation for about 10 minutes followed by a question- and-answer session to try to tease out as much information as possible.


Mr M O'Neill: My name is Michael O'Neill, and I am managing director of Dream Ireland Ltd, a strategic partner of Cinemagic. In the interregnum between chief executives I am assisting with events such as this. Frances Cassidy is festival director, and Judith Sharvin is from the festival management team. I will outline the key relationships between the Cinemagic Film Festival and cultural tourism, and we are very grateful for the opportunity to put them to you. I hope we make sense while being as succinct as possible. I will list four essential points.


First, Cinemagic is creating an event with an international profile in a niche market. This is a key element. An opportunity exists for the annual Cinemagic Film Festival to be a key event on the international film calendar - it is already one of the largest film and media festivals in the world devoted exclusively to young people. It hosts a broad range of subject matter, including film, television and, from last year, new media and games - the markets for which are exploding globally. For example, the UK games market now exports £503 million worth of goods per year, which is more than the film and television industries. These industries are converging faster than we care to imagine.


Cinemagic mixes the best of American and European product, positioning itself to play a key role in the merging of these two very different markets. Cinemagic has never apologised for being able to mix Disney with Czechoslovakian animation. It incorporates master classes with celebrity guests, because it wishes to offer young people access to international stars with the opportunity to contribute their skills and experiences.


A key point of this year's festival will be the introduction of a high-profile awards ceremony; over the next two years it will become an international event. It is confidential at the moment, but in June we hope to announce an exceptional move forward in that area. You can 'watch this space' as regards where that awards ceremony could go. For tourism and international awareness, it is a key element. For example, last year we had Roy Disney over here. He created a huge buzz about what was happening with Cinemagic in Belfast. Being able to visit Los Angeles and persuade Mr Disney to come here shows that we can attract people to Northern Ireland.


Secondly, Cinemagic is helping to build a creative society which values culture and attracts visitors. It is committed to the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure's policy of unlocking creativity, which aspires to promote cultural, economic and social wellbeing for all in Northern Ireland. We fulfil that object in a number of ways. For some years we have been doing it through our ongoing outreach and training programmes. We bring our ideas on the magic of cinema, television and new media to all areas of Belfast and Northern Ireland. We also do that through satellite events across Northern Ireland. Cinemagic is not just a Belfast-based event, and this year we have events in Downpatrick, Banbridge and beyond.


We network and collaborate with other arts organisations and festivals such as 'Young at Art', the Belfast Film Festival and the Foyle Film Festival. Those things are all essential in building the creative strategy that the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure are putting in place.


Co-operation with formal education institutions is also important. We are constantly working with schools, further education colleges such as North Down and Ards Institute of Further and Higher Education, and we are constantly hoping to add value to existing curricula. It is important that we do it through ongoing contributions to the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure policy development.


Shona McCarthy and myself sit on the creativity action group that was recently put in place by the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure to try and contribute to that policy and the creativity think tank and research group. We do not see Cinemagic and its activities existing in isolation; rather as contributing to a holistic view of where creative education and creative commerce will take Northern Ireland.


At last year's festival, David Kleeman, director of the American Centre for Children and Television had this to say in a letter to the 'New York Times'

"I had the privilege to participate in the Cinemagic children's media festival there. It was an inspiring event that both celebrated and fostered Northern Ireland's new ways for the next generation. The underlying message at each event was, Belfast is ready and eager to embrace the new become the new media hub, merging 21st Century technology with the centuries old traditions of Irish story telling".


Receiving that kind of response from someone of his calibre shows that we are hitting the right mark.


Thirdly, Cinemagic is creating an international network in the world's highest profile industries - film, television and new media. We are constantly meeting industry professionals and encouraging them to contribute to the festival and other ongoing work, as well as bringing Northern Ireland's potential to their attention.


The list of Cinemagic's friends and patrons is extensive. It includes people such as Kenneth Branagh and Liam Neeson, and people who are not as much in the public eye, such as the film producer Michael Hamlyn, who came over to visit us recently and who has now almost completed a script that he wants to shoot in Belfast. That is the way the industry works and I think that we are at the heart of it.


We work with all major young people's festivals, both in Ireland and abroad, and we are talking to the other young people's film festivals and other types of arts festivals.


People such as David Rane, a Dublin based producer, who shot a documentary entitled 'Belfast My Love' are returning. People who were involved in our outreach project go on to work in those types of events. We see everything as being tied together and we try not to do anything in isolation. Therefore, we want to bring people to Northern Ireland from a tourism point of view but we want to bring the best of the young people here also.


Fourthly, Cinemagic is travelling outside Northern Ireland, exporting talent and ideas. As well as trying to encourage people to visit and enjoy what we are producing, we are also constantly developing ideas about how we can get out to the rest of the world and bring the best of Northern Ireland to them.


We are already exporting our exhibition product and we are committed to developing local talent and bringing it to the attention of international markets. Two years ago, Cinemagic went to seven UK cities including Dundee, Newcastle and Liverpool. That has not happened in the UK.


We have delivered a Cinemagic event in Pittsburgh. This morning we received an email from a producer in Los Angeles who wants us to deliver a Cinemagic event there. We have a unique selling point as far as exhibitions are concerned, and we are starting to look at that more as a business where our product is the way we approach the area - and we want to export it. We want to do this as part of the Northern Ireland trade missions, and we hope to have a presence in the UKinNY trade mission in New York at the end of October where we will make contact with other community groups and film industry professionals there.


We have plans for international awards and bursaries for Northern Ireland's young people. Hopefully the high point of the awards ceremony will be telling young people from Northern Ireland that we can raise money for them to pursue careers in the media and entertainment industries. We would like to encourage them to come back here to live, work, and create the industry.


I hope that that gives you an overview. We welcome any questions.


Mr Agnew: How would you describe the linkages that exist between Cinemagic and the tourist industry? How could the relationship be improved? Would it be useful to build links with travel and hotel providers and, if so, how could those links be developed?


Ms Cassidy: Links with travel and accommodation providers is an ongoing issue. Every year we invite international film directors and industry professionals to work with young people. Industry professionals also just come over to have a look at the festival. However, the cost of flights to Belfast is prohibitive.


Cinemagic is a member of the European Co-ordination of Film Festivals, which wanted to hold its board meeting in Belfast because of the nature of the conference and the level of events last year. The meeting eventually took place in Brussels, because accommodation and flights were cheaper. The cost of taking a large group to Belfast is prohibitive.


We have good relationships with the Hilton hotel and McCausland's hotel. They offer special rates - for example, £70 per night. Again, that is prohibitive if you want to bring a large group of people here for three or four days. It is a lot of money.


There is a large network of international film festivals. We work with the BUFF Film Festival in Sweden, whose people came here last year. They have proposed a three-way partnership between Cinemagic, BUFF, and the Laon Film Festival in France and we will be developing that during 2001. Representatives from those groups will be coming to the film festival this year to discuss how the proposal will go forward. Flight sponsorship would help. For years we have been trying to make headway with the airlines, but with no success.


We want to put together family packages to attract people from Northern Ireland, the South, the UK and from other countries. Those packages could tie in with Christmas shopping trips to Belfast. We could link up with other local arts organisations to put together a whole package of family activities, such as pre-Christmas treats for children coupled with shopping in Belfast city centre. However, that would also need flight and accommodation deals.


Mr Agnew: Would you say that the linkages between your sector and the tourist industry are good?


Ms Cassidy: They could be better. We have a large database of people to whom we mail out festival programmes and literature. The material is of a very high quality and it goes out to Northern Ireland, the South, the UK and internationally.


We do not have the facility to tie in with existing tourism brochures. We are not present on all the key web sites. Therefore there are ways in which we could work together more to promote what Cinemagic does and how we can attract more people.


Mr Agnew: Are there ongoing discussions to try and develop that?


Mr M O'Neill: It is a matter of perception about what an event such as Cinemagic is and how valuable it is to the tourism sector and to the economy generally. We have been developing the argument over the past two years that the core issue about attracting more visitors to Northern Ireland as a region is to change its profile, and perceptions about it.


People go to Dublin because it is cosmopolitan, full of life, creative people and interest. Belfast could also have that, but we also need to create awareness in the young people here. We need a culture in all our people in which creativity is valued.


We see our role as twofold; to ensure our events are well attended, and to bring people over in planes and put them into hotels and restaurants. It is vital that organisations such as Cinemagic are supported to create the type of ambience in Belfast and in Northern Ireland that makes people look at the things that are happening and say 'I want to go there'.


The Chairperson: How is your relationship with the Northern Ireland Tourist Board (NITB)? How helpful have they been to you in what you want to do?


Mr M O'Neill: At the start of last year we put a proposal to the NITB about the enlarged Cinemagic festival. We did not get any real response. The NITB did not see the festival as something that directly contributed to its objectives. Eventually, after a lot of discussion and four or five meetings, NITB agreed to give us about £5,000 towards some of the things that we were doing. However, by that stage a lot of opportunities had been lost.


We were not necessarily looking for money; we were seeking to tap into the vast worldwide networks. It is a matter of getting acceptance at that level that Cinemagic is an important event. However, by that stage it was too late. We have made ground this year in the argument about why the NITB should be interested in Cinemagic.


Ms Sharvin: We are talking about something as simple as bringing Roy Disney to Northern Ireland. We did that independently without any support from the NITB. We took him on tours of Northern Ireland and made links with people from the South. With support from the NITB we could do that on a big scale instead of somebody hiring a van and going off for a day.


Ms Cassidy: One of the crucial and unique things that Cinemagic offers is the film festival. Obviously there are a lot of film festivals taking place around the world. However, we are renowned for the traditional Northern Ireland hospitality that we afford to guests.


We take guests around the bars in Belfast; we host dinners and invite the key players to talk and network with world class players and we will, as Ms Sharvin said, take them out and about to places such as the Giant's Causeway and let them see Northern Ireland.


Mr M O'Neill: That is an important point. The festival has a unique atmosphere. A respected writer in children's games media, Gerard Jones, sent us an email saying that Cinemagic changed his life. He had never come across an event with such a warm welcome and determination to make it a success. Cinemagic was not just about going to the movies and being left to your own devices; people were looked after the entire time. That is the essential aspect of what we are talking about. It is Northern Irish hospitality in practice.


Ms Sharvin: Film makers from all over the world arrive in Belfast and they cannot believe how well they are treated. When they attend festivals in places such as Berlin they are left on their own.


Ms Cassidy: Last year, I attended the Berlin International Film Festival and a director told me that he really hates Cinemagic because every director who comes to Berlin says 'at Cinemagic we get this, and at Cinemagic we get that'. Our festival is so much better because as well as entertainment, guests can see the city and the countryside - no other festival does that.


Ms Sharvin: We can play to our strength of being excellent, world-renowned hosts.


Mr McCarthy: Is the festival promoted well? Do you have a marketing plan and budget specifically for the tourist market? How do people from outside Northern Ireland find out about Cinemagic, and is it easy for them to buy tickets?


Mr M O'Neill: It is important to remember that there are two elements. About 15,000 young people go to the cinema every year to see Cinemagic films and more attend the master classes and workshops. The vast majority of those young people are from Northern Ireland and, being realistic, we will not fill cinemas with people who just come to Northern Ireland to see films. However, events and special offers can be packaged around specific elements. If we can raise the profile of Cinemagic we can make our special events such as conferences, fairs, careers and recruitment days, and awards ceremonies more attractive.


Along with investment in the key elements, little packages can be built up and we can exploit our networks. For example, we could invite six young people and their parents for six days. It is important to recognise that we are selling different products - it is not just seats in cinemas.


Ms Cassidy: An important part of Cinemagic is the opportunity for the organisation to represent Northern Ireland in other countries as well as sending young people to other countries to participate in international juries. We do that every year. People go to the Rimouski Film Festival in Quebec, the Laon Film Festival in France or the Giffoni Film Festival in Italy, and we would like to develop that part of our work. We would like to attract international juries to Northern Ireland during Cinemagic. At present, it is done in an ad hoc way because of lack of resources.


Ms Sharvin: The 11-minute film 'The Goldfish Bowl', produced by 25 young people from throughout Belfast, won the best film prize at a festival in Australia. We could not send the young writer there because of lack of resources.


Dr Adamson: How unique is Cinemagic? What is its potential to generate tourism in Northern Ireland?


Ms Sharvin: Children's media is a niche market. Festivals around the world cover the adult side well, but ours is the only festival of its kind in the UK and Ireland on this scale. It is a top quality festival, and that makes us unique. We screen the best international films and make top quality product with young people.


When we approach industry professionals - directors and producers - we find that they are involved in a helter-skelter life most of the time. They find value in their own lives by coming to Northern Ireland to work with young people. They also get a rest. They work with young people, and there is less pressure on them. We need to flag that up as a unique selling point.


Ms Cassidy: Internationally, the Cinemagic organisation is recognised for doing something unique and different. For instance, Jane Schoettle, the director of the Sprockets Film Festival in Toronto, has just approached us about a staff exchange. They recognise Cinemagic's uniqueness, an expertise in children's film and media that they will not find anywhere else. Not only are we involved in film exhibition but we back it up with outreach and training programmes, which no other simple film festival is doing. That ethos is backed up internationally.


Ms Sharvin: Our awards ceremony will make the festival even more special. Each year, we have awards for best film and best short film. We are going to create something akin to children's Oscars in Belfast and it will become an international event - a "must-be-at" event - for film-makers to promote their product. We will also be making awards to young people in many different categories; working on sponsorship packages with people in the business community to offer awards for expertise in different areas. We are opening up the potential for awards.


Mr M O'Neill: It is important to re-emphasise that it is not just about film anymore. Last year we opened up into games, media and Internet, among other things. Young people do not discriminate between the media in the same way as people over 25 or 30. When I was 13 there were three TV channels and that was it. Now, the black box in the corner can be anything. To make the most of that, we must take our lead from young people. They will be the designers of the future. In 10 years they will be the managing directors and the chief executives of the companies who design the products. It is about conversion, and it is essential to understand that they know best.


Cinemagic takes the young person's perspective, and that is what makes it unique. Cinemagic is not about adults talking about children's film - it is about young people doing that themselves.


Ms Sharvin: The talent is definitely here, but it will take guts to invest in that talent, export it and bring it back.


Dr Adamson: What potential is there for exploring the summer school market? How far can Cinemagic develop as a tourist product, and what support do you need for that?


Mr M O'Neill: We are talking about things such as the John Hewitt summer school and the literary summer schools that have real kudos. Summer is the opportune time for such things. We are doing a pilot project in July with the South Eastern Education and Library Board. We will take 10 young people from different schools in the Board area and bring them together for a project-based week with three or four industry professionals. They will learn animation, 3-D modelling, Internet design, and music. They will develop a project together.


We hope to eventually roll that out across the five education boards. Having established that type of project, an international summer school could be created. The most talented people from all over the world would come to Northern Ireland for a two or three week residential in which they can develop as creators. It has huge potential.


Ms Sharvin: We have the beginnings of that this year. Young people who win awards at the festival in the form of bursaries will go on to make product with the professionals during the summer months. That will be the burgeoning of the summer school idea.


Mr Davis: What is involved in working with other festival providers, be they here, in the Republic or in the UK? Do the handicapped fit in to those projects?


Ms Cassidy: We work with film festivals and arts organisations in many ways. Apart from exchanges in which staff visit each other's festivals, we provide an international source of advice specifically on children's film programming. Cinemagic attracts the best international films made for young people. We provide other international and national festivals with film contacts. We provide information on how they can source a particular children's film, or if there is a programme that they can put together on Czechoslovakian children's movies of the past 10 years. We help people with matters such as those.


We also help Irish festivals, such as the Junior Dublin Festival. We annually support each other with advice, but we also share costs. For instance, we could share the price of film prints, the carriage and we make sure that we programmed the films to be shown at complementary times.


We collaborate in other ways. For example last year we collaborated twice with 'Young at Art.' One was a project called 'Dance for the Camera'. That entailed 'Young at Art' sourcing 10 young dancers, and Cinemagic's outreach programme did all the technical and crew work. Those two came together and choreographed a piece for a film.


In our other collaboration last year with 'Young at Art', we invited them to present a dance performance at the opening night. 'Young at Art' is a very good festival.


We are also working with the Northern Ireland Voluntary Trust (NIVT) festival in Corrymeela this year. We are bringing some screenings, programming and films that we think the young people there would like to see. We will be collaborating with the Belfast Film Festival this year on some Irish language films.


Ms Sharvin: We have projects for Irish language schools, workshops with Irish language film makers and screenings. We have done that before, but we will do it on a larger scale. We also train young people on our outreach programme how to put on events in their own city, such as the West Belfast Festival, the Ardoyne Fleadh and festivals outside the city.


Ms Cassidy: Cinemagic has also been working on a film project to tie in with the Titanic festival. A group of people from east Belfast are going to make a film about the shipyard and the history of the Titanic. Cinemagic hopes to make that an ongoing project throughout the year.


Ms Sharvin: I used to run the Cinemagic outreach project and for a year I worked in Lindsay House as part of that programme. It was a respite care home for disabled children. It was a hugely successful year for me and for the children. I began the project by putting on Disney films. I found out what the children liked and put on musicals for them. They really responded to those.


Often the parents wanted to become involved. Even though the children were in the home to give their parents a couple of days' respite, the parents still showed up. We then began to make videos with the children and they filmed their own open days and made films about their lives in the home. Cinemagic is fully aware of what working with disabled children entails.


Mr M O'Neill: We like to orientate things around access and excellence. It is vital that everybody, regardless of their physical and social circumstances or backgrounds, has access to the sort of opportunities that media and film can offer. Therefore the needs of the disabled come high on Cinemagic's priorities and it works with Medi-Able and other groups to imagine projects for the disabled.


Excellence is equally high on Cinemagic's agenda. If we want to build an industry here we have to achieve a quality product. It is not only about process; it is also about product. Cinemagic tries to balance those two things.


Mr Davis: Does Cinemagic get drawn into working on projects for Loyalist or Republican ex-prisoners?


Ms Sharvin: Cinemagic has done some work with the children of ex-prisoners on both sides of the community. We do not want to get involved in anything that is overtly political. The outreach project has brought together children from Tullycarnet and Twinbrook to make animation together. There is a lot of room for work like that.


The Chairperson: Thank you for your contribution. There has been a large number of submissions and it will take some time to put everything together. The Committee will be making a set of recommendations to the Department and to the Assembly and I am quite sure that some of your ideas will find their way in.


Tuesday 15 May 2001

Members present:

Mr ONeill (Chairperson)

Dr Adamson

Mr Agnew

Mr Hilditch

Mr McCarthy


Mr R Taylor ) Northern Ireland Film Commission

Mr M Martin )


The Chairperson: Welcome to the Committee for Culture, Arts and Leisure.


Mr Taylor: The Northern Ireland Film Commission is pleased to have been invited to address this very important Committee. My name is Richard Taylor. I am the chief executive of the Northern Ireland Film Commission. My colleague, Mr Martin, is our information officer.


I have been working in Northern Ireland since 1994. The Film Commission is going through a number of changes. We have a new chairman, Colin Anderson, who was appointed by the Government at the beginning of this year. Next week we will have the first full meeting of our new board, so there is a lot of new energy coming into the organisation.


The Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, which is one of our main sources of funding, has significantly increased its grant to the Northern Ireland Film Commission - by nearly 60% - so the establishment of the Department has been enormously important for our work in Northern Ireland.


The focus of your research is, obviously, cultural tourism. We have a very profound and simple belief in what we can do in the film industry. I use "film" to embrace all moving-image media. It embraces television and all forms of moving-image production, multimedia and new media. We have had an inward investment focus since the commission was established four years ago. We are going to make the case that there needs to be better incentives for inward investment. However, inward investment can only work if we build local infrastructure at the same time. That is a mixture of building talent, training talent and building physical infrastructure.


Between 1947 and 1997, only five feature films were made in Northern Ireland. You may be familiar with some of them. A very wonderful film called 'Odd Man Out' was set in Belfast in 1947 and starred James Mason. It was mostly made in a studio in London, but there was some location work in Belfast. A film called 'Hush-a-Bye Baby' was made in Derry/Londonderry in 1989 by Margo Harkin. It was a great comedy for Channel 4. A lovely film called 'December Bride' was shot around the Strangford area in 1990. However, overall there was very little activity. In the past four years, 16 feature films have been made in Northern Ireland. Technically, one of those was a television series rather than a feature film.


Those 16 films had total budgets of £35 million, and the Northern Ireland spend element was £7 million, or 20% of the value of those productions. We have a very major ambition to double that spend element - £7 million is better than nothing, but we have ambitions to increase that significantly, particularly in comparison with colleagues in the Republic, the Isle of Man and other places where there are very significant incentives.


However, the activity of the past four years - feature films, short films and other things - has underpinned the idea of a vibrant and emerging film culture in Northern Ireland. The work of our colleagues in Cinemagic has been absolutely vital for building an audience, building an appetite for film and, it is hoped, building filmmakers of the future.


Mr Martin here made a successful short film about three years ago. 'The King's Wake' is a very interesting piece of animation made by colleagues in the Nerve Centre in Derry. Last month it won an award for best animation in the Celtic Film and Television Festival. We are very proud of that. 'Elsewhere,' a short film by Brian Drysdale, has been to 28 international film festivals. The short films and feature films are being seen around the world, and that has an obvious cultural resonance for Northern Ireland.


There are three main reasons for this growth that are pretty self-evident - the 1994 ceasefires, some financial incentives and the fact that the Northern Ireland Film Commission has been promoting Northern Ireland and developing talent here since 1997. The industry has to be stimulated, catalysed and promoted abroad.


We have been operating with a very simple mission statement for the past four years: to make Northern Ireland an important location. That does not do justice to the range of activities that we are involved with. The new mission that we are likely to adopt this year will, regrettably, be longer, but it is more accurate. You will note that we talk about a sustainable film industry in the United Kingdom and in Ireland. Our profound belief is that we have to work on a north/south/ east/west basis. Northern Ireland is not big enough to work in isolation, so we have very good relations with our colleagues in the Republic and in England.


There is also the whole film culture side to our work. We will have to build confidence, and that is always a balance between attracting inward investment, with the usual concerns about that, and developing the local industry. The two things have to be done in parallel. There is no point in bringing film-makers here without having the infrastructure and talent to service them.


The Northern Ireland Film Commission is an integrated agency with six areas of operation. We promote Northern Ireland, we use public funds to encourage production, we train people here and we ensure that visiting producers use local trainees. We are an information-based business. We are focusing increasingly on the educational aspects of our industry, getting film, television, moving image and new media into the curriculum, and preserving the audio-visual heritage of Northern Ireland.


I mentioned that we want to double the Northern Ireland spend element from roughly 20% to 40% of the value of the visiting productions. How are we going to do that? The analysis of the films that have spent more of their budgets here in the last number of years clearly shows that they are written by Northern Irish writers. They are developed by local producers. They are going to shoot and spend money here for longer than others. The films that come across the border or from London for a week or two are here sometimes for the locations, but primarily for some financial incentives. In the end, they are not the higher-spending films.


It is about indigenous culture - underpinning the economic development opportunity. We do not develop writers in an abstract creative vacuum; we develop local writers because they are the people who ultimately generate the economic impact through their scripts. With the right producers and the right expertise, those scripts are going to be transformed into production here, and people spending money.


We focus a great deal on training, but training is a very underfunded part of our work. I will not go into detail except to say that we are recognised by the national training organisation - Skillset - and the T&EA. We do three key things: we develop companies, we develop freelances and we encourage structured new entrant training. We also make short films. It is all local talent, and they are usually of very high production values. Those are very important calling cards for writers, producers and directors to be able to show to serious film and television financiers to demonstrate their talent. They are all made entirely in Northern Ireland with Northern Ireland crew.


We are an information-based business, and the demand on us for information is increasing. Last year, my colleagues handled 50% more enquiries than in 1999 - 4,500 enquiries a year is quite a lot. They are broken down into a range of categories. The biggest category is enquiries about training, and they are almost all from Northern Ireland. There are various other categories. We analyse everything that we do, so we have good statistics about everything.


Most enquiries come from Northern Ireland, but a very significant number are from England and the Republic. We also receive enquiries from elsewhere, including Scotland, the USA and so forth. It is not the number of enquiries that matter; it is their quality. It does not matter if we get 10 enquiries a year regarding production, so long as they are from producers who will come here. Obviously, we spend a different amount of time looking after a producer compared to a young person who is looking for a training course. Those are different orders of demand.


We participate in the European Union's MEDIA programme, which is a Europe-wide support programme for development, distribution and training. We have a colleague based in Belfast who has proved very successful in getting producers from Northern Ireland to participate in some of those top European training courses. Last year, for example, out of 11 UK participants on the Les Entrepreneurs De L'Audiovisuel Europeen (EAVE) producers' course, four were from Northern Ireland. We are very proud of that, and we had 30 people from Northern Ireland participating in courses over the last two years.


Our primary function is to promote Northern Ireland. Believe it or not, Americans are not always clear where Northern Ireland is. So, we start by focusing people on where we are, what the difference is between Northern Ireland and the Republic, and what the advantages of working together on a cross-border basis are. I do not want to go into detail, but there is a European co-production convention, which allows producers to mix the financial incentives available in the Republic and in the UK. It is not unique to Northern Ireland; there are UK-wide incentives. Producers can access the two European states here and the two tax incentives. We have studios here and in Dublin and a range of things to offer producers.


One of the ways that we are promoting Northern Ireland is through our locations database. We are surveying 1,200 major locations in Northern Ireland and the border counties. As you might expect, it is an INTERREG and International Fund for Ireland (IFI)- supported initiative. It is a 12-county initiative, and we could extend it to the whole of Ireland. This is the first all-digital locations database in the UK. Nobody else has one.


We are trying to promote the natural locations of Northern Ireland. Your theme is cultural tourism, but one tourist is enough for us if he or she is a producer who is going to bring a £3 million film here. Ultimately, if that film is successful, we will get many more people coming to visit. You know the locations, and you do not need me to tell you about them. You know the Tourist Board's work very well. We have fabulous locations and wonderful light here.


We market Northern Ireland locations intensively. We have three surveyors doing the work. They produce the photographs digitally - there is no film involved - and they put the information into a laptop. This is all producer-focused information about the logistics of producing - who owns the property, how to get access, whether there is enough power and that kind of thing.


We are developing infrastructures. Some of you might be aware that we are currently involved with colleagues in developing a former Harland & Wolff ship-painting facility down at the harbour. The old paint hall has recently been renamed Titanic Studios. These are some of the biggest spaces available for film-making. There are four stages 17,000 sq ft by 85 feet high. Not many people need the height, but some producers do. It is a unique opportunity that we are pushing quite strongly, and we are in discussions with Harland & Wolff and other parties about how to sustain this initiative. Only one film, 'Puckoon,' has been made there so far.


It is all about talent as well, and we have to reassure people from elsewhere - for example, American actors - that, apart from anything else, it is safe to work in Northern Ireland and nice to be here. We have great local talent here. The last feature film we had here was 'Puckoon,' written by Spike Milligan. We have some outstanding talent in the craft grades here in Northern Ireland.


Currently my colleagues are in Cannes, marketing and promoting Northern Ireland on a cross-border basis with our colleagues at the Irish Film Board and the Screen Commission of Ireland. Another young man from Belfast, Paul Largan, has organised two series of screenings in New York and one in Los Angeles. He was able to get Liam Neeson along for the first one. We do try to push the boat out a bit.


One of the key issues for us is joined-up government. All of you will have read the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure's corporate strategy. We found it a very useful document. Our four key Departments, in terms of policy and significant funding, are Culture, Arts and Leisure; Education; Enterprise, Trade and Investment; and Further and Higher Education, Training and Employment. Because of our interdepartmental relevance, we get money or support from all those Departments.


You will all be aware of the 'Unlocking Creativity' initiative, which was launched by the four Ministers last November. It is a very important background. We know that we are a creative industry, but we are not a romantic, unstructured, wishy-washy industry - we are a very serious industry. Although we are hugely dependent on creative talent, the industry can only work if it is structured and organised, because there is a lot of money involved.


Our income this year is just over £1 million, and it comes from a range of sources, such as the Film Council. That is the new UK-wide film body. We did not get £220,000 from them, as we had hoped - we got £200,000. However, I am delighted to say that it is the first time that we have secured substantial funding for film in Northern Ireland from a UK national body.


Currently, we do not have any control over the Arts Council of Northern Ireland National Lottery funds for film. Those funds should have been about £700,000 per year for the past three years. However, they have been running at only about £500,000 per year. We have begun discussions with the Arts Council about the delegation of lottery money to us for film, and we think that we will get about £1 million a year. That will put all our other activity into a different focus. However, that is still nothing like enough money to act as a major inward investment incentive, so we will be focusing particularly on indigenous production, development and training.


Cultural development underpins economic opportunity. We got a major grant from the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure this year, and we passed over half of it to third parties, including Cinemagic. We are making progress with education policies this year with the support of Mr Martin McGuinness and his officials, and we are focusing on the use of digital technology in the classroom.


We have a very interesting all-Ireland mobile cinema development. Our friends in the South have bought a mobile 100-seat cinema. We will support that with some revenue funding from the lottery, and it will be touring the whole of Ireland regularly over the next few years. That is just about to start - unfortunately it was delayed by foot-and-mouth.


The Nerve Centre in Derry/Londonderry and the Queen's Film Theatre (QFT) in Belfast are two of our key partners. Cinemagic needs no introduction from me - you have spoken to the people from Cinemagic, which is one of our outstanding assets in Northern Ireland.


In order to make progress, we will have to sustain a production fund. We had one small fund of £0·5 million, which has now been fully allocated.


Our digital film archive is available at six locations across Northern Ireland. Mr Martin was very involved in conceiving the project three years ago. Northern Ireland does not have a physical film archive, which is quite unusual. Most regions have film archives, but they are usually inaccessible. However, we have this product in six locations. There is a self-help introduction to the archive with a voiceover by Ian McElhinney. It is organised into a number of categories, and you can search for films by decade, genre, or county, for example. One of the quickest ways to browse or to find things is by entering a keyword.


Our digital film archive is unique. We do not believe that anyone else in the UK or Ireland has one. It has taken us three years to bring it to this stage. There is a great deal of interest in it at policy level. It has enormous potential for use in teaching history in the classroom. There are also many fun things in it.


The Chairperson: That is a tremendous resource.


Mr Agnew: That was a very interesting and enjoyable presentation. I would like to see more digital resources being developed.


Do you have links with the tourist industry? Could they be improved? How could the two sectors work more closely together? The Northern Ireland Tourist Board brings commissioning editors across to Northern Ireland to look at locations. Could linkages with travel accommodation providers be developed?


Mr Taylor: Most of the territories that we regard as our competitors - in a normal business sense, rather than in a hostile way - have a very sophisticated, mature understanding of the relationship between the inward investment created by attracting films to a territory and the consequences for tourism. I regret that we did not have the time today to go into that in significant detail.


