It was the success of the pageant, ‘In Humbert’s Footsteps’, in 2013 that first sparked the idea of an events co-ordinator for Castlebar.
And just before its abolition, one of the final acts of Castlebar Town Council was to sanction such a post which would be funded by the local authority, and would operate under the aegis of the Chamber of Commerce.
Now, eighteen months after his appointment, Mick Baynes can take a little time to reflect on his duties and perhaps correct a few popular misconceptions about his role. He is, first and foremost, a co-ordinator rather than an organiser. He is the go-to man for each and every festival or event in the town; he sorts out the problems, he smooths the path, he comes up with the solutions.
And thanks to his by now extensive list of contacts, and his network of resources, there is very little he cannot deliver when deadlines are looming and backs are to the wall.
It’s the kind of role where he can’t be too sure what challenging request might be thrown at him next, or what ingenuity he may have to resort to in order to get round some obstacle or other. It has seen him become a registered pig herd owner on heritage day; the provider of a set of dancing shoes to a visiting troupe of American dancers, awaiting their lost luggage; or an impromptu repair man for a rally of motor bike enthusiasts. And he has, in particular, become an expert in public liability insurance cover, that pebble in the shoe of so many local festivals and events, and without which no community initiative can even be contemplated nowadays.
All too often, he reflects, the town itself is only vaguely aware of the gatherings and events, of national or international scale, which take place often ‘under the radar’. Most local people - let alone business owners - seem oblivious to the fact that as often as every fortnight, some event is taking place on their doorstep. And fewer still realise the positive impact which these events have on the local economy. A month ago, over 500 people visited Castlebar for the Treffen motorbike rally; next Saturday week, the ‘Live and Wild’ free open air concert takes place in the town centre car park; two weeks later, hundreds will attend the annual conference of the Irish Association of Barbershop Singers, generating business while providing entertainment. The World Dancing Championships and the Choral Festival are now firmly established annual events. Plans are afoot to mount a concerted effort to bring the All-Ireland Fleadh Ceoil to Castlebar.
Mick Baynes would be the first to acknowledge that getting people to pull together for the community good was an early challenge. But things have improved considerably.
He doesn’t have the luxury of a budget, which means depending on the generosity of traders and publicans to meet the essential bills in holding any event, and it is a generosity which is readily forthcoming. There is plenty of goodwill, he says. A shortage of stewards for this year’s St Patrick’s Day celebrations was solved by a visit to the transition year classes of the local secondary schools. And the oft-maligned County Council is, he says, more than helpful in providing support and assistance.
As enthusiastic as the first day he took up duty, Mick Baynes - a through and through Castlebar man - believes that the town has much to offer, and that the potential is barely tapped so far. He is only starting yet.