Internationally, the exponential demand for ‘cultural/heritage’ tourism is increasingly being viewed by tourism stakeholders as an opportunity for value adding revenue generation, wherein both specialist and ‘media programmed’ tourists can seek out designated cultural attractions to satisfy their respective quests for authentic, and/or emotionally charged experiences. Indeed, this international ‘demand’ re-alignment is exemplified in the growth of churches and cathedrals who openly promote their artistic content as ‘must see attractions’. However, despite such utilitarian attractiveness, one wonders if the counter-influences of indifference, protectionism, or fear of heritage commodification, might act to scupper an opportunity to re-envision Harry Clarke’s iconic stained glass church windows as tourist attractions in Ireland?
Born in Dublin in 1889, into a city consumed with the heady mix of Catholic Emancipation and artistic rebirth, Harry Clarke grew to pre-eminence among international stained glass artists at the turn of the twentieth century. Yet, despite being universally acclaimed as a master of stained glass creativity, his oeuvre, from a tourism perspective, has been sadly overlooked, with most promotion of Ireland’s twentieth century cultural renaissance being focused both on its literary giants (Joyce, Wilde, Swift, Beckett, Yeats and Stoker), and its traditional music culture. However, with the attendant economic spinoff offered by religious and cultural tourism growth, one wonders if the ubiquitous presence in Irish churches of Harry Clarke’s ecclesiastical stained glass windows might be re-imagined by core and peripheral stakeholders as marketable tourist attractions?
Employing a qualitative methodology, involving semi structured interviews with key informants, this paper explores stakeholder awareness of Clarke’s significance as a potential tourist attractor, in addition to the appropriateness of promoting his church bound ecclesiastical windows as de facto attractions. The findings suggest that while there was overarching unanimity on the significance of Clarke’s windows as potential tourist attractors, critical barriers to active promotional engagement emerged from within two core stakeholder groups, thus creating challenges for the development of a stained glass tourist trail.
"‘Resurrecting Harry Clarke’: Breathing life into stained glass tourism in Ireland,"
International Journal of Religious Tourism and Pilgrimage:
2, Article 6.
Available at: https://arrow.dit.ie/ijrtp/vol2/iss2/6