Ireland Communities and society, Economy and regeneration

Blackwater and Creativity in County Cork: Winner of the Chambers Ireland Supporting Active Communities Award


Cork County Council writes about their recent accolade at the Chambers Ireland Excellence in Local Government Awards 2019, where the council’s collaboration with the Blackwater Valley Makers group saw their pop-up shop “Blackwater and Creativity in County Cork” receive the overall award for ‘Supporting Active Communities’.

Cork County Council recognises the importance of culture and through its services puts culture, community and real collaboration at the heart of the county, where communities are encouraged to value and connect with their heritage. This was evidenced with Cork County Council’s recent accolade at the Chambers Ireland Excellence in Local Government Awards 2019, where the council’s collaboration with the Blackwater Valley Makers group saw their pop-up shop “Blackwater and Creativity in County Cork” receive the overall award for ‘Supporting Active Communities’.

In Cork, few groups are short of creative ideas but many can be short of the support and the space needed for cultural activity. The Creative Ireland Pop-up Shop Scheme, as exemplified by the Cork’s Blackwater Valley Makers, has assisted a range of community groups in getting their projects off the ground, while the wider community has benefited from enhanced cultural and economic activity and greater vibrancy in the town.

The Pop-up Shop Scheme is all about energising the local community and providing the support needed to improve the quality of life in their area, to bring the wider community along on a journey of cultural discovery and enjoyment. The key to the initiative’s sustainability and success is the drive of the community involved and the support made available by the local authority. The collaboration between Cork County Council and the Blackwater Valley Makers, a grouping of craftspeople in North Cork, has proven to be the perfect match.

The Blackwater Valley Makers, from the community of Fermoy and the surrounding Blackwater area, had a key aim of bringing together the very best of unique and excellent craft and art work, incorporating a myriad of different crafts such as jewellers, glass artists, ceramicists, textile artists, furniture makers, visual artists, milliners, woodturners, carvers and designers.

With the support of Cork County Council, a disused building at one of the most prominent locations in the town of Fermoy was transformed into a hive of activity and an integral part of the town’s active community. The initiative has increased awareness of art, craft, culture and heritage; has improved the overall feel-good factor within the town and has encouraged people to shop locally. Cork County Council, through its Creative Ireland Culture Team, provided the support necessary for the establishment of the pop-up shop in December 2018. Additional support was provided in 2019 through the Cork County Council’s Arts Office and the wonderful work of Fermoy Municipal District members and staff.

By working together, management of the initiative has drawn on shared experience into effective community support, and numerous workshops and meetings have been held to encourage widespread community participation.

Mayor of the County of Cork, Cllr Ian Doyle spoke of the award winning initiative:

“Our most talented craftspeople now have a space to share in the heart of Fermoy town, where locals and visitors can witness firsthand the amazing talent that exists in this culturally active region. By harnessing the group’s collective wealth of organisational, communication and networking skills and by opening the venue up to the community, the sustainability of the project has proven exceptional, having seen many thousands of visitors since its opening. By valuing culture we are valuing our communities.”

Speaking of the award, Chief Executive of Cork County Council, Tim Lucey noted:

“Cork County Council recognises the invaluable role of Cork’s active communities with regard to culture, creativity and well-being and has worked with over 200 community groups in delivering on the Creative Ireland Programme within the County of Cork. The success of this project, as exemplified in the Chambers Ireland Awards 2019, has encouraged many more groups to undertake initiatives under the scheme. Working alongside communities to identify opportunities has been central to our success and this strategy will continue to drive innovation in the council and in all aspects of life in County Cork.”

The aim of the Pop-up Shop Scheme, as demonstrated by the Blackwater Valley Makers, ties in closely with the aims of the Cork County Culture and Creativity Strategy 2018-2022. Priority One of this Strategy sets out to ‘Enhance and Invest in our Local Cultural and Creative Infrastructure’. Revitalising Towns and Villages/Pop-up Shops is a key deliverable under this objective, given the ability of such developments to support culturally active communities and to increase the cultural attractiveness and well-being of our towns. The ambition is one of legacy that is to put the structures in place so that local creativity will continue to thrive long into the future.

Supporting Active Communities – Cork County Council. Pictured from Left to right: Chambers Ireland Chief Executive Ian Talbot, Cllr Christopher O’Sullivan, Cllr Frank O’Flynn, Chambers Ireland representative Siobháin Steele, Blackwater Valley Makers. Minister of State for Local Government John Paul Phelan T.D., Chief Executive Tim Lucey, Conor Nelligan.


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