Updated: 17/07/17 : 05:04:16
Some 200 podiatrists, mainly from London and the rest of the UK, are to attend a medical conference with a difference in Sligo. The Firefly Summit 2017: Podiatric MSK (musculoskeletal) has previously been held in London but this year, will move to Sligo in the North West of Ireland.
Firefly, a premium custom-made orthoses company, made the decision to move the summit to Sligo as a result of the impact Brexit was having on its business. And already it has double the amount of attendees on the last time it was held in London.
“When sterling started devaluating on the back of the Brexit announcement, our margins were way down. We have managed to survive – but only just about. We had to decide how we were going to respond to it,” Martin McGeough, Firefly’s founder and medical director.
“Most companies look at how to increase prices or reduce costs, but we decided to focus on how to build relationships with our customers who are podiatrists, mainly based in the UK, and show them the type of business we are. So, rather than cut costs and not run the conference at all, we decided to bring our customers here to Sligo to show them where we are from and to cement those relationships and, hopefully, build more.”
Firefly is also turning the concept of a medical conference on its head by taking speakers and delegates out of the lecture halls and into nature – together. Surfing, hiking, standup paddleboarding (SUP), golf and other activities are built into the programme of the Firefly Summit, which takes place on September 29th – 30th.
This will allow attendees to connect with the UK and Ireland’s most renowned podiatric consultants and practitioners in a relaxed setting by removing the barriers of traditional conferences.
Located at a number of sites around the county — including The Model in Sligo town — the summit will also see 21 of the podiatry profession’s top minds — 11 female and 10 male — deliver a series of quick-fire lectures, sharing their hands-on clinical practices.
Firefly founder and medical director Martin McGeough and big-wave surfer
Dr. Easkey Britton launch Firefly Summit 2017. Photo: James Connolly
There will also be a series of Social Good Sessions in which selected female presenters, such as
big-wave surfer and marine social scientist Dr. Easkey Britton, will share their stories. It is hoped the stories will inspire delegates to contribute to the Firefly Foundation, the aim of which is to build a fund that will go towards social good activities and events locally and internationally.
The conference will result in an economic boost of at least €320,000 to the local economy at the end of September, traditionally a quiet time for tourism in the region. The move from London to Sligo is a huge coup for the town as it demonstrates its ability to host such high-profile events.
Martin McGeough has more than 28 years experience in clinical biomechanics and orthotic therapy. Originally from Belfast, he has headquartered Firefly in Sligo. His mother is from Rossinver, County Leitrim. He said:
“Another reason we have decided to move the conference from London, where the majority of our clients are from, is to promote Sligo as a destination and to show that a region like Sligo has the capacity to deliver a major conference like this. We are proud that the business is based in Sligo and we just thought ‘why not?’ “We were inspired to move the summit from London when we saw the great success of the Surf Summit, which was held in Sligo after the 2015 Web Summit.
"We want to show that Sligo is a destination that can hold its own against any other region in Ireland – or the UK — and hopefully inspire other local businesses to do the same and bring their clients to the region.
“The people who are attending the conference will be mainly high-worth individuals from the UK, and London in particular. They are not just here for the conference with many having booked holidays around it. We would also hope that people would come back to Ireland for their own family holidays on the back of their experience here.”
Firefly manufactures orthotic devices and has been designing, manufacturing and distributing foot orthoses to the podiatric profession — mainly in the UK — since 2003. It also has foot and ankle clinics, which are open to the general public in Sligo, Belfast, Newry, Galway, Cork, Donegal and Dublin.
Mr McGeough has provided professional advice and podiatry services for a number of English Premier League football clubs and is a visiting lecturer in various UK and Irish universities. He is a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians in Glasgow where he is also their regional advisor on podiatry to Ireland. Podiatry or podiatric medicine is a branch of medicine devoted to the study, diagnosis and medical and surgical treatment of disorders of the foot and ankle.
Podiatry is still in a development mode in Ireland, which is why Firefly’s business is mainly focused on the UK. It is also traditionally seen as a male-dominated profession and the Firefly Summit organisers were conscious of ensuring there was a good gender balance among the speakers – with 11 of the 20 female.