Service Learning
A teaching tool connecting community and classroom

Engaging with Rural Communities

Engaging with Rural Communities

Course Director: Dr. Marie Mahon and Dr. Maura Farrell

Course Title: Masters in Rural Sustainability
Subject: Geography
Participants: 12 (divided into groups of 3)
Hours: 36+
Credits:
10 ects
Mandatory:
Yes
Length:
6 weeks research and Report.
Year first established:
2012-2013
Learning Outcomes:

Community Partners: Various community groups in a chosen rural location. Partners will change from year to year of the Programme.

Case Study: Promoting destination via film-induced tourism: Boyle as ‘Moone Boy' country?

Boyle Town & More, with Boyle Chamber of Commerce were the joint hosts for a research collaboration with Masters Students in Rural Sustainability from the School of Geography and Archaeology (Geography), NUI Galway. This project involved approximately 6 weeks of research by the students to devise a development project centred on the town of Boyle and its environs. The project was devised to initiate or expand on rural development opportunities in the locality, drawing as far as possible on existing local resources and capacities with the aim that the local population and economy would mainly benefit. The project was identified through discussion with Boyle Town & More/Boyle Chamber of Commerce, the organisations that provided the initial opportunities for them to be undertaken.

The project explored the potential to make connections to place through film-based tourism, based on the highly successful ‘Moone Boy' television series. Some of the filming for Moone Boy has taken place in Boyle, which is also the home town of the main character, the actor Chris O'Dowd.

The students drew on the concept of film-based tourism to explain the reasons behind tourist visits to destinations featured on television, video or cinema and the experiences they hope to gain from these visits. This form of tourism is well established as a successful economic activity in locations in which films or TV programmes have been made or even seem to have been made (e.g. Heartbeat, Father Ted). Based on surveys and test screenings of Moone Boy (conducted by the students), the idea of identifying certain focal points in the series that could be linked to Boyle was put forward as one recommendation. The key words used to describe the setting of Moone Boy were ‘traditional', ‘historic' and ‘unchanged'. The fact that Boyle exists as a real place was seen as a very advantageous starting point. That the town has not become over-developed and retains a traditional, authentic character was another. Providing a guided tour based around Moone Boy and the focal points as a way of enhancing the experience of visitors was a second key recommendation. The majority of those surveyed had at some stage taken part in a guided tour. All of them had a positive perception of what a tour guide added to the tourist experience in terms of knowledge, providing explanations and interpretations, and giving the tour experience a personal touch. The possibility of developing merchandise relating to Moone Boy was also explored. In this regard, several traders in the town agreed that Moone Boy had the potential to impact positively on their businesses; however this had only been realised by a small number of them. A Moone Boy Comedy Weekend was also proposed as a way of connecting Boyle to the series and strengthening the place link.

The students presented an 80-page final report to the organisations involved, as well as giving a presentation of the main findings of the research to a publicly-invited audience, which took place at the Enterprise Centre, Boyle, in March of this year. The report contained an extensively-developed theoretical discussion and review of relevant literature, with the aim that this might be used as a future resource for the organisations concerned. The fieldwork involved devising and conducting a survey, a series of interviews with key experts, screening focus groups for the Moone Boy TV series, and attendance at a number of mentoring sessions hosted by Failte Ireland for the two organisations to develop economic opportunities for Boyle.