Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Heritage Tourism

Here's a wee story about Sleepy Hollow in the Hudson valley USA, which is one of many towns in the US to host pirate festivals. As you would expect, the festival also involves and promotes local business, civic spaces etc. There's another one in Milford. Slightly closer to home, here's one in Brixham in Devon. Or Liverpool...
The grass is always greener on the other side, and maybe these one day Pirate festivals are very similar to our Comet Festival, or on the grand scale of last years Tall Ships...they just seem more interesting because they are elsewhere. And have more pirates in them.

Over summer especially, we frequently hear people bemoaning the fact that so many of the American touists who arrive in Greenock on cruise ships, leave the town to visit the rest of Scotland. Obviously, it would be nice to keep folk in the town and spending, not just for a one day festival, but by creating a regular draw for people from elsewhere. (ask yourself...if you were visiting..say...Italy for only one day on a cruise ship, would you stay in the port, or head off on a bus trip to Rome?)

Let's be honest, heritage tourism isn't the quick fix solution to Inverclyde's challenges; it won't necessarily create hundreds of jobs or bring thousands of visitors to the area, anymore than a TV show being filmed here will - but it could help generate more work, interest and investment in the town. And right now, with no massive reindustrialisation plan currently on the can't hurt to try.

But what do you promote? And how? Along with the other folk in Magic Torch, I've worked and volunteered with heritage for over ten years now, and what I think I see, even from the interactions on this that old photos, our proud industrial past, books about our heritage...those are mostly popular with local audiences...and that's fair enough, it's a nice niche, and it's important for our young people to get a chance to explore and discover that history and shared heritage in engaging ways. But ghosts, pirates, mermaids, seamonsters...the unusual...those things have an international audience, as of course does migration and the story of Greenock as a passing place. And it's in those areas that we should target our efforts, if we target them at all. That's our "USP". (I've heard that on The Apprentice, I think it means "cool thing you have that no one else does")

In the linked story above, the town who hosts the annual Captain Kidd pirate festival have only the vaguest connection to piracy, a piece of local folklore, no historical evidence at all. What they did have though...was the self belief to walk the road less travelled by. Wise men know when to learn.

Right, that's me back aff the soapbox.

(In related Captain Kidd news, some of his famous booty was recently discovered in Peterborough, anyone wishing to chip in and bid for them at auction, gies a shout)

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