The Monday Interview: I Love Limerick ‘born out of pride in my hometown’

The Monday Interview: I Love Limerick ‘born out of pride in my hometown’
Richard Lynch

It’s been 10 years since Richard Lynch launched the I Love Limerick campaign to counter the battered image of his native city. He tells Pádraig Hoare about how perceptions have since changed. 

It’s been a year of celebration for ubiquitous Limerick presence Richard Lynch — not only has the Treaty County been crowned All-Ireland hurling champions but his creation I Love Limerick has just turned 10 years old.

I Love Limerick has covered events major and minor over the past decade, with Mr Lynch at the forefront of promoting the region. He has engaged with countless organisations to promote their message through PR, video, photography, digital channels, and other means. Mr Lynch’s motivation is simple, he says — an intense patriotism for his region.

“Through news stories, a series of documentaries, interviews, social media, and photography, the I Love Limerick project aims to encourage a wider respect and pride for the city by focusing on the wealth of interesting, talented, and motivated people who live, work, and create here by highlighting everything positive about Limerick.

“As I Love Limerick shows the positive side of Limerick to the world, we enhance Limerick tourism, culture, and business, enticing people both domestically and abroad to experience the positive aspects of Limerick. We are operated and designed to showcase a new Limerick that is vibrant and entertaining and we thereby contribute towards the advancement of its social regeneration,” said Mr Lynch.

That involves events for the voluntary and community sector to create opportunities for collaboration between communities, according to Mr Lynch.

We team people up and teach them how to utilise each other’s skills. Individuals, organisations, enterprises, community groups can come together to create cross-functional networks, in order to deliver powerful marketing economies of scale.

“Our Limerick team has many individuals all talented in their own field working together to promote the city and county and all it has to offer. We have created internships, work experience, and job opportunities for a diverse group of professionals throughout Limerick, aiding them to develop their craft and cultivate relationships with other professionals and organisations,” he said.

I Love Limerick came about in 2008 when Mr Lynch came back home from New York City for family reasons.

“In 2008, after 15 years in New York, I decided to move back permanently to Limerick to mind my parents full time as their carer. They were both elderly and my mother had Parkinson’s disease for over two decades.

“At the time Limerick was getting what I felt was an unfair reputation in the media. Yes, Limerick had her troubles and no one was denying that but the city was also being used as a scapegoat by the national press. No one highlighted the crime in other cities to such an extent. This constant deluge of negative press was really affecting the livelihood of the Limerick people. Busloads of tourists were literally bypassing the city. Limerick has always been the underdog. Always.

Richard Lynch, founder of I Love Limerick, at the Treaty Stone on Clancy Strand, Limerick. Mr Lynch has been at the forefront of promoting the city. Pictures: Brian Arthur
Richard Lynch, founder of I Love Limerick, at the Treaty Stone on Clancy Strand, Limerick. Mr Lynch has been at the forefront of promoting the city. Pictures: Brian Arthur

“I was living in New York and had this awful impression of my own hometown but this all changed when I moved home. I was blown away by all the talented, creative people living in Limerick,” he said.

Mr Lynch wanted to organise Limerick LGBT Pride and turn it into a week-long festival.

“I wanted the festival to be integrated and inclusive and that was the birth of I Love Limerick. I Love Limerick was born out of Pride. My pride in my hometown and the LGBT festival itself. Since 2008 I have been involved in Limerick LGBT Pride and this past year I was honoured to be the Grand Marshall of the Limerick Pride Parade 2018 for over 10 years of service to Pride.”

While he might be the public face of I Love Limerick, Mr Lynch is adamant it could not have survived without the buy-in and support of many in the city.

“I had been doing public access TV for years in New York so when Limerick Pride 2008 was over I decided to take I LoveLimerick.com and develop it into a Youtube channel to make videos that would depict Limerick in a positive light. From there it developed into the website it is today. I would not have been able to do this on my own. You are only as good as the people you work with and I have some amazing people on our team, such as photographer Dolf Patijn, who have been with me on the journey since the beginning.”

He added:

I get emotional thinking about it, to be honest. Yes, it’s a wonderful time for Limerick but it didn’t come easily and came through serious hard work from various individuals and groups within Limerick. This was definitely a group effort.

On a personal note, being crowned Limerick Person of the Year 2011 in front of his parents Florence and Eric was important because without them, his project may not have survived.

“They meant everything to me. After my mother passed I found a case of newspaper clippings that she has collected about my work. There would have been no I Love Limerick if it were not for my parents Florence and Eric as they instilled this pride and love for Limerick in all their children.”

Q: What is I Love Limerick and what does it aim to do?