The best-known example of such a show in Ireland, 'Ballykissangel', is developed by BBC Northern Ireland in Belfast, and for the last six years it has been shot exclusively in Avoca in County Wicklow. A six-part series, for example, would presumably have a gross production value of £4-5 million. In the Republic, visiting productions tends to have a direct spend of around 50%. Beyond that, however, Avoca has a huge tourism industry that is entirely due to 'Ballykissangel'.


There are other examples on the Isle of Man, which offers great incentives for film production. A film called 'Waking Ned', which is set in Ireland, was shot on the Isle of Man several years ago. Most visitors to the Isle of Man go to see the locations at which the film is shot. The same applies in England. 'Heartbeat', which is shot in Goathland on the north Yorkshire moors, is crawling with tourists during any summer weekend, as are Holmfirth, also in Yorkshire, where 'Last of the Summer Wine' is shot, and Castle Howard, which was the setting for 'Brideshead Revisited'. Various locations in Scotland have benefited in this way, including Fortwilliam, where films such as 'Braveheart' were shot. There is ample evidence that film is good for tourism.


The Northern Ireland Tourist Board has not quite understood that yet. We do not believe that there is nearly enough joined-up Government, which would highlight the connection between the film industry and tourism.


I cannot make any promises, but if as good a series as 'Ballykissangel' were set in Glenarm, the whole of the north coast would benefit. Some people might not welcome such activity, because local residents are not always happy to be overrun by tourists. However, growth in tourism can only be good for Northern Ireland, and we should be pulling more people across the border. In 1995, the year after the ceasefires, Northern Ireland was very buoyant. That growth only subsided after the Canary Wharf bombing in 1996, and we have not yet recovered from that setback.


These tourists are on our doorstep, and many are curious about Northern Ireland. Much of what we do, showing our films and culture around the world, can help to feed that curiosity. It is a very logical connection.


Dr Adamson: What help does the sector need in order to allow Northern Ireland to become a more film-friendly country?


Mr Taylor: It needs money. On a per capita basis, we are profoundly disadvantaged by comparison with our closest neighbours, the Republic and the Isle of Man. I will be very succinct on this subject, because there are a lot of technical details. The UK and the Republic of Ireland have tax incentives for film production. These are worth about 10% of the respective budgets. People shooting films in Northern Ireland can combine both tax breaks if they structure their work correctly.


The Irish Film Board, which is the Republic's direct investment in production, will have a budget of £7 million this year. That represents £2 per capita. We have nothing like that here. Our budget is well under £1 per capita - even with lottery money. The biggest single factor that would stimulate inward investment in high- value production, such as feature films and TV drama, would be a film fund capitalised at a minimum of £4 million per year for three years. That is not a lot of money in the scheme of things. Without it, we will have nothing to offer and producers will go where the incentives are. They will come here sometimes - with a lot of hard work on our part. We can persuade some to come here and do a bit of work. However, we are not getting the big spend here because we have not got enough of an incentive.


I can show you incentive schemes from Australia, Canada, and all the English-speaking territories. Scotland is ahead of us in this. We are well behind the rest - and for very good reasons. Nobody wanted to make films here until four years ago, because of Northern Ireland's negative image. We have to keep working against that image. The absence of a meaningful direct incentive is a great problem for us.


Dr Adamson: Are we good enough to secure a major series?


Mr Taylor: There is no question about that. There is quality talent here. We have a far better infrastructure than the Isle of Man, for instance. There was nothing on the Isle of Man except a financial incentive and, of course, everybody went there. However, there were no crew and no facilities there. Everything had to be shipped in - usually from Liverpool.


About eight years ago, BBC Northern Ireland stopped in-house drama production. Therefore, the core of our freelance labour pool is ex-BBC Northern Ireland. Those are very experienced people such as production managers, location managers and art department people. They have worked on all the drama and feature films made here in the last decade. Therefore, we have an immensely skilled and talented crew base.


We also have Ireland's biggest film transport company - mostly servicing the South, of course. We have camera and lighting equipment hire companies. We have fantastic infrastructure. Most importantly, we have the people. We have young people with talent and energy.


We carry out structured training schemes. We put approximately six trainees on every film that comes here. They get hands-on experience in which they get up at 6.00 am and go to bed at midnight. As they are working on a film, they have to work film hours for six days a week. That is far better than any course on offer. It is very competitive, and we are very rigorous. We have the talent and everything we need here, but we do not have direct financial incentives of any significance.


We have been working without the capacity to offer producers what they need. It is a very competitive industry - people will go anywhere. I had a meeting with an American producer in the south of France yesterday. He could bring a 22-hour TV series to Belfast, but he is already thinking about going to Australia because the financial incentive is better. He could take the series anywhere, because it has to be filmed in a studio. It does not need locations. He is looking at Belfast. He is also looking at the UK and Irish tax breaks and he is weighing everything up. However, the Australians can also give him a direct subsidy of $20,000 per episode. We cannot do that, and that represents the type of thing we are up against.


Mr Hilditch: Should the film industry carry some responsibility for films made about Northern Ireland that portrayed a very negative image about life here? If that negative image still persists with the commissioning networks and film producers, how can that barrier be removed?


Mr Taylor: It is true that Northern Ireland has had a huge amount of material made about it - but not made here. Very often, the material has dwelled on some of the worst aspects of the troubles and sectarian strife. The Film Commission has been involved with a number of films in the past four years that were directly troubles-related. One, called '66 Days', was a hunger-strike film. Sadly, it was filmed in Dublin. It did not have to be, but it did not receive the money it needed here. The Arts Council did not fund it, so it had to go to Dublin to be made. Our policy on troubles-related films is to develop indigenous writers. We want to see authentic films written by people from this country, who know what they are talking about, and we want the films made here.


That is an increasingly small part of people's agenda. The young people we work with are not writing about anything to do with the troubles. They want to talk about the things that the rest of the world wants to talk about. They are writing about sex, drugs, criminals and all the other themes of film-making, but without the paramilitary backdrop. The days of those types of films are going to go.


However, there are two Bloody Sunday films being shot this year, one by Channel 4 and the other by Granada. The Channel 4 production team spent some time working in Derry. However, the Granada production was entirely filmed in Dublin. We were not happy about that. If we had had the financial incentive, both teams would probably have shot more film here.


We are sure that troubles-based films will work their way through. It has been six years since the ceasefire and perhaps, after 10 years, people will not want any more troubles films, although some great stories have yet to be told. Mr Martin works a lot with local writers, and he can confirm that they are not preoccupied with troubles-based themes.


Mr Martin: Some of the older writers are still writing about the 1970s and 1980s, but the younger writers are writing about themes that are more universal, and are internationally sellable. Those themes would make for future films, short subjects and TV series.


The Chairperson: Is that the way forward, so as to leave behind some of the negativity?


Mr Taylor: Publicly funded bodies such as the Northern Ireland Film Commission cannot, and should not, prescribe what gets made. There was another proposed Bloody Sunday film, which was not made although it had an excellent script. Our purpose is to develop creative talent and help people get the films made. We are completely even-handed when it comes to themes. However, there is imbalance, particularly on television, in that the Nationalist story is being far more widely told than the Unionist story. We hope to see more stories from that tradition than there have been to date.


We have to create an environment where more of everything gets made. People will leave troubles themes behind and see Northern Ireland in the same way as other places are seen. It is not an obsession for the future. I am an optimist.


We have to have stability. It goes without saying, and it applies to you in your work in the Assembly. Our industry is affected and inflected by any type of political instability. There are enough reasons not to come to Northern Ireland. For example, London-based producers have to spend money just getting here. Therefore, it is an issue that we have to face.


Mr McCarthy: Are you hopeful that the difference in tax relief between here and the South can be bridged in order to make progress?


Mr Taylor: No. The UK tax break is now almost as good as the one in the Republic. On tax alone, there is a level playing field. However, they are ahead of us all the time because of the direct incentive - that £2 per capita. We are probably running at about 60p or 70p per capita. The Irish Film Board's budget is going up; it will be £3 per capita by 2004. They have seen the returns over the last seven years. The Republic's treasury has given money away, but the benefits have outweighed that.


Film has been a key part of the image of Ireland, along with the culture, the music and the "Celtic Tiger" economy. Film has been responsible for changing the image of the territory globally. That is not an exaggeration. Everyone watches the movies, on television, and even on trains and aeroplanes. The moving image has been with us for 100 years and it is how most people get their information. Can you see why we would want a 'Ballykissangel' on the north coast? It would transform the UK and Irish views of Northern Ireland, at least.


'Ballykissangel' has probably been sold in North America and other English-speaking territories. If we take GB as our biggest tourist market, give them a 'Ballykissangel' on the north coast, and they will visit. I feel very strongly about that.


Mr McCarthy: Another 'December Bride' in Strangford.


Mr Taylor: Yes, Strangford or Portaferry.


The Chairperson: Thank you very much. That was a very useful presentation.


Our inquiry has achieved remarkable interest. We have had 78 responses. All the information will have to be distilled and a set of recommendations prepared. I am sure that some of the issues that you have raised will be among those.


Mr Taylor: Thank you.


Thursday 17 May 2001

Members present:

Mr ONeill (Chairperson)

Mrs Nelis (Deputy Chairperson)

Dr Adamson

Mr Davis

Mr Hilditch

Mr McCarthy

Mr McMenamin

Mr Shannon


Mr J Johnston )

Mr R Hegarty ) Federation for

Mr K Haines ) Ulster Local Studies Ltd


The Chairperson: You are very welcome. The floor is yours; then we will try to tease out more points with the help of a few questions.


Mr Johnston: Thank you Chairman. I will tell you who we are and then one of my colleagues will advise you as to why you should, if possible, support us. We represent the Federation for Ulster Local Studies, which was established as a voluntary committee in 1975, to organise the study of local history throughout the nine counties of Ulster. The federation is run by a voluntary executive. Twelve years ago we set up an office and employed two members of staff. Mr Hegarty is currently our development officer and we also have an administrator.


My name is Jack Johnston. I am the chairperson of the federation, a post which normally lasts for two years but is sometimes for just one year. I come from the west of the Province. I live in Tyrone but work in Fermanagh, Cavan, Leitrim and in parts of Connaught. My colleagues are Mr Haines, our treasurer, who is from the east of the Province. He is identified with the local history scene in Belfast city and is a very active member of the East Belfast Historical Society. He is also the editor of our current journal, 'Due North'. On my right is Mr Hegarty, our development officer. He is originally from Strabane and in the past worked on heritage with the Ulster Historical Foundation.


The federation was founded in 1975 as an umbrella group to mobilise support for local history in the nine counties of Ulster. We saw the historic nine counties as a viable unit in which to operate, although 95% of our work is in the six counties of Northern Ireland. We have almost 100 member groups of which only four or five are outside the six counties.


As well as links with all our member organisations, history groups and societies, we have contacts with museums and Library Boards. One of our main objectives is to organise training, liaison, development and communication between all the member groups and the Library Boards, museums and statutory agencies.


We publish a magazine called 'Due North', which carries the latest information on the state of local history in the Province. We used to publish a journal called 'Ulster Local Studies', but we found we did not have funding to pursue both aims. We hope to improve community relations links through our work and we find that local history is a very useful vehicle for doing that. We also have links with our equivalent organisation in the Republic of Ireland - the Federation of Local History Societies - and also with the Scottish Local History Forum, so we are not totally parochial. We try to look beyond our own parameters.


Some years ago we set up the Ulster Local History Trust to assist in local history publishing. It has a small budget each year and supports the publication of local history, the best practice of local history in the Province. We also provide low cost insurance for our members within Northern Ireland. Basically we act as a point of information, a focus, an umbrella group and as a lobbying point within the local history constituency. My colleague, Mr Hegarty, will be more informed about the day-to-day running of the office.


Mr Hegarty: Our main purpose is to seek from Government some sort of commitment to the development of the local history sector as part of cultural tourism. There are five key points. Firstly, the provision of adequate resources because at present many of these local groups exist by volunteering. Some of them receive small grants from local government, but by and large they exist on a shoestring budget. The Community Relations Council (CRC) currently funds our umbrella group by approximately 75-80%, but we are conscious that that funding has a huge potential to dry up in the next few years.


We would also like you, as Government, to encourage best practice within the field and we are endeavouring to raise the notion of local history from a pastime pursuit to something more mainstream. We would also like you to recognise the strategic value that these organisations have to the community. As Mr Johnston has already indicated, our organisation represents nearly 100 such groups throughout the Province. There are at least another 50 to 60 groups which operate independently of that, so potentially 10,000 to 15,000 individuals are pursuing their local heritage as a hobby and, indeed, in a more vibrant sense than that. They are producing some very worthwhile material which can contribute greatly to cultural tourism.


The strategic value Mr Johnston referred to is the enhancement of community relations as a result of this interaction.


One of the major areas on which we would seek your approval is the enactment of appropriate legislation to safeguard our shared heritage. Many of our members have difficulty with the erosion of place names. Indigenous place names are being supplanted by meaningless but marketable names for new housing and industrial developments. In particular, townland names in rural areas are being eroded.


The fifth thing we propose is that initiators of Government policy should be conscious of the impact of their initiatives on heritage issues. The Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure may be at the forefront of safeguarding our heritage; nevertheless, we must also ask you to be an advocate on behalf of our heritage throughout the other Departments because there may be conflicts of interest. For instance, planning decisions sometimes have an impact on local heritage, but these may normally be based on financial considerations.


Our key proposals include phased integration of our organisation over the next few years, because we see a necessity for a heritage body equivalent to the Arts Council or the Sports Council. The Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure has a broad remit; sports and arts are already, in my opinion, reasonably well looked after. Built heritage is also well catered for, but non-material heritage is not and there is great scope for development in that area. It is also necessary to recognise the contribution made by local groups to their locality and, indeed, to the local economy.


We want to see serious approaches to the enactment of legislation to safeguard those distinctive place and townland names and clarify whether it is the residents, the council or the developers who are responsible for naming new developments. There seems to be a grey area in this regard at present. A more straightforward approach must be made in the naming of areas, and indigenous names should not be supplanted by marketable names simply because there is a desire for them.


The Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure should begin a process of enhancing the position of non-material heritage. We have published a number of journals, magazines and helped to bring to fruition books which contribute greatly to local non-material heritage. Bricks and mortar projects are very good if you want to have photographs on annual reports, but in terms of visitor attractions most of these are single-issue sites that do not have the capacity to draw people back on a circular basis. If appropriate and effective investment is made within local history societies and other organisations, you can stimulate the type of material that has been produced in recent years. That has a knock-on effect, because people become familiar with the heritage of their local area and can act as advocates for that in terms of both local community development and cultural tourism.


Finally, we propose that the Department should work on cultural tourism in conjunction with other elements of Government to move away from the employment of single-issue sites, and away from the big flagship projects, which are already well funded. For instance, the Navan Centre and the new St Patrick's Centre are single-issue projects that have not proved to have the capacity to draw people back on a regular basis. We would like to see more equitable funding arrangements where the non-material end of local culture is identified in such projects as publishing oral history and local exhibitions, which can contribute to the local economy and the enhancement of the local community.


The Chairperson: Thank you very much.


Mr Hilditch: How would you describe the link between the tourism industry and the Federation for Ulster Local Studies? How do you see those issues being improved?


Mr Hegarty: If you go to any major European city your first point of contact is usually a taxi driver or a waiter. There is a great information void in areas such as Belfast, Derry and Craigavon. How many people can, hand-on-heart, rely on the local taxi driver or waiter to enhance Northern Ireland's cultural heritage by marketing it as a tourism venture? There is a definite need for training. The Federation for Local Ulster Studies is well placed to provide that because it has access to raw material such as the personnel and information necessary to move it forward.


There is some degree of discontent in the local heritage sector, because so much money has been ploughed into flagship projects at the expense of smaller issues. Sometimes that flies in the face of the protection of local heritage; when one issue has been concentrated on, a great wealth of local history is left ignored. Our own areas are rich in both cultural heritage and tourism, and that must be drawn out - we cannot concentrate on single-site issues.


Mr Hilditch: The main agency for tourism in Northern Ireland is the Tourist Board. Does the Federation for Local Ulster Studies have any liaison or contact with that body?


Mr Johnston: There is no formal linkage.


Mr McMenamin: I am particularly pleased to see Mr Hegarty and I am delighted to see that he has a copy of the 'Fair River Valley: Strabane Through the Ages' - it is a historical account of Strabane which mentions me.


You mentioned townland names. In the local council we have encountered considerable difficulty in retaining names because a lot of the names are in Irish and Ulster-Scots. Therefore when you try to retain the old name one side or the other objects because they think that it is Irish or it is not Irish; that problem must be addressed.


How could the relationship between the sectors be improved? Would links with travel and accommodation providers be helpful? How can the Federation for Ulster Local Studies develop them?


Mr Hegarty: Are you talking about the tourism and heritage sectors?


Mr McMenamin: Yes.


Mr Hegarty: Improvements must be made to the funding arrangements. It is all very well throwing money at tourism ventures, but that money is wasted unless the ventures have a lasting impact. Investment must be made at local level, rather than in large flagship projects. I know that I sound like a broken record now.


Townlands are an invaluable asset not just to cultural tourism, but to local heritage and identity. The townland and townland name, irrespective of its linguistic background, has been the central pillar of recording local and statutory history for over 100 years. Census returns, land valuations and various other materials held by the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) are indexed by townlands.


The genealogical sector is one of the major cultural tourism ventures of the past number of years. Very often, people who come to this island in search of their ancestors know little more than where they came from and what their name was. It must be stressed that if we delete the local townland names from our landscape and memory, the link between the past and the present is broken. It becomes increasingly difficult for those people to make a provable link between their family today and their family of 100 or 150 years ago.


That is a purely economic argument for the retention of townland names. However, they are part of our local identity; their removal deletes a fundamental key to who we are and where we come from. Therefore, that economic argument is one way of linking various sectors and an argument for the retention of townlands. That applies to PRONI and the tourism, culture, arts and leisure sectors and so forth. If local people are aware of these things they can act as advocates.


Mr Johnston: Unfortunately the argument against the retention of our townlands seems to be driven by the mobile phone companies in England that insist on clarity for credit facilities. I was at a meeting yesterday in Fermanagh. Locals there have retained their townlands, but are being forced into a corner by things such as credit facilities and commercial interests in England. It is regrettable, and I want to make you aware of it.


Mr Haines: As Mr Hegarty said, there is a considerable ignorance of both local heritage and national heritage. For instance, earlier this week I spoke to William McQuitty, the Ulster-born producer of the film 'A Night to Remember' who has a large photographic collection. He said that people from around the world still come to him for photographs of different topics. He recently advised someone to use a photograph of Churchill, and that person asked who Churchill was. If you have ignorance on that level, certainly, there is a greater degree of ignorance at local level. Speaking from the perspective of the East Belfast Historical Society, I want to produce something that links the concept - a trails brochure and a book that shows how the various streets in East Belfast were named.


We need the expertise of an organisation such as the Federation for Ulster Local Studies to undertake that project. There also needs to be uniformity; it is pointless producing one type of trails brochure if another society in another district is producing a different type. We need visitors to be able to go into the local tourist centre and see a range of brochures that look attractive and are uniform. The Federation for Ulster Local Studies can help with that development.


The Chairperson: Councils have the right to erect signs that welcome visitors into council areas and alert them when they are leaving that area again. Has the Federation for Ulster Local Studies given any thought to people erecting signs that state 'You are now entering Ballywillwill' and 'You are now leaving it'?


Mr Hegarty: There is an argument for doing that. However, it is rather costly, and it would be more appropriate for local councils to produce printed maps of the townlands in their areas. The maps could be distributed to visitors so that they can physically identify the townland that they are looking for. It would also help local people to familiarise themselves with their area.


We recently ran a workshop in Lifford, County Donegal, on the subject of townlands. I highlighted that in 1835-36 the Ordnance Survey memoirs listed 83 separate townlands in the parish of Clonleish. I defy you to find 83 people in that parish today who could list half of those. The proliferation of motor transport, in particular, means that people are less familiar with their surroundings and there is an increased threat in that regard. That is not an argument against the use of the motorcar, but it is an argument for an enhancement of peoples' understanding.


Mr Johnston: Townlands were so important to locality some years ago and the increased use of the car has made locality a wider issue. It is a big concern of ours.


The Chairperson: I know Dr Brian Turner did a bit of research on exactly the same point where he took a grandfather, a father and a grandson and ask them to recite the townlands that they knew and it was an ever diminishing line. It really is a good indicator of what is happening.


Mrs Nelis: I am really interested in what you have said and I am also very supportive of what you are doing. You face adversity because the world we live in is about marketing and consumerism rather than the preservation or understanding of our local history. However, I agree that unless we have a grasp of where we came from and what our townlands and names mean, it is very difficult for us to progress.


What help do you need to promote local history? Would a mainstreaming approach be appropriate for legislation for the preservation of townland names?


I support that endeavour very strongly. It is gratifying to see that some of the townland names are preserved in electoral registers, but a lot more disappear each time we have an election. City councils do have a responsibility for local housing developments; they could pass information down the line to local authorities and suggest names for local developments that would incorporate the local townland name.


I would certainly support the phased integration of the heritage sector as a priority within the Department. How do you intend to develop your projects and market your organisation?


John Hume brought a group of millionaire miners called Curran - from Scuttle County in Pennsylvania - to Derry some years ago. They were actively pursuing their heritage, but the only thing they knew about it was townland names.


Mr Johnston: The townland is essential to the whole genealogy sector. If the first thing the tourist says is "My ancestor came from Lisnamuckly", you have to be able to identify the place.


Mr Hegarty: I think that because we come from a sector which is largely driven by volunteers, marketing and the financial zeal is very often lacking. There is definitely scope for development in that regard. However, financial considerations must not always dictate the pace of progress. In this sector, it is particularly difficult to have a marketing strategy for the retention of things which contribute to our local identity.


If we apply a solely financial argument in that regard, we lose impetus from our maintenance of that heritage. If, on the other hand, you invest in people and give them awareness and pride of their origins, they will automatically promote their own areas and thus advocate cultural tourism.


In many ways marketing is veiled in respect of the local heritage sector. Funding arrangements should reflect a more equitable approach to built heritage and non material heritage.


Built heritage is quite costly and the returns on it are often unproven. Investing in people is investing for the long term, because those people can pass the information on.


Dr Adamson: May I express my admiration of the Federation for Ulster Local Studies. As you have no formal links with the Tourist Board, how do people outside Northern Ireland find out about the federation?


Mr Johnston: We produced several attractive leaflets recently, which are now available in tourist outlets. Therefore we will be better known in future.


Mr Hegarty: We recently launched a web site which explains exactly what we are about. It links up to web sites in the statutory and voluntary sectors so that local history societies which have produced material can put it on the web. The Glens of Antrim Historical Society is a good example of this. For instance, it did an oral history project in 1998 and has put some of the transcripts and voice recordings on to the World Wide Web. We also have links to the Public Record Office (PRONI) so that people outside this country can access such information. Our site is should anyone want to visit it.


The Chairperson: Is there a link between your site and that of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board?


Mr Hegarty: No.


The Chairperson: It might be useful to develop such a link.


Mr McCarthy: I am very supportive of your work and I hope that you keep it up. I am also very critical of those who allowed the Post Office to do away with townland names in the early 1970s.


It is the policy of Ards Borough Council that the names of new developments should be of local origin.


How can local history be used as a tourist attraction for Northern Ireland? You mentioned history trails. The Ards peninsula could develop a Betsy Gray history trail.


Mr Johnston: Opposing the Post Office's changes in 1973 was the core of our work in the early days when we were still very much a volunteer organisation. We did not have an office and we had few resources, yet we took on a big business in the shape of the Post Office. We ran a very extensive "Save Our Townlands" campaign throughout the whole Province.


We lobbied 19 district councils in the area. I stood as a 'Save our Townlands' candidate in the Dungannon and South Tyrone Borough Council area. I managed to save my deposit and to focus on the townlands issue, which was otherwise being swept under the carpet. We played a crucial role at that stage in pushing forward the debate on retaining townlands.


The second issue is how we can help to generate more visitors. We are available for consultation to enable people to research properly marketed sites and to properly market the attractions that we have in Ulster. We should be available to district councils. If we had more money at our disposal for developing our programme, we could create more material for them.


Mr Hegarty: The Federation of Ulster Local Studies has an educative role to play. A training programme must be initiated to help people gain a better understanding of their environment, and we are the best-placed organisation to do that. In recent months we have seen the wholesale degrading of tourism in rural areas due to the foot-and-mouth crisis. However, there is huge potential for attracting tourists and for encouraging them to stay in small localities for two or three days rather than passing through for an hour on a Sunday afternoon.


Trails are also vital. Due to my reliance on English, I look for a printed trail that I can follow when I go to a foreign country or city to see aspects of local history. It is a very useful method of finding your way around a foreign city. I am in favour of the production of several thematic trails. If only one trail is made available, a tourist will only stay for about a day. If you go to Barcelona, Madrid or Rome, you know that you will need to spend more than an afternoon there. If you follow the tried and tested procedure of producing a trail that will highlight the Trevi Fountain or the Coliseum, you will not see the other aspects of the city. The product must be diversified for the visitor to access the richness of heritage in any place.


Mr Johnston: The more glamorous aspects of the countryside are often promoted at the expense of smaller attractions that are also marketable and of great interest.


Dr Adamson: There is a trail from Bangor to Newtownards which takes you from Archibald Wilson's grave in Bangor Abbey cemetery. He was a relative of mine who was hanged in '98. Then you can go through to Movilla cemetery in Newtownards. The cell in the town hall where Archibald was held has been recently renovated by Ards Borough Council.


Mr Davis: You mentioned that you get 75% funding from the Community Relations Council. What is your budget?


Mr Hegarty: We receive a grant of £52,000 per annum. That breaks down as 90% funding for myself and one other employee, and a notional 75 % of running costs. It is in fact closer to 50% of running costs which means that on an annual basis we have to raise between £12,000 and £15,000 independently to stay in business. All our programme costs are self-generated. The Community Relations Council does not fund us for organising training sessions, seminars and workshops. That funding has to be generated in-house. We target various funds and trusts to get further moneys.


Mr Davis: What is the potential for the summer school market?


Mr Johnston: I am involved with the Carleton summer school in Tyrone, the flagship project of the Dungannon and South Tyrone Borough Council area. The school has a high profile in attracting visitors. Nevertheless, it is true that we could make a lot more of our local writers to attract tourists. A group in Enniskillen has been considering an Oscar Wilde summer school, and this has also been talked about in other parts of the country as a means of attracting visitors.


It is a very useful mechanism. We have attracted people from all over Ireland, and from the United States, to the Carleton school.


Mr Hegarty: Last year, I attended the biennial Ulster-American Symposium in Omagh. We must be guarded about investment in big summer schools like that. While 120 people attended that conference, the speakers made up a considerable part of that figure.


There is a temptation to make summer schools exclusive and highly academic and, therefore, only relevant to academics who are on vacation at that time of the year. It would be much more productive to popularise that type of activity and include interaction with people who have local knowledge. A visitor will only sustain a certain amount of lectures. There is tremendous scope for access to the countryside and the real heritage, by way of organised tours, as an ancillary aspect of those summer schools.


Mr Johnston: Our summer schools have been so good that Dr Adamson has been three times.


The Chairperson: He should have declared an interest.


Mr Johnston: He was there as a speaker on one occasion and as a participant on the others.


Mr Shannon: I apologise for missing your submission. Mr McCarthy and I are representatives of Ards Borough Council, and Dr Adamson is also aware of some of the council's good work. I am very interested in cultural tourism, and I see great potential for that in our borough. What involvement do you have with the Ulster-Scots Heritage Society, for example, in trying to trace and promote townlands and place names?


We suggested the recognition of the townland of Bishops Mill. The officer of the council had decided that the council would not do that, because he could not find it on the map or in any other record. However, we were able to produce cards from Kenya and New Zealand that had been sent to Bishops Mill. Poetry, birth and death certificates and a whole host of things proved that the place was actually there.


In your experience, has the government antipathy to townlands which was rife in 1975, changed? Do Government Departments realise that townland names need to be retained?


Mr Hegarty: If it is changing, it is doing so very slowly. We have not seen any sign of a complete turnaround, but it is possible that that is happening in local government. The last census form had a smattering of BTs. In some areas, some people denied access to the census enumerator unless the form was delivered to their townland, but that was the exception rather than the rule. More needs to be done in that regard. A number of individuals have vigorously campaigned for that at local government level, but I do not know that it has entirely filtered through to central government as yet.


The Ulster-Scots Language Society is one of our member societies. While we have not had direct contact with the Ulster-Scots Heritage Council, we have had recent contact with the Ulster-Scots Agency and have explored possibilities regarding language as non-material heritage. If I may repeat a point I made earlier: there is great need for enhancement of the non-material sector, though not necessarily at the expense of the built heritage sector.


Language is important. Due largely to the work of local councillors and local activists, it is one of the few areas of non-material heritage that has begun to see a change.


The Chairperson: We have had a tremendous response to the inquiry - 79 submissions from various bodies and organisations. We are overwhelmed by the interest, and I am certain that some of the things that you said will be included in our recommendations, which are beginning to take shape in our minds. Thank you very much for an important submission.


Mr Johnston: We talked about phased support from the Department. Initially, we would be glad to receive some of our running costs. However, in the longer term, we look for more support.


Mr McCarthy: There was much support for your organisation's work in those submissions.


Mr Johnston: We have brought along some of our magazines and publications for you. Thank you.


Thursday 17 May 2001

Members present:

Mr ONeill (Chairperson)

Mrs Nelis (Deputy Chairperson)

Dr Adamson

Mr Davis

Mr Hilditch

Mr McCarthy

Mr McMenamin

Mr Shannon


Ms J Crossland )

Ms L Houston ) Belfast Public Libraries

Ms K McCloskey )


The Chairperson: Good morning. You are very welcome. We look forward with interest to our discussion this morning. You have 10 minutes to make a presentation and synopsis of your submission. We will then ask some questions.


Ms Houston: I am Linda Houston, Chief Librarian with the Belfast Education and Library Board. Katherine McCloskey is Assistant Chief Librarian and Jennifer Crossland is Reference Librarian. We are delighted to be here to give you some information on the role that libraries have played, and could play in the future, in contributing to cultural tourism and the arts.


The public library service is a key player in cultural provision in Northern Ireland. We have a very wide network of service points - almost 130 around the Province - so the collections are widely distributed, as is the coverage of those collections. This represents a major resource of both worldwide and local literature and historical material.


Most libraries in the Province provide local tourist information; brochures and guides to places of interest, accommodation and dining out. Library staff are trained in handling and searching for information, as well as evaluating and interpreting it and helping members of the public to find the information that they want. That is relevant when tourists come into libraries looking for information.


