Category: The Great Town Award
Finalists: St Andrews, Scotland; Winchester, England
Kilkenny City is a place of urban settlement which has endured through the centuries by adapting to the needs of its inhabitants, whilst retaining its unique appeal to visitors. The unique built heritage and winding streetscapes provides a link to ancient times whilst continuing to be a vibrant place to live and work. Kilkenny retains its charm by allowing modern uses in old buildings so that they don’t become museum pieces, but rather provide the means to enjoy old buildings in modern settings e.g. Kilkenny Civic Trust, Shee Alms House etc. In 2007 Kilkenny celebrates 800 years of town government and 400 years of City government in 2009. Kilkenny City’s 1609 Charter of James 1st conferred Kilkenny with City Status.
One of Kilkenny’s strengths is its compact nature, both in physical size and in scale. The pattern of narrowed streets with ancient slip ways provides an ambience which pedestrians can enjoy and facilitate easy access and movement around the city. The street network has remained largely undisturbed over the centuries. The High Street is a vibrant area, with a mix of uses to attract shoppers and workers.
The historic core – the spine from Kilkenny Castle through High Street, Parliament Street, Irishtown, to St. Canice’s Cathedral, links these various themes of civic authority and worship. The Tholsel, (pictured below) seat of urban local government with its arcaded front and distinctive bell tower has acted as a focal point for local governance for centuries. A long tradition of local politics is maintained to the present day, whilst the civic archive is preserved there as a reminder of the urban history of Kilkenny.
Kilkenny has long been a place of where cultural pursuits have found expression from a vibrant crafts environment to theatre and performance art. The Kilkenny Arts Festival continues to thrive with the support of local and state authorities. Kilkenny Borough council recognises the role being provided by the Arts festival and supports this and other initiatives which provide a platform in which the creative arts can thrive. Kilkenny Borough Council plays a vital role in maintaining the Watergate Theatre, which provides a venue for the performing arts – drama, dance, and music.
Kilkenny continues to be a place of prosperous commercial activity. Investment in Kilkenny is at an all time high. New commercial developments currently underway or in planning will ensure that Kilkenny is well placed to avail of the economic opportunities of the modern Ireland. Kilkenny has been designated as a “Hub” in the Irish Government’s National Spatial Strategy. This designation will bring with it opportunities to continue with Kilkenny’s development into the future. The need to plan for such development is the major influence on Kilkenny’s new Development Plan for 2008 to 2014.