Tourism boost along River Barrow

A MAJOR new festival to celebrate the River Barrrow is to be used as a showcase event for tourism in Laois and other counties along the river.

A MAJOR new festival to celebrate the River Barrrow is to be used as a showcase event for tourism in Laois and other counties along the river.

The festival to mark the 220th anniversary of the Barrow Navigation takes place this year and there are proposals from community groups in Laois and the rest of the Barrow region to celebrate the event with festivities from early May to late September.

The initial plan was to link the festival with Waterford's Tall Ships Race and Carlow's Eigse Arts Festival, but it was felt that the profile of the river and the region could be raised through a regional festival that could be developed, organised and marketed professionally.

The Barrow Navigation Festival committee envisage working with up ten separate communities in towns and villages in Laois, Kilkenny, Kildare, Wexford and Carlow. The festival is part of a much bigger project to attract people to holiday in Laois and other counties.

The organisers say the festival involves a coalition of statutory agencies, local authorities and LEADER companies and is part of a joint effort to develop the tourism potential of the Barrow valley region. A template for the development of the river is also due in a new report which is expected to highlight the potential of the region to become a boat cruising and outdoor activity hub for cycling, walk, canoeing etc.

As part of the plan the organisers are offering three contracts to event organisers to ensure the festival is more than just a collection of unrelated events. An event manager is being hired to help communities on the river in conceiving, organising and running a series of stand-alone cultural events such as parades, traditional regatta sports events.

Up to E60,000 has been budgeted for River Barrow Festival on three contracts to run and market the festival as well as provided community arts such as street theatre. Up to E30,000 is to be spent on marketing the festival. This will involve the development of a logo and the delivery of 100,000 30-page full colour calendar of events for the festival. A website will also be developed as will road signs for each festival location.

A project manager is set to be recruited at a cost of up to E18,000. Up to E15,000 will be spent on a street theatre trainer to help communities with local arts events.