In some cases the partnership between libraries and tourism is formalised. I have broadened what I am going to say this morning from Belfast alone to the whole of Northern Ireland. For example, Portstewart Library functions as a tourist information centre (TIC) in partnership with Coleraine Borough Council. Last year was their first year of operation, and they handled about 1,100 tourist enquiries during July and August.


Electronic development in the public library service, is highly relevant to cultural tourism. The five education and library boards are engaged in a private finance initiative (PFI) to acquire an electronic library system for all Northern Ireland libraries. That will give electronic access to all the resources held in Northern Ireland's libraries. A lot of materials - especially the special resources, local history materials and rare and fine special collections - are not held electronically, so access from outside the libraries is currently impossible. The electronic library project will mean that those records will be accessible on the World Wide Web. That means that we can raise awareness of our resources, both at home and abroad. The project will establish an electronic portal to Northern Ireland libraries, and links from the portal will lead to a range of other local, high-quality information about Northern Ireland. It is going to be a major channel for "e-Government" in the future.


We are planning to digitise some of the rare, unique collections to turn them into electronic format and then mount those on the web. We will repackage them in ways that are attractive to visitors or researchers.


Libraries are key players in the arts infrastructure as well, because they showcase local artists and writers and provide access to literary and creative works of imagination from around the world. They also provide accessible venues for local festivals. For example, the Tullycarnett Library in the South Eastern Education and Library Board area has established itself as an arts venue for local festivals and within the Belfast Festival at Queens. Derry Central Library has mounted an exhibition called 'the Emigrant Irish' with funding from the Northern Ireland Tourist Board. The Centre for Migration Studies at the Ulster American Folk Park operates in conjunction with the Western Education and Library Board, and is a major honeypot for researchers. Increasingly, partnerships like these are developing. The North Eastern Education and Library Board holds the Northern Ireland Tourist Board's Welcome Host award for its provision of training in customer care.


Belfast Central Library holds a major newspaper collection. The newspaper library is the least accessible part of the library, yet in the months of July and August last year, it had 70 visitors from outside Northern Ireland. Holywood Arches library is often included on the C S Lewis literary trail during the summer season. Our Irish and Local Studies department receives visitors and enquiries from around the world. For example, last year it received 141 written enquiries about tourist information resorts. We also provide support and information for researchers who are producing tourist material. When writing one of the early editions of the 'Rough Guide to Ireland', the authors approached Belfast Central Library for access to its resources.


Belfast Central Library is the largest public library in the Province. It dates back to 1888; the architect was William Lynn and it is an important part of Belfast's built heritage. It is a landmark in the city centre, and is mentioned in architectural guides. Last year guided tours of the library were offered as part of the European heritage open days. It is a magnificent building and if you have not visited it, I would definitely encourage you to do so. I would be only too happy to arrange a guided tour for you.


The library is signposted in the city centre; there is a library map at Belfast City Airport. It is located on the fringe of the cathedral quarter which is being regenerated as the cultural quarter of the city. Therefore the library's location is critical. It is close to the University of Ulster campus that houses its art and design faculty.


The Lynn building occupies only about 25% of the Central Library site. The remainder of the site is taken up by piecemeal extensions and annexes and an enclosed yard, all of which were added since 1888. Architecturally, those extensions detract from the Lynn building. A major capital project to build an integrated extension to the Lynn building on the Central Library site would both enhance the site and provide the kind of city library and landmark building that a burgeoning city like Belfast really deserves.


The Central Library holds a range of resources. I mentioned the newspaper library, which contains an important historical collection of newspapers. The library has numerous archive collections such as the manuscripts and correspondence of Amanda McKittrick Ros who is growing as an Ulster curiosity. It also holds the library of Francis Joseph Bigger, which is extremely important for historical researchers. It has an extensive holding of early Belfast printed books.


We have antiquarian and current maps of Ireland, and of Belfast in particular. We have a fine bookroom of rare botanical illustrated books. That unique collection was recently viewed by Sotheby's, and the viewers were very impressed by it. It ought to be more widely known, within security constraints, of course. The library holds a very important photographic collection, including postcards of old Belfast, and a theatre and cinema collection and related posters.


The Central Library has been a very important venue for exhibitions, book launches and events. For example, over the last few years we have had a C S Lewis event, a major exhibition on the 1798 Rebellion, an exhibition about the famine and an exhibition on the author Forrest Reid, arrranged in conjunction with the Ashmolean Museum.


This summer, the Central Library will host an exhibition and events to mark European Languages Year. That will cover our collections of Irish language and Ulster-Scots material. We will put a selection of our Ulster-Scots material on permanent display in the reading room of the Irish and Local Studies Library.


The library also boasts a state-of-the-art learning gateway, offering access to electronic information and ICT resources. Most notably, in the tourism context, there is free access to e-mail. You will have heard of the Australian tourist who was attacked recently in east Belfast. The learning gateway in Central Library was used to e-mail his family at home to let them know how he was.


We actually know who comes in, and we do talk to our customers. The Central Library can also be an oasis of peace on the tourist trail. Many people come in just to photograph the building because of its splendid interior.


I hope that that has given you a flavour of what the Public Library Service can contribute. The service has a strong track record, but there is also a great deal of scope for further development.


The Chairperson: Thank you very much. You have given us a quick sketch of a very wide and varied series of locations.


Mr McMenamin: A state-of-the-art library is currently being built in Strabane. It is hoped that it will be ready for occupation by the end of the year. The exciting electronic era is changing and will no doubt continue to change all our lives. Local schools will be able to avail of more information from your libraries through the Internet.


When I was in Manchester library a few months ago, I saw a whole suite of computers with free Internet access. That really encourages people to come in to use the Internet. How strong are the links between your sector and the tourist industry?


Ms Houston: These are still under construction, and there is a lot of work to be done. Formal links with the Northern Ireland Tourist Board (NITB), for example, are fairly weak and need to be developed.


Mr McMenamin: Have you been in touch with the Tourist Board, or have its representatives been in touch with you?


Ms McCloskey: We have informal links for satisfying information needs with the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, which is based in Lower North Street. For example ,we get requests from tourists who want a handy map, and the Tourist Board provides us with those to hand out at our information desk..


In fact, several former library staff members now work for the NITB, and it is through such informal contacts that we have forged those connections. However, nothing has been formalised.


Mr Hilditch: My question relates to tourism and your relationship with other travel and accommodation providers. You have mentioned that Portstewart library serves as a tourist information centre. Do you have any plans to develop other centres?


Ms Houston: Library services in other boards have been exploring the idea of further developing those links with tourism. I do not have up-to-date information on whether other libraries are actually operating formally as tourist information services.


Mr Hilditch: Have you links with any accommodation providers other than the Tourist Board?


Ms McCloskey: We provide a lot of information from our information desk in Central Library. We provide information on accommodation and eating out. We have a wide range of information there, because a lot of people make enquiries of that nature and we have responded to that need.


It is possible that libraries such as those in Newcastle in County Down operate as an informal information centre for tourists. Many library staff are very well informed about their local area and publications from, for example, the local historical society and other such groups. Tourists who are accustomed to a network of library services know that they may get information about the locality from the staff that they may not be able to get elsewhere, and so they are drawn automatically into libraries.


Mrs Nelis: I have not investigated the library. However, I shall when I get the time. I am intrigued because I always thought that libraries were about books and tapes and so on. I find it amazing that libraries provide databases for so many things. In particular, your botanical collection is quite unique and I think that it would attract visitors worldwide.


Ms Houston: There is a forthcoming exhibition on florilegiums.


Ms McCloskey: We are discussing a joint exhibition. In the past we have had one with Belfast City Council and we are discussing the possibility of another one. Sotheby's said that it was a privilege to look at our collection of botanical illustrated books. They thought that some of the books were unique in Ireland and were probably the finest examples of their kind in Europe. Attractions such as those would bring tourists to the city.


Mrs Nelis: Is the historical and literary material which is available to you adequately promoted? What help do you need to promote this material at home and abroad?


Ms Houston: It has been very poorly promoted. The security of the collection has taken priority over the issue of providing access to it. That is why we think that the electronic route will provide a channel for making the collections more widely known. We will mount descriptions of the collections on the Web and perhaps take examples from them and digitise those so that the images of the tropical birds or flowers can actually be seen.


Mrs Nelis: I met some of the botanical academic staff at Berkeley College in the University of California. I know that they would be very interested in the collection. Do you need financial assistance? How can the Department, for instance, be of help?


Ms Houston: The marketing of the Public Library Service and particularly of specialist collections needs heavy investment, and public library services have not been funded to market themselves to professional standards. A marketing consultant has examined our marketing over the last two years and he recommends a marketing budget of approximately £100,000 per board to enable us to market ourselves effectively.


Dr Adamson: I would like to say how much I appreciate the Belfast Public Libraries. As Lord Mayor, I opened the Holywood Arches library and I know how crucial it is to the C S Lewis trail. I also really enjoy Tullycarnet Library which I visited with Sir Reg Empey a couple of weeks ago. Do the libraries have a marketing plan and budget to target the tourist market specifically?


Ms Houston: No, but we have been working with marketing consultants over the past year to 18 months. We will produce a general marketing plan that will cover the tourist element. We would probably need a special focus if we were going to develop our tourist profile.


Dr Adamson: I understand your point about security. I remember that my old friend Cardinal Tomás O'Fiaich went to the Ambrosian Library in Milan to see the Bangor Antiphonary, and they would not let him in for security reasons.


Ms Houston: It is necessary to have systems in place to protect the collections, as they are being preserved for posterity. It is important that they remain in public hands.


Dr Adamson: Cardinal O'Fiaich explained that he was a cardinal and a professor of history at Maynooth College, and they still would not let him in.


Mr McCarthy: What is the potential of the archive material to bring visitors to Northern Ireland, and how far do you think that the material could be developed as a tourist product? What help is needed and who is best placed to give it?


Ms Houston: The potential for tourism is enormous. However, it is very difficult to quantify that potential without doing any preliminary market research, and we have not had the budget to do that. There has been a considerable interest from the United States in recent years. The special collections librarian from Boston College has visited Northern Ireland on many occasions to look at the special collections in our libraries and to produce information about them for the American market.


There is such interest from America in our literature and history; I believe there is enormous scope for exploiting that. However, resources are needed for accommodating the collections in attractive places where people can look at them. I see the Belfast Central Library having a prime role in that. However, we need major capital investment on that site. There is an opportunity to work in partnership with resources such as the Public Record Office (PRONI), for example, and we are talking to them at the moment. I envisage the Central Library and the Public Record Office sharing the same site, although there is no need to amalgamate them. Such a shared site in the centre of town would be a major information and cultural honeypot.


Ms McCloskey: Our genealogical collections have the potential to generate tourism, especially from the USA, Canada and Australia. At the moment we work in partnership with the Ulster Historical Foundation, and we are part of their trail. Genealogical tourists with the foundation visit the Central Library every September to research their family histories, and are given a guided tour of our collections. They may use the collections, as we have unique resources that are easily accessible to the public. The potential for developing that interest is enormous.


Ms Houston: You will be aware of the emigration database that is being developed by the Ulster American Folk Park. A great deal of research for the development of that database was done in Belfast Central Library.


Mr Davis: Have you any thoughts on exploring the summer market? I envy what you have been saying this morning, because I am from Lisburn and we have hardly got a library. Can you tell the Committee what level of funding you receive from the Belfast Education and Library Board?


Ms Houston: Our funding comes from the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure via the board. The funding is ring-fenced for the library, and this year it amounts to almost £5 million. That is recurrent funding. Our capital budget amounts to a mere £100,000, which does not stretch to buildings.


Mr Davis: What about the summer school market?


Ms Houston: As I said, the scope for developing the summer market is enormous. The foundation has been laid already, because people come in and use the e-mail facility and make enquiries about family history. The Northern Ireland electronic libraries portal is going to be an important vehicle for developing that. It is important that the electronic libraries project is delivered, because it is key to the survival and future development of public libraries.


Mr Shannon: You mentioned the introduction of Ulster-Scots, and I am interested in that. I found that the South Eastern Education Library Board did not have a lot of books relating to Ulster-Scots. I know that problem has been addressed by the South Eastern Education and Library Board, but what about your own board? If you have increased the stock of these books, are they now readily available to visitors to the library? I am interested in having a section in the library set aside for that subject. Do you intend to put details of these books onto the internet and to make sources accessible to people from the USA, the rest of the UK, the Republic, Europe or Australia?


Ms McCloskey: Because Belfast has as a network of libraries, our remit is to collect everything related to the local studies area, first in connection with Belfast, then greater Belfast, then Ulster and then all of Ireland. We try to buy a copy of everything that is published. Therefore, our collection of Ulster-Scots material is significant. For example, we have material about people of Ulster-Scots descent who went to Canada and America, and also material about Scotland and the historical background. We endeavour to collect all types of local material available and to preserve them.


Mr Shannon: New books have been published recently, such as "the Hamely Tongue" and those by the prolific Phillip Robinson. I am talking about books like those.


Ms Houston: We buy all of those. We are lead partners with the Linen Hall Library in a project called the Northern Ireland Publications Resource. Funded by the British Library, this ensures that everything published within Northern Ireland is acquired and held in either Belfast Central Library or the Linen Hall Library. The catalogue record of each publication is available electronically.


Ms Houston: I will leave a copy of a description of our special collections.


Mr Adamson: Do you have a friends organisation in the library?


Ms Houston: No, but it is something that we have been considering.


The Chairperson: Thank you very much for attending.


Thursday 17 May 2001

Members present:

Mr ONeill (Chairperson)
Dr Adamson
Mr Davis
Mr Hilditch
Mr McCarthy
Mr Shannon


Ms M Delargy ) Linen Hall Library


The Chairperson: Good morning, Ms Delargy. You are very welcome.


Ms Delargy: May I show the Committee an album of photographs of the library's work.


The Languages of Ulster is quite a new project that has been in existence for slightly over 15 months. It grew out of an Irish language programme that the Linen Hall Library has run from its earliest days. We wanted to let everyone know that the library was for everyone. There was an Irish language programme in the very early days, although there was concern that the same fate would befall the next Irish language speaker as befell our second librarian who, as you may know, was hanged for treason. That was probably the most exciting thing ever to have happened to a librarian, although we are not anxious for a repeat.


I have been working in the library since 1987. While I was there I developed the cross-community Irish language programme. I was conscious that many people saw the Irish language as belonging to one side of the community only. I was very anxious to make it available, because the library had the reputation of being a neutral venue; a reputation which libraries have.


That is particularly true of the Linen Hall Library, which had quite a radical outlook. The Linen Hall Library welcomes people of every political and religious belief and of none. We set up the cross-community Irish language classes in 1990, and they have continued to flourish.


Over 300 people from both sides of the community have passed through the classes in the last 10 years. Among those who attend the classes are many foreign students resident in Belfast who are interested in learning the language.


We realised a couple of years ago that although the programme was designed to be inclusive, many felt excluded because it dealt specifically with the Irish language. Ulster-Scots speakers also had a role to play in the library, and we had a duty to provide services for them. Services and facilities cannot be provided overnight; they do require planning and time.


I had not learned to speak Ulster-Scots but I attended the classes and am now familiar with many of the words. However, my accent is not very good, although my Ulster-Scots is marginally more successful than the Mandarin classes that I took, which were an unmitigated disaster. I could not come to terms with the Mandarin language, but I will try again when the classes start in October.


I noticed several things while working on the project. We worried at first about how to present things in a fair and balanced way for everybody. One cannot be assured of success at the first attempt - occasionally one must work at things to get them right.


We held two major exhibitions, one in June of last year and one in January of this year. By the time of the second exhibition, we were a bit closer to getting it right and to having a more polished and professional display. Even the '10 Key Phrases' booklet, which most of you received in advance, was broader in content than the original.


The kind of people who attended the various events interested me. As we receive funding from the Community Relations Council, it was not enough to say what the event was and how many people attended it. We had to break the figures down by age (over and under-25), by gender and by perceived religious background.


The type of people who attended the classes and the other events and their reasons for doing so were interesting. To a certain extent we could, without interrogating people, easily find out what people expected to achieve from attending the language classes, the place-names seminar, or from coming to the exhibition. The range of interest in the different languages varies.


The reasons why people choose to learn the language vary as well. Some came to the Mandarin class because they had learned half a dozen other languages and felt that this would be a challenge - as it was in my case. Others had family living and working in China and they thought that it would be nice if they could speak the language. There is a large Chinese community in Northern Ireland and some people felt that it was important to reach out to them in the same way as we reach out to other communities, by being able to speak their language. Even if they never get past the 10 key phrases, at least they have afforded them the respect of making the attempt.


Last year the library underwent extensive renovations, which meant that we could not stage as many events as we hoped. We closed from November 1999 to mid-September 2000 and missed the entire tourist season.


In running our events we try to include everyone; timing is, however, also important. Many visitors come to Northern Ireland, and we should offer them something that shows both our uniqueness and also what makes us the same. We ought to explain why they should come here, what makes us special, why we are who we are and the various influences on our lives over the centuries. The recent immigration of ethnic minorities has exerted an influence as well and we should celebrate that.


Mr Shannon: Thank you for your submission and your presentation this morning. How strong is the relationship between the Linen Hall Library and the tourist industry? How can it be improved to your own advantage and to the industry's?


Ms Delargy: We must work on that relationship to develop a series of new projects as we had not thought about developing a relationship with the tourist industry. When I was preparing my submission I thought that there were other ways to run this project and other things that we could do.


We have been involved with other language-based organisations and have worked with the Federation of Ulster Local Studies and other groups linked to tourism. We must consider what we have to sell and how we should go about selling it. The influx of American and Australian visitors in the summer means that tracing ancestries forms a large part of the work of the Linen Hall Library. That is one of my suggestions.


The Americans are most interested in their ancestry and in the area from which their ancestors came. We might provide, with the genealogical services, a chance for them to learn some Irish or Ulster-Scots. That keeps them in touch with the people they came from, it gives them a feel for how their lives developed and how they perceived the world through the language. Even if they never get past the 10 key phrases, we will at least have offered them something different.


Mr Hilditch: How can the library develop links with the tourist sector and with accommodation providers?


Ms Delargy: It is a relatively new project, and we have not had time to develop that aspect of it. Our main aim was to build up links with other language-based communities and organisations. We must decide what is relevant to tourists and what aspects of language programmes would be of interest and importance to them. We must also work with the tourist industry, as it knows tourists' interests.


Mr Hilditch: Would you be open to suggestions from the tourist industry?


Ms Delargy: We are more than willing to accept suggestions. Over the past 15 months I have learned that flexibility is vital. We have worked with many organisations which had not previously worked together. In the beginning it was difficult, as people came with different expectations, ideas and priorities and we had to work out what was best for each group.


When we were planning the original exhibition last year we did not envisage that it would take so much time to get everyone working towards the same goal. We can be proud of what we have achieved, but it takes time. Simply because one has not thought of an idea oneself does not mean that it is not a good idea. We must be flexible and open to suggestions.


Dr Adamson: You have presented a wide range of languages in your literature. Have you done anything on Belfast English?


Ms Delargy: We have not looked at Belfast English because we have concentrated on minority languages such as Irish and Ulster-Scots which have influenced the English that we speak. The English language falls between two stools as it is slightly outside our remit, yet it is very difficult, almost impossible, to deal with other languages without reference to English.


Dr Adamson: Is the Linen Hall Library adequately promoted at home and abroad? What help is needed? Does the library have a marketing plan and budget to target its projects at the tourist market?


Ms Delargy: We have a marketing strategy, but it is not as strong at promoting us abroad as it could be. We have tended to assume that visitors to Belfast will be directed to the Linen Hall Library. Of course we would like to be more skilled at publicising ourselves. The library is very saleable and, although budgetary constraints are a problem, many events at the Linen Hall Library are self-supporting. Much about the library is unique such as our early Belfast collections, our being the oldest surviving subscription library in Northern Ireland, our Northern Ireland political collection and now our Languages of Ulster collection. It is still on a very small scale, but it is the only one of its kind in Northern Ireland that attempts to address all languages.


Mr McCarthy: How could the library's historical and literary material attract visitors to Northern Ireland?


Ms Delargy: Much of the historical material in the Irish language has already been catalogued and is available. Over the past year one of our main tasks has been to make Ulster-Scots material freely available on our online computer system, which is available outside the library.


We must work on targeting our markets and on ensuring that people outside Belfast and outside Northern Ireland are made aware of what is available. It takes some time to catalogue all our resources. We spent the first year working out where we were and what we would do when we reached this point. We know that we have a unique collection of historical and literary interest and we must market it.


One of our events was called a 'Wheen O Buiks' which was an introduction to Ulster-Scots sources. It was only when setting out to prepare it that I became aware of the wealth of information that is available in the library and of its Irish language equivalent. We hope at some stage to include historical and literary material from other minority languages here. We could sell this product, because, until recently, people have only been aware of our Irish language, genealogical and historical collections, but the Ulster-Scots sources bring them all together to cover genealogy, history and literature. There is a market for this, but we do need to find the best way of exploiting it.


Mr Davis: Is there potential in the summer school market? In your submission you mentioned the need for co-ordination, why are those groups not coming together?


Ms Delargy: Until we came together for the project, language-based groups had never all worked together. Different organisations with different aims and objectives must come together. For example, we could work with organisations such as the Ulster Historical Foundation, which has a very big genealogical database, as has the Mormon Library. We worked with the Federation for Ulster Local Studies on an event last year, and that gave us a potential customer base for the place-names seminar which was much wider than our own target groups alone. We must bring many organisations together which one would not immediately think of as sharing common interests. We realise that we can work with other organisations to create something more marketable than language, history or genealogy on their own. We must combine all of those.


Music and dance are entertainment as well as sources of information, and we could develop them. Last month we held a singing workshop; the first part dealt with the Orange song tradition in Ulster and the second with traditional Irish singing. That brought in a wide range of people from very different backgrounds. It was one of the events from which we got the most positive feedback. Those who attended said that it was not what they had expected but that they had enjoyed it immensely. We could consider doing something similar again. It is an area that we could work on.


When such one-off events work well they give one the idea of trying things from a slightly different angle. One can also look at what did not work so that one might improve upon it next time.


The Chairperson: That ends our questions. I should like to thank you very much. Most delegations have several people to carry the load, but you very courageously did it all on your own.


Ms Delargy: I am the Languages of Ulster project. There used to be two of us, but my colleague departed for higher things. He waited until the morning after we got the European Year of Languages launch over and said, "That is it; I am leaving". We managed to keep him for three weeks after his time expired to allow him to do that, and then he left. I am afraid that I am the project; I say "we" since I have been working with him for the last few years.


The Chairperson: We have a high opinion of the Linen Hall Library's work and we wish you well. Thank you very much for your submission this morning.


We have been collecting information and have received 79 submissions of various kinds, which was quite overwhelming. We are working our way through all the evidence and we shall be making several recommendations. Like your own presentation, many show us the wealth of opportunity and talent available here. Finding the right mechanism to release it would be of tremendous benefit to the whole community.


Ms Delargy: Before I leave, I should say that I have brought along details on the Irish language collection "as Gaeilge" (in Irish) and on the Ulster-Scots "clatter in the Lint Haw" (Ulster-Scots collection in the Linen Hall) if anyone is interested. We have managed a bilingual effort.


Tuesday 22 May 2001

Members present:

Mr ONeill (Chairperson)
Mr Davis
Mr Hilditch
Mr McCarthy
Mr McElduff
Mr McMenamin
Mr Shannon


Mr N Brannon ) Environment and

Dr C Lynn ) Heritage Service


The Chairperson: Good morning and welcome to the meeting.


Mr Brannon: I am director of built heritage in the Environment and Heritage Service (EHS), and Dr Chris Lynn is the principal inspector of historic monuments. Dr John Faulkner, acting chief executive, sends his apologies.


I will expand on our original submission with some illustrations. The EHS was established as an agency in the Department of the Environment in 1996. While its primary responsibility is to the Minister of the Environment, its functions are extremely varied and bring it into contact with most other Departments and agencies within Government. "Partnership" and "co-operation" are two of its watchwords.


The EHS takes a fully inclusive view of the environment, covering the physical environment of water, land and air, the biological environment of the natural world and the historical environment provided by the constructions of earlier generations. For the purposes of the presentation we are assuming that the Committee's remit - cultural tourism and the arts - does not include natural heritage tourism such as bird watching, countryside and hill walking.


The EHS maintains 181 historic monuments in state care such as our flagship at Carrickfergus Castle. We have statutory and policy-based responsibility throughout Northern Ireland for 15,000 archaeological sites, 8,500 listed historic buildings, 15,000 industrial heritage sites, 700 historic gardens and 3,000 historic shipwrecks. The data holdings on all of that information is housed in the monuments and buildings record that is publicly accessible in our Belfast city centre offices. The EHS's primary responsibility is to protect these sites in so far as is possible and to promote their appreciation, and we made the submission to the Committee in the context of the second aim.


All of the EHS sites are open to the public and many of them are an important resource for cultural tourism. Our visitor figures for those historic monuments where numbers are recorded were 162,000 in 1998-99 and 209,000 in 1999-2000. We do not yet have the figures for 2001, but to the end of October last year we had recorded just over 141,000 visitors to our properties. We directly promote them in very varied ways - for example, through events programmes such as that at Dundrum Castle. Visits to historic buildings are organised for European Heritage Days, with 20,000 visitors recorded last September. We also promote our properties through the media, including the television programme 'Time Team', our web site and partnerships covering others' use of our data and properties. An example of the latter is the filming of the television programme 'The Buccaneers' at Dunluce Castle.


Historic monuments and buildings generate a sense of local identity and pride. They reflect the common inheritance of both traditions. Historic monuments and buildings have infinite potential for uniting culture and tourism. They define mankind's position in time and place - for example, prehistoric tombs on mountain sides, early churches on islands, early castles on the coast and our industrial heritage covering the network of canals, railways and harbours. They are, of course, distributed widely throughout Northern Ireland.


One can, for example, enjoy Belfast city centre's listed historic buildings such as the Opera House, the Crown Liquor Saloon - maintained by the National Trust and also listed - as well as what happens inside them. One's enjoyment of boating on the Shannon/Erne Waterway is enriched by seeing Crom, Enniskillen, Portora or Tully Castles from the water. In County Tyrone, far from the urban centres, one can still marvel at prehistoric tombs such as Creggandevesky, the Beaghmore stone circles and dozens of other mysterious sculptural wonders from prehistory.


From a tourism point of view, that visual embodiment of past cultures is a large part of Northern Ireland's landscape and cultural identity, with parallels in the Greek and Roman world, Egypt and France. Images of Northern Ireland's heritage are among the first that one sees on arrival at Belfast International Airport. We are conscious that many of our sites may be approached through cultural tourism and the arts. Historic monuments and buildings may have cultural or artistic associations. At Bellaghy Bawn, for example, we combine a historical display on the property with a poetry library based on the support of local hero and Nobel laureate, Seamus Heaney.


The interest is, of course, considerable. American, Dutch and Japanese visitors have all enjoyed the Heaney experience. However, as we said in our submission, we have yet not found an appropriate body to partner us in this management. Since making the submission, we have agreed to discussions with the Verbal Arts Centre in Derry towards shared aims on the front. We already enjoy successful partnerships at Enniskillen Castle, where the County Museum and the military museums have the use of the buildings for their displays.


Historic monuments and buildings may also be used as venues for events and for the staging of drama or art exhibitions. We believe the use of fine settings for performance or display could be much improved. The district councils, with support from the Arts Council for Northern Ireland, support school and local groups. We have drama, music and craft events at such places as Bellaghy Bawn, Hillsborough Market House and Carrickfergus Castle, where 'Songs of Praise' was filmed.


Opera at the National Trust's Castle Ward is a regular event, but Hillsborough, Enniskillen Castle and Bellaghy Bawn are all suited to extra arts input; on one occasion we held an outdoor opera event at Grey Abbey. Other possibilities would be Shakespearean drama in the grounds of contemporary sites such as the sixteenth-century Narrow Water Castle, or chamber music in Hillsborough.


We also work with organisations such as the Heritage Lottery Fund to ensure the preservation and appreciation of our sites, including access to them. In this context we, the Tourist Board and the Heritage Lottery Fund have become aware of a number of applications to the fund towards financing access schemes to the countryside for the appreciation of natural and built heritage. We have identified a problem in the lack of joined-up awareness in applications, which have overlaps and duplication. We have therefore agreed to approach the Countryside Activities and Access Network, which we support, with a view to offering guidance on the issues which should be taken into account, such as access, signage, traffic implications and sustainable tourism, when formulating applications.


In such countries as America, Canada and Japan there is a tradition of recognising study time abroad as part of the curriculum, with accreditation either locally or from afar. We have had American students working on archaeological sites such as Navan Fort and Plantation sites in the north-west, sometimes with their own tutors, sometimes under local supervision. In maritime archaeology we can boast of international collaboration.


The funding for these ventures may be difficult to arrange. In many European countries the participant would pay for the privilege, but that is not the case here. We are often recognised for archaeological excavations, but study does not need to be always focused in that area - it could be history, painting, arts generally or culture. A clearer agenda is needed. In England and Ireland university halls of residence and staff regularly provide courses for secondary, university and adult education programmes. The commercial marketing of such courses - or of independent tours around our monuments and buildings - is almost non-existent in Northern Ireland.


In conclusion, we have several hundred items of architectural sculpture in store. We curate a vast collection of artefacts ranging from an Early Christian period high cross through to nineteenth-century architectural fragments. We opened this store to the public for the first time last year, with considerable success. In our submission to the Committee for Culture, Arts and Leisure we commented that if funding and an appropriate venue were available there is a potential for exhibition and study of such items, and also for modern sculptors to exhibit in or beside such a facility. Arising from our submission Museums and Galleries of Northern Ireland has approached us in relation to discussing the possibilities for the temporary display of this collection.


Thank you, Mr Chairman.


The Chairperson: Thank you, Mr Brannon, that was very interesting. We will now move on fairly quickly to the question and answer session.


Mr Hilditch: My questions relate to some of the issues raised in Assembly Question Time about Carrickfergus Castle. I have had the pleasure of taking part in some of the events in the castle - dressing up in medieval costume and enjoying the nights down there. The Committee could take that on board and visit Carrickfergus Castle at some stage.


How would you describe your linkages and the general wider relationship between EHS and the tourism industry, including the Tourist Board? How do you see the relationship between the sectors being improved? Would links with travel and accommodation providers and the tourist consortia be helpful? I know a new strategy is being formed, and that perhaps forms part of it. Would that strategy be helpful in making up heritage-focused tourist packages?


Mr Brannon: Our primary responsibility and the primary direction of our resources are to protection, and without that protection promotion has no basis. We want to protect the physical heritage, and then we can promote it.


Our relationships over the years with the Tourist Board have been fairly regular and constant. However, we would see the Tourist Board's primary remit as economic, hence its headquartering in the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment, whereas we would see ourselves as having a wider portfolio.


