We had the great pleasure of spending the October bank holiday weekend in Kilkenny for the 13th annual Savour Kilkenny food festival. Upwards of 50,000 people descended on Ireland’s medieval city last weekend to celebrate Kilkenny’s finest local artisan producers and their produce. Joining them was a host of Ireland and the world’s most innovative celebrities and opinion makers in the world of food.
International visitors for this year’s festival included best-selling Australian author and national TV star, Kim McCosker who brought her 4 Ingredients thinking to the Savour stage. Kim is pictured below taking some time out of her busy schedule to chat to host Edward Hayden on KCLR FM.
Other familiar faces included homegrown Irish stars Paul Flynn of The Tannery, Dungarvan, Clodagh McKenna, Catherine Fulvio, Rory O’ Connell, Roz Purcell, Darren Kennedy and Mount Juliet’s Ken Harker and John Kelly.
As well as the KBC Wellness Stage and food and fitness bootcamp with Kathryn Thomas, other festival highlights included tented food and beverage stands, a Medieval Banquet at the Medieval Mile Museum, cooking demonstrations and talks, and kids fun and dining events.
Roz Purcell hosted a vegan night and also demonstrated how to cook vegan to a packed marquee. This year also saw the introduction of the new Food Provenance award in partnership with Kilkenny LEO and KCLR where local eateries were recognised for the focus they place on local and regional producers and seasonal cooking.
It was wonderful to experience the very best of Kilkenny’s vibrant food culture and to witness the city and county’s core commitment to supporting local growers and producers and local cafes and restaurants. See savourkilkenny.com for details of next year’s festival.
One of the best things about this job is getting to see ideas which started out on a Powerpoint slide come to life. After suggesting it in our initial pitch to Oakfield Park in 2018, we were thrilled to see #Oakfest rock the park in the summer of 2018 and 2019. Headline acts Hermitage Green and The 4 of Us took to the stage in 2018, supported by Ryan Sheridan, Little Hours, Mark Black & The Trips, ROE, Chelsey Chambers, In Their Thousands, Katie Laffan and Cronin.
As well as a top-class musical billing, Oakfest at Oakfield Park had plenty for the whole family to enjoy, including a mini disco for little music lovers, arts and crafts, face-painting, puppetry, nature walks, train heritage, folklore and storytelling. Oakfest 2019 included a stellar line-up of artists with world-renowned Alabama3Acoustic headlining on Saturday 1st June and chart toppers The Academic (pictured below) headlining Sunday 2nd June.
Away from the main stage, festival goers could experience jazz in the garden, music in the maze, folk music in the marquee and Trad on the Train. The event also has a strong food offering with some of the northwest’s finest artisan food producers in attendance over the weekend.
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We were delighted to work with the Central Bank team on an outreach visit to Donegal last week. Governor Lane, Gráinne McEvoy (Director of Consumer Protection), Kevin Mullen, (Head of Asset Management Supervision) Geraldine Hannon (Head of Banking Supervision) and Claire O’Gorman (HR Business partner) visited the county as part of an extended outreach visit to build understanding of the Central Bank and listen to a range of views from the northwest.
We brought Irish Independent journalist and broadcaster, Richard Curran, on board to curate an evening event in Letterkenny with representatives from a cross-section of the local community. Questions on the night covered a broad range of topics including Brexit, SME lending, Credit Unions and competition in financial services.
The following morning, Wednesday 13 March, the team visited Errigal College, St. Eunan’s College and Loreto Secondary School. This presented an opportunity to hear views from the next generation and answer questions on the Central Bank’s work in Europe, bond rates, the next economic recession and careers at the Central Bank.
Regulatory technology and governance were topics of discussion when the Governor addressed students from Letterkenny Institute of Technology (LYIT) later that day. The visit ended with a tour of the CoLab, Letterkenny IT’s innovation and incubation centre and an introduction to some of its 60 technology-based enterprises.
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We’ve had the pleasure of working with many great brands over the years and it has taught us a thing or two about marketing and PR. While we appreciate that global brands have bigger budgets, we believe there’s a lot that SME’s can take from big brand marketing strategies. In no particular order, here’s our top ten:
1. Work Seasonally
Big brands work on a calendar led basis. They plan strategy and activity months and years in advance. They look ahead and research what’s coming up, and develop campaigns around that. The calendar provides a natural opportunity for SME’s to shout about their business… from New Year’s to Valentine’s, Patrick’s Day, Easter, Summer, 4th of July, Back to School, Hallowe’en, Christmas and back to the New Year again. Not to mention a host of international days from World Tourism Day (Sept 27th) to International Day of Happiness (March 20th), World Wildlife Day (March 3rd) and Universal Children’s Day (Nov 20th). Here’s how we put the calendar to good use for clients this year…
2. Adopt a Partnership Approach
Big brands are always on the look-out for mutually beneficial partnerships and opportunities to align their brand with like-minded organisations – it’s a natural way to reach a new and captive audience. Keep an eye out for events taking place locally that your business can partner with or support. For instance, in the run up to the Donegal Marathon, we hosted a RunWell Marathon Night at JT Physio. The event gave top tips and advice for those running a marathon including talks on physiotherapy, nutrition and training in the run up to the big day. And because numbers were limited, we captured the event on video and shared it with JT’s followers online.
