Bridges: As people begin to travel again following the pandemic, why should visitors from Japan and Asia consider Ireland?
Minister Martin: There are so many reasons to choose Ireland for a fantastic holiday. Our scenery is truly stunning – from our vivid green countryside to our majestic and rugged coast. Our people are friendly and welcoming. And we have some of the best food and chefs in the world.
We have fantastic UNESCO World Heritage Sites. They include Skellig Michael, a magnificent island monastery, located off the coast of Co Kerry, in the South-West. The beehive-shaped huts made of stone – in which the monks lived, prayed and slept – remain intact, perched on the summit of the rocky island. Brú na Bóinne is Ireland’s richest archaeological landscape. It is the location of the ancient ceremonial passage tombs of Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth – built over 5,000 years ago. Containing the largest collection of megalithic art in western Europe, they are among the most important Neolithic sites in the world. The Giant’s Causeway lies at the foot of the basalt cliffs along the North Antrim coast, in Northern Ireland. It is made up of around 40,000 massive black basalt columns sticking out of the sea. The dramatic sight has inspired legends of giants striding over the sea to Scotland!
One of our most iconic landmarks, Titanic Belfast, is celebrating its 10th birthday this year. Over six million people from around the world have visited this fantastic attraction since it opened on 31 March 2012 – including Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, Titanic director James Cameron and various celebrities like Adele, Rod Stewart and Michael Bublé.
In Ireland, you can visit eco-friendly destinations, stay in sustainable accommodation, eat food sourced from just down the road and enjoy a host of environmentally friendly activities, including walking, hiking, cycling, surfing, swimming, sailing and much more.
Ireland has a rich cultural history and art scene. How are you promoting this in 2022 to the world?
Our culture is a really important component of the holiday experience in Ireland for our overseas visitors and therefore a key promotional theme for Tourism Ireland around the world. Tourism Ireland’s key audience is the ‘Culturally Curious’ traveller. These are people who have a strong desire and high propensity to travel internationally and who are interested in our rich heritage and culture. Therefore, our living and historic culture sits at the heart of what we present and is communicated widely across Tourism Ireland’s suite of global marketing communications, both on and offline. Tourism Ireland aims to ensure that visitors understand that they can easily marry opportunities to visit and appreciate our historic sites – pre-Christian, monastic, castles or stately homes – with active involvement in our vibrant living culture through festivals, music, literature, theatre and so on. A number of historic and iconic sites (Trinity College, the Giant’s Causeway, etc) feature in Tourism Ireland’s global Green Button campaign in overseas markets.
Festivals and events are a significant ‘hook’ for attracting and holding visitors in particular areas of Ireland at different times of the year. Tourism Ireland works closely with many festivals to provide exposure for them in key markets overseas through programme launches, inclusion in itineraries for media and trade familiarization visits, through promotion in trade, media and consumer ezines in our markets, and promotion at travel and lifestyle fairs and exhibitions overseas. The St Patrick’s Festival, Cork Jazz Festival, Wexford Festival Opera, Púca Festival, Galway International Oyster Festival, Belfast International Arts Festival, Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival, Savour Kilkenny and New Year Festival (NYF) Dublin are examples of festivals which have received extensive coverage through Tourism Ireland’s marketing overseas.
Tourism Ireland works with Culture Ireland to bring the best of Ireland’s artists, writers, poets, musicians and dancers to the attention of enthusiasts and new audiences in markets overseas, where it is appropriate to do so. Tourism Ireland leverages the strengths and appeal of Irish art and culture to encourage more visitors to come to the island of Ireland.
An example from this year includes Tourism Ireland’s promotion of Ulysses100. James Joyce’s celebrated Ulysses was first published as a complete novel on 2 February 1922. One hundred years later, Tourism Ireland is taking every opportunity to highlight Ulysses100 and Dublin’s literary credentials in its promotional activity around the world this year. We’re leveraging the publicity value of both the centenary on 2 February and of Bloomsday on 16 June. Tourism Ireland is also working closely with literary attractions with connections to Joyce and Ulysses, including the Museum of Literature Ireland (MoLI), the James Joyce Centre and the Bloomsday Festival. Tourism Ireland’s aim is to encourage potential visitors to come and follow in the footsteps of Leopold Bloom, to explore Dublin and discover some of the city’s cultural and architectural delights.
