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'It's been 32 years': How Kinsale plans to reclaim the SuperValu TidyTowns crown in 2018

‘It’s overdue but we’ve worked harder than ever this year,’ says Kinsale local Ted McNamara.

Two young volunteers helping out.
Two young volunteers helping out.
Image: SuperValu TidyTowns

“I’VE BEEN INVOLVED for nearly 40 years. It’s all about having a bit of pride in the town.”

Ted McNamara is currently the vice-chair of Kinsale’s SuperValu TidyTowns committee. He’s been on the team long enough to remember the years before Kinsale’s tourism boom, when keeping the Cork harbour town litter-free was a little bit easier than it is now.

He can also remember 1986, when the town won the national award for Ireland’s Tidiest Town. Kinsale has been nominated for a SuperValu TidyTowns award every year since then, but it has yet to reclaim the top spot.

With the closing date for TidyTowns entries today, May 23, the pressure is on.

“We’ve no shortage of awards,” says Ted. “We won the Best Small Town in Ireland from Failte Ireland in 2014. But the SuperValu TidyTowns win is overdue.”

Despite the 32-year gap, Ted and the Kinsale residents remain optimistic.

We’re hoping every year, but we’ve worked harder than ever this year. We have a beautiful new walk set up down to the marsh, and we worked with the council to put in a new exercise park on a site that was derelict for 30 years.

Thanks to 32 years of hard work, Kinsale’s chances are certainly high this year, but the tough part isn’t over yet. Here’s how Ted says the town is preparing ahead of this year’s judging…

1. Looking back at what the judges said last year

Kinsale Rectruit 03 - CURRENT.00_00_28_22.Still005 Kinsale from above. Source: SuperValu TidyTowns

The annual judges’ reports aren’t just lists of markings. They contain detailed notes on everything from the use of green space to the presence of litter or graffiti. For Ted, the 2017 judges’ report has been something of a Bible.

“Anything the adjudicators point out, we tackle it,” he says.

In the old St Multose Church there was a very old gate and the adjudicator a couple of years in a row asked the church to put up a noticeboard on the wall. They didn’t have the money so I got someone to make up a decent one with glass, and it looks brilliant now.

2. Getting the youngsters involved all year long

SON623_0326 Source: Shane O'Neill Photography

There are five primary schools and one secondary school involved in SuperValu TidyTowns in the Kinsale area, meaning no shortage of young people to lend enthusiasm, energy and clean-up skills.

“I visited the local schools about seven years ago,” says Ted. “We had a chat and all of a sudden it took off. We formed a Junior SuperValu TidyTowns committee in each school, and got the kids cleaning up, building bee hotels, bug hotels, recycling, gardening, everything.”

And when kids talk, their parents listen.

We’ve even seen a drop in littering by locals because the primary school kids just won’t allow their parents to litter anymore.

3. Getting out and chatting to people

“The secret to our success so far is working with the people,” says Ted.

If you send out letters, asking people to sign up, they won’t. If you talk to them, they will. People see that tourism has grown and they know SuperValu TidyTowns is a part of that.

Ted’s also not afraid of a “little bit of plámásing” of local businesses and tradespeople.

“I go after people who have the expertise to do things. For example if we wanted something made we’d go after a local builder who’d do it for us. I’d go off to someone else for the materials, and they’d all get a public thank you.”

4. Making the last few weeks before the judging count

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Screen Shot 2018-04-25 at 10.11.42 At one of Kinsale's regular beach clean-ups. Source: SuperValu TidyTowns

The SuperValu TidyTowns judging is done in secret, so Kinsale residents have no idea when to expect them, especially given the town’s high volume of tourists.

“We know they [the judges] come twice, in June and August,” says Ted, adding that there’s a list of things to be done before the judging period begins.

Dog fouling was a big problem so now we have the dog bins and the bags everywhere. Soon we’ll be asking people to paint the outside of their homes and businesses.

Fortunately, the committee are pros at asking nicely. “There are no threatening letters,” says Ted. “And if someone doesn’t have the funds to paint, local companies give us paint at a cut price rate.”

5. And don’t forget to stay positive

“Everyone here knows that pride in the town is the main reason the committee and volunteers work so hard each year. You meet tourists around the town on a clean-up who’ll say, ‘Fair play,’ and that eggs you on,” says Ted.

And what does he think will come of this year’s awards?

We keep trying, we keep hoping, and we’ll keep the head down.

Source: Journal Media Studio/YouTube

Make sure you have posted your SuperValu TidyTowns entry form because the closing date is today, May 23. Find more information on how to get involved with SuperValu TidyTowns here.

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