Forming partnerships with other businesses can also be a good strategy, but it’s important to get the right fit. For example, working with Kinnegar Brewing, The Traveller’s Inn commissioned house beer ‘Baxters 1867’ in honour of the Baxter family whose connection to the building dates back to 1867. The beer is based on an American pale ale style in recognition of Samuel Alexander Baxter, who fought with the North in the American Civil War. The story generated strong local, national and trade coverage for both The Traveller’s Inn and Kinnegar…
Working with Inishowen Motors, we partnered with Letterkenny, Laois and Galway Shopping Centres and Relay for Life, Donegal. Inishowen Motors donated one of their top of the range Kia’s for a charity drive from Ireland’s most northerly point, Malin Head to Tarifa, in the south of Spain. This activity raised €10,000 for Relay for Life Donegal and generated strong local and national coverage for all parties involved….
3. Mark the Milestone
Whether it’s a launch, first birthday or tenth anniversary, marking the milestone is a great way to shout about your business and remind people of what you do. The Traveller’s Inn, Milford recently marked its tenth birthday with a week long celebration and live music every night. To mark the occasion, we commissioned a bespoke cake of the building from Selena’s Creations and the images landed in all the local papers. Michael Murphy Sports and Leisure also celebrated a great first year in business with a week-long promotion offering customers the chance to win a €1,000 gift voucher and Inishowen Motors, the car partner for Highland Radio, marked the station’s 25th anniversary as part of the car handover this year…
4. Be Brand Aware
This is something big brands do very well. Their brand identity and brand values influence everything they do. SME’s can also benefit from this approach and it’s worth taking the time to have a think about your brand identity and working with a good graphic designer to bring it to life. When the new owners of The Milford Inn wanted a fresh start, we worked closely with them, brainstorming suggestions for a new name and logo. We compiled a graphic design brief and enlisted the help of Fiona O’Reilly from On The Dot Creative, who then worked with the hotel’s in-house marketing team to bring the brand to life. We also worked with Donegal’s Early Learning Schools on a new name, logo and website. Big brands pay lots of attention to their social media channels to ensure they are engaging with consumers in the correct way. Your website is your shop window – if it doesn’t provide an up-to-date or accurate reflection of your business, then you need to change it…
5. See The Bigger Picture
As a small local entity, it can be easy to overlook or dismiss potential opportunities with national media. However, we know from experience that national media are always on the look out for good news stories. We’ve hosted outside broadcasts in Donegal with national broadcasters including Today FM and 2FM. Earlier this summer, we worked with RTE’s Nationwide as they filmed at Donegal and Ireland’s first outdoor school. You can check out the piece on the RTE Player….
6. Get In The Right Frame
Good photography forms a key part of any brand’s marketing strategy. Through our work with the Earagail Arts Festival, (and with the help of some beautiful imagery), we’ve generated articles and features across a range of national and local titles from the Irish Times to the Irish Independent, Irish Examiner, Sunday Business Post, RTE Guide, Image and Social and Personal. Getting the right shot to accompany your story greatly enhances the chances of coverage. From a business profiling point of view, it’s important for SME’s to have a good selection of photography to represent key spokespeople – more than ever, papers are relying on you to provide suitable photography. Reaching out to the relevant political representative or securing the right brand ambassador for the photo (and your business) is also worth exploring…
7. Give Insights and Added Value
Leading brands are always thinking of ways to surprise and delight their customers. One way to do this is to give added value through unique insights, customer loyalty schemes, in-store promotions, events, competitions and giveaways. Through our work with REN NET and Donegal County Council, we helped promote a renewable energy trade fair, giving members of the public free access to renewable energy providers across the northwest. And in a series of videos for Michael Murphy Sports and Leisure, Michael chats to leading sportspeople from Donegal, gaining a unique insight into their lives, such as this one with Ballybofey boxer, Jason Quigley….
8. Celebrate Success
Whether it’s an award for your business or your customers, celebrating success is a positive way to share your story. Mulroy Music got widespread coverage when its students excelled at this year’s Ulster Fleadh. We also worked with John F. Loughrey Financial Services to share the story of their second successive win at The LPI Awards in The Mansion House in Dublin. Whatever success looks like for your business, make sure to celebrate it in the right way…
9. Get Creative
Big brands are always thinking of innovative ways to create news hooks, so media will write about them. A good example of this is the below art installation, ‘ReflectYourself‘, which was fabricated by Henry McGinley & Sons in Milford and unveiled in Dublin as part of the St. Patrick’s Festival.