Tourism Ireland is also taking every opportunity to highlight the recent designation of Belfast as a UNESCO City of Music.
Tourism Ireland is partnering with Riverdance, as part of the Riverdance 25th Anniversary Tour in the United States and Canada this year. The tour is set to include over 120 performances in at least 40 cities. The partnership includes inspirational Ireland video footage playing on screen to audiences before each of the performances – reaching around 310,000 people. On 15 March, Tourism Ireland – in partnership with the Embassy of Ireland and Riverdance – hosted a VIP reception for 100 guests at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC; the event was attended by An Taoiseach Micheál Martin. A new video has been created featuring some of the Riverdance cast at some of our iconic locations – including the Cliffs of Moher, the Giant’s Causeway and Dublin – which has been shared on Tourism Ireland’s social media channels. To view the video, click here. The partnership offers Tourism Ireland an opportunity to reach a wide audience across North America – leveraging the huge popularity of Riverdance and its fans’ interest in the island of Ireland and highlighting Ireland to them as a ‘must visit’ holiday destination.
Tourism Ireland’s Green Button Festival campaign saw outdoor digital advertising billboards turn into stages highlighting our rich music, culture and dance, in areas with high footfall, including Times Square in New York. The billboards were interactive, with passers-by scanning a QR code to ‘press the Green Button’ and activate the festival. Each stage had a digital green curtain, which opened to reveal the music. Acts included some of our best-loved artists, as well as up-and-coming talent, including Clannad and Denise Chaila, the Hot House Flowers and Kíla – all performing from various locations around the island of Ireland, including the Oh Yeah Music Centre in Belfast, the Giant’s Causeway, the Cliffs of Moher, Newgrange and Dublin’s Temple Bar. Other highlights of Tourism Ireland’s St Patrick’s Day programme included a concert with Kíla in the Centre Culturel Irlandais in Paris.
What can you tell us about the future work of The Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media?
The Programme for Government ‘Our Shared Future’ and this Department’s Statement of Strategy outline our inclusive vision of an Ireland for all ages, where the arts and culture thrive, the Irish language is nurtured and developed and sport inspires us to lead healthier and better lives. We aim to strengthen Ireland’s reputation as a welcoming place to all tourists, while taking account of the climate and broader environmental impacts. Our sectors will work together to further develop the role they play in creating a sense of belonging, fostering well-being and promoting social cohesion in Irish society.
Future work of the Department includes supporting the recovery and economic growth of a competitive tourism sector that is environmentally, economically and socially sustainable. This goal includes high level strategies, such as supporting the survival of tourism businesses and recovery of the sector from the COVID pandemic, investment in tourism marketing and product development, implementation of a tourism policy framework and the enhancement of sustainable employment in the tourism sector.
The Department will support and develop engagement with, and in arts, culture and creativity by individuals and communities, promoting Ireland’s arts, culture and creativity globally. This goal includes a range of high level strategies including; the implementation of ‘Culture 2025’ policy, supporting Ireland’s audiovisual sectors, securing and upgrading a viable network of arts and cultural infrastructure and continuing to support artists through a basic income pilot.
The Department will continue to encourage the use of the Irish language throughout Ireland, in the European Union and globally and to strengthen its use as the principal community language of the Gaeltacht. This will be achieved by continuing to co-ordinate on a cross government basis the implementation of the Government’s 5-Year Action Plan for the Irish Language and the overarching 20-Year Strategy for the Irish Language 2010-2030.
We hope to promote greater sports participation by all, with particular focus on female participation and diversity, while continuing to invest in new sports facilities, high performance athletes and the hosting of major events. This will be achieved by strengthening standards of corporate governance across the sport sector, increasing the role of women in the management and leadership of Irish sport, increasing participation rates towards achieving the Programme for Government target of at least 60% of the population by 2027 and supporting the provision of sports facilities at a regional and local level.
Future work of the Department also includes supporting the provision of commercial, community and public service broadcasting services that meet the needs of Irish audiences and seek to provide a regulatory environment that supports a free, plural and diverse media sector in Ireland. High level strategies will include integrating the Media Commission recommendations on development of Broadcasting and Media in Ireland, continuing to provide a legislative and regulatory framework for broadcasting through the Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill and establishment of Coimisiún na Meán (the Media Commission).
