The Ullans Academy: 7

The remit of the Ministerial Advisory Group on Ulster Scots (MAGUS) appointed by the former Minister Nelson McCausland in March 2011 was  “to produce a coherent strategy for supporting the development of the Ulster-Scots sector”. The group was then invited, however, to advise the then Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure Minister, Carál Ní Chuilín, on the use of her department’s academy budget ” to complement the activities of established organisations”. “Members were thus afforded the opportunity to contribute to widening and deepening knowledge, understanding and celebration of our Ulster-Scots heritage; to maximising its economic benefits; and to reinvigorating the pride and confidence of the Ulster-Scots community”.The MAGUS members met for the first time on May 12, 2011 and they agreed on the broad aims and principles which were to guide their work.

“We will promote excellent research, authentic information and good appreciation of the Ulster-Scots tradition, including its international and contemporary impacts. We will identify and support actions which will make a lasting difference.

“We strongly believe in the importance of culture in a shared society such as ours. We are working not only to record the ways and values of our ancestors but also to grow mutual respect between the various cultural traditions in this place; to challenge damaging myths and misunderstandings; and to play our part in building a pluralist, egalitarian society.

“We are committed to strong community engagement; full and open collaboration with the Ulster-Scots Agency and our other partners; and making the outputs from our investments widely accessible.

“Our vision is to retain the language priority at the heart of the Academy approach, but not at the expense of the attendant tradition, history and heritage. Down through the years the Ulster-Scots have contributed enormously to social, cultural and economic development in Ireland, the United States and elsewhere – arguably beyond their numbers – and it is imperative that this contribution is recognised and understood.

Over the next four years, we want to see a transformation in the standing of the sector.”

Success will be judged by:

• The sector’s confidence, credibility and capacity;
• Progress with the language agenda;
• The quality and quantity of translations and publications;
• The development of a substantial Ulster-Scots tourist trail and quality visitor attractions, including ancient settlements;
• A growing and accessible archive of documents and artefacts;
• A greater focus on authentic music and dance;
• An expanding research agenda;
• Eight quality educational products for all ages;
• The quality of our partnerships with other bodies and research institutions which share our strategic objectives;
• The quality of our community and international connections;

The role of the Ministerial Advisory Group would be:

• to produce a development and research strategy for the sector;
• to oversee the implementation of the strategy;
• to progress the Ulster-Scots Academy approach;
• to identify and support discrete projects under three streams of activity: language and literature; history, heritage and culture; education and research.,

The group would pursue these strategic objectives:

• to contribute to building broad understanding of the Ulster-Scots tradition in Ireland, Scotland and further afield;
• to maximise the impact of the resources available to the Ulster-Scots sector;
• to promote coherence in the sector;
• to secure the broadest possible support for its work across the community.

The group’s actions would include:

• commissioning research into all aspects of the Ulster-Scots tradition;
• supporting projects which carry the strategy forward and which cannot be fully funded elsewhere;
• supporting the translation, publication and promotion of significant texts in relating the Ulster-Scots story;
• supporting work to catalogue and improve access to archives, significant collections, and historical sites;
• supporting the development and promotion of innovative educational products and services.

To be continued

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