Crowdfunding campaigns: Language Unbecoming a Lady & Narcan

I posted recently about two local crowdfunding campaigns and there are two more that you may be interested in too—both with a connection to the Big Apple. One campaign is for Limerick Theatre Company, Bottom Dog, and the other is for a film project by a Limerick-born filmmaker, Narcan.

Language Unbecoming a Lady

Screen Shot 2015-08-24 at 20.27.30Bottom Dog show, Langauge Unbecoming a Lady—written and perforned by Myles Breen—has been invited to the prestigious Origin’s 1st Irish Theatre Festival in Manhattan this September.

In Myles’ own words: “As Limerick’s first and only production at the festival in its seven years, we join a host of international productions in New York City for a two week run at the Cell Theatre, and get to represent you, our city, and our country in the Big Apple. This is not only this play’s international premiere, but the first Bottom Dog Theatre production to be staged outside Ireland! We are incredibly excited at the prospect, and so launch our first crowd funding campaign to make it a reality.”

“I wrote and performed this play for the first time in 2009 as part of Limerick’s annual Pride festival. Directed by my friend and colleague Liam O’Brien…our small show played for just four nights at the offsite Belltable Space in the city. Completely sold out and consecutive standing ovations later, we were overwhelmed by the response from local audiences. And so began a love affair with ‘The Divine Diana’ that has taken our show across the country to 19 venues, with over 55 performances to audiences of over 5000 people. We’ve toured from Cork to Donegal, Galway to Dublin and everywhere in between”.

Reviews were very positive: “Unadorned, vulnerable and comically self- critical, Breen is a shining and believable presence” – The Irish Times; “Fabulously written, wonderfully acted, tells an extremely important story, and is an undoubted success” – Irish Theatre Magazine; “Breen’s writing is sharp, colourful, aphoristic…it’s emotional honesty is compelling” – Irish Examiner.

“It has always been a dream of ours to tour this work abroad, and in the light of the historic YES vote for Marriage Equality, it seems like the right time to celebrate where we now are, but also remember where we came from. To tell my story and the story of countless Irish gay men and women, through the medium of theatre I love so much at Origin’s 1st Irish Theatre Festival, is the opportunity we’ve been waiting for. In over 30 years in the business I’ve never performed my own writing outside Ireland – and now’s my chance!”

The tour is being supported by Culture Ireland who will cover flights and accommodation in New York for the three BD members who will travel but there are lots of other expenses from venue hire to Visas which must be covered.

Rewards include: a voicemail from Myles in character, a custom written Limerick by the director tickets to the gala fundraiser (see details below) and even a one hour swing show by Rat Pack start, Liam O’Brien. Corporate sponsors are also welcomed.

To support this, click here.

Also, there is a Gala Fundraising Night in the Lime Tree Theatre on 27 August where there will be a performance of the play along with a drinks reception and entry to the cabaret at Dolan’s Warehouse after the play. Tickets are €50 and can be purchased on www.limetreetheatre.ie.

Narcan

Screen Shot 2015-08-24 at 20.23.34Narcan is short film being made in New York at present and was inspired by writer/director Peter McNamara’s time living and working in New York City.

“While working behind a bar Peter would hear a wealth of stories from migrant Irishmen but one set of stories in particular stood out from the rest, An Irish paramedic working the streets of New York who would regale Peter with stories of being on the job and everything gritty detail that it entailed. Fascinated by what he heard Peter began to write during quiet moments while working in the bar.”

Narcan tells the story of Sean Ryan an Irish paramedic working the unsympathetic streets of New York City, every day he struggles to manage a fractured personal life, with his only son refusing to speak to him and the void between himself and his wife Sinead growing bigger with every passing day. The death and darkness of the job begins to creep inside Sean’s head clouding his judgement. It is during the course of one particular 12 hour shift that decisions with irrevocable consequences are made; Sean must call upon every ounce of his stringent resolve to try discover balance.”

The crew has managed to organise equipment and locations etc but need help to get the film finished to a high standard so it reach its full potential i.e. sound mixing, editing, music rights and more. Once the movie has finished all pre and post production, the monies raised will be used for festival submissions in both the US and Ireland.

