By Colm Croffy
It was the winter of 2010, the austerity years post the banking collapse were taking its toll. We had as a community a short 12 months before lived through the most devastating of floods; there was a genuine sense of despondency in the air.
Kelly's printing family MD (Brendan Kelly) – lifelong supporters of so many voluntary organisations in town, our Development Company founding Secretary (Colm Croffy) and BACD Chairman (Seamus Duffy) had a few chats over the festive season.
No one in the community could see at a glance outside of the Patricks Day Parade and the Fair that there was huge voluntary, sporting, charitable, educational work happening allied to a shook but loyal business community and a rich farming hinterland under our feet.
We were only looking at a quarterly newsletter 8 pages, dropped into the home via An Post. One of the key drivers to the BACD company - Noel Madden mentioned at an AGM that the wider community of town would never understand what BACD was trying to do unless it took its message outside the old gates of St Enda’s and into people’s minds and homes.
I started researching other communities, Gort had it’s Guaire, Tuam had it’s historical Annual but we had nothing. I had been previously engaged with the Connacht Tribune for a decade since Dermot Connolly (Ex NT) RIP passed as the local correspondent and that paper like so many others was changing from broadsheet to tabloid and staff reporters who could cover topics in depth were being let go.
With the bones of an idea we approached a few of the pillar firms in town – would they back the idea of a simple 32 page colour magazine – every 8 weeks with their advertising budget to become not a “MAGILL” or a “Village” type publication for our community but more like a “Cara“ the inflight magazine of Aer Lingus.
The response was overwhelmingly positive, we needed the Mothership of Development Company to be the nursery for the project. Resources to compile, research, co-ordinate the magazine would have to be found. Third level Trainees was the only route as the cost recovery project could not pay out any professional fees to contributors.
My projects office would be the engine room for content and creativity and my 20 years of communications across print, multi media and event would be put to use. The BACD manager’s office was the accounts and advertising office.
Seamus went with a trio of a team to the Board, it was backed enthusiastically from the start . The wily Board however added a fourth person to the Volunteers & Manager – Director Paul Hargadon. So it was four volunteers – who sold the ads, (Seamus was the Master Hustler!) and got the subscribers, the then Manager Helen Kelly who did the billing and accounts chasing and mise who co-ordinated content and contributors.
Distribution into all the letterboxes inside the old urban area was always done with voluntary drivers – Directors and members of the BACD Company and young second level students which in the last 10 years has predominately been Garbally TY Classes. Ken delivers to all the National Schools and key village stores to all our villages within our Common Bond radius and sometimes as far as Leixlip. We know from families and the Post Office that over 500 copies are posted to family overseas and around the country!
We were very lucky early on to secure the engagement and support of notable writers and historians of the locality who have given of their time and energy freely – Ken Kelly, Barry Lally, Pat Johnston, Sean Tully, Wille Tully, Damian Mac Con Uladh, to name a few and scores of other PROS and correspondents.
We have grown in reach and content from 32 pages and 3,000 copies to 64 pages and 6,500 copies every two months and have a valuable platform in showcasing all the many positive attributes of our town, hinterland and community. Advertising Manger Lyn Donnelly has grown our supporters list from to over 165.
We have produced over 600 community videos that illuminate our town on the World wide web – last year alone clips were viewed a massive 210,000 times. Any video/report we make gets viewed by an average of 3,500 people. We have over 6,600 facebook fans, we are tweeting and instagramming and finding ways to tell our positive story through social media which in time will develop into a full information channel of its own. Sinéad Colleran has revamped our Website - ballinasloe.ie – to where it links to our Ballinasloe LIfe articles and automatically ranks second highest in all Google searches for "Ballinasloe" (after Wikipedia)
Over the next few editions we will offer all of the main sports & cultural and community groups – starting with soccer to undertake a decade lookback on their developments and we will script some review pieces on the town and aspects within.
We would welcome any personal reflections or reminisces from our readers as well. Floods, Recessions, Elections, Tragedies and Pandemic Lockdowns have not stopped us printing our editions – lack of business support and community indifference might but thankfully to date there is not much evidence of that.
Here’s hoping to the next decade of growth.
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