You referred to a marketing strategy to which we have responded in Assembly questions and through the Minister. Given our limited resources, we strive to target them. Regrettably, the bulk of our market is local rather than foreign, and one would hope to see improvement on that. There is certainly scope for improvement.


In the past we have invested in some marketing organisations such as the Kingdom of Mourne and the Plantation Trail in the north-west. As a result of your inquiry we have established contact with the Causeway group to see what it can do for us and at what price.


Mr Shannon: I am always interested to see what we can do in line with what you have shown us this morning to the advantage of tourism and to the economic benefit of the council areas and the people we represent. In relation to the historic monuments and the buildings, do you feel they have been well enough promoted at home and abroad? What help do you need to promote just that wee bit more? Do you have a marketing plan and a budget specifically for that task? Do you set yourself targets, and if so what results have you experienced?


Finally, people from outside Northern Ireland are interested in historic monuments and their own history and genealogy trail. Is there a link with the Northern Ireland Tourist Board's web site? We have question marks in our minds - I certainly have anyway - about it. Have you experienced any direct benefits from the Northern Ireland Tourist Board web site?


Mr Brannon: We have annual board meetings with the Tourist Board, and at our last meeting we agreed to set up a link between our web sites. I cannot tell you whether that link was established.


We have internal targets for marketing and outreach. For example, there is public access to all our data in the monuments and buildings record, which is used widely, not just for culture or tourism, but as raw material for books, calendars and promotional material, as well as academic research and environmental impact assessment. Those targets form part of our business plan that is published and reported by the Department.


EHS has an agency-wide information and education unit, which is more specifically concerned with broad outreach. Mr Hilditch knows that that unit has been slow to get off the ground, but its target is to establish a marketing strategy this year. We accept that we have been weak in that area, and we agree that there is potential to expand our outreach.


Our media file shows that there has not been a single month in the past 15 years in which we have not had positive publicity in television, radio and the newspapers in Northern Ireland. Dr Chris Lynn and I have done 'Time Team', for example, which is broadcast on a very regular basis. The Irish diaspora also shows a lot of interest in what we do. We are not involved in genealogy, but we have links across the heritage sector with the Ulster Historical Foundation, the Ulster Museum and others.


Mr Shannon: Can you let the Committee know whether the web site has been set up? Who is at fault? Is it your side or the Tourist Board, or is it a matter of getting the thing together? We want to see this running as soon as possible.


Mr Brannon: I shall report back.


Mr McCarthy: The Committee appreciates that your primary role is to preserve and protect our historic monuments and buildings. What is your estimation of the potential of our built heritage to generate increasing numbers of visitors to Northern Ireland? What emphasis is given to our industrial heritage - for example, old mills? We have just returned from an exciting visit to Boston, where we saw a mill which was a huge weaving shed. That is a tourist attraction.


Mr Brannon: The potential is considerable. It is not our philosophy to look at the financial return that we might generate through marketing and tourism. We offer the sites to others. I illustrated part of the presentation, for example, with an aerial landscape photograph. We regard the entire Northern Ireland landscape as our built heritage, so one can look at it from many perspectives. We have developed the formal education sector considerably - for example, approaching our heritage through arts or mathematics.


With regard to industrial heritage, Northern Ireland has been a world leader in the past. 'The Industrial Archaeology of County Down' was first published in 1963; 1980 saw the publication of McCutcheon's 'Industrial Archaeology of Northern Ireland', and it is an important part of our heritage. In fact, we are meeting with the Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure tomorrow to discuss the future of canals and navigations in Northern Ireland. We are conscious of its importance, and we have substantial archives.


We are involved in several ways in mills. We maintain Ballycopeland Windmill, and we were instrumental in involving the National Trust in the care of Patterson's Spade Mill in Templepatrick, and we have been working on urban regeneration schemes for places such as Conway Mill and other properties. There are serious problems with regard to sustainable use of some of those massive structures. Yesterday we visited Harland and Wolff to look at some of the abandoned buildings that they have vacated, in order to assess sustainable development. We are conscious of sustainable development, for commercial use as well as heritage sites.


How one handles and promotes the worthiness of the machinery associated with those properties is one of the major problems connected with, for example, the milling industry. That is not always compatible with continued use of a historic building.


Mr McElduff: What potential is there for developing maritime archaeology?


Mr Brannon: The potential for that is huge. We have been involved in that sector for the past decade. Our legal powers allow us out to territorial waters, and I mentioned a database of 3,000 shipwrecks that are from the eighteenth century on. We have a formal operational partnership with the University of Ulster, and we have established the Centre for Maritime Archaeology there. The headquarters are at the university, although we pay for our operational targets. We are about to publish substantively on the maritime and intertidal heritage of Strangford Lough, and we are conducting surveys on the Bann. We will ultimately produce a database for the entire coast of Northern Ireland.


Maritime archaeology is an international discipline - I was at a conference in the United States in January. In the past six months, members of staff have been called to go to Australia, Kenya and the United States to pass the message.


The Chairperson: Maritime archaeology is fascinating. I suppose that there are wrecks still to be identified. I was surprised to see that one was recently discovered in Dublin Bay.


Mr Brannon: The partnership with the University of Ulster gives us access to its high-quality technical expertise in geophysics. That puts boats on the water to do side-scan sonar and other investigative techniques, and there is a professional diver on our team. A Spanish Armada wreck, the Girona, is protected under the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973 that we administer in Northern Ireland for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.


Mr Shannon: Is there buried treasure?


Mr Brannon: Yes. Part of our mission is to educate the sports divers, just as we have worked with the Ulster Museum over the past decade or more to educate metal detectorists - the on land treasure hunter. We seek to educate the sports divers, to encourage them to work with us, to teach them techniques, as well as our philosophy and ethics. Our last major underwater excavation was on a ship, the Taymouth Castle, that was going to Singapore from Glasgow in 1868 when it accidentally bumped into the north of Ireland. We had to salvage its cargo as that was being looted. We have excavated that and put it into conservation laboratories, and we will return it Scotland in due course for collections there.


Mr McMenamin: Do archaeological digs attract interest from tourists, and from non-academics? How significant is that type of tourist market? Does legislation protect burial grounds in or out of Ireland?


Mr Brannon: There are various categories of burial grounds, whether they be prehistoric or Early Christian,which are often in our care, or scheduled. There are regulations that cover district council burial grounds. Many of those are modern, but they may include historic features. The Church of Ireland still has its own legislative powers on burial sites with which we have to interact.


There is a range of protections, and of course there are various prohibitions on exhumation and other things.


Dr Lynn: A lot depends on the period of the archaeological site that is being excavated. Most of our monuments and sites have comparable sites elsewhere in Europe. That means that people could not write a book about the history and archaeology of Europe without referring to this island and some of the sites in Northern Ireland. When those are excavated, they provide information for academic archaeologists across Britain and Europe. There is intense interest in those monuments, particularly in megalithic monuments such as passage tombs or Neolithic habitation sites.


The same is probably true of Norman buildings. The Anglo-Normans went all over Europe and built castles and abbeys. Those two are sometimes related, and are part of the same organisation. Someone who comes from France to see Northern Ireland will see castles, abbeys and other buildings that are familiar, such as the layout and aspects of their archaeological design. Their function is reflected in their form.


The Early Christian period was extremely important in terms of Ireland's contribution to European history. In a strange way the archaeology of that period is more peculiar to Ireland, and we do not find clear parallels elsewhere. It is of interest because it is peculiarly rooted in this place.


On the issue of cultural tourism, I notice advertisements in many magazines for people to come and work on archaeological digs during the summer. People will actually pay money to be trained in excavation techniques, and they will also pay for their accommodation. There is quite a lot of this type of excavation in Britain and the Irish Republic. We have not sponsored any of this kind of work. We are very concerned with protection. For many years we have been fighting to gain control over our sites and monuments to ensure that they are not damaged or destroyed without record. We are only now getting to the stage where we could look at some developmental aspects of the resource that we hold.


Mr Davis: I was interested in item 10 on your paper. You say that you have several hundred items of architectural sculpture in store. It seems a pity that this material cannot be exhibited.


Mr Brannon: As a postscript to my presentation, I mentioned that the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure saw that submission. Since then, we have had contact from the Museums and Galleries of Northern Ireland (MAGNI), who are going to explore the possibility of temporary exhibition of the material. Over the years we have acted as a last resort for the salvage of material that would otherwise be destroyed, lost or sold on the commercial market. It is not our primary role to display artefacts. We will now enter into discussions with Mike Houlihan, the chief executive of MAGNI, about a temporary display.


The Chairperson: On that issue, would it be possible to catalogue those items in a way that would have direct relevance to a district council, for example, geographically speaking? In that way district councils could play a part in helping to put on an exhibition.


Mr Brannon: I am sure that Chris Lynn can expand on this topic. We are in routine contact with some of the more thrusting regional museum organisations and people - for example, Helen Perry at Coleraine Borough Council's museum services and the local museum in Carrickfergus - and we have guaranteed access to various artefacts.


We have sophisticated databases, so to break down catalogues by district council area is possible. The only caveat is that, as I am sure you are aware, the Northern Ireland Museums Council runs a registration process. We have to make sure that when local authorities, or others, are seeking to display items that they do so under curatorial standards.


The Chairperson: Some councils have more advantages in that regard than others.


Mr Brannon: You will appreciate that it is a concern. Some of the things that we would offer for display are fragile or vulnerable. They need environmental controls and curatorial standards.


The Chairperson: Absolutely.


That exhausts our questions. I apologise for the lack of time. Nevertheless, what you have given us is valuable. As a result of our inquiry, we will put together a set of recommendations, and I am sure that some of the issues that you have raised with us will play a part in that.


Mr Brannon: We have brought a small amount of promotional literature for the Committee. If you would like it, I will leave it here. I will get back to you in relation to your web site request.


The Chairperson: Thank you.


Tuesday 22 May 2001

Members present:

Mr ONeill (Chairperson)

Mr Davis

Mr Hilditch

Mr McCarthy

Mr McMenamin

Mr Shannon


Dr B Lambkin ) Centre for Migration Studies at
the Ulster American Folk Park


The Chairperson: Good morning, Dr Lambkin, you are very welcome. We have allowed ten minutes for your presentation and you can then take questions.


Dr Lambkin: I welcome the invitation from the Committee and the opportunity to speak to you. I have only a handout to give you; I do not have any pretty slides like the ones Chris Lynn and Nick Brannon used. I have tried to focus on the issues that you are particularly concerned with.


The Centre for Migration Studies is a project of the Scotch-Irish Trust of Ulster, which used to own the Ulster American Folk Park. We are still located there and we work very closely with them, but we are a separate body.


Our core funding comes from the Scotch-Irish Trust of Ulster and from the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure. Previously, we raised the issue of funding and the Department commissioned an evaluation report in October 2000 which was published in February 2001. The report is still under consideration. I have submitted to you some extracts from our corporate plan to demonstrate our interest in cultural tourism. Our vision is of

"an informed community, confidently and creatively engaged with its migration history, culture and heritage".

Our mission is

"to serve the community as a leading international institution for the study of human migration, focusing on the peoples of Ireland worldwide".


As an academic discipline, migration studies is concerned with the advancement of our understanding of the human experience of movement and settlement. The term "migration" includes immigration, internal migration, seasonal migration and emigration. Tourists could be viewed as seasonal migrants.


Academia is interested in migration from the earliest times to the present day. It is multidisciplinary in its approach, taking in archaeology and literature. That is a huge brief, so the centre has focused on the particular needs of our situation, and our resources are devoted to the period from 1600 to the present day. That same period also forms the focus of the Ulster American Folk Park. We are interested in the peoples of Ireland worldwide, and we are particularly concerned that the Scotch-Irish, or Ulster-Scots, are included in the definition of the "peoples of Ireland worldwide".


Like the Department, we have six aims. Our third aim is to

"contribute to a positive image of Northern Ireland at home and abroad by providing an educational and cultural tourism service in partnership with the Ulster/American Folk Park, and by networking with institutions for migration studies worldwide".


We have a particular role in assisting the Ulster American Folk Park to transform itself into a national museum of emigration, which is a key programme within MAGNI (Museums and Galleries of Northern Ireland).


Our main work in cultural tourism concerns the provision of services for students from the United States. We work closely with both Northern Irish universities. I understand that the Committee recently visited Boston and through our work with Queen's, we offer a day programme to students from Boston University in January and November.


Twelve students from Radford University, Virginia, are currently with us for almost a fortnight. A university in western North Carolina that has a centre for Scotch-Irish studies recommended us to Radford.


Radford has an Appalachian Studies department and it has connections with the School of Scottish Studies at the University of Edinburgh. A logical extension of the students' month-long tour is to come to the centre to follow through the Ulster association.


A group of high school students from New Jersey left the centre this morning, and they will continue their study tour in Dublin and Cobh (formerly Queenstown). The theme of their study tour is Irish history with particular reference to migration.


Twenty-seven students from Illinois Wesleyan University are following a similar programme. They are currently in County Kerry and will stop at places such as the Famine Museum at Strokestown Park before they arrive with us next Monday.


The University of Ulster is hosting a visit by students from the University of Missouri-Columbia, who will be with us for a two-night stay in the residential centre attached to the Ulster American Folk Park. We will put on a programme for them. For the first time, Queen's University is holding a summer school in Irish studies this year and we will contribute a day programme.


With the student group we all share migration stories. I explain how my mother came from Northern Ireland, my father came from the South of Ireland, I was born in England and then emigrated to Belfast. The students tell us about their backgrounds - how they were "army brats" and moved around 13 different states before they reached 18 years of age, or that their father is of Irish extraction and their mother is of German descent. We talk about what that means and we explore identity issues, which the students find interesting and complex.


A significant proportion of students who choose to go on those tours have Irish connections. It may not be on both sides of the family, but there is some Irish connection. However, it is not a motivating factor for all the students.


Many visitors' interests in their roots and family histories have been aroused simply by visiting the folk park. We are not a genealogical centre, so we refer visitors to agencies such as the Ulster Historical Foundation. We feel that certain needs are not being fully met. What we need is a first-class genealogical service, which seems to be a particular need of "roots" visitors - if we can call them that - with Irish or Northern Irish connections. That would be a positive way in which Northern Ireland could recognise its special affinity with cultural "roots" tourists. Formally, this is not part of the Good Friday Agreement but it could be like a mirror image of the commitment on the part of the Republic to cherish those with Irish ancestry living abroad.


Where cultural tourism is concerned, we are particularly interested in literature. In October 2000 we ran a successful autumn school, 'The Literature of Irish Exile', and we hope to run it again this autumn. I was a member of the literature group convened by Fergal Kearney of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, and we were disappointed that that initiative was not implemented. We hope that there may be positive developments on the horizon.


The Chairperson: You could possibly develop that last point later. We would all be interested to hear about your relationship with the Northern Ireland Tourist Board.


Mr McMenamin: Do you handle many Ulster-Scots queries from people at home or abroad? How would you describe the linkages between your sector, the tourism industry and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board?


Dr Lambkin: There is a growing interest in Ulster-Scots and the Scottish connection, and there seems to be a resurgence of interest in the United States. A colleague of mine will be speaking at a conference in Philadelphia at the end of next week, organised by the Centre for Scotch-Irish Studies and sponsored by the Scotch-Irish Society of the United States of America. We ran a symposium last year and one day was devoted to language and Ulster-Scots. The stereotype that we are confronted with is that of an Irish diaspora that is Catholic, post-famine and urban. There is a neglect of pre-famine emigration and the Protestant emigration to rural destinations in the New World. There is a growing interest in those areas.


We had a dilemma during reorganisation when the Assembly was being set up. The Department of Education had previously sponsored museums and we see museums as educational institutions. We now come under the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, but we have tried to retain our links with the Department of Education and the Department of Higher and Further Education, Training and Employment. We also see the need to build a relationship with the tourism industry because we depend on it so much. We have relatively few marketing resources which is one reason why this inquiry is a very positive initiative. This is a question of joined-up government but we would benefit from a neater join between the interested Departments.


Mr Davis: In your recommendations you state that there should be a formal commitment by the Government. Can you elaborate on that?


Dr Lambkin: There is nothing to stop that at present and we will continue to express an informal commitment. Visitor attractions such as the Ulster American Folk Park and the family history centres especially welcome visitors from abroad with Irish connections who feel themselves to be part of the community. Our suggestion is to grant a more formal expression to that. Positive thinking about the diaspora is a relatively new idea. It started in the Republic in the early 1990s when President Mary Robinson spoke positively about the Irish diaspora. We have been slower in Northern Ireland to think positively about a Northern Irish diaspora, partly because the issue is somewhat more complicated. A formal commitment would focus attention on this area of need and ensure that the necessary resources are in place.


Mr Davis: You said that you were impressed with the efforts of Mr Feargal Kearney of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board. Have those efforts broken down?


Dr Lambkin: The Tourist Board set up 10 subgroups under the heading of "Cultural Tourism". I was a member of the literature group, and John Gilmour, director of the Ulster American Folk Park, was a member of the museum group. We all put a lot of effort into making a funding application, which was unsuccessful.


We benefited from a sense of solidarity with other people - we shared common interests and had an enthusiasm for literature, but we had very low marketing budgets. The strategy seemed to be a very sensible way of co-ordinating and helping small initiatives to attract attention and to reach a wider audience. I rang Mr Kearney before I came here this morning and I understand that there are plans to develop the strategy. He described it as the Tourist Board "mainstreaming cultural tourism" and that was heartening news.


Mr Hilditch: You touched upon marketing. Are tourists aware of what the Centre for Migration Studies has to offer? Does the centre have a marketing plan and a budget to specifically target the tourist market?


Dr Lambkin: Unfortunately, we do not have a budget. We benefit from our symbiotic relationship with the Ulster American Folk Park and we also come under the umbrella of MAGNI. I think marketing is underdeveloped with MAGNI, but it suffers from chronic underfunding and we suffer as a result.


The Ulster American Folk Park has a good website and we are linked to it. We have our own website, which is hosted by Queen's University. I looked at the Northern Ireland Tourist Board website last night and I found it disappointing. I asked the young students from New Jersey who are with us how useful they found the site. These young people can stay in the residential centre, but they are free to go wherever they like and follow whatever interest they like. The Tourist Board website does not seem to be a useful tool to show them what is currently happening. It has very few links to other sites. It does not serve as a portal for detailed information.


Mr Shannon: I found your presentation very interesting particularly on Ulster-Scots. We are all well aware that the United States has woken up to Ulster-Scots, and Americans are especially keen to investigate their ancestral background. Billy Kennedy has helped to develop that interest, and I always read his articles in the 'News Letter'.


In your submission you refer to the centre's multidisciplinary approach. I am particularly interested in music and language. You state that 50% of inquiries to the library come from the United States. Do they inquire about music, language, or other subject areas? How can you develop and enhance your services?


Dr Lambkin: We have two major resources: a library that we consider to be the foremost Irish migration studies library in the country; and a growing database of original documents. The two most consulted sources on that database are shipping lists (passenger lists) and emigrants' letters. This project has been ongoing for 12 years and there are 30,000 documents on the database. The original handwritten documents have been transcribed and are available in an electronic form which can be word-searched quickly and easily. These are popular sources with people who are interested in their family history.


We have a vested interest in the development of family history in Northern Ireland and Ireland generally because we see that people can develop from an initial narrow interest in family history. They fit all the pieces of the jigsaw together and collect all the stamps for the family tree, and then they start to ask questions: why did people move? how did people move? what happened to them? what was life like here and what was life like there? Their interests in wider historical issues led them to aspects such as literature, music and so on.


Mr Shannon: You would probably score highly on your strengths with your submission, but what are your weaknesses?


Dr Lambkin: We are keen to develop two areas. First, our web presence. We do not have the necessary resources. The evaluation report stated that we could hugely improve access to our resources through the Internet and with proper investment in web resources. We need personnel to work on that material and to keep the web site up to date.


We are also developing our networking with institutions. We are moving our focus. We are currently weak because traditionally our focus has been on North America. We want to expand our connections to all parts of the Irish diaspora - South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Britain, Canada and the USA are the areas in which we want to develop.


We also want to develop distance learning because we have rudimentary videoconferencing facilities through the offices of the Western Education and Library Board. We have started to work with the University of Aberdeen and Carleton University in Ottawa. We see great potential there.


The New Jersey high school students who are touring Ireland are making a video diary. They have a digital camera and they do a write-up each night, which goes onto the school web site and the students at home can access it. They have the previous two years' visits archived. They are now interested in talking to us. They are preparing their students for next year's visit through videoconferencing so that they come better equipped. The tutors tell us that because of the volume of Irish history, if students spent more time in preparation for their visit, they would enjoy it better.


That is the direction in which cultural tourism is going; people expect to use their minds when they are on holiday. They want to be out in the open and we should help them to get to places that they really want to get to - the site of the family farmstead or the graveyard where their ancestors lie. Those are the key objectives and many visitors are loath to spend two precious weeks of their holiday working in the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI). The more preliminary work that they can do, and the easier it is for them to access resources before they travel, the better they will enjoy the visit. And they will probably move around the countryside, which is what we want them to do.


The Chairperson: Will it be possible to sustain the use of the Internet? What about the business side?


Dr Lambkin: We currently have the Irish emigration database online thanks to Queen's University Belfast, with restricted access. We are now debating whether it is an income generator and whether we should be charging. That is a very difficult issue because of the question of charging policies in museums and accessing information. We are actively exploring that and making small charges for accessing database information.


The Chairperson: Is there free access to a certain point, and then you charge?


Dr Lambkin: Yes, it will take you so far.


The Chairperson: If you want to get into real research, you have to pay a reasonable fee for access.


Dr Lambkin: The issue is complex for us because we have a partnership with the education and library boards. Our library is a joint commitment by the five education and library boards. We operate as a public reference library, and currently visitors can access the materials and are charged for photocopying. But there is potential there.


Mr McCarthy: You said that you do not have a budget for marketing. What support does the Centre for Migration Studies need to develop in the area of tourism, and who is best placed to provide that support?


Dr Lambkin: Our evaluation report revealed that we have a fundamental core-funding problem. We have a current deficit of £6,000 and the Scotch-Irish Trust of Ulster is at the limit of its commitment. We argued to the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure that we need to be put on a sound core-funding basis in order to proceed. We have been quite successful at attracting project moneys. We were involved in a Socrates project in collaboration with schools and it has brought in £14,000 over the past two years. There is the potential for us to generate income through business. We are charging American students for tuition while they are here, and distance learning has the potential for generating income. We benefit from being part of the larger organisation - the Ulster American Folk Park, MAGNI. We think that we are managing to lever four times our core funding through partnership with the education and library boards, universities and Enterprise Ulster. A modest sum of money would put us on a secure footing for the future. We lack the resources to develop our web presence, which is the most urgent requirement.


The Chairperson: Thank you. We are collecting information, and we will be making our recommendations as part of our report to the Minister, the Department, and the Assembly. I have no doubt that many of your points will find their way into those recommendations.


Tuesday 22 May 2001

Members present:

Mr ONeill (Chairperson)

Dr Adamson

Mr Davis

Mr McCarthy

Mr McMenamin

Mr Shannon


Ms J Kennedy ) Glass Ceiling Theatreworks


The Chairperson: You are welcome. We will ask you to make a presentation in which you may refer to some of the main points of your submission. After that, members will ask questions to tease out more information about your work.


Ms Kennedy: I am Janice Kennedy. I am the company manager of Glass Ceiling Theatreworks, and I am also an associate lecturer in theatre with the Belfast Institute of Further and Higher Education (BIFHE).


I welcome the inquiry. When the original Northern Ireland Assembly was formed, culture was not included as a category. Culture is important. I will refer to the work of Michael D Higgins in recognising culture and making it a priority in Government policy in the South of Ireland. That has given significance to the arts, and has encouraged tourism.


As an ordinary member of the public, I feel that Northern Ireland is never an easy place as regards the disagreements and factions that exist here.


As soon as the ceasefire was announced, many hotels sprang up, but where were the people supposed to come from? There is still trouble, and we are not clear on the way forward. I am very pro-agreement. I do not want to live in a country that takes two steps forward and three steps back in trying to figure out which end of the egg to open to get into it, like the story Dean Swift told in 'Gulliver's Travels'.


I do not count myself as a member of either the Loyalist or Nationalist community. I have friends in both communities. I count myself, whatever my age, as one of the new generation of Northern Ireland who see themselves as citizens of western Europe and who do not define themselves as Loyalist or Nationalist. Even though I was born a Protestant, the situation here made me want to give up religion very quickly.


With regard to the first term of reference about the existing relationship between the cultural and tourist sectors in Northern Ireland, there has not been very much work done in that area. That is why I welcome this inquiry. It is of great interest to me that our Government is talking about culture and thinking that it is important. I agree with that. Culture refers to the values and expressions of a community and a society.


Culture also involves the arts. For someone like me, the arts bring meaning to human existence. I am sure that many people here see culture as Ulster-Scots, Nationalist or the West Belfast Festival. I want to see the definition of culture extending beyond Loyalist and Nationalist or Protestant and Catholic definitions. I respect all views, and I hope that people respect my views as an artist.


It is a difficult situation to invite tourists to this country when there is still so much uncertainty. I know I may be considered a naive person, but I want to see our political parties agreeing and letting us go forward as a state in western Europe.


Much more work is required, and inquiries and strategies need to be built to show the coherence between the culture and tourist industries. It is good to think beyond the point that tourists come here to see people beating a Lambeg drum or to see people beating a bodhrán, and to say that there is a lot more happening in this country than those things.


I work with lots of young people in the Belfast Institute who are performing artists. They do not identify with one side of the community or the other either. They are not even there to make a statement about their communities, although I will deal with the importance of community arts later. I do not discount the cultural inputs and outputs of our two communities. However, there are other communities that live in Northern Ireland - the Chinese community, for example.


I want the Government to recognise that there are many new artists coming up who do not necessarily define themselves as Protestant or Catholic. Those people are looking for support and recognition from the Government in order to consider themselves as artists and to bring out pieces of art, whether it is in theatre, visual arts, or dance, which is a neglected area in this country. Those artists want to make statements about the human condition.


There are many aspects of the arts that can be developed - for example, the Lyric Theatre, our so-called national theatre, could be given a higher profile and greater recognition. The Community Arts Forum (CAF) tries to support community arts work. There has also been a significant increase of around 50% here, compared with the rest of the UK, in community arts over the last few years.


Those are the kind of people who would want to make statements about whatever community they live in - Loyalist, Nationalist, Chinese, Indian - and many artists would want to make a statement from the point of view of someone who lives in the European Community. It is important for us to broaden our horizons and look beyond the small parameters that we in Northern Ireland often set ourselves.


An example is something such as the Belfast East Arts Initiative (BEAT). For five years I was part of the BEAT carnival. I do not know what happened to the funding last year. Why was that not televised to the world? It would have been fantastic to say that more comes out of this country than bombs, balaclavas and ballot boxes. The streets of Belfast were filled with lots of people, with children in lovely carnival outfits. I do not understand the situation with funding, but this year it was not possible to hold a carnival. An event like that, based as it was around the Waterfront Hall, would have brought in the tourists. I must also mention the new Cathedral Quarter in Belfast. I apologise to those people here who are not quite as familiar as I am with Belfast.


We should get in touch with all the district councils and find out what kind of encouragement could be given to them to enhance their arts programmes. Tourists would be brought into various parts of the Province.


With regard to cultural activities, including languages, to enable heritage to be maintained and enhanced, other people will speak more strongly than I on that subject. I have already made it clear that I think heritage is great, but I do not think it is the full package. It should extend beyond heritage. I was reassured by 'Unlocking Creativity', the development strategy of the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure. It was fantastic, and I really welcome that such stuff comes from the Government.


I have embarked on a doctorate at the University of Ulster, investigating areas for training the actor in relation to theatre as an industry. The cultural industries need to be recognised as such by the Government and support given to their infrastructure - not just for short-term one-off projects, but to their operation. I would also look for a tax and support regime for artists, such as exists in the South of Ireland, to encourage our artists to grow.


In my own place of work, the Belfast Institute of Further and Higher Education, and at Queen's University and the University of Ulster, we are knocking them out as far as theatre is concerned. Where do young graduates go? How do they progress? Are they supposed to go - as we so fondly call it - "across the water" to the mainland? Could Northern Ireland not be a mainland? Could we not encourage a cultural industry here? The young people I teach could then feel that they had a profession and an employment ahead of them. That really needs the recognition that the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure has now started to give. God willing, the Assembly can keep going. I am sorry if I sound pessimistic, but I do sometimes feel that way. I just hope that the best things can come out and that all our political parties can agree.


It is important to support the new generation of artists, not only the people involved in the theatre but all artists. They need to know that they do not have to leave Northern Ireland in order to get a job and make a living. They need to know that they can stay here and that there is something for them to progress to.


The Myerscough Report of 1996 defined the relationship between arts and the Northern Ireland economy. The Arts Council's strategy review entitled 'Opening up the Arts' by Prof Anthony Everitt and Annabel Jackson made excellent suggestions about the baseline analysis of inputs, outputs and outcomes. The priorities that we set are our outputs, and then the achieved outcomes are measured.


The Culture, Arts and Leisure Committee can take up where the Arts Council has failed. Of course, the Government cannot lobby itself, but there has not been enough lobbying by industries to create an infrastructure.


The Chairperson: The Committee recognises your sincerity and enthusiasm for your area, but our interpretation of culture goes right across the band.


Ms Kennedy: In that case, I also suggest the Northern Ireland film and dance industry.


Mr Davis: You asked why the world did not know about the carnival. How would you describe the relationship between the arts and the tourism industry, including the Northern Ireland Tourist Board? How could the relationship between the arts and tourism sectors be improved?


Ms Kennedy: We always end up with talking shops. I would like to see more action. In my limited experience I have not had meetings with the Northern Ireland Tourist Board. Events such as the carnival should be publicised and turned into a big event, with other things happening as well. Fun days out for the family could be held and hotel package deals offered to coincide with the event. There could be musical attractions, local bands, films or promotions. I am sure that Committee members have seen products such as Red Bull sponsoring events at the Waterfront Hall.


There is enough talent available to make a festival, which would encourage people to come to Northern Ireland. Potential visitors will realise that Northern Ireland is not just about saying no, it is about encouraging people to come and see what the citizens are doing.


Mr Davis: What is your impression of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board?


Ms Kennedy: I do not really have an impression of it. I am sure its work is competent. I do not have any negative views on the Northern Ireland Tourist Board. It is probably hampered by the stop/start political situation here. It is difficult to plan and have a strategy if tourists are afraid of being beaten up or afraid to walk the streets. It must be difficult for the Northern Ireland Tourist Board to encourage people to visit.


