Exploring Heritage Led Regeneration in Irish Towns and Villages, this website has been developed out of the findings of a three-stage research project which began in May-June 2017. The coordinators of the project, Caitríona Noonan and Deirdre McDermott, are members of ICOMOS Ireland, and are on their working group on small towns and villages, ‘Baile’ (see About Us). In this context generally, we seek to explore issues surrounding the heritage-led regeneration of small Irish towns, and with this particular project we have aimed to do this with reference to the re-use of traditional street buildings, and with an emphasis on public engagement in the built environment.

The project used the town of Gort, Co. Galway as a case study for the first two stages, which included survey work and a public workshop. The final stage was an event that took place in NUIG as part of the Architecture at the Edge Festival on 29th September 2017.

All small towns throughout the country have their own special character, much of which derives from the unique streetscapes and spaces, landmarks and vistas that have developed over time. In many cases this built legacy now finds itself facing threat due to under-use. We believe that the key for all towns to overcome this threat is the townspeople themselves. By engaging with the built environment (and the social and community networks that uses it) we can identify the strengths and weaknesses in our shared places and begin to figure out ways to improve and enhance them.

The project has been funded by the Heritage Council, and has also been kindly supported by Ecological Building Systems, ICOMOS Ireland, Galway County Council and the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht through the Government Policy on Architecture.

Gort Research Project 2017

The first two stages of the project looked at Gort, Co. Galway as a typical example of a small Irish town.

For Stage 1 we tried out some pilot surveying techniques and worked with a visiting group of post-graduate students from the University of Pennsylvania.

Stage 2 was a workshop held in Gort Public Library during Heritage Week at which members of the public participated in a mental mapping exercise and a subsequent discussion on various aspects of the town.

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Heart of Gort Festival 2018/2019

Gort was initially the focus of a study by US students in 2017, initiated under the Sustainable Development Goals, as seen in the stages outlined in Gort Research Project 2017.

In 2018, Public meetings were held together with Entopia to identify plans for the town and an application for support for a community festival was made to Galway 2020. Multiple community groups and organisations came together over the course of the next 12 months, culminating in the Heart of Gort Festival on 17,18 May 2019 ( https://www.facebook.com/heartofgortfestival/) which was curated by Baile ( an ICOMOS committee focusing on issues affecting small towns and villages ) and supported by Galway2020, Galway County Council and the local community, including Burren Lowlands.

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Gort Energy 2020 – 2022

Gort Energy Webinar Workshop took place in a COVID-compliant format, on-line and in Sullivan’s Royal Hotel in Gort on 2 December

Since its inception in 2017, a collaboration between Galway County Council, Baile (ICOMOS Ireland’s Small Towns and Villages NSC) and Burren Lowlands with other groups in Gort has worked to acknowledge, celebrate and promote the uniqueness of the town and to display and conserve the history written in its streets and buildings, by focusing on the issues affecting the fortunes of the town.

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My Hometown

Our project has set out to produce a template for community projects to begin that engagement with the fabric of our towns. These projects might include gathering data on building types, uses, vacancy, condition etc. and/or mental mapping exercises that could be focused on various aspects of a town such as parking, new uses for existing public spaces, under used routes, green spaces, gateways to urban areas, or other areas of interest and concern.

Another important aspect is the process of learning from the experiences of other towns; therefore we hope to begin the process of developing a network of similar projects and like-minded communities.

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