Monthly Archives: May 2010

New Begining for Limerick’s Belltable


A much needed cultural boost is nearing completion in Limerick. The Belltable arts centre based on the city’s O’Connell Street is currently nearing the end of its 880,000 euro redevelopment.  With capital funding from the Department of Tourism, Sport and Culture, the new departure in arts development in the mid-west is a timely boost to the region that has been dealt an overly severe hand in recent trading and social difficulties. 

Mayor of Limerick, Cllr Kevin Kiely, along with Minister of State Peter Power and other public figures were yesterday among the privileged few to receive a personal tour of the new Belltable which is designed by the renowned John Keogan who also oversaw the redevelopment of the Abbey Theatre in Dublin.

Cllr Kiely said: “Limerick City Council are fully behind this project and will provide all the necessary resources and we have assured the board of the Belltable of this”. The Belltable was first opened as a multi-disciplinary arts centre in 1981 and acted as one of the only arts venues to tour work outside of Ireland at this time. Having last received a refurbishment in 1991, the Belltable has continued to serve as a venue to develop and produce theatre, visual arts, dance, music and film but was restricted in recent years by capacity and technical issues. 

It is particularly important taken by the Board of Directors, investors and city council that the site for the Belltable was chosen to remain on O’Connell Street and not on a green-field site outside of the immediate city centre. A drain of resources, trade and general atmosphere from the city centre of late has typified a population that has suffered more than most at the hands of economic instability. The Belltable will take pride of place on the city’s main thorough fare and provide cultural permanence and a venue the city and its people can be proud of. 

The success in recent years of events such as River Fest, Limerick Theatre-Hub, sporting achievements and other cultural initiatives highlight the passion in Limerick and the mid-west to support positives in the locality and also a drive to pull the region forward. 

Peter McNamara, chief executive of the Belltable, said they expect the work to be completed by November 2010. For all involved and for the many who are looking forward to this development, it can’t come quick enough.


Tags: , ,

More than just acting Resilient.

Resilience and renewal are two words that could be directed at any aspect of our society at the moment. Put them in the context of our banking system, political system, health service, universities and churches and they would not prove in the least ambiguous or out of place. Here, they refer to an upcoming appraisal of Ireland’s theatre sector, one area that is bravely battling to buck the trend of being another economic victim.

Theatre Forum, the independent group that represents, supports and develops theatre and performing arts practitioners in Ireland is hosting its annual conference at the magnificently refurbished Wexford Opera House from 17-18 of June 2010. The now annual Theatre Forum conference is one of the major fixtures in the Irish theatrical calendar and is an event that brings so many of Irelands arts and theatre community together to discuss and evaluate what is good, what is right and what needs attention and redress in Irish theatre.

This year the panel of speakers includes Loughlan Deegan, Director of the Dublin Theatre Festival, Willie White, Artistic Director of the Project Arts Cente, Una McKevitt, director of recent Fringe favourite Victor and Gord, Lynette Moran, co-organiser of Project Brand-New, Una Carmody, Chief Executive of the Helix theatre and Grace Dyas, actor, director and playwright. The conference is curated by Anne Bonnar who is founding director of the National Theatre of Scotland.

Some of the key themes of this year’s conference can be viewed at the Resilience and Renewal blog page here. It is relieving to see that economic hardship and funding cuts, while obviously important and necessary to be discussed, are not top of the agenda. The focus is very much on the continued development of new and exciting digital theatre, audience interaction and development of new and emerging Irish playwrights and companies.

Lyn Gardner’s blog at The Guardian where she argues that the genuine interaction in work by companies like Blasttheory and Hide and Seek “changes the contract between artists and audiences”. Other companies such as The Company are exploring the possibilities and methods to further dismantle this ‘contract’ by challenging ways of truly communicating to an audience as well of including them. In  future, the relationship between and  interaction between the cast, the audience and digital elements, which all contribute to reduce the boundaries of traditional theatre spaces and conventions and allow for an expansion of the experience by an audience and also creates new possibilities in the development of new and unexplored performance spaces.

This conference should go a long way to creating an awareness that a quality artistic and theatrical-focused response to economic collapse can be a vital resource to a country that is trying to stand up despite the enormous weight of previous mismanagement. Cultural tourism is simply essential to rebuilding an exportable ‘Brand Ireland’ that is already recognized world-wide. This development has to start nationally and aim globally. A healthy theatre sector in Ireland needs to be able to concentrate on artistic and audience development and to get beyond the battling. Resilience and renewal indeed.

Some other key questions that will be addressed in Wexford will be how can we break through the barriers of disinterest, language and even prejudice to engage more and more with diverse audiences? How do we ensure that 21st century Irish theatre is really relevant to society that is facing a reality that wasn’t imaginable two years ago. What sort of business models will work for theatre and the arts now that there is simply less and less funding and money available? How do we sustain ourselves, our artists and premises that fight on our behalf?

 What can one hope to come from this conference? Obviously not miracles. Culture and theatre is but one aspect of a hugely diverse sector of the Irish economy. Questions will be asked, not all will or perhaps can be answered. What may be most important is to come away with a clear direction and vision on how Irish theatre will challenge Irish societal issues and remain relevant. Maintaining an interested and engaged audience will warrant real resilience but it’s certainly worth fighting for.


Tags: , ,

Examining the Project Arts Centre Archive

The Irish history blog, Pue’s Occurences, has published an article detailing the history and archive of the Project Arts Centre. The article discusses the processes of archiving a performance and artistic archive and its value to Irish cultural history.

The Project Arts Centre is one of Ireland’s most important and contemporary arts venues in Ireland and has been so since its insception in 1966 and continues to promote and develope new and emerging Irish artists, playwrights, actors and dancers. The archive is a vital addition to the documented heritage of Irish culture and is  housed in the Manuscripts Department of the National Library of Ireland.

Full details on the archive are available via the article on Pue’s Occurances and via the National Library of Ireland.


Tags: , ,