The month of February realised an important milestone for the community development company Ballinasloe Area Community Development clg which published the 60th edition of its free colour community magazine Ballinasloe Life.
In the winter of 2010, Brendan Kelly, MD, Kelly's Print, lifelong supporters of numerous voluntary organisations within the town, development company founding secretary Colm Croffy, and BACD chairperson, Seamus Duffy, united with a prominent publication on their minds.
No one in the community could see at a glance outside of the Patrick's Day parade and the October Fair that there was huge voluntary, sporting, charitable, and educational sector allied to a loyal business community and a rich farming hinterland within Ballinasloe and its immediate environs.
Since the collapse of the Ballinasloe Herald in the late 1980s, a local focused media platform was absent.
The concept of a free community magazine would only work if a few of the pillar firms of town supported the costs of compilation and publication every eight weeks with their advertising budget, to become an inflight magazine for progression.
The response was overwhelmingly positive with resources to compile, research, and co-ordinate of the magazine needing to be acquired. Utilising third level trainees was the only route as the cost recovery project could not pay out any professional fees to contributors.
Compilation and editorial were housed in Colm Croffy’s projects office, the engine room for content and creativity, and his then 21 years of communications across print, multimedia, and events would be utilised, while the BACD manager’s office was the chosen location for the accounts and advertising office.
The development company board added a volunteer director, Paul Hargadon, to the project group who sold the advertisements, acquired subscribers, processed the billing and accounts, and the editor who co–ordinated content and contributors.
Distribution into all the letter boxes inside the old urban area is always conducted by voluntary drivers, directors, and members of the BACD Company and young second level students which in the last few years has predominantly been those from Garbally transition year classes.
Key contributor, Ken Kelly, delivers issues of the community magazine to all the national schools and stores and to all the villages within the common bond radius. with over 500 copies posted to family overseas and around the country.
In the early stages, the magazine was fortunate to secure the engagement and support of notable writers and historians within the locality who have given of their time and energy voluntarily, including Ken Kelly, Barry Lally, Pat Johnston, Sean Tully, Wille Tully, Damien McCullagh, Gerry Devlin, and Evelyn Donnellan, and scores of additional PROs and correspondents.
Reach and content has grown from 40 pages and 3,000 copies to 64 pages and 6,500 copies every two months and provide a valuable platform in showcasing all the many positive attributes of the town, hinterland and community, a staggering 39,000 unit copies in a full calendar year.
In the decade to date, the magazine has retained the advertising and marketing spend of approximately €529,500 in the local community through the generous investment of some 165 plus business advertisers and community focused firms and the watchful eye of advertising and circulation manager, Lyn Donnelly.
Over the 60 editions, 94 new businesses have commenced trade, employing some 270 plus people, primarily in the services sector and a labour force in the winter prior to the pandemic of some 3,600 local jobs.
More than 4,500 photographs have been published with more than 3,600 articles and reports, while in excess of 600 community videos have been produced that illuminate the town on the world wide web.
Any video report broadcast online receives views by on average 3,500 people. The Facebook page has more than 6,600 fans while the magazine is forever finding ways to tell the positive story through social media which in time will develop into a full information channel of its own.
Sinead Colleran has revamped the website, Ballinasloe.ie, to where it automatically ranks second highest in all relevant Google searches.
Over the next few editions all of the main sports and cultural and community groups will have an opportunity to undertake a decade lookback on their development as the company and community celebrate what has been a huge voluntary effort.
“We have been very lucky to enjoy the unprecedented support and buy in from our local community who recognised early on the benefits of having our own record of our highs and lows and from the drivers, PROs, the advertisers, the writers, the photographers, the clubs and societies, it has been a huge positive voluntary effort by our community," Seamus Duffy, BACD chairperson, stated.