Speech of Velia Coffey, Deputy Chief Executive Canterbury City Council (member of the EAVF since 2005) on the occasion of the meeting in Rome that took place on 8 november, at Abbazia delle Tre Fontane. Velia Coffey have spoken about Canterbury’s connection with and experience of the Via Francigena and its importance to Canterbury and beyond.
Canterbury City Council is actively working to improve the awareness and understanding of the Via Francigena, as well as its significance and potential to enhance Europe’s cultural heritage and tourism offer.
Although only 30 kilometres of the route are in the United Kingdom, and just 10 kilometres in the Canterbury area, we nevertheless recognise our city’s significance as the both start and finish of Sigeric’s route, and its status as a designated Cultural Route of the Council of Europe.
Cultural tourism has become a source of social and economic development all over the world and our route must tap in on this great potential and this popularity, to offer authentic, sustainable, enjoyable leisure time to visitors, while bringing satisfaction and pride to the populations involved and encouraging their participation.
The local effort we have taken to play our part includes:
Signposting the route – we worked with the region (Kent County Council) to signpost the walking route from the zero stone in Canterbury cathedral to the town of Dover at the coast.
Improving Canterbury council’s visitor information service – to better welcome Via, Camino and other pilgrims and visitors to our historic city and surroundings. Visitor information services are now provided at our renowned Beaney House of Art and Knowledge in the centre of Canterbury. We can help visitors enjoy a better experience in the city by providing itineraries that take in all the major heritage sights and attractions in the city and the surrounding towns and villages. We also work closely with cathedral staff to ensure that those needing a spiritual welcome receive that too. We have launched our Visit Canterbury website and app.
Hosting a special event to mark the final stage of the Via Francigena programme in the Per Viam cultural routes project, 2012. With the help of Kent Ramblers, we organised a special walk along the Via, welcomed the local community to a presentation at the Beaney and set up a special information point at the annual Canterbury food and drink festival.
We are making regular contributions to the EAVF’s magazine and are helping to encourage operators to develop tourism packages relating to the Via and other pilgrims routes
We are working with the Visit Kent and the Green Pilgrimage Network at a local and international level to improve signage, accommodation and information for pilgrims and visitors.
Last but not least we are proud to collaborate with Alessandro Barelli and his colleagues to produce the Francigena Opera Omnia Canterbury volume and DVD. The work was completed and presented, with much acclaim at Canterbury’s Guildhall and was attended by representatives of Montefiascone Lions Club, the Dean of Canterbury Cathedral, as well as the Lord Mayor and Chief Executive of the council. We also received letters of support from the Regione Lazio and Provincia di Viterbo. The book sales are steady and are enjoyed by many of our visitors.
Over the coming months and years we are looking forward to helping both Historia and the European Association of the Via Francigena in further projects to improve the awareness and understanding of the Via and its social, cultural and economic potential.