The Smattering – Part Two

Yesterday, I threw down some thoughts on The Gathering.

 

In a very thoughtful response, one of my readers made the point that the elephant in the room is money. Or, rather, the lack of it. He’s right, of course.  Most of the things I suggested would require money. I’m no economist, though, but even I know that in order to make money, one must first spend money. You reap what you sow, so in order to reap anything, one must first sow something, no?

 

I take Padraic’s point that The Gathering was meant to be a community-based initiative, but I think a bit of orchestrated direction from the Government might not have hurt. In the same way that certain charities have events that take place at a very local level (often a few friends in someone’s kitchen around a pot of tea) but are orchestrated from the head office.  Packs are sent out to interested parties to help them organise their events and they are invited to get on the Facebook page and share stories and photos etc.

 

Wouldn’t something like that have been possible?

 

Nearly every town in Ireland is twinned with a town abroad. Would it not have been a good idea to encourage locals in each town to write to people in their twinned town and invite them to come and stay for a while? How much money would that have cost? Very little, I’d imagine.

 

Think, too, about other communities we have links with. The Spanish that we share DNA with – invite them over. Have an Irish dance school invite over a Flamenco dance school and offer to ‘swap’ Flamenco dance lessons for Irish dance lessons.

 

Invite the Nordics back to see the legacy they left – show them the difference the Vikings made.

 

Have an academic/quasi-academic conference with speakers of Manx, Welsh, Scottish and Breton examine the commonalities of the languages. Forge links that people will want to examine and explore and re-visit for years to come.

 

Suggest that scout groups invite other scout groups over for a massive jamboree – the likes of which haven’t been seen since the one in Galway in 1985 or so.

 

I think a pointed, specific reason to come to Ireland rather than a generic ‘Come and Visit’ might have more luck. I can see where Gabriel Byne’s feelings about The Gathering come from.

 

Don’t get me wrong. I think  anything that brings more tourists to Ireland is a great idea. I just can’t help feeling that The Gathering is a bit half-assed and that not much – or not enough – thought has gone into it.

 

In the interests of showing myself to be more than an armchair critic, I am happy to reveal that my contribution to The Gathering will be to take my kids to parts of they country they haven’t visited yet.

The Smattering

It was probably a good idea. No, scratch that. It was definitely a good idea; get as many people, from as many different places as possible, to come to Ireland in 2013. Launch a huge initiative and get everyone in Ireland – and the Irish overseas – on board. Showcase our lovely country, make it attractive to people who wouldn’t normally think of visiting Ireland and make it even more attractive to people who have visited before, or who have been thinking about it for a while.

 

The Gathering could have been a rip-roaring success, and something we’d all remember with pride for years to come. That won’t happen, though. No one – and by that, I mean no one in Bord Failte or in the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport – put any thought or effort into the initiative. If The Gathering doesn’t exactly fall flat on its face it will definitely not be as successful as it could have been if anyone in Officialdom had taken it seriously.

 

It would have been so easy to make a huge success of The Gathering, but it seems like it was an idea dreamt up in the bar by a PR person in Leo Varadkar’s department who then did nothing more with it.

 

Had it been organised properly, The Gathering could have been a fantastic event. Specifically, every month could have been given a theme with one big event centred on that theme in one of Ireland’s larger towns and people nationwide invited to devise their own events to tie in with the theme.

 

For example, January could have been devoted to new beginnings and starting new things – lots of world record attempts organised (as serious or as silly as you like). Instead, there was an event in the capital city to which one had to buy a ticket, and at which children were not welcome. Well, at least there was an element of honesty there – an expression of how little children are liked in this country.

 

February could – predictably – have been devoted to love. Given that we have St. Valentine’s relic in repose in Dublin, that wouldn’t have been too hard. A few match-making festivals and a bit of a campaign abroad inviting people to come to Ireland to fall in love…….either with the country or with a person.

 

March, with St. Patrick’s Day in the middle of it, kind of takes care of itself. April is the month of April showers, so make something of the rain in Ireland – have a ‘design your own umbrella’ competition. May sees us celebrate the festival of Bealtaine, so invite people home for that.

 

June is the start of the holidays – so pack June and July with family-friendly events and days out. August is Lunasa – a chance to have ‘Dancing with Lunasa’ put on by nearly every AmDram Society in Ireland. Punters could be invited to watch one a week (or one a day!) and vote on their favourite.

 

September – lovely, Autumnal September – when the kids go back to school. Make it the month to learn new and unusual facts about Ireland. October, like March, pretty much does itself. The whole Samhain thing offers itself up for fun and games galore.

 

November is a bit trickier….what on earth happens in November, in Ireland, that is worth celebrating? Hmmmm, might be time for another match-making festival so people have someone to cuddle up to during the cold winter nights. December is the month that I’d like most to avoid, but plenty of other people like it – so there’s plenty of scope for Xmas markets. But also plenty of scope for peeling back the layers of this Hallmark holiday and uncovering its Pagan roots.

 

Apart from events that could take place on the ground here in Ireland, how about involving people who can’t actually get here this year, but who might in years to come? Have interactive quizzes online for school children around the globe and find out who knows most about Ireland on the various continents. Have the Dept of Transport etc. give two free tickets to Ireland to each St. Patrick’s Society around the globe. These tickets could form the main prize in the annual St. Patrick’s Ball each of the societies holds and be a wonderful way to promote tourism.

 

And what about – what about a Gathering Passport? A bit like the passport one gets when one undertakes the Camino de Compostela. Wouldn’t that provide an added element of fun?

 

These are just ideas thrown off the top of my head in the half hour it’s taken me to make coffee and write this post. I am sure that a half-decent professional in either Bord Failte or in the Dept of Transport etc. could come up with a  much more interesting and inspired set of ideas.

 

So why didn’t they?