That is why it would be good to think about holding a big event in Northern Ireland - something new and different. That could include Ulster-Scots and the Irish language, but something bigger will be needed to persuade visitors to come to Northern Ireland.


Dr Adamson: Do you believe that theatre and performance art in general are being well enough promoted in Northern Ireland? If not, whom do you think is best placed to help?


Ms Kennedy: I do not believe that it is well enough promoted. I wrote a play which my company presented in the BT Studio and I made sure that my play had nothing to do with the political situation here. There were no guns in the top drawer. Come the end, no one was dead. My company would like to encourage theatre which gives a broader viewpoint, reflecting the new kind of citizen who does not define himself or herself as being on one side or the other.


Links with our national theatre, the Lyric Theatre, would be useful along with places such as the Old Museum Arts Centre, the wonderful Belfast Festival at Queen's, a Northern Ireland mainstay. Derry also has its big festivals. Promotion is about people talking to each other and trying to understand. We could ask: "What can we do for you?" That is our only way forward. That would include organisations like Belfast City Council, which has developed an incredible arts policy over the past few years. And more power to it, because it did not spend 10 pence on arts about 10 years ago. Now it is spending a couple of million pounds per year on the arts.


The Chairperson: Some of our members are involved in that.


Ms Kennedy: Good on you.


Mr McMenamin: Your presentation raises many questions. We are very keen on community arts organisations in West Tyrone.


Where does your organisation's name come from and what is the title of the play you wrote? I love live performances. Could museums, for example, be used for performances? I am thinking of something like the Viking Adventure Centre in Dublin, where local artists could be employed throughout the summer.


Ms Kennedy: As far as I know, in June there will be a performance centred on King Billy. A Replay production at Navan Fort might be an idea. There are tremendous opportunities for the performing arts to be identified with historic places of interest in this country.


I chose the name "Glass Ceiling" because I am in my 40s and work with people half my age, and I think that a glass ceiling separates me from them. I also think a glass ceiling separates one expressive art form from another. In my play 'Arrivals', presented at the BT Studio last year, I used the services of a local company, Medi-Able, run by a disabled man, Dr Nathan Kripz. The company created a film that accompanied my live performance. It was a footage and footlights event. I am trying to extend into other expressive art forms. It would be a great idea to have an event that runs expressive art forms such as film, dance and music together.


Mr McCarthy: Mr Davis's question related to the Belfast carnival. I cannot understand why there was no media interest. How would you develop the idea of carnivals, and could they attract a sustainable local tourist base?


Ms Kennedy: Derry has a wonderful Hallowe'en festival. They have done great things there. I hope no one from the press is here, but sometimes the press are like jackals. Unless someone is lying with their head split open on the pavement, they are not interested. Please forgive me if someone has a journalistic background. Perhaps our press does not want to settle down and accept the fact that this is small country.


Mr McCarthy: There is an arts programme on Radio Ulster every evening. Why did it not pick up on the carnival?


Ms Kennedy: I do not know. They are very selective. I am sorry to say this, but I would like to put the people who review theatre for our newspapers on a course to teach them how to write about theatre. I worked for many years as an artistic director for Protestant and Catholic Encounter (PACE). I worked with young people from both sides of the community, and every year we devised a show. The only year we managed to get a review, the 'Belfast Telegraph' reviewer approached it as if it were professional theatre and wrote things like "This is a bit passé".


'News Letter' reviewers seem to have made up their minds before they even see the shows. They seem to have their own specialist areas, and they need to open up. I do not know how we would do that. They get into cushy positions and they stay there.


I do not know why the media did not pick up the carnival. Perhaps the people in the BEAT Initiative were not proactive enough. Many artists simply get on with their art and they are not good about communicating.


Mr Shannon: My question has nothing to do with politics or the agreement. This is a cultural tourism and arts inquiry. Many of our theatres close down in the summer, just when visitors are arriving. How would you address this problem?


Ms Kennedy: Like everything else, it is down to money. Traditionally, theatres do that. A city-wide event like a carnival could make use of the Waterfront Hall, for example. This could be done on a pilot basis, and theatres could be included in a specific week of activities. Theatres might say that they did not have the money to do it, but if they were part of a larger event, they might be happy to take part. Many actors, performers and artists are kicking their heels over the summer, and they might be pleased to be able to contribute.


The Chairperson: On behalf of the Committee, I thank you for your time and the trouble that you took to prepare your submission. Your views are appreciated.


Ms Kennedy: I hope that the things I said are useful. I am pleased to see this Committee taking an interest in this subject, and I look forward to more inquiries by DCAL - long may it thrive.


Thursday 24 May 2001

Members present:

Mr ONeill (Chairperson)
Mrs Nelis (Deputy Chairperson)
Dr Adamson
Mr Agnew
Mr Davis
Mr Hilditch
Mr McCarthy
Mr McMenamin
Mr Shannon
Mr J Wilson


Mr Houlihan ) Museums and Galleries

Ms L Ballard ) of Northern Ireland


The Chairperson: I am sure that you have been told that your presentation should last about 10 minutes. We will then ask you a few questions to further tease out the relevant issues.


Mr Houlihan: I want to highlight five strategic issues. Some of those relate specifically to the museum and the museum sector, but they also relate to how museums need to operate and the sort of partnerships that they need to build. Those five issues are international presence; the question of brand; infrastructure; strategic planning, and quality.


Museums have a network of international links. Those are principally based on the quality of the collections, which are known and appreciated internationally. For example, the Ulster Museum has material on loan to the United States, Japan and Europe - so we span three continents. It is important to remember that, and to appreciate the emphasis that Northern Ireland's museums and assets have abroad.


The 'Icons of Identity' exhibition that was recently on show at the Ulster Museum is going to the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin. I understand that this is the first social history exhibition that has been borrowed by the National Museum.


Apart from the collections that Northern Ireland has to offer, its stories are also of international importance. The history of Northern Ireland and the island of Ireland, our art collections and our stories of emigration are of international significance and importance. Those qualities attract visitors.


Local researcher John Myerscough and Australian Sherene Suchy have carried out extensive work on this subject. They found that the majority of tourists who travel to new cities or new areas visit the local museum to get some form of context and setting.


Brand - and I apologise for the dreadful term - summarises an issue that museums are trying to grapple with. This field has broad significance for Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland needs to clarify what its product is and what it is trying to sell. A lot of modern advertising is not so much about the product; it is more a lifestyle that is being sold. In a lot of advertisements the product is not revealed until the end, but the consumer is sold a lifestyle. Identifying a brand for Northern Ireland is very important for its future.


The Aldergrove effect best illustrates that. When someone gets off a plane at Aldergrove and walks over to the leaflets, what does he or she see? What impression is given? It is a disparate image. The image, the product and the materials on show in these flyers are not always of a high quality. The image tends to be one of sheep, thatched cottages and, sometimes, golf.


The next time you get off a plane in another city, look at the leaflets and assess their impact. Everyone has heard of the Guggenheim effect in Northern Spain. Bilbao is an interesting example of a city that has reinvented itself through the power of culture and provided a stimulus to a range of areas. In fact, Spain is interesting in general because cities such as Barcelona, Valencia and Bilbao have moved the focus from beaches to culture. That is an important investment.


Under the heading of brand, Northern Ireland needs an audit of its assets. Northern Ireland has some tremendous assets. HMS Caroline - the last surviving vessel from the Battle of Jutland - is an important vessel and a superb object, but it is just sitting there. The heritage landscape at Harland and Wolff is also a superb asset. Assets do not necessarily have to be placed inside cabinets or boxes in the museum. A lot of the museum is outside, as part of our environment. That has tremendous potential.


Infrastructure must be addressed if Northern Ireland is to progress. The cities that have won the Capital of Culture have solid infrastructures. Santiago de Compostela is one of the cities that won it in 2000, and its bid was based on creating a very strong infrastructure. By infrastructure I mean buildings to some extent, but also strategic and economic infrastructures which are needed for support.


The first element of infrastructure is an understanding of the power of culture and what it can bring to a city and region. The lack of a dedicated art gallery in Northern Ireland is a very sad loss. Belfast is the only major city in the United Kingdom without a freestanding art gallery, yet its art collections are absolutely superb. 'The Times' described the British contemporary art collections of the Ulster Museum as the finest outside of London, but we do not make anything of it.


Space is also important. This is more an internal social issue, but the museums have been able to give Northern Ireland neutral spaces and space for contemporary, cultural and social development. They are places where we can put those very important stories. We should not underestimate the fact that people visit spaces and places. In 'The New York Times' on Sunday there was a very nice little article on the interactive W5 (who what where when why) centre at the Belfast Odyssey arena. That has put Belfast in the frontline by recommending the centre to an American audience and describing the intellectual directions that are being taken here. The article focuses on the building, its spaces and its contents; real places and real things to do.


The issue of infrastructure raises questions about viability. We will have to examine closely the viability of any plans which museums and galleries hope to develop. We should only plan for 10 to 15 years and explore discounted cash flows, et cetera. Museums and galleries intend to move forward with capital developments. Quite often it is easy to raise the capital but more difficult to get the revenue to sustain the project. We will look at ways in which we can ensure that our projects are sustainable.


Strategic planning is also very important, therefore. I have strongly advocated investment in culture as a means of regeneration, giving examples of places such as Valencia and Barcelona. The Te Papa Museum in Auckland, New Zealand, is attracting huge numbers of people. It represents the first museum expression of bicultural issues. It deals with socio-political issues, and it is at the leading edge of political and social thinking. These are expressed in a museum form, which has attracted vast numbers of people. It has become a reason to visit Auckland just as the Guggenheim in Bilbao is the reason to visit Bilbao.


Closer to home, Trafford and Walsall are examples of how culture is at the centre of urban regeneration. Nowadays, developers internationally do not just build offices and shops; they see that culture brings people into an area on weekends and that gives status and importance to their developments. It is an old trick, which dates back to the nineteenth century when the French in Rouen and Bordeaux deliberately put their art galleries in run-down areas so that they would attract the middle-classes and raise property values. They probably kicked the working classes out at that point. But it shows the impact of culture on property and on economic regeneration. It must also be good culture, of course.


Museums are just one spoke in the wheel of strategic planning. We need to build partnerships with schools and businesses. I hope you will acknowledge the need to take a 10 to 15 year view of the pace and direction of the development of Belfast and Northern Ireland. It is very important that culture does not miss the bus; it must be part of the developmental planning that is taking place. Already, elements of that are visible in the Harland and Wolff developments. It is recognised that that is a heritage landscape which must be preserved. There is a need to educate ourselves about the assets that we hold and about the importance of culture.


That brings me to my final point about quality. If you consider the stories the museums have to tell, and the international recognition of their collections, they are about real objects and real things. Museums, in a sense, are the new sites of pilgrimage in many respects. People do get a kick out of seeing the real object. A huge number of people came to the Ulster Museum last year, for example, to see the Leonardo and Michaelangelo cartoons - and there are only ten of them. That highlights the importance of the real object.


Again I have emphasised our international appeal, and the quality of international appeal is vital for attracting people. Visitors will go and look at museums, but they may not necessarily come because of the museums. What you are seeing in places like Sydney, Valencia, Barcelona and Bilbao is that people are going there because of the cultural institutions. It is an interesting turn of events.


We also have access to international icons. For example, I visited Seattle at the weekend and spent some time looking at Titanic material associated with Belfast. We have maintained contact over the past few years with RMS Titanic Incorporated, the people who actually hold this material. Seattle is hosting one of five exhibitions currently showing such material. It illustrates both the technology and the personal stories of individuals involved. There is also an exhibition in Buenos Aires. Since the exhibition of material recovered from the Titanic has been touring, it has attracted something like seven million visitors in the United States. The Seattle exhibition opened 11 weeks ago and has attracted almost 200,000 paying visitors.


This exhibition brings together a visitor attraction, the viability element and the real object, which fascinates people. It is early days yet, but we are starting to talk with these Titanic people about the possibility of acquiring some of those objects for Northern Ireland. Big money is involved, however. I do not see the Titanic icon as the be-all and end-all, though. It is actually just a gateway to attract visitors so that we can then open up the real heritage of Northern Ireland - its maritime and aviation history in particular, and its industrial history. It is really a portal to understanding other things, but the draw and the frisson of the real object are necessary ingredients.


Essentially, I hope that as a result of your work, to use an American term, you will think in terms of big hairy audacious goals (BHAGS). Please think big and be brave; that seems to be the way in which it works.


The Chairperson: I am very interested in the article that appeared in the 'New York Times'. There is no indication of how it managed to get there. Was it inspired by the 'New York Times' itself, or was the Northern Ireland Tourist Board attempting to promote W5?


Mr Houlihan: It contains elements of one of our own press releases, so it may have originated in some of our promotional material.


The Chairperson: It would be interesting to know.


Mr Houlihan: Yes it would. I will provide you with copies of that.


Mr Agnew: How would you describe the relationship between MAGNI and the tourist industry, notably the Northern Ireland Tourist Board?


Could the relationship between the sector and the tourism industry be improved? For example, how could you develop the links between travel and accommodation providers?


Mr Houlihan: I do not feel that the relationship is as strong as it could be. Our museums and W5 do attract visitors, albeit many from Northern Ireland.


We are talking about potentially over half a million visitors per year with this project. Many of those people will be making repeat visits and many will be from Northern Ireland, but our statistics show that approximately 30% are what we describe as "out of state" visitors. Earlier statistics seemed to indicate that a very high percentage of foreign tourists - from Europe, the United States and so on - tended to visit one or more of the museums.


Our feeling is that perhaps the museums are not being pushed as strongly as they could be by the Northern Ireland Tourist Board. They are a real and very important asset, but we are dependent upon pushing them ourselves, both through the press and through our own leaflets. There is a lot of scope for building partnerships and for working together. There are showcase opportunities for the Tourist Board. For example, in November some of our trustees had a breakfast meeting at the Northern Ireland Tourist Board office in New York and found that the NITB was very keen to showcase our museums over there, as they were not being presented as an asset. The clear financial popularity of Irish art in America is a huge attraction, because anyone looking at Irish art has to visit the Ulster Museum - to be frank, preferably on the day it is on show.


The fact is that we do not properly promote the stories of history and emigration. I can speak as an outsider, and the main thing any tourist will want is an explanation of what has been going on here for the past 30, 70, 300, or 3000 years. That story is not told anywhere, and museums have a responsibility to tell it. We have fragments of it at the moment; the story of Ulster-Scots migration is covered very well, but others should tell their stories as well.


Opportunities are available to us to strengthen linkages with tourism providers in accommodation, travel and so on. Obviously, people are not going to come here just to see the museums, but they could be offered as part of a cultural and environmental package. The environment here is a superb asset. It needs to be promoted, but in such a way that does not involve only green fields and sheep. We should explore the biodiversity here, as it is in many respects unique in Europe.


Mr McMenamin: Thank you for your very informative presentation. How aware are tourists of MAGNI? Have you a marketing plan to target tourists from specific countries?


Mr Houlihan: It is difficult to estimate the extent to which people coming to Northern Ireland are aware of MAGNI. MAGNI is a recent creation, and we are looking at a number of ways to deal with our "own brand". Our marketing will probably change slightly. In the past we focused on the sites and said "visit the Ulster Museum, the Ulster American Folk Park" et cetera. However, our statutory responsibilities are thematic. Sites do not provide marketing opportunities for internet and education. In addition to site marketing, we want to look at methods of presenting our way of dealing with such issues as history, art, emigration and the environment - across all of our sites.


On the net, anyone can find out what MAGNI is doing about history and then decide which site to visit. We can tell the big strategic stories, and that opens up other opportunities for local museums to tell specific, and often quite personal, stories. That approach would create a tremendous opportunity to get into the grain of history.


I cannot answer your questions as to how aware people are of the museums. However, groups from Europe and the United States will look for museums, although the purpose of their visit is not necessarily to visit the Ulster Museum or the Ulster American Folk Park. When we provided commentary cards at the recent 'Icons' exhibition, 1,500 responses gave strong confirmation of that. Many visitors were from Europe or America, and we reached the conclusion that almost all of them visited the museum. The comments revealed much about Northern Ireland that we had not known before.


Dr Adamson: I commend you on your work, particularly at the Ulster Folk Museum, with which I have had a long association. I visit Seattle regularly, and saw the original Ulster Folk Museum exhibition. Are visitors from abroad generated through MAGNI facilities? Do the facilities provide an enhancement to visitors who are here for other reasons?


Mr Houlihan: I am inclined to say that it is the latter. It would be interesting to research which sites our visitors have already seen or intend to visit. We should include outdoor and environmental sites such as the Giants Causeway as well, of course. However, one should not be too precious about museums - they provide a roof on a rainy day. People do visit them for those reasons; on sunny days the number of visitors to our outdoor museums will increase, and that to the Ulster Museum will decrease. There is no doubt about it.


It would be interesting to create a free-standing museum, perhaps of creative art. We have a unique collection of arts in Northern Ireland; not just fine arts, but also applied arts such as ceramics, photography, design, fashion and textiles, which people find very accessible. We have an opportunity to create something unique, depending on finances. Apart from the Victoria and Albert museum, there is nothing like it, and it would be specific to the area. We could use the opportunity to attract an architect with an international reputation to create a wonderful cocktail of an international building which would attract visitors in its own right. We should showcase a wonderful experience of quality collections.


No one who has been to the Guggenheim in Bilbao is able to say what is inside. They know that the building is great, but they are not sure about the content. The Titanic, in the right context and with exclusive rights in the UK, would attract people. Visitors would come here, at a weekend or as part of a cruise, to look at that material. Despite the socio-political associations relating to the building of the Titanic, we have to recognise it as an international icon.


The Japanese have taken it on board. There are photographs of the Titanic representations in Kabul. I recently saw an ice cream cart with a picture of the Titanic on it. It is a universal icon, and we have made nothing of it. It would attract people in its own right.


Dr Adamson: I agree with you. I consider there to be two icons in Ireland; the Titanic and the Rev Ian Paisley, but that is my personal complexion.


What barriers prevent an increase in out-of-state visitors to your facilities, and what can be done to help?


Mr Houlihan: We have developed a 10-15 year plan. In the broadest sense of the word, planning is critical at a strategic Government level. We have to plan the museum's future in some sort of context, and we cannot really do that on our own. It requires vision, and we then hope to contribute some creative juices to help it along.


In the middle term, marketing and brand definition should be highlighted. What exactly are we selling? We talked already about the personality of the museums. If they were people, what type would they be?


I will leave you with this thought. What sort of person would Northern Ireland be? What would it wear, what would it eat, and how old would it be? Getting that right is critical. Once you recognise the personality, everything else starts to fall into place. Though I live and work in Northern Ireland, I do not know what that personality is. What are we trying to sell? That is a significant issue.


The shorter term objective should be closer co-operation between MAGNI and bodies such as the Northern Ireland Tourist Board and to be part of that showcase.


Mr McCarthy: How far can MAGNI facilities develop as a generator of tourism in Northern Ireland? How can it differentiate itself from other similarly structured products available in the Republic and in the rest of the UK? Do you work with other providers from the same sectors in the Republic and in Britain?


Mr Houlihan: As I indicated earlier, museums and galleries are trying to take a 10-15 year view. Museums such as the Getty in California have taken a long-term view of their direction, and have then become internationally successful. Closer to home is the Tate, which was just sitting in one museum 15 years ago; now it is the Tate on Merseyside, in Cornwall, the Tate Modern and so on. This growing and vibrant institution had a long-term plan. That sort of planning element is critical.


As regards differentiation, we need to have a very clear intellectual direction and a sound intellectual foundation. I have observed money being poured into so-called 'heritage ventures' in the past. This smacks very much of the 1980s, and the way in which money was spent in the UK at that time. Money has been put into projects which are not founded on intellectual rigour or on real objects.


In my sector, it is necessary to have very clear stories to tell. They must be of social and political relevance. Even if they are historical, they must be based on real objects, and MAGNI is certainly very fortunate with the quality of its objects.


The stories that we want to tell are reinforced by the shape of the collections, linkages between sites, and interdisciplinary links across collections. It is possible for us to bring out the collections and make them flower much more - we do not have to hide them away. Therefore, the emphasis should not always be on capital investment. For an asset to be well-presented, it must be used imaginatively and creatively.


The stories that we can tell through these collections are unique to Northern Ireland, and also to the island of Ireland. You will not see those stories anywhere else. The developments we envisage will use uniqueness as a key selling point. That is absolutely critical. In Dublin, for example, you will not see a chronological story from the beginnings of time through to the present day. We are being pragmatic about those realities; we are not just indulging our own academic whims.


We work very closely with a number of organisations. We have a very good relationship with the National Museum in Dublin and the National Gallery. We have international linkages with organisations such as the Metropolitan in New York. We also link with a number of museums in Europe and London. That is often done in a variety of different ways, for example through exchanges of objects.


I have been negotiating with the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum about the possibility of borrowing material from their collections which relates to this part of Ireland. This will not be a repatriation transaction; it will be more of a long-term loan. This demonstrates again the tremendous linkages and opportunities which are open to us.


Mr Hilditch: During the Committee's recent visit to Boston, I was particularly impressed by the work in the city of Lowell to renovate old cotton mills and reinstate them as living museums. The Committee has been concerned about the closure of many of Northern Ireland's mills. We have been trying to raise interest in Amblers Mill at Carrickfergus, as locals are concerned that a developer may clear the marked land and destroy artefacts and equipment. What plans does MAGNI have to tackle that issue?


Mr Houlihan: We have not ventured into building preservation, as that issue is almost bigger than MAGNI. We have been involved with folk parks in recovering buildings and re-erecting them on site, and we are talking with Sion Mills about how the museums might play a role on that site. However, our budget is somewhat constrained for that type of activity. Our approach has always been to take the building, dismantle it and bring it back to the Folk and Transport Museum. The Ulster Folk and Transport Museum's development plan is designed to tell a story at a specific time within a ten-year period. In the more exciting projects where buildings have been preserved, there has been a mixture of heritage and commercial involvement.


Salter and the Boston area are good examples. There is always a commercial angle to it, but getting that partnership is important. That is relevant to a point I made earlier about understanding the power of culture and heritage to provide a catalyst for solid commercial development.


Many capital cities have preserved all those buildings. London is a good example of that. Buildings are not pulled down, there; they are adapted. Buildings cannot always be preserved exactly as they were, but the fabric of the building is preserved along with a link to its history that can always be used in the future. It is sad that in Northern Ireland, and particularly in Belfast, old buildings are ripped down because they are old. Nevertheless, that is beyond the ambit of the National Museums and Galleries of Northern Ireland (MAGNI). It can support in whatever way it can, and the Sion Mills Co-Operation is an example of that. However, buildings preservation is a slightly different issue.


Mrs Nelis: During an evidence session some weeks ago the Northern Ireland Bands' Association mentioned that a band concert which used to take place at Cultra has been discontinued. Do you know anything about that? Secondly, if you had no financial constraints, what would be your key priority for attracting visitors as Bilbao has done?


Mr Houlihan: I will find out about the band concerts and provide a written reply to the Committee. The board of MAGNI identifies the creation of a free-standing museum of creative arts as its key priority. That is critical to our long-term success. Starting at the micro-level, it would showcase a great and very important collection that is recognised beyond these shores.


Secondly, it would free up space for us at the Ulster Museum to develop some history exhibitions. That is very important to us. Both those exhibitions have tourist potential. In creating a free-standing arts gallery, we envisage something of international standing; a building that people would immediately associate with Belfast, so that it becomes an icon for Belfast. That would start to attract visitors. The pay-off for everybody can go from the micro level to the macro level. The stunning statistic about the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao is that it cost the equivalent of £100 million to build. I am not suggesting that you build something of that scale, but in the first year of its operation that region attracted £100 million from tourists coming into the region, so it paid for itself. It has generated further commercial development, transforming tourism in Bilbao.


That is our key priority. However, we also try to be flexible. We have to be able to respond to ideas such as the Titanic Quarter. It probably looks as though we are being greedy by wanting certain things, but the Titanic project would be an important long-term investment for Northern Ireland. If we spend millions now buying Titanic material - even if we do not have anywhere to put it - we will more than recoup that money over the next 15 to 20 years. It would be a most significant attraction. I am not using that as a recommendation, but as an example of something that would really attract people to Northern Ireland.


Mr Shannon: You are probably aware that councils have very active arts committees, and they also have very strong tourism promotion plans for their areas in conjunction with other councils. Has MAGNI held exhibitions out of museums, in conjunction with councils, to help promote the arts and to maximise and realise the tourism potential? Jointly, we could bring museums to the people rather than have the people travelling to museums.


Mr Houlihan: I would advocate a three year planning phase before touring, to provide quality exhibitions. Some exhibitions have toured. The War and Conflict in Ireland exhibition, which is only a small exhibition, has been doing the rounds.


The museums have lent material from the collections to local museums. I see no problems with continuing that practice. Indeed, I am in favour of that. There is potential, through sponsorship, to generate exhibitions that are of local interest.


The only slight caveat, and we always have this with loans of objects, is in relation to the quality of the material that we hold and our responsibilities as stewards of those collections. We are responsible for environmental control - light and heat, for example - and security in the collections that the objects are put into.


We have set international standards, in lending material. Providing those can be met, there is no problem with touring. However, it would be necessary to work very closely with councils.


Mr J Wilson: I find your comment about the Aldergrove impact interesting. The same thing could be said about departure lounges throughout the United Kingdom and arrival lounges in Larne or Belfast.


We uncovered a similar criticism in the course of our angling enquiry. You mentioned sheep, cottages and golf. We found that angling was not mentioned expect in promotional material for angling outside of Northern Ireland and in the Republic of Ireland, which made the matter worse. I agree with you that that remains the case. Why can they not get it right? Whose heads need to be knocked together, aside from your own? Is it just the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, or are there other people who need to be told the simple fact that our tourism promotion is not working? A simple analogy of the basic principle is when a greengrocer advertises the price of apples by writing it with Windolene on a shop window. It is that simple. Why are we not getting it right as regards features that are attractive to tourists arriving here?


Mr Houlihan: The first relevant issue is the nature of the product, which I mentioned earlier. I am not speaking as chief executive of a museum, but as a tourist.


The Republic is an interesting example, because it did have a woolly image. It has retained that, but it has also promoted itself, particularly through Dublin, as young, contemporary and lively. A very interesting repositioning has taken place there. Visitors from Great Britain are flooding the Republic, and it has also retained its American market.


When you go there you see what you want to see. If you are going for the woolly experience, you can enjoy the woolly experience. If you are going there to be young and vibrant, that is what you will find. Another aspect has been promoted.


We do need to get some key people together, but you also need a government presence. I feel that there is a lack of understanding. It is said that museums are dusty, grubby old places, yet people still go there. Museums should not be underestimated. Where there has been investment, they have turned cities around.


Mr J Wilson: You pointed out that one does not have to pay to see our natural assets - the living museum. However, these are not advertised.


Mr Houlihan: That is right. We should do an audit of our assets, although we are probably already aware of what they are. We should get a group of key people together and ask them what they think our two greatest assets are and see what develops from that. My children know that Belfast has the best club scene in Europe, but that is not advertised in Belfast. We must also talk to the consumer.


The Chairperson: Yours has been a worthwhile and interesting submission and the Committee thanks you for it. We are preparing a report and much of what you said will find its way into its recommendations.


Thursday 24 May 2001

Members present:

Mr ONeill (Chairperson)

Mrs Nelis (Deputy Chairperson)

Dr Adamson

Mr Agnew

Mr McCarthy

Mr McMenamin

Mr Shannon


Prof G McCormac )

Dr C Donnelly ) School of Archaeology

Dr F McCormick ) and Palaeoecology

Ms S Gormley )


The Chairperson: You are very welcome. If you make your presentation the Committee will ask you questions on it afterwards.


Prof G McCormac: Dr McCormick will make a presentation and show slides of the monuments and booklets.


Dr F McCormick: You will know from our written submission that we perceive a gap in the provision of information for Northern Ireland's cultural tourism, which we believe to be very important to the tourist industry. Archaeology covers monuments from 7000 to 8000 years ago to the twentieth century. We deal with post-mediaeval, post-plantation and industrial archaeology as well as earlier ages and we shall look at all of them today.


The main thrust of our submission is that a great wealth of cultural heritage is available to us - and to the tourist - in Northern Ireland. However, it is not documented, and tourists do not get the information necessary to appreciate that heritage. Such appreciation would keep them here longer. A scenic drive does not take very long, but if tourists stop to visit sites and have them explained to them they will stay longer. One hopes that people will leave feeling that they have seen only a half or a quarter of what they might have seen, and that will make them return. This is about supplying an infrastructure for the tourist industry.


The Environment and Heritage Service (EHS) is responsible for historic monuments in state care, and it need only produce tourist information on those. It has legal responsibility for listed buildings and scheduled monuments; but most of these are on private property, and the public does not have access to them. Similarly, the Environment and Heritage Service need not produce - nor does it wish to produce - publicity material on them for the tourist. There are many areas in the country to which the public has access, including streets, graveyards and the coast which contain a great many sites for people to visit and explore. We feel that these are not covered.


May I show you copies of the information that the Environment and Heritage Service produces for its monuments at Greyabbey, Bellaghy Bawn and Dunluce. It also produces thematic guides, for example on maritime archaeology, which are a step in the right direction. There are general books on Northern Ireland's monuments in state care. The one you can see on the slide was produced seven years ago and is being reissued. A cross-border version covers national monuments in the North and in the South. However, they cover only those monuments which belong to the Government and which are in state care rather than all our other rich heritage sites. That is representative of what is provided.


Different levels of information are available. At Dunluce Castle one can get a small pamphlet if one merely wishes to look round. However, if one wishes more detailed information, a more substantial guidebook is available.


The Environment and Heritage Service is not the only body to provide information on access to historical and archaeological monuments; the National Trust is very good at supplying information on buildings and areas under its care. Monuments in the care of the state and of the National Trust are scattered over Northern Ireland, and there is often quite a distance between them. Tourists may spend their entire holiday in a single location. We feel that information could be given to them to exploit that. The slide shows general Northern Ireland Tourist Board information; that is not part of its brief, but it produces a general guide covering the monuments in state care. It consists of a map of the Six Counties showing the widely scattered monuments.


The information provided comprises one sentence. That said, the Environment and Heritage Service has very good information boards at the sites as well as pamphlets for purchase. A few weeks ago I attended a conference in Minnesota at which a lecturer from New York looked at how the Irish "sell" their cultural heritage on the Internet. He found that the Northern Ireland Tourist Board's information on access to its scheduled monuments was much better than Bord Fáilte's.


The Internet site provides very good information. However, the Northern Ireland Tourist Board only provides details on scheduled monuments, and much of our heritage is omitted. Information on historic monuments, interesting buildings and sites along the coast can be found in local history books. However, tourists will not buy huge books on, say, the history of Tyrone or Down, costing £40 apiece. They might buy books such as 'Living Places' by Dr Colm Donnelly, which provides information on sites in different parts of the Six Counties. It is unlikely that a tourist would buy 'Ulster Historic Churches' as it covers the nine counties of Ulster and would involve a great deal of driving. Churches are usually open to the public and anyone can wander round a churchyard. However, it would be better if more of them were open. Little information is provided on churches in general tourist literature.


