THE outgoing general manager of Nano Nagle Place said his replacement will have a solid foundation to build on, and he believes that, for the centre, the best and bravest days are ahead.
Shane Clarke, whose term as the first CEO of Nano Nagle Place is coming to an end, said echo he felt the center, which houses a museum, heritage rooms, gardens, gift shop, bookstore and restaurant, and is home to several educational charities, has become a vital part of the city.
“In just five years, Nano Nagle Place in Cork City has established itself as an institution dedicated to heritage, social justice and community education,” he said.
Mr Clarke said the center’s development was sparked by the June 2006 closure of South Pres Primary School, which once housed 1,000 pupils.
This closure was accompanied by the reduction of the life of the convent, the community of the Sisters of the Presentation – founded by Nano Nagle in 1771 – housing only three remaining nuns.
“The Nagle family motto is ‘Deeds, Not Words,’ and with that in mind, the sisters are committed to imagining South Pres anew,” Mr Clarke said.
“The vision was that the walled Georgian nunnery would both tell Nano’s remarkable story and bring its values of social justice and education to life in Cork in the 21st century.
“Nano Nagle Place was established as a charity and during the period 2014-2016, guided by early conservation architects JCA, two and a half centuries of architecture were restored and a new school of architecture Bespoke UCC/MTU was created,” he said.
In December 2016, former Irish President Mary McAleese officially opened the site, which has at its heart, housed in the Gothic Goldie Chapel, a museum dedicated to Nano Nagle.
Landscaped gardens and cemeteries were opened to the public and archives dedicated to the history of the congregation were created.
A new garden pavilion became the sustainable Good Day Deli cafe, and once again South Pres became home to the resident sisters.
‘Life has started anew, with the Lantern Community Education Project and the Cork Migrant Center reaching out and celebrating the diversity of communities in Cork,’ Mr Clarke said.
“The museum has achieved number one ‘Thing-To-Do-in-Cork’ status on Trip Advisor, and Cork Printmakers, the East Cork Early Music Festival and the Cork Decorative & Fine Arts Society have all contributed to a cultural program flourishing.”
He said the center has won several awards, including the Retail Excellence Visitor Store of the Year award and the RIAI Urban Design and Masterplanning award.
In December 2021, Nano Nagle Place was announced as the winner of the prestigious Council of Europe Museum Prize 2022, of which Mr. Clarke remains particularly proud.
“Our pitch was that Nano Nagle Place is a living heritage site, a sacred place housing a continuity of community over 250 years, and a values-based museum where the broadest and most diverse understanding of community is welcomed and celebrated,” he mentioned.
In the summer of 2016, Mr Clarke moved with his family from London to Cork to become CEO of Nano Nagle Place, and he says he had not anticipated what a vital and all-consuming role he had taken on.
Nearly six years later, he is moving on, to founding his own urban planning consultancy, and he says he draws from Nano Nagle Place an understanding of the transformative economic impact of heritage regeneration; the shocking reality of community-driven development; and the potential that exists in celebrating the diversity and cultures of Irish communities.
“Nano Nagle Place aspires to be home to all that is good in Cork and a catalyst for the sustainable and equitable transformation of this remarkable Atlantic city,” he said.
In this, the new director, working with an incredibly talented team, an exceptional board of directors and with the active participation of the Presentation Sisters, has a solid foundation on which to build partnerships for a vision.
Mr Clarke said Nano Nagle Place was an example of turning religious heritage into community benefit, and should inspire the reinvention of Ireland’s abandoned towns and villages.
“Clearly, values-based regeneration is sustainable regeneration,” he said, again citing the Nagle family motto.
“‘Facts, not words’! The best and bravest are yet to come.