Thursday, May 28, 2009

Waterford Crystal Heritage Centre?

The future of Waterford Crystal as it currently stands in Kilbarry is gone. The workers have been let go. The visitor centre as it is currently operating is not viable longterm. What is the best that Waterford can hope for the future concerning Waterford Crystal? What would - if all parties are willing - be, if not quite the best of both worlds, the best that we can get from our Crystal heritage?

A renewed visitor centre, The Waterford Crystal Heritage Centre (perhaps) located in a city cente site is my hope and suggestion. It would need to be a fairly large scale operation with an opportunity for visitors to see craftsmen at work in all or almost all stages of the crystal production processes. It would need to encompass a cafe as the current visitor centre does and an extensive shopping offering with crystal and other complimentary goods for sale. It could include all the elements that the original Visitors Centre in Kilbarry offered with a simulated 'factory tour'.

This would do two things: it would keep the Waterford Crystal Visitors coming to the City and it would bring them right into the City Centre where they might shop and even stay overnight more extensively. An extra 300,000 visitors in the city centre would certainly be a welcome addition especially in the current climate.

But are KPS the new owners of the Waterford Crystal brand willing to be part of saving something for the people of Waterford whose blood, sweat and tears built the Waterford Crystal brand over many decades? I sincerely hope so. Are the Government willing to step up to the mark even at this late stage with investment in order to secure an attraction of this sort for the City? Again I hope so. Will the City Council stand up and play their part by compulsorily purchasing a site for such a proposal? I would certainly think so.

Of course there is no such proposal at the moment. I know that it is still early days but we must strike while the iron is hot. While the skills still exist and while the tourists are still interested and a visit to Waterford Crystal is still on Tour Operators itineraries.

Where could such a centre fit? In any of the current blocks along the South Quays if it were purchased and developed...perhaps down by Reginalds Tower? The North Quays...although I would prefer to see it on the south side of the River? Anything is possible.

I would earnestly call on all parties to actively seek to ensure that, while manufacturing sadly has ceased at Kilbarry, the Waterford Crystal name and association with our city will remain, will be invested in and will perhaps deliver in a new and innovative way for the future. We must all think laterally and, while licking our wounds is understandable, we must salvage what we can of this wonderful heritage for present and future generations. We may not have the luxury of wasting time. I am asking the City Council, KPS and the Government to act now.

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