Over 1,000 communities, urban, rural big and small have participated in Tidy Towns at one time or another over its half-century existence and it this widespread engagement with that has brought about the transformation of so many towns and villages throughout Ireland.
Tidy Towns is a concept that all participants can buy into; the simple but powerful idea that people can make a difference to their own area and make them a better place to live, work and visit.
Tidy Towns provides a framework for such ideas to come to life; a best practice guide to maximise intent and guarantee results.
Tidy Towns is a competition where areas can be independently and constructively assessed against a general standard of excellence and against each other, thereby increasing standards year on year.
Just 52 towns entered in the first year but it rapidly increased in popularity with an average of 700 entrants per year. The success of Tidy Towns also many other initiatives at national, county and local level, which further boosted its reputation and impact.
The winner in the first year was Glenties, Co. Donegal. The emphasis has always been on participating rather than winning as the very act of taking part brings benefits to the entire community.
In 1995, following the restructuring of Bord Fálite, the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government assumed responsibility of Tidy Towns.
Prizes are awarded on an annual basis in September.
The backbone of Tidy Towns has always been the National Competition, however the spirit has permeated Irish society far deeper than that.
The success of the National Competition encouraged many other bodies , notably local authorities and communities themselves to organise their own initiatives under the Tidy Towns banners thus spreading the message far and wide.
Many of the local initiatives are still going strong, some with a new title or focus, but their ongoing success is a constant reminder what Tidy Towns means to the spirit of Ireland.
The input of participants in these initiatives and there has been many thousands of them over the years, has helped make their communities better places to live, work and visit.
Tidy Towns is open to all areas, big or small, urban or rural, and each is entered under their respective population categories ranging from the smallest, Category A –Under 200, to the largest, Category H – 25,0001 and over.
Grants – funding is granted to specific projects that comply with specific criteria.
The Heritage Council Grants Programme – is just one publicly funded agency with responsibility to propose policies and priorities for the identification, protection and preservation and enhancement of Irish heritage.
Action Campaigns- activities are organised on a high profile basis providing focus and publicity.
A good example is Heritage Week.
This is an annual European wide initiative to encourage people to actively engage in their own heritage, coordinated by the Heritage Council in conjunction the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.
To many persons, tidy simply means ‘clean’. A much broader definition would mean a lot more such as being ‘well-ordered’. Tidy Towns is fundamentally doing things properly – best practice, good planning , well maintained buildings and public spaces, appropriate landscaping, respect for natural amenities and biodiversity, clean and uncluttered thoroughfares, and most importantly, community engagement.
Community Employment is a FAS administered programme that benefits both the community and the participants. The programme provides long-term unemployed people with various part-time work opportunities in the social economy together with relevant training.
Throughout Ireland, Tidy Towns committees avail of Community Employment Projects as one of the mainstays of their activities as long-term unemployed people engage in area such as daily litter patrols and keeping grassed and landscaped areas under control
Ten categories are listed under which marks are awarded when assessing Tidy Towns entrants. From your observations of your local area, is there any other category that you feel could be included for future years?