10. Use Video
According to this article published in The Guardian, 64% of marketers expect video to dominate their strategies in the near future and half of all businesses are already integrating video content marketing into their strategies. 100 million people are watching videos daily and YouTube has one billion UNIQUE users each month. With online video quickly becoming a key means for people to satisfy their information and entertainment needs, small businesses that fail to include it in their internet marketing strategies will do so at their peril. Video is a great way to communicate your customer offering and unique selling point. For example, The Traveller’s Inn, Milford hosts one of the country’s best traditional music sessions every Wednesday, so we worked with videographer Paul Doherty to capture the atmosphere and share it with our followers online….
There are lots of ways that small businesses can market and promote themselves in creative and cost-effective ways – the secret lies in the execution. If you’ve an idea you’d like to develop or an event coming up that you feel could generate publicity for your business, then let us know. We’d be delighted to help….
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This year’s Earagail Arts Festival has something for everyone. It’s the perfect time for visitors to experience the best of Donegal, on the best part of the Wild Atlantic Way. But get booking because tickets are selling out fast…
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We recently met Mark Graham, a man who makes his living from attending festivals in Ireland, (this must be right up there on the list of ‘dream jobs’, yes?) Some years ago, Mark opted out of a broken banking system and did something completely different.
Using the deposit he’d been saving for a house he never bought, Mark set out on a quest to attend three festivals a week in Ireland for a year. Tired of hearing that Irish people ‘got carried away’ during the boom, he wanted to explore our towns and villages for himself and meet these people who had allegedly ‘lost the run of themselves’ in better economic times.
What he discovered was the best of us – a countryside alive with weird and wonderful festivals, organised by people who work hard to make their communities better places to live. Festivals like our own Earagail Arts, or Electric Picnic, Swell and The Ballymaloe LitFest of Food and Wine. His experience details the range of entertainment on offer on any given day, from storytelling on Cape Clear, to bog snorkelling in Monaghan and cloud appreciation in Cork. But festivals are only as good as the people that go to them, so it’s up to us to get out there and experience them.
On the strength of his blog, Mark landed a weekly column with The Ticket in The Irish Times, so you can keep up to date on his adventures there. He’s also written a book and is currently touring the country with ‘Festival Heads’, a photographic exhibition of his travels.
And while we’re on the topic of festivals, anyone heading to Knockan Stockan this weekend, have a blast! And congratulations to all involved in this year’s Lennon Festival – a great weekend culminated in a spectacular fireworks display on the quays in Ramelton (as captured by Damien O’Connor in these great photos)…
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We had a wonderful first day at Earagail Arts Festival. This morning’s Walking Donegal tour attracted a great crowd as locals joined visitors from Ireland and further afield to explore some beautiful landscape and learn more of our local history. Setting off from Doe Cemetery, walkers made their way across the old Light Gauge Railway walk, guided by local expert Seamus Doohan. Festival Director Paul Brown was among them and it was a beautiful morning for it…
Then it was off to the Glebe Gallery for the official opening of the centerpiece of the festival’s visual arts programme, ‘Patrick Scott: Image Space Light’. Presented in association with IMMA, this exhibition is the most comprehensive representation of Scott’s 75 year long career and takes place across three Donegal venues: The Regional Cultural Centre, An Gailearai in Gweedore and The Glebe Gallery below…
Christina Kennedy, Head of Collections at IMMA gave an insightful overview of the late artist’s career and his partner Eric Pearce spoke lovingly of his experiences watching Scott at work. He also gave some wonderful details on Scott’s practice of meditation and the art of Zen, as well as describing the influence that Japanese and Far Eastern culture had on him.
The event included a special performance by The Japanese Kocarina Group – a fitting tribute to Scott, whose use of the recurring circular motif in his works was inspired by the Japanese flag. Here is a pic of the ladies getting ready for their performance…
Next stop was the Regional Cultural Centre, where Municipal Mayor, Councillor Michael McBride officially opened the exhibition. He spoke of the importance of supporting events like Earagail Arts Festival and expressed the Council’s ongoing commitment to Arts and Culture in the county. We couldn’t agree more, afterall…
As the event in the Regional Cultural Centre was coming to a close, things were hotting up in An Grianan Theatre. The crowds were gathering for ‘Fiesta’, a brand new play which tells the story of the dancers and chancers of one of the finest dancehalls in Ireland. The demand for this show is such that it sold out on its first night and an extra night was added for Tuesday, 15 July. Tickets are selling fast and booking is strongly advised – 074 91 20777 or via www.eaf.ie
It was a great day all round in what promises to be a wonderful festival. If you missed out today, don’t worry because there are still 15 more jam packed days left. Get your copy of the programme and start planning your Earagail Arts Festival of summer. There are so many highlights ahead, like theatre production ‘I Do’ and outdoor spectacle ‘Imaginarium’. Here’s a taster of what’s still to come…
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Having worked in Dublin for years, we’re now spending a lot of our time in the northwest and it has occurred to us that a lot of people never consider Donegal as a place to visit. After a quick over-the-phone survey of our ‘down-the-country’ friends, the general consensus is that we’re very far away. But that argument should have gone out the window with the Slane, Ardee and Monaghan bypasses. They shortened the journey from Dublin to approx three hours, which is pretty much on par with other destinations on the western seaboard.
