Background to Menter Môn’s Dark Sky project Argo Navis
In 2016 and 17 Menter Mon worked with Anglesey tourism businesses to promote Dark Sky initiatives which resulted in the formation of a Dark Sky Anglesey Network.
As part of this initiative a business event was organised to learn about Dark Sky and to share information about using that knowledge to attract new visitors to Anglesey, and another two public events were also organised, a Summer Solstice Solar Gazing event at the Anglesey Showground and a Winter Solstice experience at Tyddyn Môn.
These experiences led to the sharing of information with other EU areas and the Argo Navis – Follow the Stars pilot.
ARGO NAVIS – FOLLOW THE STARS – LEADER TRANSNATIONAL PROJECT
During a LINC conference in Finland in 2018 (purpose being to interact with other EU countries and to promote transnational cooperation) Menter Mon and representatives from the Anglesey Local Action Group met representatives from Lithuania and Austria which led to exchange visits to both countries. Two staff members and two businesses from Anglesey visited Lithuania in 2018 and two staff members one from Môn and one from Gwynedd visited Austria in 2019, with both Lithuania and Austria visiting Anglesey and Gwynedd in 2019.
Also, in 2019 during a project visit to Austria we met the Estonia delegation and were pleased to welcome a new partner to our Argo Navis project.
During these important visits, an understanding grew as to the level of development in each area and in certain sectors and the opportunity to learn from each other was clear. It was decided to visit each area with Menter Mon being the lead body with a view to develop a project linked to Dark Sky and the opportunities that would bring each area.
It became clear that all areas have similar issues:
- Loss of young people.
- Decline in tourism due to climate change.
- A need to look at new emerging markets.
- Rurality and challenging terrain.
Each area therefore focused on the area they wished to explore and develop:
Lithuania is focused on developing:
- Cottage industries in food and craft.
- Community development initiatives with a focus on young people.
- Creating and marketing a cluster route of businesses and natural attractions with a view to packaging and selling experiences to visitors.
Austria is focused on initiatives which help tackle:
- Climate change and tourism.
- Inward investment (infrastructure).
- Retaining young people via project in science and digital technology.
What all four areas have in common is the need to develop, enhance and add value to their USB and naturally they are all globally connected by Dark Sky.
Anglesey and Gwynedd have piloted Dark Sky initiatives and its proven to be successful in both areas, however there is a further need to develop and pilot additional activities which enhance and add value to what each area can offer.
A Joint Project between Wales (Anglesey and Gwynedd), Lithuania, Austria, and Estonia themed around Dark Skies, climate change, digital, science, tourism, business, was approved in September 2020.
It was agreed that a commitment to working to this theme will enable all areas to deliver to their own strengths via different activities but contributing to the overall theme of Dark Sky. This will enable all partners to learn and share from a variety of different activity which delivers positive benefits to all regions.
The pilot will deliver the following:
- All areas will arrange an awareness raising session into Dark Sky and light pollution,
- All areas will set up a Dark Sky Academy
Anglesey will look at initiatives to work with local businesses to develop their knowledge of Dark Sky, the natural environment and how they can use this to increase business. Also, to provide a calendar of event which will actively encourage visitors to visit inland ‘Dark Sky’ areas and will work with a cluster of businesses/social enterprises in the South West of the island (Newborough etc) and the North East Holyhead to Moelfre. (linked to the Wales Way) Anglesey’s Dark Sky Academy will work with groups of young people to learn and to spread knowledge and information to others about the importance of Dark Sky and ways that climate change can be mitigated.
Gwynedd will work with Anglesey on joint promotion and learning involving local businesses and schools. Some work has already been done with billboards of planets being displayed in some communities, working with Snowdonia National Park on awareness raising and digital solutions within farming. This experience will allow for further initiatives within the farming, virtual reality, and food sectors, especially cheese production all linked to Dark Sky. Gwynedd will also encourage businesses already working on a Slow Holiday pilot to engage with the project and add value to what they already offer by using Dark Sky as a tool for marketing produce.
Austria will work with its young people to engage with science and will look to build a number (TBC) of telescopes which will be Web enabled. When in place, these can be scheduled via a website to take an astronomical picture by members of the public and contribute to using Dark Sky as a way of encouraging tourism in this Austrian region. Austria will also Link to inward investment by trying to leverage interaction with potential industry/commercial partners who may benefit from dark sky (optical sector etc.)
Lithuania does have its own Observatory https://www.itinari.com/take–a–look–intothe–lithuanian–sky–at–mol–tai–astronomical–observatory–3pf3, however its very educational as it is owned by the University in Vilnius. Utenos LAG will therefore look to Showcase and promote the Dark Sky by using their historic mounds to encourage communities to arrange “Stargazing Festivals” involving local food and craft producers – sharing on live social media and encouraging tourism growth linked to Dark Sky promotion.
North Western Estonia will deliver many activities linked:
- Science / education – The region’s new observatory provides a good opportunity to popularize science among young people in the region. Lectures and visits to the observatory will take place during the project.
- Tourism / local marketing – in northwestern Estonia as a rural area, there are excellent opportunities to enjoy the dark sky on land and in water. The dark sky makes it possible to offer exciting services and extend the tourist season to the residents and visitors of the area. Light raft trips, lantern trips, night cinema and other dark-time trips on hiking trails, etc. we combine under a single marketing roof.
- Local food – north western Estonian food is high quality and delicious, but little known. We introduce the stars of Northwest Estonian food on TV and social media with the help of both cooking stars and other stars of the region.
ARGO NAVIS AIMS:
The project aims to deliver the following Strategic Objectives:
SOI – securing greater economic value for local operators linked to the coast path – by joint marketing and signposting – by linking Dark Sky initiatives to the coast and its environmental and historical attractions to the opportunities for economic growth for inland areas in all partner areas.
SO2 – Develop new and more business opportunities for local people via diversification – add value to weather related activities like skiing to Star Gazing festivals and events add value to weather related activities like skiing to Star Gazing festivals and events.
SO3 – Engender greater participation and exploitation of new and existing heritage and tourism markets in central island areas – by linking to and creating high quality Dark Sky interpretation which can benefits all sectors from B&B to food and activities.
SO4 – Generate greater participation in off season tourism markets by new and existing businesses working in conjunction with a community of interest – by creating good seasonal Dark Sky content and targeting the correct demographic for encouraging visits out of season to areas of historical and environmental significance.
SO5 – Increase engagement with and participation by and benefit to tourism businesses by adding value to existing digital applications and the creation of new – by introducing new digital technologies e.g public telescopes linked to Webcams.
SO8 – To ensure all partner languages are heard and seen in the community and workplace – by producing multilingual content for this project and encouraging the community to make use of these languages in everyday dealings with locals and visitors to the area.
SO9 – Increase the opportunities for start-up entrepreneurship and added value local supply and processing dynamics in the food and craft sectors – by sharing and learning from all partners.
SO10 – Drive up the artisan food agenda, linking particularly to adding value to primary produce and speciality foods targeted at working with women entrepreneurs and working with a socially excluded cohort – within the food and emerging markets sector.
SO11 – Drive forth the development of products which add value to partners economies by diversifying product ranges under the Dark Sky agenda and provide reach into extended markets.
SO12 – Provide employment opportunities for high achieving young people in their home county – by offering remote working linked to digital applications of Dark Sky.
Argo Navis – Follow the Stars Conference (October 2021)