For those of you interested in the Lonely Planet reviews, you might be surprised to learn that Northern Ireland’s culture and heritage has made it onto their list, voted as one the most interesting places to visit in the world.

As you would expect, we want to make the most of these fantastic assets for everyone that lives in and indeed anyone who visits Northern Ireland. This is a challenge that brought together a number of stakeholders, including the Department for Communities’ Historic Environment Division (HED) at a recent event. The event took place in the Seamus Heaney Homeplace on 10 April 2019 and was organised by Tourism NI, HED, National Lottery Heritage Fund, Arts Council of Northern Ireland and British Council.

The event focussed on how to develop a vision for culture and heritage that can help inform, guide, enthuse and explore the best way to make the most of the opportunities that present themselves. Attendees reflected on and discussed case studies on recent collaborative policies and projects.

Speaking about the event Iain Greenway, Director, Historic Environment Division told us a little bit more about what the event was all about:

“2018 was the European Year of Cultural Heritage. In Northern Ireland, we used this as a platform to get the cultural, heritage and tourism sectors working more closely together. Work in the year included a joint grant scheme from National Lottery Heritage Find, Tourism Northern Ireland and HED for projects which achieved that – including a series of Museum lates (zombies after dark in Bangor Castle Museum for instance), and exploring the real history of Northern Ireland ‘beyond Westeros’. This year’s work is to build on that progress, and the event in Bellaghy inspired and challenged us all to do more – attendees agreed in a quick fire question round that we are not currently telling Northern Ireland’s stories effectively; but that we have the power to do so. We also discussed a ‘Messy Manifesto’ to shape our work; and heard about projects such as the Tropical Ravine in Belfast’s Botanic Gardens.”

Tourism Northern Ireland published their strategic framework to unlock the potential of heritage-led tourism in Northern Ireland in 2017 which highlighted cultural tourism as representative of 40% of the visitor market worldwide. Their vision for tourism to 2020 has an ambitious target of £1billion contribution growth to the local economy, 4.5m visitors per annum and an additional 10,000 jobs created. Department for Communities’ Culture and HED business areas will have a key role to play in making this happen.