Breandán Ó Loinsigh – Ballinderreen Sur La Mer


Ahead of Small Towns Big Ideas Round 2 we spoke to Breandán Ó Loinsigh from Ballinderreen Sur La Mer, a community festival project from the first round, about his experience and what community means to him.

How did you become involved in Small Towns Big Ideas?

We came across the initiative through social media, and I thought there were great opportunities there for a community like ours to be involved. I came back to our own committee, we had a chat about it, and we said, ‘Let’s have a go at this.”


Tell us a bit about the Ballinderreen sur la Mer project?

What was important to us was that we would showcase what the area has to offer. Because we have many people with many talents of people living in the area. We have a beautiful hinterland, we’re less than two km from the sea, we’re a very big oyster farming area, and we also have lots of people who have moved in from different countries, and as well as from Ireland. So, for us, it was an opportunity for us to put all that together and see can we showcase that as a part of what we can do.

We had an opportunity to put together several events, but dovetail them all together into one long weekend, which was quite daunting. But I think Irish people are great when it comes to being given a challenge – they just tend to hop on board, and that’s what happened with us.

“Everybody needs to feel included – that’s the most important thing for a community.”

Social inclusion was one of the main aims of your project – can you tell us why?

The problem that a lot of rural communities have at the moment is the issue of social exclusion or lack of social inclusion. And we have been looking at that for quite a while. There’s quite an active area here, between the healthy club initiative, where elderly people can come for lunches, and we have different groups in the organisation in the area that can come and work. We thought if we start something like this under the umbrella of Small Towns, Big Ideas, it gives us a great opportunity to showcase what we’ve done, as I’ve said, but that people who are living in the community feel they’re part of the community and can partake in what we’re doing. Everybody needs to feel included – that’s the most important thing for a community.


What did you learn from the experience?

What we learned from our involvement with Galway 2020 is that there are other dimensions to people’s lives, as well as what we see. We’ve learned from attending other events, that there are plenty of other communities outside the city who are struggling and are also trying to achieve the same things as we are.


What did you enjoy most about taking part in the project?

I find that dealing with people is the most enjoyable part of it – you meet people from all walks of life, you meet different personalities, you get used to dealing with group dynamics, you understand who wants to do what, who’d like to do what, what their motivations are for it, and it becomes a very all embracing, interesting day, and it’s a feel good factor.


What for you is an ideal community?

It should also be an environment in which people can meet together and talk – and you have to have access to space for that. We need to have community centres, we need to have halls, we need to have sports facilities, walkways. One which takes into account all the people who live in the area. Ireland has a diverse number of backgrounds within their communities, and I think we have to take account of the people who have moved to the country lately, and people who have lived there all their lives –  to be inclusive of everyone. To me, that’s what makes a community.



Photos: Julia Dunin

Small Towns Big Ideas Round 2

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