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Local Councils plan a giant visitor experience for the Sperrins

01 June 2021

Members of the public are invited to have their say on the proposed Sperrin Sculpture Trail being rolled out by Derry City and Strabane District Council working in partnership with Fermanagh and Omagh District Council and Mid Ulster District Council.

The Sperrin Sculpture Trail is being delivered through the Rural Tourism Scheme as part of the Northern Ireland Rural Development Programme 2014-2020 with support from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA). It aims to install an iconic and unique art piece within each of the three Council areas in an effort to drive and encourage rural tourism and support investment in local natural and built heritage. The locations within the Sperrins on which the artworks will be installed are near Cranagh (Derry City & Strabane District Council area); at Mullaghcarn (Fermanagh & Omagh District Council area) and at Davagh Forest (Mid Ulster District Council area).The estimated cost of project delivery is £1,887,000 of which £1,325,000 has been secured from DAERA's Rural Tourism Scheme and match funding of £562,000 agreed by the partner Councils.

Early this year an artist led design and construction consultancy team was appointed to undertake the sculpture development and installation works. This team consists of internationally acclaimed and Copenhagen based artist Thomas Dambo, and Sperrins based McGurk Architects. The proposed design concept for the trail – Giants of The Sperrins - is an exciting one and is currently being refined. It seeks to showcase the epic stories associated with the Sperrins, the inspirational nature of the landscape, and the giant spirit and welcome of the people. Extensive engagement with partners, stakeholders and elected members across all three of the Councils has taken place to date, with the aim of promoting and seeking support for this unique visitor experience. The response has been overwhelmingly positive and wider public engagement is now being organised.

Agriculture Minister, Edwin Poots said: "The Rural Tourism Scheme was established in order to invest in natural and built heritage projects that can act as key drivers for encouraging rural tourism and out-of-state visitors. We believe that investing in tourism projects in rural areas, will enable not only linkages to be made to other local attractions, but also the development of 'tourism corridors', which will encourage and increase visitor footfall from tourism hotspots into the great rural outdoors. 

Welcoming the progress to date on the project, Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Cllr Brian Tierney, acknowledged the partnership approach in securing funding and agreeing a collaborative approach to deliver a unique tourism experience to showcase the Sperrins. He said: "This is a hugely positive initiative that not only will deliver a tourism experience that will showcase a local area of outstanding natural beauty but it will actively encourage locals and visitors alike to take part in a mix of excellent slow and activity based adventures in one of the most picturesque and historic locations on the island of Ireland.

"The Sperrins Sculpture Trail project is a significant Rural Tourism Scheme that is bringing much needed investment and focus on the natural and built heritage in that area so they in turn can be utilised and promoted to encourage visitors to our rural heartlands, whilst preserving the natural assets for our rural communities."

Encouraging the public to take part in the wider public engagement event on the 10th of June, Mayor Tierney said it was important that everyone has their say on the plans.

"In addition to this flagship tourism project attracting investment and tourism, it is a significant capital infrastructural project that will create employment and opportunities for the region. It is vitally important that everyone gets involved in this public engagement event and gives their views."

Chair of Mid Ulster District Council and partner council, Councillor Cathal Mallaghan said: "Creating a sculpture trail through the Sperrins is adding yet another reason to visit one of our most beautiful and unexplored landscapes and this is a great opportunity for local people in particular to see how plans have developed and some of the initial design ideas."

The Chair of Fermanagh & Omagh District Council Council, Councillor Diana Armstrong, said: "This is a powerful project that can lead to a truly unique sculpture trail, linking three extraordinary sites across the Sperrins. The sculptures have the potential to encourage visitors to come and explore this stunning landscape and be a source of pride for those that live in the area. The information sessions present a great opportunity for members of the public to get involved and give their views on this unique project."

The public information and engagement session is scheduled to take place online viaWebex at 7pm on Thursday 10th of June. To register your interest in receiving an online invite to the event please contact Philip McShane, Rural Tourism Officer, Derry City & Strabane District Council by emailing [email protected]