Wednesday, 4 January 2012
Could 2012 be the year of Limerick's Local Heroes?
I was starting to become tired of Facebook. Having joined it almost 7 years ago, the novelty was fast wearing off. I felt it had become a medium through which users would now simply post irrelevent, over-personal naval gazing demands for attention. Facebook was becoming a lazy way of interacting. It was becoming the valley of squinting windows in Cyberland. I was becoming disillusioned with a medium through which I had interacted for quite some time.
I joined Twitter just around the time of the general election last year, partly out of curiousity and partly to do with some work I was doing for the radio station. Intially I simply followed politicians, news stations, commentators and hashtags relating to the election campaign. I was logged on when Paul Gogarty conceded defeat. I was there when Willie O’Dea had a pop at Peter Power. I was there when Jan O’Sullivan told us of here gardening exploits on the morning of the count. By the end of the campaign I was hooked. The immediacy of the world of Twitter was fascinating. The first time one of my own tweets was retweeted felt like a milestone. I began to interact with @’s, most of whom I had never met before but over time became people with whom I felt a connection. I saw Twitter as a medium through which like minds would inevitably cross paths.
This is exactly what happened on an evening when I was watching the Local Heroes programme on RTE 1. I was struck by the spirit of get-up-and-go displayed by the people of Drogheda. The twitterati were feeling the same. Using the genius of the hashtag concept I was able to interact with others watching the show. It was also becoming clear that there were other viewers based in Limerick who could see the potential of the Local Heroes initiative in our own city. Within the space of two hours a small group of relative strangers had decided on a time, venue and date for an initial meeting to introduce a Local Heroes campaign in Limerick.
So what is Local Heroes? The concept started when a group of individuals from all walks of life realised that something needed to be done in Drogheda to change the onset of unemployment, liquidations and negativity in the town. It was an initiative led by the people for the people. It was an initiative that required people to be fully committed to overcoming a negative situation through positive action. Local Heroes is a chance for people to create jobs by jump-starting their local economy using the skillsets, knowledge and passion that exists in every town and small city across the country.
Led by the very passionate Tony Frawley a group of us met at that first gathering in the Absolute Hotel in Limerick City. What struck me was the power that Twitter had to actually inspire individuals to give up a cold Tuesday evening and attend what could easily have been perceived as ‘another talking shop’. What was also evident was the fact that hoteliers like Donacha Hurley were willing to provide meeting spaces, tea and coffee free of charge for such a gathering. By the second meeting our numbers were gathering. The wide array of skillsets, interests and reasons behind attending was exciting.
The Local Heroes Limerick initiative is now well up and running. Limerick is a city that needs its people to come together. All walks of life need to accept that Limerick has been particularly affected by the recession. Years of poor planning, years of our city being a tale of county/city boundaries, years of a lack of solid leadership has not helped. What the Local Heroes concept will attempt to do in the coming months is to inspire the people of our city and its environs to work together in making the most of what our city can offer.
A number of months ago I had some dealings with Graham Royce. He was the man behind the Mid West Showcase where small and medium sized enterprises as well as start up businesses gathered together under one roof to showcase the wonderful positivity that still exists amongst many in the business community. The success of the showcase in just a couple of years meant that Graham had to find a new venue to host the event. Dell came on board and in a wonderful display of positivity, the Mid West Showcase celebrated local enterprise with the help of a company that, despite setbacks, continues to be a key employer in the Limerick region. This is a macrocosm of what Local Heroes can do.
I was delighted to read today that La Cucina, owned by celebrated Twitterers Lorraine Fanneran and Bruno Coppola have won a restaurant of the year award from the Bridgestone Guide. La Cucina is an example of a small local business which has defied the odds to establish itself as success story not just in Limerick but nationally (La Cucina also won best casual dining in the Irish Restaurant Awards last March). Their use of Twitter has been recognised as a real selling point. The likes of Lorraine and Bruno exist throughout the city. Local Heroes enables all of these people to pool their talents and make our city shine.
The Local Heroes campaign is not just about those who are lucky enough to be employed, not just about those who are lucky enough to have a business plan, not just about established leaders. It is about everybody. It goes from the grassroots up. A story was recently told of certain taxi drivers who ask tourists why they have come to Limerick telling them that they would be better off in Galway or Cork. Until the mindset whereby our citizens knock our own city changes we will never be able to achieve the potential that exists within each and every one of our people.
Of course there will be challenges, of course there will be naysayers but fundementally 2012 is beginning with a positive initiative in Limerick City. Local Heroes is for everybody and January will see the first step in what could and should be a step away from the negativity of recent years. If we as citizens can take in all of the great things our city has to offer, learn to speak with positivity and allow change to happen then we could be the success story that we deserve to be.
To follow the Local Heroes Limerick campaign on Twitter use the hashtag #limerickurmylady or