Culture Ireland – Activity in Japan
The Japan Branch of the International Association for the Study of Irish Literatures (IASIL Japan) is one of the most active branches of the Association worldwide. Culture Ireland has been supporting Irish writers and poets to present their work at their Annual International Conference since 2006. Many of the Irish participants have benefited from bringing their work to the attention of Japanese audiences and thereby raising awareness of the world of Irish Literature. Notable participants have included Seamus Heaney, Brendan Kennelly, Ciaran Carson, Medbh McGuckian, Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, Paula Meehan, Theo Dorgan, Paul Muldoon, Sinéad Morrissey, Gerard Fanning, Deirdre Madden and Eoin McNamee.
Culture Ireland has supported music tours throughout Japan, including many by leading Japanese promoter Plankton. With Culture Ireland support, Plankton have presented tours by artists such as The Chieftains, ANÚNA, Lúnasa, Sharon Shannon, Dónal Lunny, Solas and We Banjo 3. In 2017, in partnership with Culture Ireland, Plankton presented two special events to celebrate the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Japan and Ireland: At the Hawk’s Well/The Hawk Princess, based on W. B. Yeats’ work, in partnership with Tokyo City Government and, a tour featuring The Chieftains and Japanese traditional musicians, including a performance with the Empress of Japan in attendance.
Many Irish artists have been supported by Culture Ireland to present at Art Exhibitions throughout Japan. Upcoming highlights include Oona Hyland presenting “Active Forgetting” at Mokuhanga 2022 CfSHE Gallery Tokyo Japan from 4th September – 1st November 2022 and Brian Harte exhibiting “Return of the Hawthorn”, at MAKI Gallery, Tokyo, Japan, 26 November 2022 – 16 January 2023.
EU-Japan Fest & Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture
The three former European Capitals of Culture in Ireland – Dublin, Cork and Galway – with the support and guidance of the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media have enjoyed a fruitful relationship with EU Japan Fest. The EU–Japan Fest is the cultural exchange between the European Union and Japan, which is arranged with the help of the EU–Japan Fest Japan Committee.
Since its designation as Ireland’s 2020 European Capital of Culture, Galway has hosted many visits and exchanges with Japan and its incredible artists. While the COvid-19 pandemic stopped travel for a period of time, relationships continued to flourish, with many cultural cooperation projects delivered in-person or online, for example Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture Japanese Tanka and Irish Poetry Event – Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture; Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture New Dance Performance Links Tokyo with Inis Oirr – Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture. The full list of projects is https://www.eu-japanfest.org/projectsupport/program2020/
Galway, through the City Council, continues to work together with EU-Japan Fest to promote cultural exchange to help ensure a strong legacy from the European Capital of Culture designation. As part of this, Galway looks forward to welcoming guests and visitors from Japan and to further cultural exchanges in the future. One such exchange currently being planned for later this year is the visit of an Orchestra from Japan to Galway.
Chester Beatty Library Collection
Described by Lonely Planet as ‘not just the best museum in Ireland but one of the best in Europe’, the Chester Beatty is the pre-eminent Irish museum promoting the appreciation and understanding of world cultures with holdings of manuscripts, rare books, and other treasures from Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and Asia.
While the Chester Beatty holds many artefacts from Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and Asia, one of its collection highlights is The Japanese Print Collection comprising of some 850 single sheet woodblock prints and 100 titles of printed books.
Almost all of these works date from Japan’s Edo period (c. 1603–1868), when the rapid growth of the city of Edo (modern Tokyo) gave rise to a dynamic publishing industry and vibrant popular culture.
As well as exquisite holdings of commercially-published prints from Japan’s floating world (ukiyo-e), the collection is particularly known for its large number of surimono prints by leading artists. The majority of these prints were privately commissioned by poets and poetry groups that flourished in the late Edo period.
The Chester Beatty also enjoys strong connections with Japan and has welcomed many Japanese scholars to study artefacts in its collection. It has also facilitated loans from its collections, as well as staff exchanges, to institutions in Japan.