A: I Love Limerick is a creative project driven, motivated and inspired by Limerick people and it is focused entirely on Limerick (city and county) and her citizens. Through news stories, a series of documentaries, interviews, social media, and photography, the I Love Limerick project aims to encourage a wider respect and pride for the city by focusing on the wealth of interesting, talented and motivated people who live, work and create here by highlighting everything positive about Limerick.

As I Love Limerick shows the positive side of Limerick to the world, we enhance Limerick tourism, culture and business, enticing people both domestically and abroad to experience the positive aspects of Limerick. We are operated and designed to showcase a new Limerick, that is vibrant and entertaining and we thereby contribute towards the advancement of its social regeneration.

I Love Limerick encourages a wider respect and pride for our city. Our goal is to educate, inform, train and facilitate the development of arts, enterprise, and culture in Limerick city. Ours is a grassroots organisation, we shine a light on the real Limerick and showcase the efforts and achievements of people in Limerick based organisations in the community, including the voluntary, artistic, cultural and micro-enterprise sectors.

I Love Limerick facilitates and orchestrate events for the voluntary and community sector to create opportunities for collaboration between communities. We team people up and teach them how to utilise each other's skills. Individuals, organisations, enterprises, community groups can come together to create cross-functional networks, in order to deliver powerful marketing economies of scale.

Our Limerick team has many individuals all talented in their own field working together to promote the city and county and all it has to offer. We have created internships, work experience and job opportunities for a diverse group of professionals throughout Limerick, aiding them to develop their craft and cultivate relationships with other professionals and organisations.

We are always on the lookout for emerging talent and take on new groups of student placements every 6 to 9 months. A considerable amount of time is devoted to training each student placement from the University of Limerick that works in I Love Limerick and they leave after their placement with a wealth of experience and training that is invaluable for their future careers.

I Love Limerick is proud to support and work with many charities and community groups on an ongoing basis for the last 10 years such as Cliona’s Foundation and St Munchins Community Enterprise. We also work with other various individuals and organisation, building and managing various websites, doing their social media, creating their press and providing photography and video services free of charge.

I Love Limerick was established just over 10 years ago on a non-commercial basis and in that time we have worked with hundreds of voluntary and community groups, helped numerous small businesses get started and launched countless careers in the arts and media sector. The impact of our work on Limerick both economically and socially has far exceeded our expectations.

I wanted I Love Limerick to be fully accessible to all voluntary and community groups giving them a free platform to highlight their great work. We have never turned down anybody who comes to us for help including new businesses. We have helped countless businesses for example by sharing and promoting them on social media.

Ultimately I Love Limerick is a unique, one of a kind model. There is no other organisation like it in Ireland. I am just honoured that I Love Limerick was the first organisation of its kind and I would like to think of it as a movement. That’s why I called it “I Love Limerick” as it was a statement of my own love for my city. I wanted to share the Limerick I saw every day with the world.

Q: How did the idea come about?

A: In 2008, after 15 years in New York, I decided to move back permanently to Limerick to mind my parents full-time as their carer. They were both elderly and my mother had Parkinson's disease for over two decades.

At the time Limerick was getting what I felt was an unfair reputation in the media as ‘Stab City’. It really upset me as I felt it was unfair. Yes, Limerick had her troubles and no one was denying that but the city was also being used as a scapegoat by the national press. No one highlighted the crime in other cities to such an extent. This constant deluge of negative press was really affecting the livelihood of the Limerick people. Busloads of tourists were literally bypassing the city. Limerick has always been the underdog. Always.

The issue I felt was that the Limerick people themselves were starting to believe and buy into the negativity. I was guilty of it myself. I was living in NY and had this awful impression of my own hometown but this all changed when I moved home. I was blown away by all the talented creative people living in Limerick. I loved the banter and the spirit of the people and literally fell in love with Limerick.

I decided I wanted to organise Limerick LGBT Pride and turn it into a week-long festival, which I called ‘ILoveLimerick.com’ as I wanted it the Festival be integrated and inclusive and that was the birth of I Love Limerick. I Love Limerick was born out of Pride. My Pride in my hometown and the LGBT Festival itself. Since 2008 I have been involved in Limerick LGBT Pride and this past year I was honoured to the Grand Marshall of the Limerick Pride Parade 2018 for over 10 years of service to Pride.

I had been doing public access TV for years in NY so when Limerick Pride 2008 was over I decided to take IloveLimerick.com and develop it into a Youtube channel to make videos that would depict Limerick in a positive light. From there it developed into the website it is today. I would not have been able to do this on my own. You are only as good as the people you work with and I have some amazing people on our team such as photographer Dolf Patijn who have been with me on the journey since the beginning.

Q: We're seeing regeneration work going on in Limerick, investment into education, etc -- add to that the feel-good factor of being All-Ireland hurling champions, and I imagine it's a good time to be in the city/region?

