pj_ward

Racontour’s story

Racontour Production’s founder and creative director, John Ward, has had an interest in Irish culture and history from an early age. His grandfather, PJ Ward was the T.D. for Donegal South in the First Dáil Eireann in 1918.

Though he never knew PJ, the connection sparked a curiosity that stayed with him and lead to John getting involved with local travel and heritage projects including running heritage festivals in Donegal Town around St. Patrick’s Day in the mid-1990s.

 

 
 
 

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Timeline

An in-house lawyer for a number of media and I.T. blue chip companies in England, John decided the time was right to move back to Ireland in 2008 and do something new and exciting in the ever-expanding field of digital media.

The burgeoning phenomenon of GPS appealed to him as an area that could be used to better purpose with such ingenuity. Driving along with a sat nav guiding him one day, he thought it would be great if this technology could also tell him about the place he was driving through – but with a local voice doing the talking. On that day, the first seed of Digital Landscape Gardening was planted.
 
It’s been a long road full of trial and error as technology has developed. John has since augmented his experience in the field of heritage and digital media with degrees in Irish Studies and Digital Technology and Design. The art of storytelling and of technology are a perfect mix in the Internet of Things and with a bit of Irish meitheal in place, John believes the Irish could create a digital landscape garden that could give Eden a run for its money.

 

Mid 1990's

Mid 1990's

South Donegal

Sealing one’s fate

The first Irish I.T. company John set up was InterNETalia in Donegal Town in the mid 1990’s with Alec Reid and Fergal McAleavey. John heard the words ‘inter alia’ a fair bit in law meaning ‘amongst other things’ and thought as the Internet was just that, a bit of wordplay would give a memorable company name. Twenty years on, this has proven to be the case, complete with his original logo!
 
John worked on the copywriting and marketing side of the team and wrote the bulk of the first Donegal Town website, long since gone alas. He remembers a talk he gave about the advent of the Internet to a bemused audience in the then Hyland Central Hotel. Looking out the window he saw what looked like a seal in the bay and said you’d be able to send pictures of that moving seal to someone in Australia in seconds. Thankfully, the Internet has proven to be a lot more than just long distance seal watching.
 
Upon settling in England, John sold up his share in the company to Alec who has grown the company with finesse. He is delighted to see the company still thrive over 20 years later in the spheres of contract management software steel stockholding software and web development.

 

2008 - 2010

2008 - 2010

North Donegal

Jonwards and upwards

Upon returning to Ireland in 2008, John set up Headland New Media Limited. Its location was the very last house in Ireland at the northernmost point being Malin Head in Donegal. Using a widget and a laptop that managed to get a tea candle burning through the screen by accident one night didn’t augur well for a new digital venture, but one or two lucky breaks happened. Eircom wanted to showcase that such a remote location could be facilitated with Broadband in 2009 and bar the odd outage due to stormy weather, it worked well.
 
Inishowen proved to be the perfect location for building up the first set of GPS points of interest with audio. It also was the setting for the well-received radio series Rambling House where the many colourful stories of the peninsula were recorded for posterity. His work in Inishowen was entered as part of his Certificate in Tourism Business Practice in W.I.T. and got him noticed by Failte Ireland where he was a finalist in their 2010 Business Challenge Awards.

 

2010 - 2013

2010 - 2013

GPS audio tours

From Donegal to Youghal

A slew of GPS audio tours were produced during this period using both a third party platform and the now defunct EveryTrail walking trails platform. Notable tours include a commission from Failte Ireland for Sligo Town and from the Heritage Council for Youghal and the Bluestack Mountains.
 
Other highlights include  the historic town of Cashel who helped us create a multilingual audio tour for the town early on in the venture. Thanks also go to the Stokes family in Castle Durrow for commissioning the Durrow audio tours and the Gleesons in Roscommon for the Real Roscommon Experience, both gratefully supported with LEADER assistance. 
 
These were tough years to be an innovative start up in a market that felt the brunt of the recession. Time out would eventually be needed.

 

2014 - 2016

2014 - 2016

Racontour Productions

London calling

All good things must come to an end and it was time to move on from the most northernly point. The last act in Inishowen was a memorable one in negotiating with Lucasfilm to film The Last Jedi on John’s then property. 
 
Racontour Productions first saw light upon a return to England in 2014 when a new website and a complete revamp and AudioBoom categorisation of all audio material was done. A variety of well received Blog articles became a new feature to the website.
 
In 2015, Racontour Productions proudly became a bona fide West End producer with its theatrical comedy, ‘Method and Madness’ in the Actor’s Church, Covent Garden.
 
The native travel app for Donegal, the Donegal App was completely overhauled and extended to eight tours in 2016 until it was taken down in early 2018, largely to make way for the new digital landscape garden when all 600+ points interest will be reinstated.

 

2016 - 2018

2016 - 2018

A sort of homecoming

New direction

Upon completion of a Masters degree in Irish Studies at St. Mary’s University in Twickenham, John returned to Ireland with an increased sense of the Irish experience and where to take Racontour Productions next. 
 
That degree’s dissertation achieved a distinction being a play called ‘In Each Other’s Shadow’. More theatrical endeavours are in the works.
 
Settling in the south east, a commission came from Wexford County Council to produce a GPS audio tour for The Norman Way which was well received for its perspective on a sensitive area of Irish heritage.
 
A degree in Digital Technology and Design at the Technology University Dublin was awarded in 2018 with distinction. The necessary skill sets had been added to the mix for what would be needed next.

 

2019 and beyond

2019 and beyond

Going all out

Getting from A to Z

Racontour Productions is focusing on ensuring the Digital Landscape Garden comes to life and becomes a valuable and colourful addition to Irish culture and travel. The idea is that every part of the country shall be allowed to upload their rich content to this new digital archive platform for free.
 
Between now and that fine day happening, we’d be happy to work with you to get your content right or to get recording those voices before they are gone. Get in touch for a free consultation or to let us know how you’d like to see this project develop.

 

Our Values

Attention to detail

We are meticulous in ensuring that every minutiae is dealt with. What we don’t know, we’ll find out and double check.

Authentic

Our ethos is to produce an honest, recognisable and satisfying service. This is best achieved with no frills or bull, just original copy.

Courtesy

We appreciate your custom and will ensure you are treated with courtesy, encouragement and a prompt and friendly service.

Hard working

It is a pleasure to work in the area of heritage and storytelling; we will go the extra mile to get the best out of the project.