A voluntary organisation in Castletownbere, which is now ten years in existence, has a busy time ahead with a number of exciting projects planned, writes Helen Riddell
Castletownbere Development Association (CDA), which is made up entirely of volunteers, was originally set up ten years ago as a business association, but was later changed into a development association in order to encourage more from the area to join. ‘We didn’t want people to feel they were excluded, just because they weren’t a business owner,’ explains chairman Cian Murphy. ‘The core committee meet once a fortnight, and a number of sub-committees take on responsibility for various festivals and projects throughout the year. ‘By having these sub-committees we can cater to peoples strengths in various areas, and it shares out the workload.’
As it stands, CDA is responsible for organising community events including the ever-popular Festival of the Sea over the August bank holiday weekend, the St Patrick’s Day Parade, fun events for children at Easter and Halloween, installation of the Christmas lights and tree, and production the annual Christmas Newsletter.
CDA relies on the goodwill of local businesses, and is sponsored by Murphy’s SuperValu and Celtic Sea Minerals. In 2016, the association started a monthly bingo night at the Beara Coast Hotel to help funding of the redevelopment of the local playground. ‘This bingo night has been a huge success.’ says Cian. ‘We have secured €14,000 from Cork County Council towards developing the playground, but now we need to match that so we are raising the money through the bingo. Over 200 people attend the event each month, and so as well as raising vital funds, it is also a popular social event, allowing people from throughout Beara to meet up for some fun and a chat.’
CDA projects for 2017 include the two town ‘spring cleaning’ days this month as part of An Taisce’s National Spring Clean. This involved powerhosing and revamping of the town square, and the culmination of this was the unveiling of a memorial bench to the late Seán ‘The Buck’ O’Sullivan last weekend. Seán was a local council worker who took huge pride in his work and could be seen sweeping and litter picking in Castletownbere from early morning, seven days a week.
CDA is also involved in organising the Ring of Beara Cycle, which will see over 3,800 cyclists pass through Castletownbere in May, with all proceeds being donated to Castletownbere Hospital. Cian outlines why the CDA have been on board from the start for the cycle: ‘It’s good for business and tourism, and we have found that while the cyclists are only passing through the town on the day, many come back for a longer visit weeks and months after the event.’ Keeping with the fitness theme, the association will also hold its Wild Atlantic Run again this year, and they are currently working on plans to enhance this with a slightly different route.
A new shop local initiative has just been rolled out whereby loyalty cards are available from local businesses and shoppers are issued with a stamp for every purchase over €10. Once their card is full it will be entered into a draw which takes place during the Festival of the Sea in August. Top prize is a cool €500.
Perhaps the biggest event of the year for Castletownbere Development Association is the aforementioned Festival of the Sea, which always draws large crowds to the town, with many émigrés planning their visit home around the festival. The association has a number of new events planned for this year’s event.
Last September, Castletownbere held its first ‘Taste Trail’ as part of A Taste of West Cork Food Festival. This trail was organised by Lorraine Downey, and Cian outlined plans to build on the success of this for this year’s event, which the CDA are now supporting: ‘Last year the event was a huge success and the CDA are delighted to be involved. With more and more restaurants and cafes opening in Castletownbere we are really putting ourselves on the map for great food. We eventually hope to expand the event throughout the Beara Peninsula, as there are so many great food producers in this area.’
Cian feels that Castletownbere has a lot to look forward to, and that the town is now on an upward curve: ‘Everything seems more positive and there is a lot of community spirit in the town. Castletownbere Development Association has a young, dynamic committee, which is very driven. Castletownbere is our home, we want to stay here, and we want to make it a
great place for everyone.’
• For further information on events organised by the CDA, see www.castletownbere.ie or the Castletownbere Development Association Facebook page.