Peter is a writer/director with multiple nominations to his name, born in Limerick, in 1981; Peter grew up in a working class household and began working construction at a young age having left school early. In 2013 after a life changing experience he decided to quit his job and return to third level education to study film-production. Well-known Limerick actor, Peter Halpin—also a producer of Narcan—is starring in the film along with several other talented cast members.

Rewards include your name in the film credits, scripts, souvenir pins, limited edition posters and more.

To support this, click here.

 

Review: The Trial, Limerick Youth Theatre

Screen Shot 2015-08-22 at 13.58.32I went to see Limerick Youth Theatre’s The Trial at 69 O’Connell Street last night (Friday 21 August) and I would recommend it. The last show is tonight (Saturday 22 August). Note: This review contains spoilers!

An adaptation of Kafka’s novel by Stephen Berkoff, The Trial is a challenging piece of work and I think LYT did a great job of bringing it to life.

The bank official, Josef K., is arrested “one fine morning” but he doesn’t know for what crime and no-one will tell him. Released but frustrated to the point of distraction, he tries to navigate the system but is continually denied any knowledge or access to due process. The law he is trying to wrestle with is a mystery, the people that try to help (including a lawyer) are ultimately as powerless as he and the authorities are uncooperative at best and brutal at worst. Thus, Josef K. is left in a perpetual state of uncertainty and the audience is led to believe that he may have wasted away wondering before a door, which he can never pass through—in a prison of his own making.

Let me preface this by saying that when I go to the theatre, I don’t like spending those few precious hours trying to interpret it as it’s happening. Call me boring, but I prefer when it’s  clear what’s going on because I enjoy it more. I once tried to read Kafka (Metamorphosis) and I gave up so I had an inkling I wasn’t going to love this piece. But, though the story and plot are confusing and some of the dialogue dense, the performance made up for it in entertainment value.

Firstly, the production design was top class from the stage arrangement to the set design and the musical direction & composition (both by Darren Maher) to the costume design (Marie Boylan, with assistance from Claire Dillon & Lauren Griffin). Though professional theatre practitioners were responsible for those elements, they created a solid foundation for the ensemble cast to build on.

IMG_0447The giant, looming Lady Justice model made from branches set the scene yet the upbeat lounge music playing before the sow started set up a strange contrast due to the serious subject matter. There were several catchy musical interludes throughout The Trial—singing and dancing alike. Some of it reminded me of the scenes involving the Sharks and the Jets from West Side Story; think menacing jazz hands, often creating a claustrophobic nightmare for Josef K. Cast member, Aoife Donnellan, did a nice job of the musical backing, which sometimes doubled as sound effects.

The muted colour scheme was broken by occasional bursts of colour in the costumes and the mask-like make-up was unsettling. Only Josef K. isn’t wearing a mask; the rest are faceless bureaucrats, enigmatic women, aloof officials etc. The props were good, especially Huld’s giant hands. The lighting design (Mattie Moran) played a part in bringing everything together too.

Movement was a huge part of the play. The ensemble played inanimate objects like tables, phones, clocks, public transport, staircases etc and that really had the audience tickled. If you’ve never seen someone acting as a chest of drawers or a bed, complete with creaks, you’re missing out. It’s hilarious and I’d imagine it takes a lot of skill. The ensemble was very impressive as a whole because they had to act as a chorus, a crowd, a workplace, a jury and a room at various points and they were never less than convincing.

There were a few stand-out performances. Liam Hillen as the hapless Josef K did very well because it’s an emotional rollercoaster of a part and carrying it is tough. Eoghan Hussey (Inspector/Huld) and Aiden Kelly (Father/Priest) deserve some credit as the pompous lawyer and the Gospel-type preacher. Emer Hayes has a great speaking voice and her short turn as ‘The Whipper’ (complete with realistic sound effects by two other cast-members) was a memorable one, as was Muireann Hogan as Block, Ellen King as the Laundress and Jack Coffey as the Bailiff. Naming a few is not to take away from the whole; the entire cast did themselves proud. (Full list of cast and crew at end)

One thing that annoyed me slightly was the multitude of accents being used. The scene announcements sound German and although it’s never referred to, it has a distinctly eastern European feel about it. But the audience were treated to a selection of accents like Irish Garda, German, British and American and I thought they could’ve just spoken in their own accents. That’s a minor complaint overall.

