When Brian Langan had to choose a project for his Self-Expression and Leadership Programme, it seemed natural to choose a book project. Brian works as an editor for a publishing company, and is himself a writer, having had a novel published in 1999. It was also not difficult to choose who would benefit from his project: the people of the towns of Bettystown, Laytown, Mornington and Donacarney, in the Meath Coast area of Ireland.
“There is a huge but largely untapped sense of community spirit in the area,” says Brian. “One of the aims of the project was to tap into this community spirit and to raise awareness among the area’s population of the power of a vibrant community. Another aim was to provide funding for and raise awareness of the need for a community centre. At the moment, there is little in the way of a ‘hub’ for the community, a central place for local people to gather to share their resources, time and energies in pursuing leisure activities, community activities, etc. I could see that a new community centre would give an outlet, particularly for younger people, who are the future of the community, after all.”
Brian’s idea was to put together a book celebrating the people of the area, written by those people. He put out a call through the local press for stories, anecdotes, poems, dreams and reflections about the area. “The response was fantastic! Local politicians, businesses, schools and clergy all got behind the book. In the end, we had a great compilation of over thirty written pieces for the book, including pieces from schoolchildren and from two sisters who had been to the same school in the 1940s.”
The book, Remembering the Future: A Meath Coast Miscellany, was published in November 2007. By Christmas, it had almost sold out of its print run of 500 copies, raising over €5,000 for the Meath East Community Association’s fund for a new community centre. “I really feel the book created something special, and that people found a new pride and dignity in their area. It was like a collective imagining of what the area is like and how it can be in the future.”
Brian feels that the book has helped to create a sort of “critical mass” that will see the new community centre up and running within the next five years. “I’ve only lived in Bettystown for two years, but I get such a great sense that it is a wonderful place to bring up kids. I’d like to think that my own children will benefit from the growing confidence and togetherness of the community.”
Brian can be contacted at [email protected].