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Joint project seeks to unlock the cultural heritage of Welsh and Irish ports

A major research project hopes to give tourism a boost in five port towns in Wales and Ireland.

The four-year study will seek to unlock the cultural heritage and histories of Holyhead, Fishguard and Pembroke Dock in Wales and Dublin and Rosslare in Ireland.

Ports, Pasts and Present: Cultural Crossings between Ireland and Wales’ is a joint initiative between University College Cork (UCC) and Wexford County Council in Ireland, and Aberystwyth University and the Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD).

Led by UCC, the €3.2 million project has received €2.6 million from the European Regional Development Fund through the Ireland Wales Co-operation Programme.

The project will be officially launched during Wales Week in Dublin on Wednesday 11 March 2020 by the Welsh Government’s Minister for International Relations Eluned Morgan.

The launch will be held in the Wales Dome, which was created for the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan and moved to Dublin for the event.

Speaking ahead of the launch, Welsh Minister for International Relations and the Welsh Language, Eluned Morgan said: “I’m really pleased to announce this incredibly exciting new project, which will help turn five Welsh and Irish Sea ports into vibrant tourist destinations in their own right. Our ports make a critical contribution to our economy – providing jobs and added value to local communities. UK and Welsh business depends on ports in order to move their goods efficiently and quickly between Wales and Ireland. This new project will help enhance our ports even further, by bringing their unique cultural heritage to life, allowing people to understand the rich economic and cultural roles they’ve played in our past, and the vital roles they play today and in the future.”

The project will work with tourism stakeholders and local communities to make tourists more aware of the deep history of the five ports.

Creative works in the visual arts, literature and film will be commissioned to bring these histories to life, while digital technology will be deployed to engage new audiences in the deep heritage of these ports.

Work with local authorities and tourism operators will seek to develop new tourism activities, while a joint Irish and Welsh tourism network will be established to assist in developing economic growth in these ports.

Our ports can too often be transient, bypassed as we rush from and to another destination, but there areextraordinary histories and stories attached to ports. This project seeks to awaken audiences to this heritage and in so doing aims to work with communities to generate new tourism markets for Irish and Welsh ports,” said Professor Claire Connolly of University College Cork.

Professor Peter Merriman, project lead at Aberystwyth University, said: “This exciting new project aims to unlock the tourism potential of Welsh and Irish Sea ports, not only for ferry passengers but also cruise ship passengers, which is one of the fastest growing tourism sectors in Wales. The project will uncover hidden histories and heritage of the seaports and past journeys through them, working with local residents, businesses and stakeholders to boost the tourism industry in these important coastal communities.”

Dr Mary-Ann Constantine of the Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies at UWTSD said: “We are delighted to be part of this collaboration with our Irish colleagues. There is so much potential here for working with the port communities to help bring stories to life.”

George Colfer, Coastal Engineer at Wexford County Council said: “Rosslare port has provided both a physical and cultural link between Wexford and Wales over the years. Wexford County Council recognises the importance of this link to the south-east region; we look forward to working with our project partners and the local community to build on this strong connection and to develop economic activity in the area.

The project will run until 2023 and local people are encouraged to share their stories of ferry port life by emailing [email protected], or on Twitter @PortsPastPres.