Screen Shot 2015-08-22 at 14.16.17So, The Trial had a fair bit of comic relief but dealt with quite a dark subject. You’re never far away from a scene where Josef K. is humiliated, despairing, enduring psychological or physical abuse or wading through bureaucracy to find answers. Many characters are living in a state (or indeed State) of distrust and others just ignore or turn a blind eye. The play begins and ends on a bleak note. But, nevertheless it was interesting and perhaps a relevant piece of social commentary in many ways i.e. the justice system is complicated and sometimes unjust, getting tied up in red tape is unfair and distressing…I’m still not a convert to Kafka!

Director, Ann Blake, did a fine job of bringing out the cast’s strengths and brought a difficult script from page to stage, running a really tight show. LYT is a group of very talented young people, mostly teenagers, but they’re still amateurs. They really rose to the challenge of the professional production values and delivered a high quality performance worthy of the standing ovation it got.

To book tickets, ring 061-774774. More information on Limerick Youth Theatre at www.lyt.ie.

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Kate O’Brien House begins a new chapter

KOB house watchI’m sad to announce the demise of a regular (okay, irregular but still present) item on the blog—Kate O’Brien House Watch.

The need for progress reports is over because, in a hugely positive development, people are living there now so it’d be creepy to carry on. Not that I ever used binoculars or anything! It’s actually hard not to notice Boru House on Mulgrave Street because it’s quite distinctive.

21519001_1The imposing childhood home of celebrated Limerick writer, Kate O’Brien, has had quite the journey over its life to date. Built in 1880, it’s a stunning piece of architecture—a huge, detached, two storey, red-brick Victorian house with lots of period features (see more pics of it in better condition here).

I don’t live far from there and I’ve spent nearly two decades walking past it so I couldn’t help but see a gradual deterioration in its condition over time. It was put up for sale and I assumed that no-one was living in it full time anymore.

KOB house-best Like many vacant houses, it became a target for vandalism, illegal dumping and maybe even squatting and other anti-social behaviour. It was damaged by a fire (or fires) and I really thought it would be razed to the ground some night. I did a post in 2011 showing it at an all time low.

For years, it has been the subject of attention from local politicians, people involved in the arts scene and media. Limerick Civic Trust appealed for it to be preserved and possibly turned into a museum about the author. A relative of the former owners (a conservation architect) even weighed in, offering to investigate options for its preservation and use. There were a lot of suggestions that it should have a cultural or civic use. See archived articles/features about the house/author here.

KOB House-newBut unfortunately, nothing much happened until it was sold in 2012 for around €80,000-85,000 to a private buyer. From then on, the outward appearance of the building started to change and improve. There were tradesmen about the place working. The fading red of the gates and decorative metal railings was painted over with a deep blue. Glass appeared in the windows again. Things were looking up.

Then, when blinds and furniture appeared it was obvious that people were living there, which was another step forward after so many years sitting empty. For all the suggestions put forward, it seems it is destined to be someone’s home again.

IMG_0434IMG_0436In fact, the house is split into apartments. I randomly came across a listing for the two bedroom ground floor flat on the property website, Daft.ie. I’ve included a few screenshots so you get the gist of what the interior is like. It looks like a very sympathetic restoration.

 

IMG_0435It looks like many of the original features of the house have been maintained but some aspects have been modernised i.e. you’d rather that the all important bathroom and kitchen facilities wouldn’t be Victorian-inspired!

Anyways, it’s great to see Boru House restored. Any tenants are lucky to be living in a house with such a rich past. Kate O’Brien was born there in 1897 and no doubt, had experiences/memories that were put to good use in her stories and perhaps even cultivated her writing skills as a young woman there. Hopefully, this important piece of Limerick history will now be preserved for generations to come. Now, much like Jon Snow in Game of Thrones, my watch is over.

Long-awaited plans for former Belltable are revealed

There is finally some (official) light at the end of the tunnel for the arts venue formerly known as the Belltable Arts Centre. The Limerick Leader has reported that “Limerick City and County Council has agreed to adopt a new model for 69 O’Connell Street –formerly the Belltable Arts Centre – in order to make it an ‘artistic hub’ in the city centre”.