A: I get emotional thinking about it, to be honest. Yes, it’s a wonderful time for Limerick but it didn’t come easily and came through serious hard work from various individuals and groups within Limerick. This was definitely a group effort! This development was a testament to the tenacity of the Limerick people. We really support one another and when the going gets tough, the tough get going. I have met some remarkable human beings on my journey who make a huge difference in their communities and its thanks to them that Limerick has had this resurgence. To ultimately answer your question though anytime is a good time for anybody to be in Limerick. I honestly could never live anywhere else.

The Monday Interview: I Love Limerick ‘born out of pride in my hometown’

Q. Did you ever think I Love Limerick would see 10 years?

Yes, because I am a very determined person and I work harder than anyone else I know! Once I commit to something there is no stopping me. I think many people were skeptical at the beginning of my intentions as they thought it was possibly about my ego and getting my face in the newspaper but I proved myself to the Limerick people through sheer hard work. Thanks to I Love Limerick and the people I worked with along the way I have grown up both mentally and spiritually.

[media=insta]https://www.instagram.com/p/BoRXT7IF2j7/[media]

I am growing every day. There have been trials and tribulations, laughter and tears. If you had told me 10 years ago that I would be voluntarily writing a newspaper column for almost a decade, designing wordpress sites or editing films I would have thought you were crazy but it all happened organically out of a need and a desire to help people. The more I saw tangible results the more compelled I felt to continue. It has allowed me to help so many people. Most importantly what drove me on was that my parents were both incredibly proud. They loved Limerick just as much as I did. When I won Limerick Person of the Year 2011, they were beyond proud and that made me feel so good. They meant everything to me. After my mother passed I found a case of newspaper clippings that she has collected about my work. There would have been no I Love Limerick if it were not for my parents Florence and Eric as they instilled this pride and love for Limerick in all their children.

Q. How hard is it to keep it going, with all the effort that goes into it?

A: The work has a real feel-good factor but can be incredibly exhausting. Its incredibly hard work and I work on it seven days of the week. I do my newspaper column on a Sunday. I have never been paid for it but really love doing as it helps so many people but it takes hours and hours to pull together. Sometimes it feels like I am a kid and I have to get all my homework done before school on Monday. I correct all the work carried out by the student placements in the evenings and delegate the tasks for the following day. Its all go. I rarely reflect on what I Love Limerick has achieved as it is so much work so I just keep on moving and keep on pushing forward. There are never enough hours in the day. Every day presents a new challenge.

I Love Limerick have remained true to its non-commercial ideals. In the past, when money is required to pay bills I will source paid work, which I then put back into the organisation. I have never drawn a salary. I Love Limerick has survived to date on significant unpaid voluntary time, sliding scale work and some donations that have been earned from work in kind.

For an organisation that has survived on a hand to mouth basis since its birth, it has punched well above its weight in terms of the positive impact it has had on Limerick. We can do more and we have the potential to scale significantly and create widespread and long-term social impact. To do this we need to create a more stable and sustainable income model for the organisation that covers our costs and provides the minimum personnel to drive the business forward. I am still trying to figure all this out.

Q: What is your ambition for the future?

A: Since my parents passing I have my PR company which is developing and growing so I can put food I the table. I would love to take this to the next level. If you asked me my ultimate personal dream it would be to make a horror movie -- I have written 3 film treatments and I think they are all good -- and to make some new pop songs as I love music and write lyrics and melodies. In terms of my mission with I Love Limerick, I will continue to work and develop it. It changes shape day-by-day, week by week and I am excited to continue learning and growing with the organisation. One thing will never change and that will be my love for Limerick.

More in this Section

Molex Ireland losses reached almost €8m last yearMolex Ireland losses reached almost €8m last year

Tullow shares slump to 20-year lowTullow shares slump to 20-year low

Magee clothing firm hit by Brexit fearsMagee clothing firm hit by Brexit fears

Wetherspoon planning more pubs for CorkWetherspoon planning more pubs for Cork


Lifestyle

In an industry where women battle ageism and sexism, Meryl Streep has managed to decide her own destiny – and roles, writes Suzanne HarringtonJeepers Streepers: Hollywood royalty, all hail queen Meryl

'Ask Audrey' has been the newspaper's hysterical agony aunt “for ages, like”.Ask Audrey: Guten tag. Vot the f**k is the story with your cycle lanes?

Daphne Wright’s major new exhibition at the Crawford addresses such subjects as ageing and consumerism, writes Colette SheridanFinding inspiration in domestic situations

Christian Bale and Matt Damon tell Laura Harding about their roles in Le Mans ‘66, the tale of the men paid by Ford to take on the dominance of Ferrari in the motor-racing worldFoot to the floor: Christian Bale and Matt Damon talk about Ford, Ferrari and the 24 hours of Le Mans

More From The Irish Examiner