Explore your Laois local heritage for National Heritage Week

Leinster Express Reporter

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Leinster Express Reporter

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heritage week

Inspection Timahoe Round Tower

This year, due to public health restrictions, rather than focusing on the organisation of in-person public events, local heritage groups and organisers, families and communities are being invited to develop projects around this year’s themes of “ Heritage on your Doorstep” and Heritage and Education”.

Coordinated by the Heritage Council and supported local by local authority heritage officers, National Heritage Week has become one of Ireland’s largest cultural events, and will run this year from Saturday 15th to Sunday 23rd August.

This year’s new approach is designed to promote the sharing of experience and knowledge. Project ideas should be submitted to HeritageWeek.ie, and projects can be carried out July and early August. Projects should be completed in time for National Heritage Week when they will be showcased.

Catherine Casey Heritage Officer with Laois County Council said “We know it’s a bit different this year, that’s why Heritage Officers in each Local Authority will be on hand and only too happy to help people planning projects. Formats that people chose to showcase their heritage can vary from online talks or exhibitions, to a video, podcast, slideshow presentation or blog, to local press coverage, a dedicated website or social media account. Of course, there can also be small, restricted social gatherings, which comply with official public health advice. We are here to help with all aspects of developing projects”.

To support project organisers in arriving at an aspect of heritage that they might want to explore under this year’s theme of ‘Heritage and Education: Learning from our Heritage’, three broad sub-themes can be considered for projects:

Heritage on your doorstep:

Projects might research, and collect local knowledge about a monument or landmark; explore the origins of local customs or traditions and how these may have changed over time; examine how aspects of the local landscape, such as a canal, river or lake, have influenced a community; or capturing stories from local members of the community who have survived adversity (for example, the TB epidemic of the 1940s).

Relearning skills from our heritage:

Projects could explore forgotten or overlooked skills with a view to sharing them among younger generations; document crafts, skills or trades that one’s community was previously well-known for; investigate traditional remedies unique to a locality which were used to treat common aches and pains, and record the stories of individuals who remember such remedies; research traditional food preparation or preservation methods throughout the ages.

The heritage of education: Projects might explore the history of an old school which has served many generations; better understand the role of a local hedge school; delve into the history of a monastic settlement; interrogate how the experience of going to school has evolved over time.

In addition to developing new research, projects could also revisit or build on a heritage project which may already have been started at an individual, family or community level. In this instance, the National Heritage Week project could involve showcasing research already done on a monument, a waterway, or a skill or tradition in the community, and finding new ways to grow awareness of it. The Heritage Council is developing a suite of resources to support projects, which will be made available on HeritageWeek.ie

The Chairman of the Heritage Council, Laois resident Michael Parsons, said: “This year, perhaps more than any other year, National Heritage Week offers a moment for community engagement and social cohesion. Heritage – in all its forms – helps us to connect with our past, build resilience and enhance our health and wellbeing. For this reason, the Heritage Council is ensuring that Heritage Week goes ahead and we have modified our approach to ensure active engagement with our heritage, while protecting public health.

“During lockdown, many people around the country – in both rural and urban environments – have developed a greater appreciation for their immediate surroundings. The restrictions have caused us to reconnect with, and reconsider what can be found in our immediate locality, from noticing birds and birdsong, and changing patterns among plants and wildlife as spring became summer, to local built heritage and monuments. Others have returned to traditional skills, be that baking, growing fruit and vegetables or handcrafts, like knitting and embroidery.

“National Heritage Week, and particular this year’s theme of ‘Heritage and Education: Learning from our Heritage’ offers a chance to build on this renewed interest, by exchanging skills and knowledge in a community; exploring something new or diving deeper into the story behind something you may have recently discovered; or working as a family to renew a skill. I encourage everyone with an interest, enthusiasm or expertise in any facet of our rich heritage to consider putting together and submitting a project for National Heritage Week, and sharing it with our wider national community.”