The Ulster Architectural Heritage Society publishes some very useful information and the Environment and Heritage Service finances such groups. Although the Environment and Heritage Service may not directly fund information literature on monuments and sites that are not in state care, it helps groups which do. However, the society's books are not really aimed at the tourist market.


On the slide you can see 'Killough', another local history book. Local histories are very hard to come by. Local people can usually buy them but they are not normally available in shops. I got a copy of 'The History of St John's Church Donegore' because I happened to be there when the church was open. It is the only place where the book is available. Material is in circulation, but it is very difficult to access and it is not in an easily accessible format for tourists.


Down Museum recently produced a series of walkabout guides. These are normally produced for urban areas. A few years ago Belfast City Council produced a very good one covering the historic buildings of Belfast. More recently, Down District Council produced a walkabout guide to Killough. A group of guides have been produced for Dundrum, Rostrevor, Newcastle and the Mourne Mountains.


This is how it should be done. One should be able to go into any town or village in Ulster and obtain one of these guides; they should be available in every bed and breakfast and hotel bedroom. One will never make money on them, but they should be part of the infrastructure and should be easily available for tourists to pick up and study.


Quality control can be a problem. Some guides are of a very good standard; others are poor. Poor quality reflects badly on the tourist industry. Either the Northern Ireland Tourist Board or the Environment and Heritage Service should undertake central quality control and hire writers and designers who can maintain a consistent quality across the Province.


In five years' time every bed and breakfast and hotel will have a computer and access to the Internet. People will be able to look up local monuments. This slide shows a web site which was designed by students at Queen's University as part of their undergraduate course; they write 600 word essays with photographs. This slide shows Audley's Castle, which is in state care. (Next Slide) However, Donegore corpse house in County Antrim is not in state care. It is an interesting building which was used to hide bodies at the time of the body snatchers. Tourists like to hear that sort of thing, but where can they get information on it? The information is only available in a small book in Donegore Church, and only people who happen to be in the church at a Sunday service can buy it. The material is not available, and it must be made available somehow.


People want to know when and why a building was built and if anyone famous is buried in the graveyard. Murland vault in Clough is one of the strangest mausolea in the British Isles. It is unusual and people want to know something about it before visiting it instead of having to ask "what is that?"


There are public areas all along the coast. There are piers that were built at different times and for different purposes. However, there is nowhere to find information easily on them. In Ardglass one may wonder what the strange castle in the water is. It is a Victorian bathing place where women could get their ankles wet without compromising their modesty as men could not see them. This is a little beachhouse where they could go with the tide lapping over their ankles.


Mrs Nelis: There was always something peculiar about Ardglass.


Dr F McCormick: However, one cannot find information on this in Ardglass. The clubhouse at Ardglass Golf Club is one of the finest late eighteenth century buildings in Ireland that covers a unique set of mediaeval warehouses. The information on it is not available to tourists. Isabel's Tower in Ardglass was built in the middle of the nineteenth century for a local aristocrat whose daughter suffered from tuberculosis. She was advised to get fresh air so she was carried on a stretcher to the top of the tower every day and the windows were opened so that the wind would blow in. It cured her.


Mrs Nelis: She might have died of exposure.


Dr F McCormick: She did not die. She married a Portuguese sailor and went to live in Portugal. Her descendants came back to Ardglass about three years ago and found it strange that there was a building in the village dedicated to her. If most people in the village did not know why it was built, how is the tourist to find out?


Further along the coast is the limekiln, and people should be told what it is. There are lighthouses which one can see but which one might not be able to enter. Bits of wood protrude from Dundrum beach at low tide; they were inserted during the second world war to stop German gliders landing. There are also pillboxes, an old coastguard station and a lifeboat house. Knowing about these would enhance a walk along Tyrella beach enormously.


That is a unique group of eighteenth century pigsties in Rossglass. Again, there is no information. There are interesting constructions, from archaeological monuments to present-day buildings, in every part of Ulster. The little guide books are needed not just for the towns and villages but for drives of six or seven miles around them.


The Chairperson: You make a compelling case.


Mr Agnew: Your presentation was interesting and enjoyable. Is there a link between the School of Archaeology and Palaeoecology and the tourist industry? How could the relationship be improved? Would links with travel and accommodation providers be helpful and how could they be developed?


Prof G McCormac: The School of Archaeology at Queen's has an excellent research reputation. A teaching audit was done and the department can now categorically say that it has a good teaching reputation as well. The department reaches out to the public. It does so through the Environment and Heritage Service and the department's own small structures. It brings school children in for work experience and through the Institute of Lifelong Learning at Queen's organises extramural courses in the evening or even in the daytime during festivals. People are taken to visit the Giant's Ring, for example.


Making a submission to the Committee is a first step in reaching out to the public to foster links. Our primary objective in the university is to educate people and to conduct research of the highest quality; reaching out to the public is the third element. We must demonstrate that we are useful in a wider sense. This submission is part of our agenda in achieving that.


Dr F McCormick: There is no formal link at present between the school and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board or the Environment and Heritage Service, which is the Government body in charge of state care information, and the Tourist Board. We argue that the information which we collate through our research can be disseminated by the Tourist Board or the Environment and Heritage Service. Although the Environment and Heritage Service might be better able to do it than the Tourist Board as its aims are slightly different.


Mr McMenamin: Do you have a marketing budget plan to target tourists?


Dr F McCormick: No. We have nothing whatsoever to do with tourism.


Prof G McCormac: A university is much like any other organisation in that our resources are very limited. Everything is spent on teaching and research. The budget can fund a web site on which student projects study sites in County Down. We make them accessible in that way.


We provide web space and a computer officer for the Killough project, in which Dr McCormick has a particular interest. However, there is no budget. We do not have the resources to develop it as we would like. We hope to get extra money in future to develop this kind of project. In collaboration with the Ulster Archaeological Society we hope to approach the Heritage Lottery Fund for money to support the university's links to tourism and to raise public awareness of our archaeological riches.


Dr Adamson: Unfortunately, my favourite site at Ballynoe stone circle is surrounded by bulls. There are other inhibiting factors on the grass. Does the School of Archaeology and Paleoecology play a role in attracting visitors to study our cultural heritage?


Prof G McCormac: We are a small department compared to engineering or medicine but we take in 10% of Queen's University overseas students. We have an active marketing programme at Beaver College in the United States to attract people to the study of archaeology here. We have also developed a link with Eastern Illinois University.


A grant proposal of $1·1million is being submitted to encourage American students to help in excavating archaeological sites here in the summer. We will not make any money out of that. We want to expose Irish archaeology to students who will come as part of this programme. They will return home and encourage others to come; in that way the tourist industry in this sector will grow. We hope that this will happen soon. Staff from Eastern Illinois will come over in June or July.


Dr Donnelly: They were here last year for a week and will be here again in July. We are working on a new Master's course in historical archaeology for the overseas market.


The historic archaeology of America from the seventeenth century to the twentieth century is a major area of research and teaching in America. Queen's University is trying to establish a Master's course to attract people from America to spend a year undertaking a course in Northern Ireland.


Prof G McCormac: Dr McCormick mentioned the importance of the web site. Queen's University has links with English Heritage for which it does a great deal of carbon dating. We dated Stonehenge; the Stonehenge site on the English Heritage web site gets over one million hits a year. English Heritage has installed a web site link to Queen's University. Therefore if one accesses the English Heritage web site and clicks on Stonehenge, the Queen's University web site will be accessible. A click on the Queen's University web site will give access to Northern Ireland's archaeology and the figures Dr McCormick mentioned.


There are many subtle mechanisms for highlighting what we do. The first port of call might not be Queen's University web site itself, but if one million visitors hit a site which points directly to the university because of its association, Northern Ireland's archaeology is being exposed to the wider world. Our strategy is not well resourced, but we use many subtle mechanisms to get archaeology exposed.


Dr Adamson: Are you involved in tree ring dating? That is of international importance, and I believe that you are world experts in it.


Prof G McCormac: We are. Queen's University's carbon dating lab and its tree ring dating facilities - which have recently been strengthened - are of international repute. The technical name for tree ring dating is dendrochronology. Queen's University employs Jonathan Palmer from New Zealand to look at the links between tree rings and global events. During the potato famine there was a narrowing of the oak tree rings. That showed the climatic downturn which affected the potatoes.


One can also look at tree rings in New Zealand to compare them with the records from the oak trees in Ireland to see if downturns in global climate correspond. We are studying the relationship between regional and global climate changes.


Dr F McCormick: The information on sites in Ulster and the handbooks that we have produced with students contribute towards making information available for tourists. However, that must be taken in hand. It is too big a job for us. We hope that we have shown examples of what should be done.


The Chairperson: There is a need for consistency, and a degree of professionalism is essential.


Mr McCarthy: How can your department help develop tourism in Northern Ireland and how can it differentiate itself from other similar tourist products available in the Republic of Ireland and in the rest of the United Kingdom?


Dr F McCormick: The Northern Ireland web information is better than Bord Fáilte's, but it is confined to monuments in state care. Information should also be made available on monuments that are not in state care and which are accessible to the public. Many local history books tell the reader where there are mass rocks or dolmens, but these might be on private property. Information should only be available on sites to which people have access. That is an important feature, and we are doing that in a piecemeal way.


Someone should be working full time on information web sites. I make projects for students and those that are of good enough quality are put on the web. I contribute to about 10 sites a year.


Mr McCarthy: Outside Kircubbin at Saltwater Brig there is a beautiful little church that was built in 1777. December Bride was filmed there.


Dr F McCormick: It is a lovely church. A headstone marking the first person to be buried in its graveyard was used in the film. Such information would get people out of their cars to stop and walk round and stay for 15 minutes. They will be able to spend a lot longer being a tourist rather than just looking out the window. Most of them look at the green bits on a map and think "that is scenic" - and that is all the information that they have.


The Chairperson: We appreciate your coming here to make your presentation. It was very thought- provoking. Thank you.


Mr Shannon: Chairperson, may I ask a final question. Do you work with the Coast of Down tourism organisation? Perhaps you might get back to me on that.


The Chairperson: Thank you very much.


Thursday 14 June 2001

Members present:

Mrs Nelis (Deputy Chairperson)

Mr Davis

Mr McCarthy

Mr McElduff

Mr McMenamin
Mr Shannon
Mr J Wilson


Dr WH Crawford )

Dr B Trainor ) Ulster Historical Foundation

Mr F Mullan )


The Deputy Chairperson: Good morning, Gentlemen, I apologise for the delay. If you make your submission, the Committee will ask you questions afterwards.


Mr Mullan: I thank the Committee for inviting us this morning and for rescheduling. We were due to speak to the Committee at the end of May, but Dr Trainor and I were in the USA on our annual lecture tour. I want to touch on a few points that I hope will highlight what the Ulster Historical Foundation does. I shall refer to our achievements in cultural tourism, particularly in genealogy, and to how our work may interest the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure.


The Ulster Historical Foundation was founded in 1956 as part of the research service of the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, which handled queries from people overseas who were interested in tracing their Irish and Scots-Irish ancestry. We therefore have a pedigree in this field. We are the leading genealogical research agency on the island of Ireland and were modelled on the Scottish Ancestry Research Society. Many organisations have since tried to base themselves on what we do. We are much more than a genealogical research service, as much of what we do has taken us into the field of cultural tourism.


We are a non-profit-making organisation recognised by the Department of Health and Social Services as an educational charity and we receive partial grant support from the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure. After the signing of the Good Friday Agreement the foundation was named as an organisation that fell within the remit of the Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure. As an associated organisation of the Department we hope to increase the support we receive and to assist the Department in return.


I shall provide the Committee with some statistical information on our work and the scope of our project. The mainstay of our business is ancestral research, and since 1956 we have completed more than 10,500 full ancestral research reports using the archives in record offices in Belfast and Dublin.


Last year there were more than 350 registrations for research. On average we receive several thousand general research enquiries every year and we provide approximately 1,500 typed responses with the preliminary search assessment. In 2000 we received 1,500 enquiries, but the figure already exceeds 600 in 2001. We have a busy research office and have a worldwide membership register that stretches over 22 years and includes 7,000 individuals. In 2000 there were 1,100 active members; and in 2001 we have added more than 500 new members. We expect our membership register of active members to exceed 1,500 this year. That is largely because of promotion on our web site and research tours abroad, and it demonstrates our strong presence and faithful client base overseas, particularly in North America, which we have built up over the past 45 years.


Other activities include a week-long annual family history conference in September, which attracts on average 60 to 80 delegates. Our staff has sole responsibility for planning, arranging and holding it. We do not buy in services, although we use hotels and visitor attractions. Most of the delegates come from North America, Britain and Australasia. Between 24 and 29 September 2001 we will hold our eleventh conference. We make wide use of local tourist providers - hotels, coach companies and visitor attractions.


As a research organisation we also have strong links with the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI), the Linen Hall library and the Centre for Migration Studies; associations overseas include the Scottish Genealogy Society and the Mitchell Library in Glasgow. We also have links with the National Library of Ireland. The conference and events such as our publications programme give history students a chance to present their research locally and internationally.


We have a broad publications programme based on six themes, including an historical series that started in the mid-1960s with Dickson's 'Ulster Immigration to Colonial America', which is acknowledged as the standard text in eighteenth-century migration from the northern part of Ireland. We also have a local and family history series that gives opportunities to local research students and history societies to have their work published.


We have occasional title series, and have worked with the Presbyterian Society and the Church of Ireland to produce reprints of their succession lists. In our educational series we produced titles for schoolchildren, printed 31 volumes of gravestone inscriptions and to service our members' organisation we produce publications for our guild members.


We work with various groups on publications and with the support of Belfast City Council we recently published, 'Barney: Bernard Hughes of Belfast'. An example of work done locally is 'The Fair River Valley, Strabane through the Ages', which we published for the Strabane History Society. It was popular locally and overseas with people who have ancestral links to that part of the world.


The Ulster Historical Foundation believes that local communities should undertake research to give them a product that they can sell overseas. We have found this time and time again, and the 'Fair River Valley' book demonstrates that a saleable commodity can have international appeal.


We recently spoke to Professor John Wilson, director of the Institute of Ulster-Scots Studies and we are co-operating on possible joint publications and other ways of promoting Scots-Irish ancestry and Ulster-Scots.


The Ulster Historical Foundation is working on publishing the history of the Irish Parliament from 1692 to 1800. It has been in planning and production for 40 years, and the closing stages of the past 30 years have been under the direction and guidance of Professor Edith Mary Johnston-Liik. It has the long-standing support of Departments, including the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, which has inherited responsibility for a Department of the Environment commitment.


The project has also received support from the Department of the Taoiseach. The work has been undertaken by research staff in the Public Record Office, Queen's University and academic institutions overseas, especially in Australia. It is a six-volume work on the period from 1692 to 1800, which was important for the whole island of Ireland. It is a real bonus to find historical work that the Ulster Historical Foundation can take to an overseas audience. It can put us on the map with regard to Irish reference and research libraries and institutions throughout the world. It is probably one of the most important historical projects to have been undertaken and made available in Ireland in the past 20 years.


Our web site receives over 12,500 hits a week - more than 600,000 visits a year. They are requests for pages. That is a substantial volume of traffic and it has expanded rapidly. We have been able to develop our membership association through the web site and we have also made our services available at reasonable cost worldwide. We sell all our services through secure web pages to an overseas market. It is a useful tool for demonstrating our activities to people in North America and Australasia.


Our close association with other organisations has enabled them to showcase themselves to interested groups overseas. This has given the foundation a very strong presence in North America. We undertake annual lecture tours in the USA; Dr Trainor has been doing this himself for over 20 years, then with my predecessor Shane McAteer and most recently with me. Our tour this year was from 24 May to 9 June. In 19 days we completed 4,500 miles and we spoke at 11 venues in eight states. That gives you an idea of the scope of these tours.


I am pleased to say that one of the visitors here this morning is Professor Nina Ray, who was at one of our sessions in Scranton, Pennsylvania. She is a professor of marketing at Idaho State University and is interested in the economic value of Irish genealogical tourism in North America. She and her aunt came to our lecture in Scranton, Pennsylvania. She is from Boise, Idaho and her aunt is from Connecticut, so they drove a couple of hundred miles from Connecticut to Scranton to attend our workshop. That gives you an idea of the interest of folk in America. Making information available can establish a presence and stimulate responses. We found that at each venue.


In Tiffin, Ohio, we spoke at an all-day session. A lady who came with her mother had the choice of two venues; she chose the furthest one because it was an all-day session so she drove over a couple of hundred miles to attend it. We spoke at La Crosse, Wisconsin; Memphis, Tennessee; Lincoln, Nebraska; Cincinnati, Tiffin, and Cleveland, Ohio; Erie, Pennsylvania; Buffalo, New York; Scranton, Pennsylvania; Washington DC; and Winchester, Virginia.


I have a quote from the president of the Munroe Juneau Jackson genealogy workshop, Carolyn Hendersin, who was one of the organisers of the first session in La Crosse.

"I have just spoken with Anita, president of the La Crosse Area Genealogy Society and she is very pleased with the seminar. She said that there was a couple at the seminar who are planning a trip to Ireland. A number of people I talked to were very excited about continuing the search for their Irish roots. Some participants told me that they were planning to join the Ulster Historical Foundation. Your efforts to preserve history and make it available to the public are very much appreciated and inspirational. It was obvious that you have a tremendous passion and commitment to preserve Ireland's history. Because of Dr Trainor and Mr Mullan, Ireland's children on this side of the ocean will have a better opportunity to make the connection with their Irish roots".


That is a useful quote because it demonstrates that by travelling to advise on what is available to research in Northern Ireland we can bring people to Ireland who buy books and holiday here and who join our membership association. We also distribute literature for the local councils, tourist consortia and local providers to let them know what is available. That is the direct response we receive to our research activities overseas.


On our last tour we spoke at the University Club in Washington DC at a function hosted on our behalf by Peter Smith, head of the Northern Ireland Bureau at the British Embassy. That is one more way of establishing an effective presence in the USA; a presence that the Ulster Historical Foundation wants to make permanent. Peter Smith advises us most strongly of the need for organisations to maintain a permanent presence in North America to showcase what they do and to make Americans aware of them.


The support of the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure would be very welcome in strengthening the presence that the Ulster Historical Foundation has worked hard to maintain. The Ulster Historical Foundation is an associate organisation, and the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure could use it to disseminate information on cultural tourism in Northern Ireland. Our missionary activities could be used to showcase the Department's services and activities in North America.


Our presence attracts invitations to major cultural events in the USA that give us access to a very large audience. As an associate representative of the Department we could bring that information directly to interested parties in the USA.


We have received some support from local tourist consortia, local councils and other tourist providers, although that has not been comprehensive. Some of the organisations that have supported us are the Belfast Visitor and Convention Bureau; the Kingdoms of Down; Newry and Mourne; and Fermanagh Lakelands Tourism. Strabane District Council, Moyle District Council, Carrickfergus Borough Council, Banbridge District Council and occasionally Derry City Council have also supported us. The Northern Ireland Tourist Board's New York office continues to use our distribution facility and join our tours. We find, unfortunately, that our promotional activities receive less consistent support from the Tourist Board in Belfast, and that is disappointing.


Several years ago the Tourist Board did provide financial assistance for our homecoming conference. That was one of our first conferences in the early 1990s. Until 1998 it gave limited financial assistance on receipted expenditure that we incurred during our tour, but that has stopped. Our lecture tours are self-financing and our conferences are run without the support of any organisation. We take advice from the Belfast Visitor and Convention Bureau and we receive literature from the Tourist Board but we have no direct financial support to host these events. Such support would considerably enhance our programme and enable us to make a much sturdier representation overseas.


Mr Shannon: What is your relationship with the Tourist Board and the tourism industry and how do you see it improving? Could the Ulster Historical Foundation work with accommodation providers?


Mr Mullan: Our relationship with the Northern Ireland Tourist Board is cordial, but it does not support many genealogical projects. The Tourist Board has suggested that it will not support those projects until it has proof that genealogy is a marketable commodity. However, it is a marketable commodity, and we have been successfully marketing it for 45 years.


Many organisations not just the Ulster Historical Foundation have a product that could use support from the Northern Ireland Tourist Board. However, our relationship with it is cordial. We have a very useful relationship with the Northern Ireland Tourist Board in New York. We have a very good relationship with hoteliers and tour organisations and we regularly bring our groups to organisations such as the Centre for Migration Studies, directed by Dr Brian Lambkin at the Ulster American Folk Park and the Plantation of Ulster Visitor Centre. They have a direct relevance to what we are doing and to the people that we bring to our conferences.


There is considerable scope for tourist activities under different headings. People in America are very interested in clan reunions; they often start the process in North America, Australia or Britain. It is very strong in North America, and people come together to arrange a clan visit to Ireland. There is scope for servicing that, and we have been involved with several clan reunions recently and have produced source guides for them. An important reunion is that of the McAteers, which will be held at the Milwaukee Irish Fest at which we hope to be present. We are reproducing a McAteer source book for them. There is scope in clan reunions.


We have proven that there is scope for genealogy conferences but we need a way of marketing them more efficiently. We do not get any financial support; we must do it ourselves. People will come if we can get the information to them. We spoke in Tennessee, and one of the ladies who attended the workshop is now coming to the conference. That shows what information can do.


The large groups also have a place. In the Republic of Ireland, Irish Genealogy Ltd has been working with Abbey Tours to provide tours. They will only catch people who come to Ireland with an idea that their ancestors are Irish but who have not done any research. These tours are at a very basic level bringing people to research centres, but they service what is clearly a great need. From March to the end of November visitors on tours or individual tourists call into our city centre location to find out about their ancestors. However, the more serious genealogist would be interested in a more detailed package.


Mr Shannon: Was there a particular interest in Tennessee in Ulster-Scots? How were Billy Kennedy's books received there?


Mr Mullan: The response in the Ulster-Scots communities was very favourable - they are great book buyers. We brought Billy Kennedy's book with us, and it sold very well. Dickson's book 'Ulster Emigration to Colonial America, 1718 - 1775', also sold very well, and they bought all the copies of our essays on Scots-Irish history. There is a strong interest.


They are very strong supporters of our conferences. The Irish Genealogical Congress (IGC) is held every three to four years in Dublin. Our conferences usually take place in Belfast and Dublin; they include the Public Record Office in Belfast and the National Archives, the National Library and the Registry of Deeds in Dublin. This is to ensure that people have the chance to use all those archives regardless of their background. Sources that cover the whole island of Ireland are held in Belfast and Dublin, which is useful. However, when the Irish Genealogical Congress takes place in Dublin we do not hold a Dublin side to our conference because it would conflict with theirs. Our conference this year is entitled 'Plantation and Colonial Migration'. It has an Ulster focus so it is of primary interest to Ulster-Scots people. They find that interest in the USA is very strong.


Mr McMenamin: Being from Strabane, I compliment you on the excellent 'The Fair River Valley'.


Do you need help to promote roots tourism? How do people from outside Northern Ireland find out about the foundation?


Mr Mullan: They have found out about it for 20 years through our own activities. We promote ourselves through publications and journals and through associations with academic institutions throughout the world. We use standard marketing process. The web site came online in 1995, and we have continued to build upon it. We have put enormous resources into our web site and we average over 600,000 hits. Many people in North America have found us by word of mouth - the bush telegraph. That is very effective marketing, as is our web site and the traditional media. We do not have huge resources but we do try to use them effectively - the web site being a prime example. It is a very cost-effective means of disseminating information. Our web site is structured so that people can find it by searching under "Ulster ancestry", "Irish ancestry" or "Irish roots".


Mr Davis: Can you expand on the potential of genealogy for increasing the number of visitors to Northern Ireland?


Mr Mullan: Tourist providers are very interested in repeat business - to get people to keep returning. We have proven that people will return for genealogy. Family and friends visiting from England are a huge potential market. We have clear evidence of people regularly coming to Northern Ireland to research their genealogy. One individual has been to all 11 of our conferences, one lady has been to nine, and more recently two gentlemen have been to the last four. We find that genealogy brings visitors back again, and it is a very important sector in the tourism market.


Dr Trainor: Sixty to seventy per cent of our business has always been from America - buying our books, commissioning research or joining our guild. I was directly involved in going to meet Americans during my time as director of the Public Record Office, and I have been doing these tours every year for the last 13 years.


After I retired I continued to do the tours by Greyhound bus. It appealed to the Americans as it reminded them of the old pioneer approach. The Americans do business person to person; they like to deal directly with individuals. We have scored well there.


The Mormons run a major world conference on records every 30 years or so. In 1980 I was their keynote speaker and I spoke to an invited audience of world state archivists on the theme of education and archives. It was quite an honour for the representative of a regional archive to address a prestigious gathering of world state archivists.


Such work has repercussions. Eventually, one builds up personal contacts, and correspondence becomes important. I have dealt with postal enquiries for the past 25 years, and that involves dealing with 1,500 to 2,000 personal letters annually. Those are personal conversations, because I dictate all my material. We have a large constituency overseas that could be far more widely utilised for the good of Northern Ireland.


Dr Crawford: My work in the Public Record Office involved meeting societies around the country. For example, I know John Dooher in Strabane very well. However, I also worked on the preparation of the exhibition on the Huguenots in 1985. Underpinning work is very important.


An Ulsterman trains students to MA level in local history in Maynooth. Tour operators and bus tour guides here will have to be trained to the same level. I knew many people who did this type of work when they were post- and undergraduates. We lack such people here. Cork and Limerick followed Maynooth's successful example; UCD was not able to because it was too sophisticated.


I was the development officer for the Federation for Ulster Local History for four years and I found it important always to be available to local history societies. Their questions are important, and we must provide answers to tie them into the Public Record Office, for example. However, many people must go the Registry of Deeds in Dublin. I worked for the Lisburn Historical Society, and the Registry of Deeds in Dublin had superb material on Lisburn.


Mr McElduff: Cuirim fáilte roimh an fhoireann. I welcome the delegation. Is there any evidence of twin-town development delivering visitors? For instance, Omagh and Cobh are linked by a shared history of the great hunger and the people who left Ireland because of it. Could a twin-town scheme be introduced with America to attract visitors to towns in Ireland?


Dr Trainor: I do not know much about actual development, but the potential exists. Many emigrants from the Abercorn estates in Donegal and Tyrone went to Brookville in north-west Pennsylvania. We did not realise that until we spoke there. We are trying to develop links between schools in Convoy, west Tyrone, and Brookville.


Our host was the editor and proprietor of the local newspaper, the 'Jeffersonian Democrat'. We presented him with a copy of our Strabane book, which got magnificent support from the people of Strabane. I think that it was our most commercially successful publication. He is going to review the book. It takes time to develop contacts between schools, but we are confident that that is the way to proceed. The Irish settlers moved from one village community in Ireland to another on the other side of the Atlantic, so it is best to develop it in America. We were in Dover, New Hampshire, where there were many descendants of immigrants from Keady. There were many descendants of people from Ballymoney and North Antrim in Sparta, Illinois. I could mention more places.


Dr Crawford: People in Newtownards should look into work that was done a few years ago on Amherst Island in Lake Ontario, Canada. It turned out that it had been settled by people from Ards.


The Deputy Chairperson: Thank you. I am very interested in this and I am sure that the Committee shares my interest. We support your work, and I accept your point about developing links. I was fortunate enough to meet the Elliots and the Currans from Pennsylvania. One of those families was originally from the lowlands of Scotland and they are now millionaire coal miners. They had links with the Molly Maguires and have an historical society.


Mr Mullan: I have some old conference leaflets that will give you an idea of what our tourist events are like.


Thursday 14 June 2001

Members present:

Mrs Nelis (Deputy Chairperson)
Mr Davis
Mr McElduff
Mr McMenamin
Mr Shannon
Mr J Wilson


Mr F Sweeney )

Mr D McSorley ) Omagh District

Cllr S Shields ) Council

Cllr R McKelvey )


The Deputy Chairperson: Fáilte romhaibh. We apologise for keeping you so long - we are running late this morning. I know that you have made a submission, and after your introduction members of the Committee would like to ask you some questions.


Mr McSorley: I thank the Committee for Culture, Arts and Leisure for the invitation to the session. Mr Sweeney will summarise the submission from Omagh District Council, and we shall answer any questions Committee members might have.


The Deputy Chairperson: Hansard is reporting the Committee evidence session.


Mr Sweeney: There are two interpretations of culture, and those are important in developing cultural tourism. Culture can be defined as the range of competencies and activities that define a people, society or community. Last year Bord Fáilte carried out an attitude survey to determine why people chose the Republic of Ireland, which had 2·6 million visitors, as a tourist destination. The survey revealed that 29% of those people - almost 750,000 people - selected the Republic of Ireland as their holiday destination because of its rich history and culture. That shows the potential of the market.


This part of the world has much in common with that rich culture and heritage. We have not even started to tap into it, so there is major potential.


Culture can be interpreted as that very special and peculiar realm of human activity that includes folklore, language, museums, heritage, art, music, history, dance, and so on. Those factors play an important role in cultural tourism. Bilbao is an example of how cultural tourism can succeed. The city was in the doldrums until the new Guggenheim Museum was built. In the first year of operation it attracted 750,000 people to Bilbao, a city that had been on its knees after the collapse of the steel industry.


Omagh District Council feels that culture can contribute to tourism in two ways. It can enable an area or a destination to use culture as a magnet or lure to attract visitors; that is very important, and the success of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao is an example. The range of cultural activities in an area can contribute to the enhancement of a visitor's stay; that is also very important. There are a multiplicity of local festivals and events that characterise the tourist industry in the Republic of Ireland. Every town and village has an annual festival, and they attract thousands of people. We should not lose sight of that in developing a cultural tourism strategy for Northern Ireland.


Omagh District Council has been involved in cultural tourism in a number of ways for many years. Everyone knows about the twin attractions of the Ulster-American Folk Park and the Ulster History Park. Between them they attracted 150,000 visitors to the area last year. The Ulster-American Folk Park has existed for a quarter of a century; it is celebrating its twenty-fifth anniversary in a fortnight's time. The Ulster History Park was opened over 10 years ago, and both attractions are doing their bit.


Following the first ceasefire in August 1994, Northern Ireland had a bumper year for tourism in 1995. That year Omagh District Council carried out intensive research among visitors at all the main attractions in conjunction with the University of Ulster, taking in the History Park, the Folk Park, the Leisure Centre and An Creagán Visitor Centre.


The overwhelming complaint was that people found it difficult to get access to cultural events in the evenings. A great deal was happening in the area at the time, and people were promoting cultural events outside the main attractions. However, they were all working in isolation and not promoting attractions in a collective way. It was therefore difficult for people to find out about the events. Even if they were aware of them, they found it difficult to gain access because the premises were not well signposted, and the programme was not promoted very well.


