LORIENT, France — On August 4th, a delegation from the Western Development Commission (WDC) joined the Interceltic Business Forum as part of the renowned Interceltique Festival held in Lorient, France. This year marked the second instalment of the Forum’s presence in Lorient and the third event in the series with one taking place in Wales earlier this year, solidifying its mission to foster collaboration, knowledge exchange, and strategic partnerships among the Celtic regions.
While the Interceltique Festival has etched its name in history as the grandest Celtic celebration, attracting a staggering 750,000 enthusiasts over its 10-day run, the Business Forum lends a more resolute focus on economic dynamism. Where music, culture, and art are at the heart of the Festival, the Forum resonates with discussions on economic development, shared challenges, and the potential for collaboration.
The 2023 gathering witnessed a milestone moment, a Memorandum of Understanding was inked in nearby Rennes, uniting Celtic partners in their shared ambition. Collaborators including the Region of Brittany, the Government of Ireland, the Welsh Government, the Scottish Government, Cornwall, Galicia, and Asturias affirmed their commitment to deeper cooperation. This proclamation reverberated at the Business Forum as the Welsh First Minister, Mark Drakeford, took to the stage to shortly after.
The roster of speakers at this year’s event highlighted the progression for the forum attracting senior leaders, government agencies and others. First Minister Mark Drakeford, Jean-Yves Le Drian, former Mayor of Lorient and Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs, all spoke of opportunities and challenges between our Celtic nations. Fabrice Loher, Mayor of Lorient and Président de Lorient Agglomération, along with respected individuals such as Cllr Linda Taylor, Leader of Cornwall Council, experienced entrepreneurs, researchers, and academics, contributed to the conversation.
Allan Mulrooney, the Interim CEO of WDC, directed attention towards a topic of paramount importance right now- “Revitalizing Rural Communities in Celtic Regions – The Future of Work. His address highlighted the interplay between rural demographics, employment dynamics, and the burgeoning opportunities around remote work. Following this, a panel discussion delved into the transformative impact of WDC’s Connected Hubs programme, featuring Ian Brannagin Head of Regional Development, Leah Fairman, National Hubs Executive, along with industry luminaries like Joan Mulvihill of Siemens and the Irish Contemporary Arts Society, Lyn Donnelly, Company Manager, Ballinasloe Area Community Development Ltd; Gerard Corcoran, Smart Cities & Communities, Sandyford Business District’ and Hilary Beirne, Chairman, St. Patrick’s Day Foundation, New York.
However, it wasn’t just the individuals on stage that made the Forum special. The genuine enthusiasm of all participants to connect and the shared goals across different regions highlighted the importance of the event. Charles Kergaravat, the founder of the Interceltic Business Forum played a key role in fostering this friendly atmosphere, making it easier for collaborations to flourish. Charles commented:
“Our vision for the next five years is clear – to see the Interceltic Business Forum evolve into a pivotal gathering for Celtic leaders. This year’s turnout, featuring prominent attendees, underlines the event’s growing significance and I look forward to our next event hosted in the West of Ireland. The partnership with WDC, the commitment to sustainable communities, the future of work, and the ConnectedHubs project exemplify the vital discussions we’re fostering”
While in Lorient, the delegation was also invited to a number of other events including one by the Irish Embassy in France and the Department of Foreign Affairs where they met with Niall Burgess, Ambassador of Ireland to France, Mayor of Galway Eddie Hoare who also travelled for the event and officials from the Irish Embassy in Paris.
Looking forward, there’s a strong sense of excitement for the upcoming forums. The WDC, one of the Forum’s founders, is excited about its potential impact on the west of Ireland. As we prepare for the 2024 event on the shores of the West of Ireland, a new phase of collaboration and exchange is on the horizon. Attendees, partners, and Celtic enthusiasts are eagerly looking forward to the Winter 2024 gathering, showcasing the growing significance of the Interceltic Business Forum in shaping Celtic economies’ future.