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Cultural heritage key for development

The role of cultural heritage in regional and local development was outlined by international expert, Professor Claude Dubé at a seminar in Galway City this week

The seminar also included the Irish launch of an innovative €1.6 million cultural tourism project called Craft Reach, funded by the EU Northern Periphery and Arctic (NPA) programme. Teagasc are the Irish project partner and are calling for artisan producers in Atlantic seaboard counties of Ireland who have an interest in joining this innovative network to make contact with Dr Kevin Heanue in Teagasc, Athenry.

The Craft Reach project is built around the Économusée concept. An Économusée is an artisan business that opens its doors to the public to provide a learning and interpretive experience for visitors. The Économusée concept originated 25 years ago in Quebec, Canada. In recent years, in a series of projects, the concept was brought to Northern Europe, including Ireland. Internationally, there is now a network of 95 Économusées; 64 in Canada and 31 in Northern Europe. There are 7 Économusée in Ireland, including the Connemara Smokehouse and St Tola’s Cheese in Clare.

Keynote speaker Professor Claude Dubé, who holds the UNESCO Chair in Cultural Heritage in Laval University, Quebec, described the successful experience in Quebec of creating a network of cultural development agents drawing on the synergy between landscape and heritage. The resulting Villes et villages d’art et de patrimoine national network brings together various partners with a shared mission to promote and develop the arts, culture and heritage with a view to promoting cultural development at local and regional levels across Quebec. Turning in detail to how this was done, Professor Dubé outlined step by step, how a three way partnership between the Quebec government, local government and the university sector used a work-study training programme to create a network of cultural development agents.

Dr. Kevin Heanue said,“The Économusée concept is an innovative model of enterprise support which helps artisan producers diversify their businesses into the cultural tourism market by providing them with a six-step template to help them structure the visitor experience.”

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