In September 1995 we brought all those people together. Our aim was to make a programme of cultural events run by a mixture of public-, private- and community-sector operators more accessible to visitors to our area. We formed the Sperrins Cultural Partnership and devised a programme for September to March 1996. Covering a mixture of sectors, it was a difficult partnership, but it was also cross-community. There were people who represented the cultural interests from both the Irish and the Ulster-Scots folk traditions, and that was a very important step. The programme ran with some success over five years, and it was funded from various sources; we hope to build on that. We are in the process of devising a new cultural strategy for our area that will dovetail into the Northern Ireland cultural tourism strategy.


The museums and heritage sector is also very important. It is sad that we do not have a heritage strategy for Northern Ireland. There is a good opportunity to look at the field, and the Assembly, through this Committee, might take that on board. We already have a very strong heritage product in this country. Over the past 20 years some very good heritage centres, theme parks and museums have been developed with substantial European support. However, problems at the Navan Centre hit the headlines recently, and there is also a protest outside today. It is very important that we do not let the product slip, for if we are to have the same cultural tourism success as the South we shall need those centres, and we must be prepared to fund them; it is an important issue. The centres are currently all funded from a range of sources, such as private trusts, local authorities and central government. We are conscious that our councillors came under pressure owing to the rates expenditure for the Ulster History Park. We have commissioned a study to see how the History Park can be better integrated into the museums and heritage product in Northern Ireland.


There is now an opportunity to examine the whole sector and look at how current relationships between the institutions can be further developed. There is complementarity with many of the subjects they cover, but they are all doing their own thing and going in different directions. There is an opportunity to examine that, and the Committee could take that on board. There are possibilities for joint ventures in management and marketing. There is a great deal of expertise which can be shared. Some arrangement can be put in place whereby, if one institution does not have the expertise, it can be provided by another.


Revenue support for these centres is an important issue. The capital investment has been made, but the revenue costs are heavy. There were all premised on substantive growth in tourist numbers, but that did not occur in the way envisaged. It will happen if we get things right, but we cannot let the product slip.


Community ownership is an important issue in the development of cultural tourism. I talked about local festivals; we do not have the same number of festivals as the South. However, we have some, and others are emerging. Local communities take ownership of such festivals, and whatever programmes we develop must ensure that support reaches a level which will empower people and enable them to develop their product. If we develop community ownership of the product, we shall develop a culture of tourism, which is something we lack.


Millstreet in County Cork has a large equestrian arena. There is a huge festival there every year, and during the festival week everyone in the village - and for 10 miles around - is involved in tourism. We have never experienced that in this neck of the woods.


It is not just a matter for the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure; there are issues of Targeting Social Need. The cultural product is very strong in many rural areas, but it is happening in a very organic and unstructured fashion. We can channel money into those areas to sustain that rural way of life, and there is therefore an issue for the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Department for Social Development. The cultural tourism strategy is a cross-departmental matter; we should not simply lock budgets into departmental issues.


The roles of the national agencies must also be examined. At present, the Arts Council and the Tourist Board are working together on the cultural tourism strategy, and there is some confusion about their individual roles. We must look carefully at which is to be the lead department. It is very important that the Arts Council play an important role in product development, be it in the higher arts or in the Irish and Ulster-Scots folk traditions. It is sad that only 4% to 5% of the Arts Council's entire budget is dedicated to traditional arts, though they are universally recognised as a valuable product, and we must take up that issue. If we are to develop a product, it must be funded and properly recognised.


The Tourist Board has some expertise in marketing development. If we are to market cultural tourism properly, we must be well advised, supported and enabled in trying to exploit the existing distribution channels of the tourism industry - the tour operators and ground handlers. It is a very specialised area, and very few in the cultural sphere have such expertise. That is what the Tourist Board can best bring to the table, and it should be encouraged to do so. Once again, there is an issue for the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment.


Mr Sweeney: Perhaps I might summarise. The current budget for the museums and heritage sector is £10 million. If we are serious about cultural tourism and wish to avoid repetitions of Navan, that budget must be increased immediately by at least £5 million next year. There has been a great deal of talk about it, and we must now put money into it - it is as simple as that. Much of the existing infrastructure is surviving from hand to mouth and day to day. The extra money could be channelled to help people plan on a three- to five-year basis. That is the direction in which we need to go.


The cultural tourism programme coming from Europe should be targeted on three different areas: marketing support; events and festivals; and small infrastructure additions. I do not feel we need any great deal of new infrastructure, but there are some small additions to be made to what we have at the moment. In bringing this forward, there is a need for integration between the private, community, and public sectors and the Irish and Ulster-Scots traditions; I ask you to take that on board.


Mr Shannon: Thank you for your interesting and enthusiastic submission. Is it better to promote that culture through the councils? I believe you suggested that it is. You mentioned the different bodies involved, and I am unsure about how much the Tourist Board does to encourage cultural tourism. What is your relationship with it? What has it done to help promote your area? How will that develop to the betterment of your area and everywhere else?


Mr Sweeney: To be fair to the Tourist Board, cultural tourism has not been a priority until the last year or two. There has been no money from the Tourist Board for it. As I said in the summary, the importance of delivery at local level cannot be overemphasised. I look to the model created through the Sperrins Cultural Partnership, which had both successes and failures. It was difficult, but that is the model that should be pursued and developed, for it has potential. The importance of the councils taking a leading role should not be overlooked either.


Mr Shields: I shall reinforce some of the points Mr Sweeney made. The Assembly clearly recognises the potential that tourism and culture have for future development, and we strongly support that. We recognise that, to a large extent, there are two distinct cultural traditions in Northern Ireland. The challenge for the Assembly and the Executive is to find a way of bringing together the potential in both cultures, both to enhance them and to exploit the potential.


Our area has a very strong cultural tradition. It is an untapped resource that can make a significant contribution to the development of society. For example, the language and music traditions have been highly exploited in west Donegal. That area has advantages which we do not, such as the proximity of the sea and beaches.


There is, however, strong potential for developing the two cultures side by side and bringing together their respective strengths for the benefit of society. A local Church of Ireland rector in my community is planning a festival in September. It is an integrated festival in that he intends to have people from both the Irish and Scottish dancing traditions coming together. He has secured around £15,000 funding. It is a very ambitious programme, and it is the first time that anything has been attempted in recent years in my community. I am strongly supportive of it, and I hope it will be an example of what can be done in the emerging situation.


The initiative from local communities for such projects allows those schemes to take on their own momentum. However, those projects need the type of support that Mr Sweeney suggested - funding, resourcing, support, encouragement, planning and development. We in Omagh District Council have already begun to put a structure in place - the Sperrins Cultural Partnership - that could act as a model for the future development of such programmes.


I commend such thinking to the Executive and the Assembly. I hope, from our discussion and the Committee's deliberations, that some form of sustainable structure will be found that will set out a plan over the next three to five years to develop the strong potential.


Mr McKelvey: I also support the submission. It is especially relevant given that an all-Ireland pipe band contest will be held in Omagh. A number of bands from both sides have played together at festivals. Omagh has a very successful record in that, especially with pipe bands and brass bands from both traditions. Those bands have made a big impression. St Eugene's Brass Band and the Gortaclare Pipe Band put on a show, with excellent musical arrangements, in the Silverbirch Hotel in Omagh; Mr Sweeney will fill you in on the details.


Culture is of great importance for both sides. When young people are involved in dancing and go out to enjoy themselves, it creates an atmosphere in homes which no one realises. There is a great deal of involvement from youth, and we in west Tyrone must nourish and develop that. The Assembly needs such a strategy not in ten years but now.


The Deputy Chairperson: Thank you, Cllr McKelvey. We had the Northern Ireland Bands' Association to visit, and it was quite a revelation to listen to them. I could not agree with you more.


Mr J Wilson: I should like to pick up on Jim Shannon's question about cultural tourism and Mr Sweeney's comment that we have not yet tapped into it. Is cultural tourism promoted well enough in Northern Ireland? If I wished to come to Ireland for a holiday and had an interest in culture, where should I first be confronted with material promoting the beauty of the Sperrins or Omagh? Should I find it in the airport I was leaving in Washington, Boston or somewhere in Europe, or should I actually be in Omagh before being attracted to material promoting the beauty and culture of the area?


Mr Sweeney: Perhaps I might answer your second question first. We have a distribution network for all our literature which covers every tourist information centre in the North, including those at airports. We also distribute it through the tourist information offices in the Republic - those are all part of the network. We operate as part of the Northern Ireland tourist information centre network; it is all in place. One of the problems you sometimes find is servicing and updating that network regularly. From time to time it falls behind, and people ring me saying "I was in such and such a place, and I did not see your brochure, but I did see those of others." It may be the case that they had just run out without our being informed or asked for more, but we have a regular point at which we distribute material. We hope you would get it at your point of entry.


In the past we have taken out advertisements on ferries from Scotland and Holyhead in Wales to Dublin and Larne with the object of promoting our area, so we hope you would also find the material on the boat.


To date the promotion of cultural tourism as a product has not happened in any sort of concerted strategic way, though it is not done in any great strategic way in the Republic either. However, through products such as Riverdance, which has universal acclaim, the culture associated with the Republic is recognised everywhere. People associate it with that jurisdiction, and somehow we are losing out - I cannot figure out the reason. I hope that the new all-Ireland tourism promotion company will address the issue.


Mr J Wilson: Is it very likely that I should already have been in Dublin, Cork or Shannon and seen their attractions before I should see those in Northern Ireland?


Mr Sweeney: Yes. I should say that is likely.


Mr McMenamin: I entirely agree with you, Mr Sweeney, when you speak of community ownership; it is very important. It is most important that we learn and respect each other's culture, particularly for young people. Your new chief executive, Mr McSorley, organised several very successful festivals during his time in Strabane.


I have one very important question, which you touched on. In your submission you mentioned the pressure on funding for the heritage and museum sector. Would a more co-ordinated approach address some of the sustainability problems currently being experienced by heritage centres and other visitor attractions?


Mr Sweeney: Yes. As I said, the Assembly and the Executive need a heritage strategy for Northern Ireland. At present we have the Museums and Galleries of Northern Ireland (MAGNI) operation, which includes four museums. A review of second-tier provision - the heritage centres and theme parks - has recently been completed, but the report has not yet been issued. To the best of my knowledge, it did not say anything important, although I am not dismissing it entirely.


We have an opportunity now, as we move into the cultural tourism programme, to examine the heritage and museum sectors, and new alignments and relationships between the various institutions, to try to bring them forward in a more co-ordinated and streamlined manner with more support from the centre.


Mr McSorley: Perhaps I might comment on an important issue raised by Mr McMenamin. As Mr Sweeney mentioned, we are carrying out a feasibility study on The Ulster History Park at local level, and we are examining how it is integrated into other parts of the heritage product. Integration is particularly important, especially in Omagh, where we have The Ulster- American Folk Park, which is a museum of emigration, and The Ulster History Park, which is a museum of settlement. The History Park looks at settlement in Ireland during the last 10,000 years, and it is a wonderful educational and cultural facility. It is important to get central resources to support that kind of infrastructure, for it is a heavy burden on a local community. However, it is part of the total product of Northern Ireland, and it must been seen and supported in that light.


Mr Davis: There is much talk of the potential for culture and the arts. How much money does your council put into arts and tourism?


Mr Sweeney: The revenue budget for arts and tourism in any given year is £800,000. In addition to that, we have infrastructure investment of approximately £11 million to £12 million. It is a serious investment in culture and tourism in our area, and that is why we are so interested in the Committee's work.


Mr McSorley: This reinforces my point that Omagh District Council has made a clear investment and continues to do so. It is a huge burden on the council and, in looking for support, we must find ways to gain central recognition of the importance of Omagh as a product and achieve the support required for its survival.


Mr McElduff: Jim Wilson asked where Omagh is first experienced. I recently returned from an education trip to Scotland and saw the map on the carpet in Belfast International Airport; I was struck that Omagh is missing. I propose a Committee visit to the Ulster History Park; perhaps Mr Sweeney and Mr McSorley will facilitate that.


Mr McSorley: That is an excellent suggestion, for it is worthwhile seeing things on the ground. We should welcome you and, if you accept that invitation, we shall make the necessary arrangements.


The Deputy Chairperson: We should be happy to accept. You are correct in saying that heritage centres and museums should be centrally funded rather than having to scratch round for money like the Navan Centre at the moment. We shall examine your model, for we accept that we are approaching the issue from behind, but that does not mean we cannot catch up. This inquiry will put the questions raised by your submission and those brought up by Committee members into the Assembly's domain. The potential for cultural tourism now being flagged up as something we did not pay attention to in the past, but it is now in the mainstream. Thank you for your submissions and for attending this morning's meeting.


Thursday 14 June 2001

Members present:

Mrs Nelis (Deputy Chairperson)
Mr Davis
Mr McElduff
Mr McMenamin
Mr Shannon
Mr J Wilson


Mr F Mac an Fhailigh )

Mr R Ó Ciaráin ) Gael-Linn

Mr H Ó Briain )

Mr D Ó Dufaigh )


The Deputy Chairperson: Good morning, Gentlemen, you are very welcome.


If you present your submission, the Committee will ask you questions on it.


Mr Mac an Fhailigh: Go raibh maith agat, a Chathaoirligh. Ar dtús, ba mhaith liom mo bhuíochas a ghabháil leis an Choiste as seans a thabhairt dúinn labhairt anseo inniu. I thank the Committee for inviting us to speak today. On my left is Hearman Ó Briain, our chief executive, Mr D Ó Dufaigh is head of arts from our office in Dublin and Réamann Ó Ciaráin is our executive officer based in Armagh.


Mr Ó Briain: Good morning. Maidin bhreá. Gael-Linn was founded in 1953 to promote the Irish language and culture throughout the island. It is important to say that we are non-political and non-governmental; that is not widely understood, even in the South.


We receive annual grant aid from the new cross-border body for languages, An Foras Teanga; before that we received a similar grant from the Department of the Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands in Dublin.


That said, Gael-Linn is a business as well as an organisation for promoting the language. We have a good revenue - we generate up to 60% of the total amount that we spend on activities to promote the Irish language and its culture.


First, we promote the Irish language and culture by teaching the language to adults and children. Secondly, we offer support to teachers of Irish. We offer a language course to teachers, in-service training in conjunction with the education and library boards and we provide educational publications. Recently, we have been producing CD-ROMs and we are also setting up an Internet site to provide e-learning. We intend to offer e-learning not just in Ireland but throughout the world.


Thirdly, we organise the support events that encourage the use of the Irish language and that encompass cultural elements such as music and dance. Examples are Abair, which are quizzes, and Tráth na gCeist. Mr Mac An Fhailigh will tell you more about the different events that are mainly aimed at schoolchildren and the events for children and young adults who belong to clubs or social committees.


Although we receive grant aid we take a business approach to the promotion of all our activities. That has been evident in recent years in our approach to the development and promotion of the language and culture. By a business approach I mean that the first question that we ask is whether the action would benefit our organisation aside from benefiting the language or culture. Secondly, we insist that what we do is measurable; and thirdly, we have recently been looking at whether the product is deliverable. We now insist and ensure that we take a business-like approach to everything that we do.


Mr Mac An Fhailigh: We are interested in the language sector of tourism. In recent years we have offered Irish science days for Irish-medium schools with the Armagh Planetarium. Last week 750 children from Irish-medium schools came to the Lough Neagh Discovery Centre.


Many people in Northern Ireland and in the Republic of Ireland speak Irish, and, considering the east/west aspect, many people speak Scottish Gaelic. Those people and the Irish-medium sector are being excluded from our museums and major visitor centres because there are no audio-visual presentations and no signage in Irish. There are 25 Irish-medium primary schools, two Irish-medium secondary schools and another seven or eight Irish-medium schools in the border counties. Those children are being denied the opportunity to visit educational centres simply because there are no facilities for them. There is no signage or printed matter. Multilingual presentations can be done on an opt-in basis and they are very unobtrusive.


Over the past few years we have run 'Aspects of a Shared Heritage'. I shall leave a copy here for those interested. It is a series of workshops on place names and surnames that we offered to schools and, to a limited extent, to adults. We offered it in St Mary's University College and we are discussing it with Stranmillis College.


People have a sense of place and are interested in what their place name means, but no effort has been made to satisfy that interest. To promote tourism we could encourage people to stay at home for a weekend or encourage visitors from the Republic by organising seminars and weekends on place names, on aspects of the shared heritage and on the meaning and origin of surnames. It would attract visitors, because people are interested in their own sense of place. Visitors are intrigued by our place names. I know that bilingual signage can be contentious, but there are areas in which it would be welcome. There is no reason why there should not be an explanation of the origin and meaning of the place names of the counties and major towns in Northern Ireland in our promotional material.


There is a large market for language tourism based on the minority languages of the European Union, and so far it has not been tapped. Speakers of minority languages are generally interested in other minority languages. West Belfast is the only place where it has been tapped, and that could be extended to other areas. Community and other groups could be supported to become involved in language tourism. A wealth of material in the Irish language was collected in the Sperrins, in South Armagh and in Rathlin Island in living memory, and this has never been properly exploited. Many Irish speakers, myself among them, would be interested in such material, and I know that speakers of Scottish Gaelic would also be interested. The material is there, and that heritage could and should be exploited.


The music and song are not being exploited either. There is a large market at home for language, arts and culture that can be exploited quite easily, but it is not happening.


Worldwide, 70 million people can claim Irish ancestry. Many of them are interested in genealogy; they have a great interest in Irish mythology, folklore and literature. It would not be hard to fund groups to organise weekends or seminars to exploit a market that undoubtedly exists.


The Deputy Chairperson: Go raibh míle maith agat.


Mr Wilson: Thank you, Gentlemen, for your submission. What links do you have with the Northern Ireland Tourist Board?


Mr Mac an Fhailigh: We have had no contact with the Northern Ireland Tourist Board. However, a wealth of Irish language mythology and folklore was collected in the Sperrins, and the Tourist Board could exploit it or help others to exploit it. Perhaps people are working with the Tourist Board, but I do not know of them. We have had no contact with the Northern Ireland Tourist Board because we have not tried to exploit the material either or run events on it. We have gone directly to local people about their shared heritage.


Mr Wilson: I am surprised to learn that there is no contact between you and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board. That is not a criticism. I imagine that there is a great deal of contact between Bord Fáilte and language-based groups in Donegal.


Mr Ó Briain: We could be useful as we know where to tap into it. We know where to find it and we would be able to produce it.


Mr Mac an Fhailigh: Three years ago the organiser of Irish courses in Donegal complained that Donegal did not appear on the map available at Shannon Airport.


The Deputy Chairperson: I agree with you that the Irish origins of townlands and place names are very important. The Tourist Board has a responsibility, in promoting tourism, to give multilingual information on signage. It does not do that at present; perhaps because it is not asked to. I have had difficulty in persuading it to put signage up at historical places in one language.


One group we spoke to was very concerned that townland names were disappearing and being replaced by postcodes. That is a step backwards. It is not progress. I am interested in what you say about place names and about passing on that very rich history to children through the Federation for Ulster Local Studies.


Children should know the origins of townland names that are in the Irish language, as do people trying to trace their roots in this country. A place name may be all they have to go on, only to find that it has been replaced by a number. The Northern Ireland Tourist Board has a responsibility, and the Committee will remind it of that.


Mr Davis: In promoting the Irish language do you make overtures to the Unionist community? Is it receptive?


Mr Mac an Fhailigh: The schools programme was offered in state grammar schools only. A wealth of information was obtained on surnames, place names and on the song and music tradition in Ulster. There are two types of music - good music and bad music; and if one side has a good tune it will not be allowed to keep it. The other side will not let that happen. At the end of each workshop or lecture we held a 15 to 20-minute basic conversational Irish course. We had a very good reception in the 24 schools in which we operated and from the limited number of adult groups to which we offered it.


The idea that a language belongs to one group of people or another is a fallacy, because a language is merely a means of communication. It cannot "belong" to anyone. It is only when one loads a language with baggage that it starts to have connotations. Unfortunately, languages here have certain connotations; but that is not unique to here. French is regarded as the language of love or a sexy language. It is not; it is just a language. It is merely a series of grunts.


Mr Ó Dufaigh: We gave an assessment form to each student who participated in the shared heritage programme. Ninety nine per cent of those assessment forms specifically asked for more of the language lesson.


Mr Davis: What grant aid do you receive?


Mr O'Briain: We got IR£511,000 this year.


Mr McMenamin: I am amazed that neither Bord Fáilte nor the Northern Ireland Tourist Board has liaised with you. I wish you good luck with your new web site. What role do you envisage Gael-Linn playing with other organisations involved in music, dance, genealogy, literature and the development and promotion of a broadly based cultural tourism in Northern Ireland?


Mr Ó Ciaráin: The Irish language and culture are accepted throughout the world, and very often people do not recognise what is on their own doorstep. A new Irish language e-magazine receives many of its hits from places as distant as New York. In conjunction with Queen's University I recently travelled on behalf of Gael-Linn to Cluj in western Romania, which has an institute of Irish studies. The people there were fascinated by everything to do with Ireland and were particularly keen on the Irish language.


Visitors to any country want to taste the local cuisine and hear the local music, and Gael-Linn has a very large CD catalogue of Irish traditional music. Visitors want to hear the language being spoken, and we have courses in Gaoth Dobhair for which we offer some scholarships. We are witnessing more and more people from Europe and America - it is not yet a deluge but it is far from negligible. Visitors want to do something more than lie on the beach, and if they do not want to lie on the beach Ireland is the right country.


We should be doing more with other organisations, including Bord Fáilte, to promote traditional Irish music. It is one of the first doors into the culture of Ireland. Gael-Linn gave groups such as Clannad their first break.


Mr Mac an Fhailigh: We do work with local groups, but it is often done informally through personal contacts. If groups want our help we are more than prepared to discuss co-operation.


Mr Ó Dufaigh: Gael-Linn has its own record label with a rich back catalogue of traditional music and singing, and every year we produce CDs. We also have a record distribution business that distributes about 30 other labels, including traditional and world ethnic music. We also license traditional music tracks from our albums to other countries. For example, Aoife Ní Fhearaigh is a sean-nós singer from Gaoth Dobhair, and she is very popular in Japan where we have licensed several tracks for her.


As Mr Ó Briain said, our Internet and web-based projects will be much more than an information web site. Not only will it have e-learning for delivering language services and language teaching materials online it will also have an e-commerce element for marketing our music. It will be more than the catalogue and our own label; it will broaden out other labels. We also intend to create a knowledge base of music that will enable a visitor to the site to look for artists to find out what they have produced. It will enable the visitor to find out what other artists they have worked with; what is on their albums, and links into other songs; who else sings those songs or plays that tune; and links to a completely integrated traditional music knowledge base. That will be on the web. It will be a soft-sell engine for the music, for our own and other labels. It will be available as a service to promote the music.


Mr Shannon: What relationship do you have with the UK mainland, specifically to the British and Ulster-Scots culture? What has your organisation done to recognise those very distinct and important cultures?


Mr Mac An Fhailigh: I had two meetings with Dr Adamson to discuss the production of a booklet. Dr Adamson and Mr McCausland spoke of producing a similar booklet, and they studied it to see if it would be of use to them. There may be opportunities for us to co-operate on it. That is the only contact I have had so far.


Mr Shannon: Apart from the exchange of the booklet has there been no other contact?


Mr Mac An Fhailigh: No.


Mr Ó Dufaigh: We ran an INTERREG programme with Urrdd Gobaith Cymru (UGC), a youth organisation in Wales.


Mr Ó Briain: They are student exchange programmes.


Mr Ó Dufaigh: We have brought young people from Wales to various centres in Ireland and sent groups from Irish-medium schools to UGC centres in Wales. We are also involved with Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge, which is based in Dublin and is a co-ordinating body for Irish language organisations. Every year it runs a cultural exchange tour with Scotland. It brings Scottish Gaelic poets, musicians and singers to tour Ireland, and a group of Irish artists go to Scotland to the Gaelic areas. We are also involved in organising that.


Mr McElduff: Cuirim fearadh na fáilte roimh an fhoireann ó Ghael-Linn. I shall resist the reference to the "mainland". Whenever I hear "mainland" I automatically think I am on Tory Island.


I am interested in the references to the Sperrins, Rathlin Island and parts of County Armagh, which have great cultural tourism potential. I would like to see what has happened in Glencolumbkille replicated in the Sperrins, Rathlin and County Armagh. The Irish language has boosted Glencolumbkille economically, particularly in the summer, and I imagine that it is a huge part of the area's economic life. Could that be replicated in the Sperrins? Who should be the lead agency in driving it forward?


Mr Mac An Fhailigh: What happened in Glencolumbkille was initially locally driven. The initiator, a friend of mine, took a big chance when he built the centre.


Any such scheme in the Sperrins or Rathlin Island must be community-based since it cannot flourish without the agreement and goodwill of local people. One must have the people on one's side, and one needs a centre.


Mr Ó Briain: We are involved in a summer college in the remote community of Eachléim in west Mayo. The community is tiny. Indeed, from Dublin it is easier to travel to the most northerly part of Donegal than to Eachléim.


It is a community crying out for help, and the only way it can get that help is through tourism and culture. We have taken an option on two small industrial sites built on spec. We are going to take a chance on them and produce courses there for transition-year students at first. We shall bring them in not just for three or even nine weeks during the summer but throughout the year. We have a special communications course on how to produce a radio programme through the medium of Irish. In that way children will learn Irish who may have turned their backs on it elsewhere. They will do so because they feel that they are learning another skill.


It is best to start with a simple idea that one can identify and zoom in on. Too vague a venture will attract no one. We hope that the children's parents will eventually participate at weekends. Houses in the area that were built on a tax relief business expansion scheme are let during the summer. They are idle during the winter, so we feel it would be nice if parents came up. That is cultural tourism. It is based on a business approach and has a target market. I suggest something along those lines to start, and we should certainly be glad to help.


Mr Ó Ciaráin: Gael-Linn is very involved in the community development of the Irish language - I am thinking particularly of the feiseanna. Mr Mac an Fhailigh can give you exact figures, but about 1,500 youngsters who would not ordinarily have had the opportunity to participate in competitions through the medium of the Irish language are doing so because of our efforts. That is replicated in Armagh. One of our activities involved realising the potential in the huge numbers returning to the Irish language and the classes that were springing up all over Northern Ireland. We saw a definite need for advancement, for people were starting off in the bunrang and moving to the meánrang; large numbers were fairly fluent, but the next stage was lacking. Therefore we approached the Irish department of the University of Ulster, and for the first time it is offering an outreach centre in Armagh to provide a diploma in the Irish language. The catchment area is fairly wide, and I imagine that people will come from Omagh, Dungannon and Monaghan. That is good, and I feel that it could be replicated in other areas.


The Deputy Chairperson: The model is certainly there. Thank you very much for your presentation. I found it stimulating since you are the only organisation to have successfully married culture - language, music and dance - with business. You approach everything from a business perspective, which is how it should be done. That is why you have survived for so long. I bought my very first record of beautiful Irish language music with a Gael-Linn label a long time ago.


My son teaches Irish in New York, and every summer many of his students visit me in Derry on their way to Glencolumbkille. They stay in boarding houses and spend their money there. You have flagged up a huge potential this morning that has not been tapped into. Thank you for coming.


Thursday 14 June 2001

Members present:

Mrs Nelis (Deputy Chairperson)

Dr Adamson

Mr Davis

Mr McElduff

Mr McMenamin

Mr J Wilson


Ms G Greer )

Mr B Mitchell ) Irish Genealogy Ltd

Mr E Rossi )


The Deputy Chairperson: Welcome to the Committee evidence session. Some of the other Committee members might join us later. Following your presentation, the members will ask you some questions.


Mr Rossi: First of all, may I introduce my colleagues. Grace Greer is director of Armagh Ancestry in Armagh. Brian Mitchell is director of the Genealogy Centre in Londonderry.


I would like to start by explaining a little about the background to the project and then deal with the issues which are affecting it today. The Irish Genealogical Project was established in 1988. The original idea was to boost "roots" tourism on the island of Ireland, and specifically in the local communities. Therefore our ambition from the outset was to bring "roots" tourists to local communities. Other countries have adopted different approaches, and they bring these tourists to a central centre. However, we still maintain that the benefits of economic activity should be spread away from Dublin and Belfast and that everybody should be able to share in the potential of this wonderful project.


At the beginning of the project in 1988, 34 centres were designated as county centres. The project was supported and continues to be supported by Government trainees in the North and the South - for example, in the North ACE trainees input the baptism, birth and marriage records, mainly from local parishes but also from civil records. This proceeded apace until 1990 when the project received a major boost in the form of a £1·5 million grant from the International Fund for Ireland. That grant enabled the project to install good computer systems into the local centres, and it gave the local centres the impetus to commence with the computerisation process.


That continued until 1996 when the Republic of Ireland's Comptroller and Auditor General examined the project in the Republic. He looked at how the project was being managed, whether it was being co-ordinated properly and what the outputs were. It is a complex project because it has grown from the local communities. They generated these wonderful records and set about computerising them. Of course, the local communities were also working with the state agencies in the North and in the South. It is a unique partnership between the state and the local community. In 1996 the Comptroller and Auditor General identified a number of issues around the co-ordination and planning of the project. Following that, it was decided to appoint a chief executive to my company - the first chief executive of Irish Genealogy Ltd.


Irish Genealogy Ltd is responsible for co-ordinating the projects throughout the island of Ireland. We are a very broad-based organisation, and we are the umbrella body for genealogy in Ireland. We have representatives from the centres in the shape of the Irish Family History Foundation, the Association of Professional Genealogists in Ireland and the Association of Ulster Genealogists and Record Agents. In addition, we have representatives from Government bodies in the Republic and from the Ulster American Folk Park in the North.


Both tourist authorities - the Northern Ireland Tourist Board and Bord Fáilte in the South - accept that there is a huge demand for the product which we have to offer. Genealogy is one of the top three interests in the United States at the moment, so the United States, in particular, is our target market. It is our challenge in Irish Genealogy Ltd to develop a marketing strategy which will boost "roots" tourism. Although we have moved on somewhat and have achieved quite a lot since the original days of the Irish Genealogical Project, our focus still remains the same - to boost "roots" tourism in the local communities. Both tourist authorities tell us that the demand is there, and we know from research that we have commissioned that the demand is there. However, the issue that we must grapple with, and which we are grappling with, is how to define the product so that we can market it. What is our product? We are currently addressing that.


There are other issues to be addressed in the context of the Irish Genealogical Project. One of them is that the IT infrastructure is ageing. It is a very robust system, and it is very good at recording the details, but we need to modernise the format. We have had a lot of success with another major issue under the aegis of Peace I. In our Armagh office we are building a central signposting index that will enable people to search for their ancestors. This will benefit people who are unsure of the county of origin of their ancestors. So far, we have loaded two million records onto the central signposting index in Armagh.


