Next month will see the start of a project to enhance the Narnia experience in Kilbroney Park and develop author CS Lewis’ links with Rostrevor.
The Narnia Interpretation Project is expected to be completed by March 2020 and will include, developing the present Narnia experience in Kilbroney, which will provide visitors with “a sense of place”. It will also see the “development of a unique, immersive Narnia experience”.
Details of the project were revealed at this month’s Enterprise, Regeneration and Tourism (ERT) committee meeting. Councillors also learned that the “web-based potential” of the Narnia experience would be developed which would “raise the profile of the Narnia brand, reaching out to CS Lewis fans, locally and internationally.”
Local service providers will be trained to become “Narnia Ambassadors” and there will also be collaboration with groups and sites in Belfast with links to CS Lewis.
A report on the project presented to councillors explained that it was proposed to use the former Warden’s residence in Kilbroney, which has been vacant for around three years.
The building will be utilised to have “video and interpretation around the Narnia story and would be the starting point of organised experience activity”.
The report stated that funding available to Mourne Heritage Trust and Newry, Mourne and Down District Council from the Heritage Lottery Fund for the project amounted to £55,300.
Rostrevor Independent Councillor Jarlath Tinnelly said he “very much” welcomed the project and that “anything that can enhance the visitor experience there is very welcome”.
The current experience was “excellent” but the council could not sit back on that, it had to build upon it, said Councillor Tinnelly.
SDLP Councillor Declan McAteer said he was “very supportive” and highlighted that any events the council had organised that were Narnia-related had been “well attended and highly thought of”.
Mr McAteer felt there was “a great progression bringing this forward” and he pointed out there were connections with Lewis staying in the wider area, at Knockbarragh. He thought they could “even build more on this package”.
Councillors agreed that match funding of £5,000 be provided and that the former Warden’s dwelling be utilised for the Narnia Experience.
CS Lewis is arguably one of the most influential writers of his time with notable works including The Chronicles of Narnia, Mere Christianity and The Allegory of Love.
Lewis’ works have been translated into more than 30 languages and have sold millions of copies. The books that make up The Chronicles of Narnia have sold over 100 million copies and been popularised on stage, TV, radio and cinema.
Speaking of his source of inspiration, the writer who spent boyhood holidays in the village reportedly said: “That part of Rostrevor which overlooks Carlingford Lough is my idea of Narnia”