Saturday, November 10, 2012

Soaring With The Wild Geese: Q&A With Gerry Regan

Gerry Regan
On our 15th anniversary as a leading destination for those passionate about the history and heritage of the Irish everywhere, The Wild Geese is at a crossroads. Our team has recommitted itself to our mission, “to explore, promote, preserve and celebrate the heritage of the Irish … worldwide.” But to accomplish this, we realize we need more resources, and we need to increasingly incorporate the voices of the Diaspora with ours. So, on the verge of a brave new world for The Wild Geese, our Associate Producer, Tiffany Silverberg, posed to co-founder Gerry Regan questions about the venture's past, present and future, and how we are dramatically turning to those Irish worldwide who, with us, want to insure Irish heritage remains 'green,' in the words of William Butler Yeats, “wherever green is worn.”
How did The Wild Geese come about?

Gerry Regan (right) and Joe
Gannon (left) at the 1992 St.
Patrick's Day Parade in Dublin.
The Wild Geese started 15 years ago this month, in fact, when Joe Gannon, Micah Chandler and I, three huge history buffs and fellow Civil War 'living historians,' searched for “Irish History” online and found very little. A few months earlier, we had formed GAR Media with the goal of “Forging New Frontiers for the Past.” This largely unexplored Irish focus seemed a good fit, so we launched The Wild Geese, then known as The Wild Geese Today. This big anniversary seems like auspicious time to revamp the site.  

Micah, our graphic designer, left in 1998, but Joe and I pressed on. We remain passionate about the drama of history, the stories of history, and military history, where the stakes were immense. We found that Ireland’s centuries-long struggle to gain sovereignty from one of the world’s foremost powers was among the most dramatic we’d encountered. And with millions of emigrants worldwide, we came to see the outsized impact the Irish had on the world. With these insights, we set about “Chronicling the Epic History of the Irish Worldwide.”
Keeping it simple, we were about sharing this history, not revenue. Fifteen years, 700-plus articles, drawing 1,100 visits and more than 2,000 page views daily – not bad considering we spent a pittance on marketing.
So why change tracks now, 15 years in, with a new business strategy?
We came to realize our limitations in fully exploring Irish history. Think about it – hundreds, perhaps thousands, of traditional and folk tunes recorded and packaged each year by consummate, passionate artists, on several continents. The same with books about the Irish experience around the world. Irish studies programs springing up in universities. A huge literary and artistic milieu, spoken word, theatre, filmmaking, dance, visual arts, sculpture, all interpreting and exploring the Irish experience through centuries, millennia in many cases.
     Gerry Regan, far right, with Trinity College
     classmates in TCD's Buttery Bar in
     November 1973.
This is a big Irish world. Much of it is not readily accessible to most of us, who find some info on one site, some on Facebook, and some offline.
We thought: Why not create a community of people and organizations devoted to exploring and celebrating the heritage of the Irish worldwide -- a place where each of us can bring our own Irish stories and connect with those from around the world with particular expertise to share, as we share what we know best, our own stories. It will be a dynamic place where we are all, together, pushing the boundaries of what we’ve come to know about the Irish experience worldwide.
We also want The Wild Geese, going forward, to play a vital role in preserving Irish heritage “wherever green is worn,” wherever it faces becoming irrelevant.
We can’t accomplish that without a profit -- to allow us to keep our focus, day in and day out; to pay writers, artists, photographers and producers; to underwrite research; to create new online platforms to take advantage of technological advances; to gain new audiences for this culture and ultimately to create a worldwide community of those committed to our mission, whether they be individuals or our Heritage Partners, marketers who like us remain passionate about the Irish brand worldwide.
So what is The Wild Geese crowdfunding campaign?
The crowdfunding campaign is how we will raise the funds we need to better serve our constituency and our focus -- the heritage of the Irish worldwide.
We still use the same hand-coded HTML on our site as we did 15 years ago. Our navigation is not intuitive, nor user-friendly. Our site taxonomy, intended to help one find one’s way through 700 features, is confusing, even to us. To carry out our mission, we need a newly designed site, one that allows speedy updating, that allows visitors ready access to precisely the information they want or need, and that helps us connect our Heritage Partners with our readers and members.
We need page design and functionality that allow readers to share articles and information quickly, via social media, pages that carry our partners’ marketing messages and professionally written and edited content that speaks powerfully of the Irish and their exploits around the world. We need a smarter taxonomy, using channels and search engines, to explore in a more thorough, user-friendly manner the arts, folklore, genealogy, living history, military history, freedom struggle, foreign climes, travel, Gaeilge, accomplishments in labor, law, government, technology, science, poetry, on and on.
Most of all though, we need a full-featured online community alongside the newly designed web site - a place where our members, the Irish diaspora around the globe, can share their stories, connect with their heritage, and explore their history. And a place, as well, where marketers who share our passion and our mission can connect with us naturally.
These require money, and further, support, both from our many fans and from Heritage Partners who believe in what we are trying to accomplish. Our upcoming crowdfunding campaign allows members to show their support for what we’ve done, what we’re doing and what we will all accomplish together with the new features. Heritage Partners have stepped up to offer the best of their products and services as perks to those who support us in this campaign with donations at any and all levels. 
Why should devotees of Irish culture worldwide get involved now?
For many years we’ve presented stories of the Irish, worldwide, with looks at the culture fostered by the Diaspora, as our time and resources allowed. We’ve had a largely one-way conversation, though. We spoke to you. To explore and celebrate our heritage worldwide, we need more. Simply put, we need you. In this campaign, we need your support, and with our new platforms your dollars will help fund your voice and your unique, poignant, humorous Irish stories and perspectives.
How will the energy of the campaign continue into The New Wild Geese?

