International Walled Town Symposium, Waterford 2003

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A group of organisations and individuals from walled towns across Europe have been meeting annually since 1989 to promote the interests of their towns and cities.

This year their annual symposium was held in Waterford and I attended on behalf of Athenry ADC.

The Walled Towns Friendship Circle currently has 27 member countries and 140 member towns.

The objectives of the Circle are:

To encourage friendship between the inhabitants of all ages in walled town communities and to encourage and to foster the interchange of visits by individuals, associations, schools and colleges.
To enrich each other’s lives through appreciation of each other’s historical, traditional, cultural and artistic inheritance.
To promote tourism whilst considering the challenges of motor vehicles, pedestrianisation, access to homes and businesses, building and road maintenance, grants and assistance for the preservation and conservation work.
To establish links with other walled towns and to develop joint marketing strategies to increase worldwide awareness of walled towns as historic treasures and tounsm attractions.                        To convene regular symposia in member towns to address topics of key importance and to organise study tours
To support the conservation and the protection of the walled towns and their environmental context.
To develop common strategies for proper methods of planning and conserving ancient towns and their environmental context.

The Annual Symposium is held in a different member country each year and 100 delegates representing most European countries attended the Waterford Conference.
During a packed week of events presentations were given on many aspects of celebrating and conserving our heritage.

Highlights included a talk on the history of irish town walls given by John Bradley of NUI Maynooth, a presentation from Piran, Slovenia explaining how school children are taught to appreciate their built heritage and a very interesting presentation from Paddy Mathews, Planning Officer of the Heritage Council that featured Athenry specifically. We are hopeful that he will visit Athenry shortly to repeat this presentation.

The most impressive aspect of the week for me was the high regard that the international delegates showed for their towns and cities. Even though some came from less affluent and less well developes countries than ireland, they would put you to shame in their civic pride. Several of the delegates came from local authorities and state organisations that obviously showed a keen interest in preserving their heritage. I made several useful contacts during the week and received offers of help and support particularly from the delegations from Wales.

The hosting of the conference was a credit to Waterford City Council and particularly Eamonn McEneany, Curator of Waterford City Museum who did trojan work in organising the event. Waterford has made great strides in recent years in preserving its heritage and sets an exampe that we in Athenry could emulate

Membership of the Walled Towns’ Friendship Circle can be of benefit to Athenry in the future and there is no reason why we could not host this conference in years to come.

I can say with certainty after this symposium that the name of Athenry is now known in far flung corners of Europe from Sweden to Hungary and from Scotland to Slovenia.

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About this record

Written by Cáit Curran

Published here 02 Jan 2024 and originally published Summer 2003

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