I have had the privilege of getting to know Dr. Campbell the past couple of weeks as we traveled throughout Northern Ireland, learning about St. Patrick, the history of the country and understanding the complex nature of the politics and history of ‘The Troubles’. It has been an impactful and amazing two weeks, so I wanted to take this opportunity to highlight Dr. Campbell on my blog, focusing on his interest in St. Patrick, the centre’s exhibition and the Young Ambassadors Program.
What sparked your interest in St. Patrick and the St. Patrick Centre?
I became professionally involved with the centre as the main person commissioned as the research and exhibition expert.
Where did your inspiration come from in order to create the exhibition on St. Patrick?
My inspiration came from a community effort. I was asked to work with the international design team who had been commissioned along with myself to create the exhibition. The idea behind it was to get beyond the snakes and shamrocks and green beer image of St. Patrick and tell the story of the man and his message and how it geographically centered around what local called St. Patrick’s country: Downpatrick, Northern Ireland. There are many places associated with St. Patrick, but have never been used to encourage visitors to come. St. Patrick was seen by the local community as an international brand which everyone was celebrating, but nobody knew anything about Downpatrick. It was hoped that the exhibition would be the catalyst to revive tourist economy as part of the peace process because the centre came about as the result of the Good Friday agreement.
Why did you want to start the Young Ambassadors Program?
We started the Young Ambassador Program because there were a lot of people who came to the centre who had a significant interest in learning more and telling the story of St. Patrick by encouraging others to know how wonderful Northern Ireland is as a place to visit. We realized that as we formalized the Friends of St. Patrick organization that the driving force for such an organization would be young people. We thought that it would be more relevant to communities that are up to 5,000 miles away from Ireland that they choose young people to come and learn about our message and then return to teach it and tell others about what they have learned. The way it worked out was that those young people could actually become leaders of their chapters back home. Everyone’s experience is different, there is no wrong experience. Young people get to do so many things and meet so many people. It can be a powerful experience and it can be a life-changing experience. It didn’t quite go as planned because we had people fall in love with the place or certain individuals and didn’t go back home to spread the message of our work and of St. Patrick. It wasn’t quite what we had expected to have happen, but Northern Ireland is a beautiful place with beautiful people. What can I say? 😉