We are humbled and gratified, but frankly not surprised, to find such enthusiasm for our mission from Heritage Partners. With the help of your donation, in early January, we will launch our newly designed public site, along with The New Wild Geese community. We are already planning new content, such as editorial cartoons, op-ed pages, expanded travel coverage, and launch of nine channels and dozens of sub-channels, along with The Wild Geese Directory of Irish Heritage and Hospitality Network. I direct you to the full list of benefits we envision from their support, listed after this interview.

So many individuals, even many Irish Americans, don’t look back. What draws you and your colleagues to focus on Irish heritage?

For us, The Wild Geese continues to be about two things: exploring and presenting the dramatic and often transformative stories of our ancestors, and finally, the drive to find, and reconnect, to our roots. These will continue to inspire and inform us as we move forward.

One of the most satisfying aspects of my work producing The Wild Geese all these years has been the thanks we’ve received from individuals who credit us with helping them reconnect to their roots, to their kith and kin, to Mother Ireland herself.

Joe Gannon in Co. Donegal in June 2011.
My Irish-American mother relinquished me for adoption within a week of my birth, and I find myself particularly moved by such comments as this from Michael Patrick Fleming, writing us a decade ago: “Hello, was surfing the web and found your site. I am an Irish American / Catholic / and living in exile. My mother was born in Dublin, and died while giving birth to me. I would be honored to be associated with an Irish group online like yours.” Or this comment from Runnel Riley: “I am an Irish-American, who thoroughly enjoyed your web page. Thank you for helping us remember who we are.”

Michael, Runnell, and everyone else out there finding themselves overcome with sadness when contemplating the emigrant’s trail of tears, or thrilled by narratives of the Irish struggle for nationhood, this campaign is, above all, for you. We need your support and ask for it now. Go raibh maith agat. (Thank you.) WG

To make a donation, and to learn more about our work -- past and present -- and our vision for the future, visit our campaign at And keep in touch with highlights of the perks offered by our Heritage Partners, via our Facebook and Twitter accounts, @thewildgeese and Thanks, too, for helping us share this link far and wide! Come soar with The Wild Geese.

What We Aim To Bring You With Your Help:

In return for your support, we aim to help you to:

* Explore, foster, preserve and celebrate the heritage of the Irish worldwide, sharing your stories, your passions, and direct you to worthy preservation projects worldwide, “wherever green is worn.”

* Immerse yourself in the Irish experience worldwide, with community tools simple to use yet powerful enough to allow you to find your Irish voice and share your Irish story while learning from others around the world passionate about Irish heritage. These include chat, discussion boards, and virtual meet-and-greets, facilitated by mutual interests, and our Heritage Concierge.

* Join a premier venture that not only celebrates the Irish experience but with its devoted member corps, works to explore it, 24/7, with hundreds, eventually thousands of members based around the globe.

* Create your own special-interest groups within the larger Wild Geese community, which you can direct. Or join one of the dozens of similar groups that will already exist, led by expert and passionate volunteer moderators. Join with others researching your shared family history and heritage.

* Emblazon your own members page with your own unique affiliations, badges, maps and information, and Irish pride.

* Post regularly on your own blog on topics related to your passion for Irish history and heritage, your own and that of the broader Irish experience. Share your photos and favorite videos, and help us create a multimedia diary of the Irish experience through history.

* Receive exclusive access to subject-matter experts, newsmakers, artists and others whose work further our knowledge of the Irish experience via teleconferencing and videoconferencing.

* Receive members-only discounts and offers from our Irish Heritage Partners for media (albums, films, books, digital media), performances, lodging, dining, crafts, artwork, travel and more. These will cover the cost of the membership many times over.

* Support our ongoing creation of deep and original content helping you more fully understand the context of your own Irish story, including video and audio, provided by the writers, producers and editors of The Wild Geese.

* Forge opportunities to meet fellow members in locales throughout Ireland and the Irish diaspora, hosted by one of the members of our Wild Geese Hospitality Network.

* Connect with the Irish worldwide, celebrate the Irish brand 24/7.

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