Carrickfergus is a walled, medieval garrison town, with an intact Norman castle. This place holds many keys to understanding the Northern Ireland cultural heritage story. The invasion of William of Orange into Northern Ireland landed here – just one of the many stories of UK-wide significance – often fraught with contention and used to support sectarian agendas to the serious detriment of the town’s appeal to developers, investors and visitors, diminishing the community in the process. We were commissioned to look at a heritage-led tourism strategy, with the Castle at its heart.
Before we developed the strategy, we had to make the case for it across the town, feeding into a wider masterplan for the town, and supporting government fundraising. We worked with partners Sara Hilton Associates to assess the town’s heritage potential and Claire Turner on a new events proposition for Carrickfergus.
With well-documented communities’ sensitivities, that’s exactly where we started work. With new community groups committed to effecting change – such as Positive Carrickfergus, a Facebook group with over 300 members – the project took an inclusive approach to cut through any negativity and start to make this historically significant place great again. We were also embedded within the masterplanning process, alongside the design team and regeneration partnership.
Our work focused on creating a new brand framework to change perception, build partnerships and generate new confidence to public and private sector investors within a masterplanning and regional investment context.
Ainsley McWilliams, Head of Tourism, Mid & East Antrim Council
Our place brand framework helped Carrickfergus secure funds in the Belfast Region City Deal – a transformational £34m investment, described as ‘a game-changer for the local economy and tourism market’ by the client’.
The Carrickfergus Regeneration Investment Plan (CRIP) and Town Centre Strategy has 12 distinct development projects. Through our inputs, five of these place the visitor experience alongside residents at the heart of the urban regeneration programme - Castle, Welcome, Creative Place-making, Thriving, Tourism, and Repositioning as a Destination.
The Castle is investing in new technologies as part of its next generation interpretation and storytelling.
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