We are very excited about the products and the projects, and both tourist boards have been very supportive. Since we made our submission, the Northern Ireland Tourist Board has agreed to become an observer on our board. It is very important that we have both tourist authorities represented so that we can tap into their professional expertise.


While there are issues to be resolved, and issues which we are tackling, the outlook is very bright for genealogy and for "roots" tourism on the island of Ireland. Working together as a partnership involving the state organisations, the local communities and the professional genealogists, we can all move forward to deliver the original vision of the Irish Genealogical Project.


Mr J Wilson: Thank you for your submission. You quite rightly draw attention to the economic benefit that derives from boosting "roots" tourism. For the purpose of my question can I describe you as a tourist attraction provider? Would you accept that?


Mr Rossi: I would be comfortable with that.


Mr J Wilson: Are you satisfied - and obviously I am focusing on the Northern Ireland aspect - with the relationship between yourselves and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board? Are you getting from it what you think you need from it?


Mr Rossi: The most significant development in the last couple of years in that regard was the establishment of the Northern Ireland Cultural Tourism Partnership Group. We have been delighted to contribute to the work of the partnership at a number of levels. It put us in contact with the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, both here and in the United States.


Secondly, it enabled us to develop relationships with other cultural tourism sectors. There is a specialist market where people come to Northern Ireland to seek out their roots, but people come to Northern Ireland for other reasons. One of them may be roots, but they may also wish to experience the other cultural attractions that Northern Ireland has to offer. Our clear view is that the cultural tourism partnership established by the Northern Ireland Tourist Board is the way forward. We were delighted to input into that and hope we can build on the work that that partnership has achieved already.


Mr J Wilson: If I were travelling from Boston, Washington or a European city by air, would my attention be drawn to you in promotional material?


Mr Rossi: We have kept our promotion reasonably low key at present because we fear that we are not quite ready to offer a product - we will be shortly. We could undertake a promotional campaign, but it might not be the right thing to do now. We would not like to build up people's expectations and have them disappointed if they come to Northern Ireland and are not able to access the records in the format that they require. This is part of our current challenge, and we are actively working with the two tourist authorities to develop a product that we can market abroad. We have already started that process and have piloted a product this year, which I have made reference to in my submission. We also hope to pilot a similar product in Northern Ireland this year as well.


Mr McMenamin: Do you have a copyright to the genealogy records that you hold? Is your web site connected to the Northern Ireland Tourist Board?


Mr Mitchell: Before records were computerised, agreements and contracts were drawn up with the main record holders, who would be the churches of all denominations. There are contractual agreements, and at this stage the basis of that agreement is that the public get direct access to the database through the local centres. It is mainly for security, because the nature of information on some of these records can be sensitive. That is not to say that, long term, the databases could not be accessible directly on the Internet, but at this stage that is still down the road.


Mr Rossi: Regarding Internet access, I already mentioned that genealogy is of huge interest, particularly on the North American continent. It is one of the top three leisure interests on the Internet and has enormous potential. We have a small development web site at the moment, which you are welcome to have a look at, but do bear with us as it is under development. Recognising that potential, our board has decided to work towards providing a single portal on the Internet - a gateway for genealogy enquiries. We hope to position this portal right up there with the top genealogy web sites in the world, and if people have enquiries about their ancestors on the island of Ireland, or in Northern Ireland, they can search through this portal. It will be a gateway to our service providers, to the centres, or to the professional genealogists. That is our medium-term plan, which we are working on at present, and we hope to be in a position to launch this portal - a very exciting development - later this year.


Mr Davis: You mentioned the £1·5 million you received from the International Fund for Ireland. Is there any funding from other sources, and do you have any links with other bodies - for example, the Federation for Ulster Local Studies?


Mr Rossi: The Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands fund us at present in the Republic - that is our main funding base. We also receive funding from the EU programme for peace and reconciliation. The International Fund for Ireland money was provided 10 years ago, so that is spent. We are endeavouring to secure multi-annual funding from the authorities in the Republic, and also from the authorities in the North, to update the old computer systems that the International Fund for Ireland provided for 10 years ago.


Ms Greer: We have relationships with other organisations that do not directly provide genealogical research. We act as an outreach centre for the Public Record Office in Northern Ireland. If people come to the Armagh office and their genealogy is not specifically Armagh, they can use that facility. It will advise them what the Public Record Office has to offer. They can then make the decision to travel to Belfast to undertake work there.


Some of the centres have relationships of their own. We would like to funnel that through Irish Genealogy Ltd and develop those relationships so that all of the centres could get actively involved. The National Genealogical Society in the United States is very much into genealogy. Through a number of contacts that I had made with the society, it came as part of the genealogy tour to Armagh last year. It is coming back again this year.


We actively work with the Linen Hall Library to use its resources and also to direct people there. We advertise services in any of the newsletters available so that each of the services complements each other. That is the avenue we would like to take. We specifically provide genealogy, but some of the other organisations have specialist maps that our customers might like to use. It should be a two-way process that would let both organisations benefit.


Mr Davis: Have you any links with the local district or borough councils?


Ms Greer: Our office in Armagh is part of Armagh City and District Council and that relationship has been there since 1992. It actively got involved because it saw genealogy as a service that would dramatically enhance the tourism product that Armagh has to offer. Other centres may not actively be financed or organised though their local councils, but they would work heavily with them.


Mr McElduff: Did Bill Clinton's express interest in finding out about his ancestors increase the level of interest in your product? Also, where does the Irish World Citizen Organisation fit in? Is that presently in existence?


Mr Mitchell: The Irish World Citizen Organisation is now renamed Heritage World, and it operates out of Donaghmore Heritage Centre. That is one of the four Northern centres. The old Irish World Organisation is responsible for providing a service for County Tyrone and County Fermanagh.


Mr Rossi: It does of course help to raise the profile of ancestry research when a President expresses an interest in his heritage. Did we do anything with Bill Clinton?


Mr Mitchell: No. There was talk about Cassidy from Fermanagh. I believe there was a long lost cousin who was hoping that Bill would turn up at the door. There is also a lot of enthusiasm there for the Ulster-Scots connection.


Mr Rossi: We did the current President's and, of course his father's. One of our member centres, the Ulster Historical Foundation, did some work for a Republican Congressional Committee that made a very low-key small presentation to the current President this St Patrick's Day. When we look at our Internet sites we notice that the graph jumps up in the lead up to St Patrick's Day. It is nice to be able to measure and reflect that. St Patrick's Day is a very important marketing opportunity for us.


Dr Adamson: How far back do you trace ancestry? Do you trace it back to the old Irish genealogical tracks and on through to God, for example?


Mr Rossi: Maybe one of the genealogy experts would like to answer that.


Mr Mitchell: The earliest record in our database dates back to 1642, which are the registers of St Columb's Cathedral. We tend to stick with trying to trace the direct line as far as we can through the more traditional records. As you say, there is literature that ties in Gaelic folklore with more recent history. As part of the tourism aspect there is no doubt that there is a great interest in - I do not know what you would call it - clan studies. A lot of people can trace their family history back to about 1800, but then the records start to peter out.


There is a danger that people can start adopting ancestors. It is very difficult to make links back beyond 1800, but you can tie research in with the surname history. Because of our location in Derry, and because the port of Londonderry was one of the main emigration ports right through from the 1700s, a lot of the people who approach us are of Ulster-Scots ancestry. However, the problem is that, in many cases, they come to us with more information than we can provide for them. They may have family letters or Bibles that say that their ancestor was from the townland of Lislane outside Limavady, but the records make it difficult to prove. By and large, we try to stick to facts and the information in the database. However, we realise that there is an interest in surname histories, and we try to tie that in as well.


Dr Adamson: Thank you very much. I asked that question because I like to try to trace my ancestry back to the old Scottish kings and through them to Dál Riada, but I am one of many millions of people who can do that.


The Deputy Chairperson: I know that a lot of your presentations are concerned with trying to trace the genealogical ancestry of the Irish and the Ulster-Scots in the United States, and that 39 million American citizens claim Irish ancestry and 5·6 million claim Ulster-Scots ancestry. Do you have any enquiries from Irish people on other continents, from the two-way traffic that occurred? It is very interesting that records are kept in Simancas and Louvain.


Mr Rossi: It is quite interesting. The commercial interest in genealogy is primarily driven from North America, but the Irish travelled all over the world. I was speaking recently to one of our genealogists who had a number of enquiries from Argentina, so interest comes from South America too. Australia and New Zealand also provide a huge market for us.


Interestingly, and my colleagues will bear this out, we have been receiving a number of enquiries in recent years from the UK - from Scotland and England. There is feeling that, with the peace process and with Ireland - North and South - developing so well, people are looking at their ancestry and asking why they have a particular name even though they live in Scotland or England. We are starting to develop a new market in England and Scotland, and that is very positive. It demonstrates that the Irish diaspora travelled the world.


The Deputy Chairperson: I agree that the potential impact of that on cultural tourism is enormous, and I am pleased to hear that you are beginning to get organised for it. Can I ask you about the Bord Fáilte records? According to your submission, 84,000 overseas visitors came here in 1999 solely for the purpose of tracing their roots, and they brought something like £34 million into the Irish economy. Do we have any research or statistics on the number of people who came to the North?


Mr Rossi: We do not have any quantitative evidence to hand, but I can say, and my colleagues will bear this out, that the numbers are increasing year by year. We have not put a figure on it yet, and we are looking at it in the context of developing our marketing plan, but we can say confidently that there are a number of "roots" tourists to the North of Ireland. Their spend is also very important. We find that they tend to belong to the upper income brackets, so when they come here they spend money. Our research shows that they are more likely to hire cars; they are more likely to travel outside the main centres away from the main attractions, and they are more likely to travel off season.


Many of our clients are retired, and they can get more attractive packages off season than during the main tourist season. This is another wonderful advantage and opportunity for "roots" tourism, because, as well as dissipating the business throughout the Province, it can bring people here outside the peak season.


The Deputy Chairperson: Thank you very much for your interesting submission, and we are very pleased to have you here.


It is good to have the information available for our inquiry.


Mr Rossi: We were delighted to be invited, and we hope that our input can make a small contribution to your excellent work.


Thursday 14 June 2001

Members present:

Mrs Nelis (Deputy Chairperson)

Dr Adamson

Mr Davis

Mr McElduff

Mr McMenamin

Mr J Wilson


Ms M McKee ) Belfast Festival at Queen's


The Deputy Chairperson: Good afternoon; you are very welcome. You may want to make a presentation based on your submission to the Committee, and then take some questions.


Ms McKee: That is fine. Thank you for the opportunity to speak to the Committee. I want to expand on what I have submitted in writing. The Belfast Festival at Queen's has always felt that it has had a very strong role to play in developing cultural tourism. That has been prohibited for a long time by other outside factors that we had less control over.


We are celebrating our fortieth festival next year, so there is a long heritage and history of bringing work to Northern Ireland that otherwise would not have been seen. Increasingly, and very importantly, we are presenting the culture of Northern Ireland and showing the work that is being produced here. As we now enter a new phase with the recent appointment of a new director, that is something that we want to do much more of.


In terms of our success in attracting cultural tourists, there is definitely potential there for us to improve upon. However, we clearly do not have the resources or have the complete picture of expertise to take advantage of that potential. We need to adopt a partnership approach and work with our colleagues within the arts sector in Northern Ireland, Southern Ireland and in the rest of the UK. We also need to work with all the tourist organisations and the various arts statutory bodies that exist here - whether that is the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure and/or the Arts Council of Northern Ireland - and with Belfast City Council, which has been very supportive in helping us to develop cultural tourism. We see the thing progressing through constant and continual communication.


As I have tried to infer here, when I first came to work in the Belfast Festival at Queen's, I was conscious that people were talking constantly about the Edinburgh Festival and about how well it attracts tourists. Scotland is the largest market that the Edinburgh Festival attracts from, and London is the second largest market.


In many ways we have the potential to attract people from places like London because the distances are almost the same and flights are now available, and so on. However, I do not speak the tourism language or know exactly where to go to within the tourism sector. That is why we tried to get involved with the Northern Ireland Tourist Board as our first port of call and also because it was an organisation that had funded the festival for many years. We found that it had been going through a large period of change to do with the set-up of the all-Ireland tourism body, and whilst it has made great inroads through the cultural tourism partnership to communicate and listen to the cultural sector, there are still huge gaps there. It still tends to concentrate on the bigger organisations. That is fine for us because we are one of the organisations that it concentrates on, but we are very aware that a lot of smaller arts organisations look to the festival for leadership. We find that they come to us and say "We do not know what is going on with cultural tourism; we keep being told about it and being expected to deliver targets on it, but we feel cut adrift".


The Belfast Festival would like to develop a role not just about bringing tourists to the festival but about talking about and bringing tourists to the cultural life of Belfast and Northern Ireland and exposing that to a greater audience. We are heavily involved with the City of Culture bid, which Belfast is mounting for 2008. Since that organisation has been set up, it has viewed the Belfast Festival as being a major cornerstone of what it is trying to put together in the run-up to the bid and shortlisting, and hopefully it will win the bid. Our role is very much to support what Belfast 2008 is going to do and to help it market the city's culture, and also Northern Ireland's culture, because the City of Culture could have great spin-offs for the whole of Northern Ireland. We want to try to develop the whole idea that, in terms of culture, Belfast has a rightful place on the European map.


The difficulties come when one tries to engage with the tourism sector. We have worked with the Northern Ireland Tourist Board and with the Belfast Visitor and Convention Bureau, which has been very proactive in terms of marketing and helping to market the festival - and not just our festival but other ones like the West Belfast Festival, which is also gaining a very good reputation on the European stage. All those organisations help to facilitate international marketing.


There is still a gap concerning one-to-one interaction with the people who actually deliver tourists and who think that we are still some way behind - of talking to the tour operators, the people operating in the European, USA and Canadian markets. For example, last year a group of 32 tourists came over from Canada. The person running the tour company in Canada was originally from here, so she had a good idea about what she was talking about. However, she normally took her group of Canadians to see the sights and shows in London. I met with her and she said that she knew that the Belfast festival was great and she would much rather bring them here. We talked through the process, and last year, before going to London, they stayed in Belfast for the opening weekend of the festival. They saw about four different shows, attended the opening reception and met the vice-chancellor of the university - all of which they absolutely loved. They loved everything they experienced - the festival and everything the city of Belfast had to offer. However, that was a very labour-intensive process.


I am able to sell the festival better than anyone else, and I really need the contacts in the tourism industry. We need to make sure that it filters down to the smaller cultural organisations. To try and help this process along and support our role as an advocate for cultural work produced here, we have initiated a section in this year's festival called 'Spotlight in Belfast'. This will highlight the work that is produced not just in theatre - we have a very strong independent theatre sector here - but also visual arts, literature, crafts and various art forms in which Belfast, and Northern Ireland, are leading the way.


We are working with the British Council to bring over between 10 and 20 European arts presenters. This will probably be their first time in Northern Ireland. They will see the city and what Belfast has to offer in terms of tourism and culture. They will take back not only the cultural context but also, hopefully, a positive perception of what they have seen. They will go back to their cities and countries and tell of what Belfast has to offer culturally, which is invaluable. The festival will particularly be looking to the Belfast Visitor and Convention Bureau to help facilitate that trip.


As a festival, we have a lot of experience and potential to really contribute to the growth of cultural tourism. To be honest, we do not always have the resources, but we have the core values and brand. There is a gap. Tourism organisations are working hard with the cultural sector, but there are still information and practical gaps preventing us from achieving what we really should be achieving. There is a problem of the smaller organisations feeling slightly left out in the cold.


Mr J Wilson: To some extent you have answered my question. I want to bring you back to the gap that you mentioned a number of times in your submission. This is something we have heard about from other submissions. What is needed to close that gap? Does it need money and a better understanding of your product? Are you not sufficiently recognised as a tourist attraction provider? What needs to be done between you and the tourist industry - particularly the Northern Ireland Tourist Board? For example, if I were attracted to the idea of spending a holiday in Ireland, on leaving a European or American airport and arriving in Cork or Dublin, where would I first have my attention drawn to your product? Would I be in Belfast before I knew about it?


Ms McKee: If you are talking specifically about the festival, this is one area that we as an organisation need to address. We operate at a very finite time of the year - October to November, as I am sure you know - and therefore the marketing and promotion is roughly confined to September, when we launch, and throughout the period of the festival. If you were in Dublin then, and went to the tourism centre or the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, you would see a festival presence. However, for the rest of the year you would probably not see a festival presence, and that is something that we are trying to address in a number of ways. First, we are producing print throughout the year.


Secondly, we want to have an all-round website presence. If you went into the Northern Ireland Tourist Board in Dublin and there were no festival programmes there because it was February, that would not matter. If you wanted to know something about the Belfast Festival, they could look it up on their website or give you internet access, so there are ways of maintaining our profile throughout the year.


With regard to closing the gap, money is an issue, and everybody will probably say the same thing. In an international market place, significant amounts of investment are required to make any impact, regardless of what area of business you are in. Money is part of the story, but it is not the only story. The other part involves knowing what to do, when to do it and who to do it with. The Northern Ireland Tourist Board has gathered a lot of market intelligence, information and experience over the years that it has been in operation. The issue now is how to translate that information into a useable form and communicate it to the cultural organisations.


I have a marketing budget, which is never going to be as big as I would like, but I am committed to attracting cultural tourists. First and foremost, I am interested in the audience that is on my doorstep because they are the easiest to access but, in terms of cultural tourism, I am committed to bringing those tourists in. Taking something practical such as direct mail as an example, I need the Northern Ireland Tourist Board to provide me with the mailing list of a specific group of people who have visited here in the past or of the type of people who come to the Odyssey to watch ice hockey. The Odyssey has attracted a whole new category of people who have never been here before. Once they have been here, seen the ice hockey, visited the Odyssey and stayed in a nice hotel, they might be open to the idea of coming back at a different time of year for a different cultural experience. It is a matter of me being able to get my hands on that information.


I need to work in partnership with airline companies such as easyJet and Go, which have just started to come here with cheap fares, in order to make my budget stretch and get the right message to the right people at the right time. That is the kind of practical progress that we really need to see happening. That will require money, but only throwing money at the project will not provide the answer.


Mr J Wilson: You made the point again that the right message needs to get to the right people at the right time. If someone were in Dublin in August, they would probably find out that something was happening in Belfast in September. However, by the time that they are in Dublin they have already made up their minds about what they will be doing for the seven days that they are there. Their attention has been drawn to what is happening in Belfast, but they are unlikely to change their plans. People need to be told before they go to Dublin that there is an event on in Belfast.


Ms McKee: That is one of the other difficulties we experience when organising events with the arts and the tourist worlds. I have discussions with, for example, Northern Ireland Tourist Board representatives in New York and Canada. For a long time, they have been saying that if I could tell them about the programme one or two years in advance, then they would be able to market the programme, and they have no doubt that they could deliver tourists. In an ideal world that would happen, but I cannot do that for a number of reasons. There are practical reasons such as booking artists, although many artists, particularly big artists, are booked well in advance.


One of the main problems is that the arts rely on an annual funding process, whether that is through the Arts Council, Belfast City Council or any other body. All arts organisations are funded on a year-to-year basis. There is a movement in the arts to get the Arts Council to work with the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure to deliver three-year funding plans. Some lottery programmes allow for three-year funding applications. That would contribute to an overall ability for more strategic planning, but it would facilitate so much more in the area of cultural tourism, because we would be able to give information to the tourist organisations.


We are further hampered by one of the lottery rules. Much of the work that we are bringing into Northern Ireland is coming here for the first time, and we are even going to commission completely new work. Those projects can all apply for the lottery New Work grant through the Arts Council, which is great. That process takes roughly three to four months, but it can take longer. We are not allowed to publicise any of those events until the lottery decision has been made. We have just printed our highlights brochure for the festival, which will be ready next Tuesday. None of the highlights are being funded by the National Lottery, because our lottery decision will not be made until 21 June. Therefore we are in a vicious circle.


A way around that is to look at and learn from the Edinburgh Festival. People book for the Edinburgh Festival year-on-year because of what it is. They know that it is a quality festival that delivers quality events and caters to a wide taste year in, year out. Therefore, people are booking for the brand. If the Belfast Festival at Queen's got to that stage, the overseas Northern Ireland Tourist Board offices would only have to give the dates for the festival, and people would book. At present we are still event-led, and people wait to see what the events will be. That is part of our brand-building process.


Dr Adamson: Do you have a marketing plan and budget targeted at the tourist market?


Ms McKee: Yes. I am responsible for the overall marketing budget and, concentrating on the Northern Ireland audience, I divide that budget. We have recently undertaken market research that shows that the festival's primary catchment is a 25-mile drive time from Belfast. There is still market potential in that area, so I need to put money into penetrating that. I set money aside to work in partnership with the Northern Ireland Tourist Board and the Belfast Visitor and Convention Bureau to design and implement marketing campaigns to attract the cultural tourist.


The problem is that there is never enough money. Even with a partnership approach there is never enough money to make an impact. We always seem to be well down on what we feel we would like to do and what we could do. However, there is a budget that is dedicated to cultural tourists. We try to make its impact as strong as possible, but it is never enough.


Mr McElduff: A lot of the acts and attractions that appear in the likes of Armagh, Cookstown and Enniskillen art centres go from one centre to another. Does the same happen with acts that appear at the Edinburgh Festival, the West Belfast Community Festival or the Galway Arts Festival? Does the Belfast Festival at Queen's benefit from acts attracted through those festivals?


Ms McKee: There are varying cases. The Belfast Festival at Queen's sometimes works in partnership with the Dublin Theatre Festival, which attracts a lot of high calibre European theatre. We have often shared events with them because we have shared costs. There are pros and cons to that. If a show goes to Dublin, does well and sells out quickly, we can place an advertisement in their programme to say that we are showing it a couple of weeks later - because our festivals are close in the calendar - and people will come to Belfast to see it. However, the disadvantage is that if it does badly in Dublin, we are stuck.


In order to get national press and media attention in Belfast, the festival must have a big carrot, and that means a UK premier. Therefore, the Belfast Festival at Queen's is increasingly trying to be the only festival in Ireland and/or the UK that has a show. We have a number of events that fall into that category. You have got to give the media something that makes their journey worthwhile. If they can see the show in Birmingham, they will stay there and see it. If they can only see it in Belfast, they will come to Belfast.


We are exploring different ideas with the regional theatres. For instance, we have just had exploratory brainstorming with the new theatre in Derry. They are keen to look at some of the shows that the Belfast Festival at Queen's is bringing in for next year. Their intention is to carry on some of the shows for a week after the festival by taking them to Derry and having a "Belfast Festival" in the millennium forum week. Michael Poynor who is in charge of the Derry theatre feels that the festival could offer that brand. Derry people will come to Belfast, but they would prefer to stay in their own new, prestigious theatre. Therefore it is a good idea to share costs and bring an event to Derry.


Where appropriate, the Belfast Festival at Queen's will share on a show-to-show basis, but it also wants to lead the way and present attractions that nobody else is presenting.


Mr Davis: What is your marketing budget, and do you have difficulty getting information from the Northern Ireland Tourist Board?


Ms McKee: The marketing budget for the Belfast Festival this year is currently £140,000. We have at present an application to the National Lottery for audience development under a new scheme that they have just launched. That application concerns audience development, both in Northern Ireland and elsewhere. That could mean another £50,000 if we are successful, and in a way that sounds quite good. The Belfast Festival's overall financial position is not as strong as it has been, and it is currently carrying a deficit. We are still able to operate because we are a department of the university, and they are allowing us to do that. Any money that is saved in the marketing budget goes back into the overall budget.


Since the appointment of a cultural tourism officer in the Northern Ireland Tourist Board a couple of years ago, things have improved. That cultural tourism officer post is currently vacant, and no one from the board has been in touch with me this year. You could say that it is my job to get in touch with it, and of course it is, and I will be doing that. But I feel that it is a bad sign. This is the biggest arts festival in Ireland, and nobody from the Northern Ireland Tourist Board has been in touch. I have been making all the overtures, and I will continue to do so. There is a little bit of one-way traffic, and that is not helping anybody.


Mr Davis: How many people do you attract from outside the Province?


Ms McKee: We have looked at that and have been trying to build up our research over the last few years. Between 2% to 3% of our audiences come from outside Northern Ireland - and some 28% from outside Belfast. Looking at the overall tourism picture, that is not bad, but it is an area that can be improved, and it is something that we want to work on.


Mr Davis: Who do you think should be taking the lead on the clubbing scene for the 18-30s, and family activities, for example?


Ms McKee: It is our job to provide the events, and we have the knowledge and expertise in that area. Packaging those events and getting them out to the correct target markets has to be done in partnership with the Northern Ireland Tourist Board and with the regional tourism organisations.


Mr McMenamin: I am delighted to hear that you are considering going to the north-west with some of the acts for a week after the festival. Thank you for a very informative presentation. I applaud your energy and commitment.


The festival takes place outside the normal tourist season, and a number of art-based organisations have suggested that there is potential for developing a programme of events during the summer when many of our theatres are normally closed. How could the Belfast Festival at Queen's contribute to something of that nature?


Ms McKee: I am from Strabane and going to the north-west fits in with what I want to see - the festival reaching out to the Province.


The seasonal issue was another point of debate between the Northern Ireland Tourist Board and the festival, and they asked us to change our date. Their reason for not delivering cultural tourists to the festival was that it was at the wrong time of the year. Looking at the cultural calendar and people's lifestyles, we feel that our position is now at the right time of year. A couple of years ago we moved the festival from mid-November to the end of November, but we were getting too close to Christmas, and that was a problem. We moved the festival forward, and we now begin over the Halloween weekend.


The Halloween weekend has become a big focus for many cities and towns in Northern Ireland. Derry led the way by having a Halloween festival. The Belfast Festival went so far as to successfully tender for the Halloween celebrations for the city in 1999. We ran those celebrations, which were acknowledged by Belfast City Council to be one of, if not the, most successful Halloween events that they had ever had.


Again, due to a lack of resources and lack of a mutually beneficial partnership, we decided not to tender for that in subsequent years. However, we have been involved, in that we have worked with the people who have subsequently got the tender. We have made sure that any events that we are having fit around what they are having and that we can contribute.


Many Northern Ireland tourist representatives overseas, and particularly in Dublin, have said that the position of the Belfast Festival allows them to capitalise on the increasing market for city breaks, which tends to be outside the summer season. The Northern Ireland Tourist Board in Dublin, for example, welcomes the staging of the festival outside the traditional summer season and that we can extend the tourist season for Belfast and Northern Ireland into the autumn period.


Many theatres and arts centres in Belfast close down for the summer period. This year, Belfast City Council has initiated 'Summer in the City' - a six-week programme of events including outdoor cinema screening and taste-fests. We welcome that. The Belfast Festival feels that the whole summer period should be developed. First, we are considering running events in the summer period. That will fill a gap in the market and will also keep our profile up throughout the year. Increased competition means that we need to push our profile nearly all year round. That is why we are doing it.


For a number of years Belfast City Council had an events fund that we would have applied to and got money from. This year it decided to keep that fund in-house and run those events in-house. That is not the correct direction to take. In fact, the Belfast City Council events department should be forming partnerships with groups that run events in the city all the time - whether that is ourselves, the Grand Opera House or the Belfast Film Festival - and working to fill the summer period.


There will still be the problem of July, when people are unwilling to get involved in events, but it is hoped that that will change. There are opportunities for creativity - even outside traditional venues - during the summer period that the festival would like to be leading the way on.


The Deputy Chairperson: Do you work with the Northern Ireland Events Company (NIEC)? City breaks are a great idea; it just needs some marketing resources. People would come to Belfast from places like Paris and Frankfurt if there were co-operation with tour operators or airlines. I do not know how it could be organised. You have made an excellent presentation, and the potential is certainly there. Do you get co-operation? You talked about partnership as a way forward.


Ms McKee: The NIEC is one of our major funding organisations. We have had a very good relationship with them over the last number of years. There has been an interesting development with the NIEC. The initial aim was to stage events that would bring worldwide positive media coverage to Northern Ireland. They were involved in events like the Pavarotti concert at Stormont.


The festival's remit is slightly different from that of commercial entertainment promoters, like those who were involved with Pavarotti. We do a different thing. The NIEC realises the value of how the festival can contribute at a different level and to different markets. We work very well with NIEC. In fact, as well as pledging support for the festival, the NIEC has suggested that they would give additional funding this year to make a promotional video. We have thought about that for a long time but have not had the necessary resources. However, the NIEC recognises how invaluable that would be in terms of taking it to world trade fairs, et cetera.


That leads to the second stage which is that I am not going to be attending all the world trade and tourism fairs that exist - much as that might be nice - because that is not feasible. When we make the promotional video and even when we sit down to plan it, I must bring the tourism partners to the table and say, "Right, you know what tourists want; what should I be showing them in this video?" I could show them something that is about selling the festival but not to a tourist. That is the first thing.


The idea of city breaks has been around for quite a long time, and it is now acknowledged that Belfast has much to offer. As well as the culture, it has shopping, accommodation, nightlife and so much more that could be added into the package. The problem has been finding tour operators who will take that on and market it strongly and the right tour operator to work with who has access to people and who can go out and market the idea of the city breaks. To facilitate this, over the last couple of years the festival has tried to have its events concentrated around weekends. We obviously must have events throughout the week, but many events have been concentrated over a Thursday to Saturday/Sunday period. Furthermore, we have tried to stagger the start times of events. You could, if you wanted, go to a festival event at 11 am, 3 pm, 8 pm and 10:30 pm if you have got the stamina, or you could just attend two events and go shopping for the rest of the day.


At this stage, we feel that we have gone almost as far as we can with the programme. We need the airlines to get involved. It was a problem that flights to Northern Ireland were very expensive. Thankfully, that is changing with the easyJets and the Gos of this world. Losing the KLM routes to Amsterdam was also a blow; it was a blow for the tourist industry generally. Sabena is here now and they fly in and out of Brussels, which is a more positive move. So, we have gone as far as they can go.


We need to get all the pieces of the jigsaw together, make them fit, get a strong package and then find the right tour operators who are going to take it on and run with it. I am not a tour operator, and that is really what we need now.


The Deputy Chairperson: Thank you very much. Thank you again for your presentation, which was very helpful and interesting. Please send the Committee a copy of the programme well in advance.


Ms McKee: Yes, I certainly will.


The Deputy Chairperson: Remember that we are here, and we will see what we can do to help you with the marketing strategy and support.


Ms McKee: That is great. Thank you very much for the opportunity. There is much work to be done, but it is great that it has been taken to this level now. The cultural sector appreciate the fact that we are now getting a voice through the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure and through occasions such as this. Thank you very much for your time.


The Deputy Chairperson: Thank you