In 2015, Sligo was the 10th destination in Ireland to be awarded the Purple Flag - the internationally accredited award for excellence in the night-life of a city.
What is a Purple Flag?
A Purple Flag is an award for reaching a standard of excellence in the evening and night time economy (ENTE), with a diverse cultural offering – non-alcohol dependent and is family friendly, safe and vibrant.
Do you keep the flag forever?
The Flag is awarded for one year. Every year the destination must reapply to retain the Purple Flag.
How is the destination judged?
There are five steps in the application process.
A team must be formed that is representative of the area. The Sligo team includes Sligo County Council (staff and elected representatives), Sligo Business Improvement District (BID), Sligo Gardai, Sligo Taxis, Sligo Tidy Towns, Sligo Tourism, Sligo Chamber and members of the Sligo business community (retail, hospitality, service and industry sectors).
Conduct a self assessment. Having researched Sligo town, decided on the Purple Flag ‘Zone’ and visited other flag winners, the team conducts a 12 hour self assessment (5pm to 5am). This exercise highlights and clarifies how Sligo can be rated across 30 individual categories.
Submit the application.
Two independent assessors are assigned to the destination and schedule a date to conduct a 12 hour assessment with the Sligo team. Assessors will have been provided with an itinerary for the exercise – however assessors can change or ask for additional material/site inspections during the assessment. On average 25 locations are visited and approx 8km walked during the 12 hours.
The assessors take all the information provided by the destination (this can include County Development plans, Tourism strategy plans, event management plans, Council led initiatives, social media metrics, ENTE business directory, awards won, improvement in infrastructure, ambience, footfall. Reports include footfall counter reports, crime statistics, market research, perception studies, vacancy %, retail/hospitality performance, plan for the future) and submit a written report to the independent adjudication panel.
The adjudication panel are not known to any of the applicants and assess all the material submitted by the destination from Step one to four. Not every applicant makes it through the previous steps and Sligo had worked together for 12 months before submitting an application.
A Purple Flag full assessment takes place every second year. The interim year is application only. The process is very much about demonstrating a working place, an evolving place. The award is based on demonstrating progress – that is, if an issue or area of work is identified then the team must make a plan together, implement the action and measure the impact/outcome – every year. That means a plan can’t be written and put away on a shelf and a box ticked...instead it becomes a living, breathing document – one that demonstrates that the destination (Sligo) is working hard to be the best version of itself that it can be. Other flag holders include: Dublin, Waterford, Cork, Killarney, Galway, Ennis and Westport.
Formally recognised at the first Irish Awards Ceremony in Dublin on 10th February 2015, Sligo joined four other newly accredited Irish towns (Galway, Mullingar, Waterford and Westport. Currently (2018) there are 24 Purple Flag winners in Ireland and over 50 towns and cities across the UK that have Purple Flag status for achievements in helping people have a great night out.
The town was particularly commended for its diversity of venues that could compete with larger urban areas, the strength of the partnership that worked on the project and support given from Sligo County Council.
Similar to the Blue Flag for beaches, the Purple Flag Award aims to raise the standard and broaden the appeal of town and city centres in the evenings and at night. The scheme is managed by the Association of Town and City Management (ATCM) working alongside the Purple Flag Advisory Committee Purple Flag. Accredited towns and cities have proven that they are welcoming to everyone, offer safe ways for visitors to travel home after dark and provide a good mix of venues. Purple Flag towns and cities benefit from more visitors, lower crime and anti-social behaviour, and improved perceptions of centres.
Sligo Town Centre Manager Gail McGibbon, and head of the Sligo Purple Flag Committee commented: “We are delighted that Sligo has been awarded the Purple Flag status in recognition of our dedicated efforts and investment in the enhancement of our night time economy. We are very proud to fly the Purple Flag, reflecting the strength of on-going partnerships and engagement with residents. We look forward to promoting the Purple Flag, and will use it as a stepping stone in our continuing development of a vibrant and safe night time environment for our residents and visitors alike.”
Richard Guiney, Chairman of Purple Flag Ireland and CEO of DublinTown said, “Internationally the evening and night time economies of towns and cities are becoming increasingly important.
We are seeing a closer alignment of the retail and hospitality industries, and the lines between the traditional day and evening economies are blurring. If our towns and cities are to survive and thrive in the 21st century, they must meet the expectations of both visitors and our indigenous population.
To achieve that goal our town centres must be professionally managed and promoted. Those towns that are well structured and organised will be best placed to meet the serious challenges that we will face in the coming years. Towns that don’t listen to their citizens and adapt to their needs will in all likelihood fade in the new paradigm."
Since winning the award in 2015, Sligo has retained the Purple Flag in 2016 and 2017 and is currently applying for 2018.
The Sligo Purple Flag team have won additional awards for Partnership and Innovation at the international annual awards programme run by the Association of Town and City Management UK and Ireland.