Here’s our top ten reasons to head northwest this summer (it’s worth pointing out that some of those included in this list are clients, while others are featured because we admire what they do)…
1. Wild Atlantic Way – get away from it all with breathtaking views, rugged beaches and stunning scenery. We have it all, and more…
2. Earagail Arts Festival – there’s no doubt that these two weeks in July (12 – 26) are a brilliant time to visit the county. It’s a two week celebration of music, theatre, visual arts, film, literature, circus and carnival. It’s also one of the flagship Donegal events along the Wild Atlantic Way and there’s something for the whole family to enjoy.
3. Donegal is one of the best places in the world to experience the traditional authentic Irish pub. We’re absolutely spoilt for choice from Conways in Ramelton to Nora’s in Kilmacrennan and The Traveller’s Inn in Milford. Sip a pint by the fireside, meet the local characters and listen to traditional music sessions you’ll never forget
4. Sample our home brew – Kinnegar Brewing produces a delicious range of farmhouse beers, including Baxters 1867, which is exclusive to The Traveller’s Inn, Milford. Visit the brewery to get the inside track on the brewing process and sample some of the range
6. We live outdoors so come and enjoy our beautiful landscape. Go hill walking or surfing, climb our mountains and swim in our lakes. We’re also reliably told that Donegal has some of the best golf links courses in the country – Rosapenna, Portsalon and Ballyliffin
7. Cliffs of Moher eat your heart out, because we have the highest sea cliffs in Europe at Slieve League. Take a boat trip to appreciate the sheer size of the cliff face.
8. We’re brimming with creative types, from artists to designers and everything in between – you never know what or whom you might discover… like Ramelton artist Zara McDaid, who recently won the opportunity to have this piece displayed in Times Square
9. Visit our islands – when’s the last time you had an island picnic off the west coast of Ireland? What’s stopping you? Check out the ferry timetables and make it happen. And why not schedule your visit to coincide with Arranmore’s inaugural Swell Festival?
10. Finally, don’t just take our word for it, take a leaf out of Hollywood star Paul Rudd’s little black book – after all, (to paraphrase his Anchorman character) ‘60% of the time, he’s right every time!’. Here he is telling David Letterman about his recent trip to Donegal…
Enjoy your summer, wherever it takes you and feel free to send us your suggestions for future posts… email [email protected]
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We’re working with Hidden Hearing and we’ve a busy week ahead with Hearing Awareness Week. This Monday, our Hearing and Health Event is happening in The Gresham Hotel. Hosted by Joe Duffy, the event will offer members of the public free hearing screenings and health checks from 9am to 5pm. It’s a good opportunity to find out if you’re suffering from hearing loss and do something positive about it.
There’ll be free on-site hearing tests and screening by top hearing audiologists, while Hidden Hearing’s Medical Advisor, Dr Nina Byrnes will also be on hand to meet and greet attendees.
Around 35% of people over 64 years have significant hearing loss, but this is not something that just affects older people. A Hidden Hearing survey found that almost a quarter of under 25 year olds in Ireland (24%) are putting their hearing at risk by listening to music at levels that cause long term harm. That’s worth bearing in mind the next time you reach for your headphones.
And do you know about the 60/60 rule? Neither did we. Basically, it’s a recommendation from researchers that we should only listen to music devices through our headphones at 60 decibels for a maximum of 60 minutes. Worrying then, that 16% of those tested had noise levels on or above 85 decibels, which is known to cause long term harm to hearing.
Hidden Hearing also has a handy app for tinnitus sufferers. And for the teachers among you, The Too Noisy app is a nifty tool. If the noise level in a classroom increases beyond an acceptable level, the metre dynamically indicates the level of noise and the background graphics within the app change to reflect the noise levels.
For those of you who can’t make Monday’s event, Hidden Hearing clinics will host ‘Walk in Wednesday’ on the 9th April, offering a free drop in service. Call in, talk to qualified audiologists and avail of a free hearing screening.