‘wE can be heroes just for one day’ goes the song and Athy has its own new heroine.
Patricia Berry of Brand Athy was awarded a Local Hero Award at this year’s Kildare County Show for her work in marketing and showcasing the Kildare south town.
The Leader met up with Ms Berry at her HQ in the Athy Community Enterprise Centre last week where she was busy preparing for a community sports taster weekend.
“The EU-project Brand Athy has allowed us to promote and market Athy to make people in the community aware of what we have. There was a time where people forgot the simple things we have in Athy and people now have started to realise we do have an amazing town with amazing clubs, facilities, organisations, events and festivals. That just had to be reinforced and pointed out,” she explained matter-of-factly.
Indeed Athy has an impressive list that many towns in Kildare would be jealous of. Two Roses of Tralee, three Ploughing Championships, a host of prize-winning boxers, a Dragon Boat Regatta, TradAthy, the Kildare County Show, a county championship, a Bluegrass Festival and TriAthy. Brand Athy has been there, working hard behind the scenes at all these events, providing the link.
“At the beginning of the project people did not realise what Brand was all about so it took a little bit of time to bed it into the core of people. We got communities, residents associations, festivals, the town council, everybody got on board and we were under the one umbrella and that was important.”
One of the initiatives was a free branding marketing design toolset for businesses and local organisations to use. Building products company Tegral, which is based in Athy, came on board too, with local teenagers from the Athy Youth Club creating a mural to promote the town on Minch’s Malt. Among Ms Berry’s highlights were the National Ploughing Championships and Jenson Button’s visit to TriAthy.
“The Ploughing three years in a row was a great thing for the town and for the whole area. And TriAthy was fantastic. To get Formula One star Jenson Button here was amazing. Many towns and events would pay him a fortune to do public appearances but he paid his entry fee of E45 to do TriAthy and the feedback from him is that he just loves Athy and will be back.”
Ms Berry, who is born and bred Athy, attended the recent public auction of White’s Castle. Based in the centre of the town, along the banks of the River Barrow, the 14th Century castle is an historical trademark of the town.
“It is interesting for us who have spent the last three years promoting Athy. It will just be interesting to see what the plans are for the castle. I’d love to have the money to buy it but that’s a non-runner,” she joked. “I’d love to see a tourist office in it, but you just don’t know what is going to happen with it.
“It’s important and good for the town that someone good goes into it.” The castle was subsequently bought by a Galway couple for E195k who plan to turn it into a family home.
It was an honour for Ms Berry to receive the Kildare County Show local hero award this year. “I’d like to think that it was just people in Athy recognising the Brand project through me which was very important.
“Working with the local community, I am very involved in Tidy Towns, Athy Promoters and a lot of organisations, I think maybe people are starting to realise the Brand project has done something for Athy. It was an absolute honour to get that medal on the day because people did realise it wasn’t just me but Brand and the funding we did get came to really good use.”
The Brand project, which is funded by the EU, will be finished this September but Ms Berry is hopeful of an extension.
Newcomer Emer O’Reilly is due to head it up as Ms Berry moves on to an exciting venture. “It will be dire handing Brand over,” she admitted.
“There is another EU Kildare Outdoor Tourism Project that I will be involved in but yes I will find it very hard to hand over the strings of BrandAthy. The image of Athy is very important beyond the project and sure I’ll never be too far away, I’ll always be keeping an eye on the town.
“Some years back people’s mindset in Athy was so low but now people are so proud to live in the town and so happy to be living in Athy. That is success.”
- Lisa Deeney