The Western Development Commission (WDC) was delighted to support this year’s National Rural Development Conference held in Enfield on Tuesday 16 October. This is the first year the WDC has been involved as a partner in this important national conference.
“As 65% of people living in the Western Region live in rural areas, compared with the national average of 38%, rural development is central to everything the WDC does,” said Ian Brannigan, Acting Chief Executive. “Given the recent announcement of the WDC’s role in supporting the new Rural Economic Development Commission, we were particularly happy with this opportunity to partner with Teagasc, the National Rural Network, the Irish Leader Development Network and Macra na Feirme.”
“Through this new Rural Commission we will be supporting the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government to develop a strategy for growth and job creation in rural areas to 2025. According to the latest Census figures the unemployment rate for people living in Ireland’s cities is 18% but for those living in rural towns and villages it is 24%. Job creation in rural areas will be fundamental to Ireland’s recovery and the viability of rural communities,” he added.
One potential source of future growth in rural employment is the creative sector. As part of the WDC’s ongoing work in developing this sector, it organised a workshop on ‘Creative & Rural: The Role of the Creative Industries in Rural Development’ at this year’s National Rural Development Conference. This was the first time the creative sector as a whole was specifically discussed at the conference.
“Creative people are often drawn to rural areas because of the quality of life and the inspirational landscape. Across Europe the number of people working in the creative sector in rural areas has grown faster (+12.6%) in recent years that the number living in urban areas (+9.2%). Rural creative businesses are on the rise,” according to Pauline White, Policy Analyst with the WDC who presented at the workshop.
The workshop was chaired by Karen Hennessy, CEO of the Crafts Council of Ireland. David Knight, owner of Willow Publishing and David Knight Photography who is based in Cootehall, Co Roscommon, also addressed the group highlighting the issues and potential for rural creative enterprises.
“Coming out of the workshop we have proposed a set of actions which could support creative enterprises to set up, operate and expand in rural areas. These include a directory of those operating in the sector to facilitate networks and tackle isolation, greater linkages with other sectors in particular tourism and food, the need for high speed broadband access in rural locations and access to creative incubation space with shared facilities and training support, particularly in issues like marketing and the use of social media,” concluded Ms White. “The work of the new Rural Commission and the development of a new Rural Development Programme 2014-2020 present important opportunities to support the creative sector in rural areas.”
For further information please contact:
Pauline White, Western Development Commission, 086 8328055