A group of Burtonport people will be using the former Cope supermarket in Burtonport as the centre for their plans to revitalise the coastal Gaeltacht village.
The Burtonport project will also be featured this weekend on the RTÉ Radio One programme, ‘The Business’, at 10am this Saturday, November. 26
The Burtonport Action Group and the Templecrone Co-operative Society Ltd., The Cope, are finalising details for the lease for the building, which has sat vacant on the main road of the village for a number of years.
“As soon as the lease is signed, we’ll be asking people for paint and contributions of their time,” said Frank Green of Keadue, the action group secretary. “As soon as we’ve got the place we want to get going.”
The group came together in July, inspired by the new RTÉ television programme, ‘Feargal Quinn’s Town Project’. While Burtonport was not selected to participate in the show, the action-group members decided to try and spur a community effort to bring amenities and other improvements to the village. In September they held a fundraising concert evening that drew hundreds of people and raised more than €2,000.
Their plans range from the simple – flower boxes and rubbish bins, for example – to more ambitious: They want to see The Cope building become a coffee bar, tourist information point and cultural and heritage centre.
But most important, members of the action group want this to be a community project.
“We want the community to feel involved,” Frank said. “We want the community to feel it’s theirs.”
The group is also planning a series of weekend festivals for 2012, to complement the long-running Burtonport Summer Festival. Their plans include a walking weekend, a music weekend, a weekend of water-based activities and a harvest of the sea weekend. It’s all about putting Burtonport on the tourism map, Frank said.
“We hope to entice enough people down that someone in business would go, ‘Now there’s an economic opportunity,’” Frank said. “That would see the project grow in a sustainable way.”
A couple of weeks ago members of the group went to Drogheda for a seminar attached to Feargal Quinn’s RTÉ programme, where they met with local people from communities around the country that were trying to enhance their home places.
“These were towns with similar interests to us and little by little we can all feed off each other,” said Mario Cafolla, action group chairperson. The group’s treasurers are postmaster Anthony Boyle and Margaret Bonner, sister of football great Packie. They are now in the process of forming a limited company.
The former Cope supermarket will become a central focus for the fledgling operation, as well as a new cultural and heritage centre.
“We can’t stress enough how helpful and supportive Mark has been,” Frank said of Mark Sharkey, managing director of The Cope. Mark said it was great to see the community-spirited group coming together to take steps to re-energise the village.
“We’re more than happy to help them and delighted to assist them with it,” he said.
The group will soon be looking for volunteers to help with painting the building for its new use as a tourist information point and cultural centre.
“We’re looking for people who have good ideas and skills, and who are not shy about doing a bit of work,” Mario said. A motto for the action group was on a banner that decorated the marquee for their September concert: “Together everyone achieves more. Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”
The action group is planning to hold an open meeting locally in early December to solicit public opinion on what the next steps should be.
“This is all of us doing this for all of us,” Frank said.