It is welcome news but there is already a little bit of discord. Why can’t we all just get along? Answers on a postcard.

The New Plans

European Capital of Culture 2020 bid director, Mike Fitzpatrick, announced the hub plans last week and said that a new creative director will be sought to run the venue.

LL shot Limk 2020The reintroduction of the venue is to provide “high quality cultural activity” . A ‘special six-person committee’ will be appointed to independently oversee programming activity for the venue, which will consist of two nominations from the council, two nominations from the Lime Tree Theatre and two nominations from the performing and visual arts sector in the city. Mr. Fitzpatrick said at the meeting that “it’s all about getting lots of people involved” under a “good solid mechanism”.

It is hoped that the café on-site will be developed. The former Sarsfield Credit Union side of the building will be used for rehearsal space and offices for local arts organisations.

Mr. Fitzpatrick said that “under the Limerick Arts and Culture Exchange [LACE], the entire arts and culture community has been included in the new model”. This has been disputed by Monica Spencer of LACE who has said that “the statement about ‘the entire arts community’ being involved through LACE was made without the knowledge of or consultation with the latter organisation”.

Council Director of Services, Pat Dowling, said a Service Level Agreement (SLA) will be drawn up by the authority to enact the new model.

“The collaborative approach to operating the facility into the future is based on a model of shared resources and a shared commitment to ensuring that the venue is developed for the city leveraging off the strong artistic heritage that has existed over the past four decades. While the key focus is to operate the venue with financial prudence with the objective of reestablishing the site as the central arts hub for Limerick, this new method of governance will also be ensuring the input of the artistic community into future programming and venue development,” he said. It has all the right buzzwords/phrases anyway but action is the thing people want to see at this stage.

A Long Road

While I welcome the announcement, I think it’s unfortunate that another important cultural initiative in Limerick has been marred by resignations by experienced personnel at the outset, after what happened at the start of 2014 with Limerick City of Culture.

The Leader reported on 3 July that Mary Coll, Dr Michael Finneran and Karen O’Donnell O’Connor stepped down as directors of Limerick Arts & Culture Centre Ltd, an independent company incorporated nine months ago by the council to oversee 69 O’Connell Street. Also “a number of others – who were approached and accepted a call to form a ‘board-elect’ several months ago – have also resigned, believing the project to be in a state of ‘inertia’.”

It’s a terrible shame because eight months before, in October 2014, there seemed to a lot of optimism at the prospect of a new board and progress in the plans for the venue (reported here).

Mary Coll was quoted, stating: “It is going to be a very smart, interesting group of people with genuine commitments to the arts and making things happen and are not coming in for any other reason other than to support work being done, and I am very excited about it…I think it is very positive. It holds a special place in people’s hearts. The Belltable was a big gap. What it will be next, and how it will fit into the space, will be interesting.”

I have to agree with them about the inertia. The Belltable closed over two and half years ago in January 2013. In March 2013, the company running it was liquidated—owing €2.3 million to 74 creditors. It was a sad end for one of Ireland’s first dedicated arts centres. Aside from being a huge part of Limerick’s arts infrastructure, it had recently undergone a €1.25 million development, largely paid for by taxpayers money. I previously posted about my personal feelings on it here.

In December 2013, at the conference ‘Imagining the Future for the Arts in Limerick; Dialogue and performance’, it was announced that there would be a public consultation on the Belltable’s future in February 2014 and an outcome would follow. The idea that the credit union side would incorporate rehearsal space and offices got a mention then too. The consultations took place in March-April 2014.

Now it’s July 2015 when the plans for the place are moving forward. Why did it take so long? I know the authorities were busy with Limerick City of Culture 2014 but many people feel that the flagship city centre arts venue should have played a bigger part in this event. How long it will take before the new hub is up and running? I think the council needs to publish a solid timeline going forward and stick to it.

Thankfully, 69 O’Connell Street was not left completely idle. It was used for a variety of events such as Limerick Arts Encounter, the Richard Harris Film Festival and more. The Lime Tree Theatre and its manager, Louise Donlon, deserve a mention for the work in helping to maintain activity here. Although it’s a shame that this new management plan didn’t come into action sooner, it’s a case of ‘better late than never’.

