Baltinglass is a small rural town in West Wicklow, steeped in history and rich in natural beauty with a number of locations of interest including the River Slaney, the 1148 Cistercian Abbey ruin, St. Mary’s Church and Baltinglass Hill, a historic hillfort housing a Neolithic passage grave known as Rathcoran. Its population approximates 2,500 with a strong multicultural content. Baltinglass remains relatively isolated and underdeveloped compared to some of its neighbouring areas. According to the ‘Baltinglass Town Plan 2016-2022’, the town’s development has been restricted in the past by its perceived rural isolation as well as a lack of retail services and local employment opportunities.
In order to support Baltinglass to become identified as a ‘creative place’, developing an insight as to the towns creative and cultural needs and empowering community participation was central to the design of the research phase. Wicklow Arts Office supported by the Culture Team held test events in the town, conducted in depth research in Baltinglass consulting with almost 200 people from the area, met with local artists, musicians, local community and voluntary organizations and interagency groups. The events were very well received and momentum was built with desire to increase the number of creative events and opportunities in the town for people of all ages. The aim is to have community involvement at the very core of the roll out.
From these pilot actions and research, support was garnered from the Baltinglass and District Forum which represents 26 community and local voluntary groups, West Wicklow Interagency Group, local schools and other groups to apply to the Arts Council’s Creative Places Scheme. The application was successful and we were selected as one of the three counties to receive ‘Creative Places’ funding. Over a three year period the Arts Office and Culture Team will receive €375,000 for investment in the town which will include the appointment of a staff member to lead out on the project locally. This funding will prove hugely beneficial to Baltinglass; the Arts Office and Wicklow County Council will work collaboratively with the local community to ensure the initiative has maximum impact for the town and alignment with the County Development Plan.
Led by Wicklow County Council in partnership with the local community, Creative Places Baltinglass will begin in 2022. This process and application to the Arts Council was made possible with investment from the Creative Ireland programme and Wicklow County Council through the Culture Team. It is an example of joined up collaborative working and direct creative investment in local communities. It has generated creative and cultural capital in the town and networked existing artists and creative resources. The future is bright for Baltinglass.
Some of the feedback from Survey participants:
“I would love to get involved in musical and/or theatre events if there were any in the town”
“The town doesn’t put enough effort into organising artistic events and I’d be very keen to attend any artistic events that might be organized down the road”
“I have a real hunger for live events and would enjoy going to local theatre if it was available”
“The town is lacking in events and I would be open to any artistic endeavours, whether it be music, theatre or dancing”
“There isn’t a lot happening in Baltinglass and I’m very excited about the possibility of events coming to town. I’m most interested in music and dance but open to anything”
“I am absolutely open to travel for events and I’m keen on music, theatre and painting. There’s a great shortage of engagement in West Wicklow on the whole”