Inclusion & Collaboration

Screen Shot 2015-07-29 at 17.13.42Now to the plans for running the venue; it goes without saying that an artistic director is needed to formulate a creative vision and direction. Recruitment needs to happen swiftly because time’s a wastin’ and it will have to re-establish itself among touring companies and audiences alike.

I think an independent board is vital and those people need to be qualified and accountable. A board of directors, by its very definition, “jointly oversee the activities of a company or organisation”. It’s a serious business. The former board of the Belltable came under heavy criticism when the company was liquidated. Several members of the first new board of Limerick Arts & Culture Centre Ltd have resigned. There is no mention of a new board of directors/management etc in the announced plans.

Will there be an open call for new board members or will they just be appointed behind closed doors? I presume the six person committee is completely separate from the board but will there be an overlap between the two?

Will members of the artistic community will be on the board as well? If so, it would mean ownership and investment beyond bricks and mortar and funding. Business and financial expertise is one thing but having an insight into the local arts scene is important too.

As for programming, in the new structure, there will be two nominations from the performing and visual arts sector in the city. I think this might be a bit low. Perhaps there should be at least one representative from organisations like LACE, the Professional Limerick Artists’ Network (PLAN) and Creative Communities, on the committee as well?

There is a lot of talk about input and inclusion of the local artistic community but that all remains to be seen. It is troubling that LACE says it wasn’t adequately consulted. A lack of good communication at the start will hamper meaningful collaboration.

Models for running the show are all well and good but there won’t be an actual show without the local artistic community. Alienating them at the outset is not a good idea.

Learning from Mistakes

Screen Shot 2015-08-03 at 09.20.50I obtained some Arts Council correspondence from a Freedom of Information request some time ago relating to the Belltable between the years 2007-2012. Those funding letters indicate issues with organisational/management structure at the former venue going back several years. AC Letter Belltable

In the funding offer letter for 2011-2012 it says: “You should note that further drawdowns from the 15 month funding offered are conditional on the following: 1 In the light of concerns expressed previously regarding the management structure of the Belltable, that a plan acceptable to the Arts Council is put in place to resolve this issue. 2 Procedures laid down in the Articles of Association regarding the rotation of board members should be implemented and proposals in this respect to be notified to the Arts Council. I am available to discuss these matters which need to be attended to as a matter of urgency…”

There was a reference in a funding offer letter relating 2012-2013 to “a lack of clarity in the relationship between the two senior members of staff and the board. This lack of clarity has been referred to on a number of occasions over the past few years and is seen by the Arts Council as contributing to the continuing underperformance of the Belltable”.

So it’s fair to say that the Belltable had its share of internal strife and since the redevelopment, the only ‘good solid mechanism’ at the Belltable was probably the loud machinery from the garage out the back lane, disrupting the performances. It’s important that the new venue develops a structure that works but reviewing and monitoring this structure is equally relevant.

The Belltable’s gradual decline culminated in the venue shutting down with the loss of several jobs and a long list of people left out of pocket. The timing couldn’t have been worse and it was an undignified end for a 32 year old venue of national esteem. I’m not saying this to be negative; it’s a fact! It can’t be brushed under the carpet completely. To use a term often used in theatre; there needs to be catharsis—“The purging of the emotions or relieving of emotional tensions, especially through certain kinds of art”—and then everyone can move forward.

A Fresh Start

Screen Shot 2015-08-03 at 08.51.31The new plans are never going to please everyone all the time but at least, at last, there is a plan and with it, a great chance to start again.

Limerick city has been without this municipal arts centre too long and it is needed to contribute towards the development of a lively city centre and the legacy of Limerick City of Culture.

Another welcome addition would be a new name! 69 O’Connell Street- formerly known as the Belltable has a whiff of the ‘Prince/The Artist Formerly Known As Prince’ about it and the potential for confusing visitors is huge. In a previous post, I quoted playwright, Mike Finn, who felt that the Belltable as a brand had been damaged beyond repair. That may be so. Maybe the authorities could do a competition for name suggestions so local people can get involved?

I love the idea of a vibrant café there and I think it should be (A) open later than 5.30pm several days a week and (B) a venue in itself for smaller/informal events such as poetry readings, open mic nights, café theatre etc. I love the idea of the venue being very involved with the community so it draws people in. I love the idea of it running an exciting cultural programme with a passionate team of people behind it again—much like when it was founded with a great deal of hope and enthusiasm in the early 80s. I don’t think I’m alone in holding that affection for the place. It means a great deal to the people of Limerick.

I really want this new venue to grow and thrive so if Limerick secures the designation of European Capital of Culture 2020, this new venue (whatever it’s called) will be one of the best regional arts centres in the country again.

I hope the council can do something special here. I implore everyone involved to grasp the opportunity, harness the potential, return for a rousing second act and there may even be a happy ending.

Crowd-funding campaigns: Elemental Festival and Limerick Craft Hub

Two very worthy Limerick artistic ventures are running crowd-funding campaigns at the moment—Elemental Arts & Culture Festival and Limerick Craft Hub. I’m sure they’d both be bowled over with any support you could give them and all the information is below. Good luck to both in achieving their funding aims.

Screen Shot 2015-07-28 at 20.32.29The volunteer-led Elemental Arts & Culture Festival has been running since 2012 and brings a diverse mix of “the arts in all their guises” over a weekend in September. Events include disciplines but not limited to: visual art, street theatre, music, crafts, forgotten skills, youth theatre, comedy, print, acrobatics, film and photography. This year’s proposed programme will be no different and events will include a sign-artists event ‘Love Letters from Limerick’, film screenings including the Oscar nominated Song of the Sea, theatre show Charolais and much more.

The aim is €2,000 and all funds collected on this campaign will go directly to the programme to pay artists, venues, technicians, equipment hire, accommodation, transport, printing costs and insurance. The festival doesn’t receive Arts Council funding. Elemental won Best Programme at the National Festival Awards (AOIFE) and was shortlisted for Best Website and Best Merchandise as well as being shortlisted for the National Green Awards. Their mission statement also includes using Elemental as a platform for supporting charities and the local community too. Past collaborations include: The Blue Box, Special Olympics, The Children’s Ark, the Ger McDonnell Memorial Fund, Limerick’s Buzzing and Fairtrade Limerick.

It’s a festival with a great can-do, ‘if you build it, they will come’ feel and “created by people with a passion for Limerick with the purpose of animating the city through the arts”. Some of the rewards include tickets to events, books, exclusive merchandise featuring the art of Jacob Stack and even some yummy gelato.

I’ve made my contribution so I’m really looking forward to the weekend. The deadline is just four days away so please consider investing in this event HERE!

www.elementalfestival.com

PS: Here’s a lovely video promoting Elemental…

Screen Shot 2015-07-28 at 21.13.08A not for profit organisation of 50 local craftspeople who support and promote crafts handmade in Limerick, Limerick Craft Hub was set up last year.

It is a legacy project of Limerick City of Culture 2014 and the collective “walked into an empty building last July and together we transformed it into the bright, busy space that you see today. Our exclusive high calibre craft outlet has a gallery space at the rear. We also have three fully operational craft studios, which are open to the public”.

The hub has a thriving Community Craft Corner where people come and knit every Monday and Friday morning for charities and for fun and it runs craft workshops on a regular basis.

Limerick Craft Hub wants to upscale and improve the craft shop, gallery and studio spaces.

In their own words: “We have secured a grant from LEO but need to match it with our own funds to actually receive the grant. This is where you guys come in, we need your help to raise those funds! The money raised will go towards a bigger kiln, a new coffee machine, a more dependable and faster till system,  and laptops for our marketing team. We want to be able to offer you more workshops, events, public rentable kiln space, a relaxed atmosphere in which to enjoy a coffee during community crafting and a greater overall experience when you walk in through our doors.”

Rewards for contributions include cups of delicious Pónaire coffee and a selection of the wares made and sold here including honey, felt crafts, lip balm, ceramics, jewellery and lamps. The target is €14,000 and there are 19 days left in the campaign. To support this crafty endeavour, click HERE!

www.limerickcrafthub.ie

PS: Here’s a fun video outlining the craft hub and its campaign…