Belltable Arts Hub Reopens!

outside BT

The building decked out for its re-launch.

I was never more pleased to be at launch than last Thursday (7 April) for the official reopening of the Belltable Arts Hub!

It’s been quite a turbulent few years for the venue at 69 O’Connell Street with resignations, refurbishments, noise disturbances, liquidation and the uncertainty that followed all of that. The last time I wrote about the Belltable I did a very long post recounting the whole saga BUT now the second age of the Belltable has finally arrived.

The reopening was a jubilant affair, complete with a street party and flash mobs. Speakers on the night included outgoing board chairman, Brendan Lane and Louise Donlon, Manager of the Lime Tree, who with her team has made a big contribution to keeping the Belltable alive. In a very fitting way Bríd Dukes, the founding artistic director, cut the ribbon—almost exactly 35 years after the centre first opened in 1981. At the time, regional arts centres were non-existent and as one of the first, the Belltable put Limerick on the cultural map.

BT logo

The new logo

The Belltable is now under the auspices of the Lime Tree Theatre at Mary Immaculate College, which has a five-year lease with Limerick City & County Council to run it. Another welcome return is the name, which can be used after “a lengthy litigation process”. Yikes! There was always a question over whether the brand had been damaged but I think that with all the positive memories associated with it, it was worth fighting for.

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Incoming Chairman of the Board, Colm O’Brien, at the new look bar

It has a new Programme Director in Marketa Dowling. As a former general manager of Fishamble: The New Play Company, she will bring vast experience to the role. Additions to the board include Riverdance composer, Bill Whelan and Colm O’Brien—CEO of Carambola Kidz and founder of Limerick’s Theatre at the Savoy. All these appointments will greatly enhance the rejuvenated venue.

The Credit Union building next door has been refurbished too to become offices and rehearsal space for use by local organisations.

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Some of the revamped rooms in the building next door to the Belltable, which is now part of the complex.

Although there have been events on at the Belltable in the past few years. The Lime Tree’s Arts Encounter programming has kept it ticking over splendidly but it will be a step forward to have someone dedicated to developing the venue itself as well as its events schedule. It is also welcome news that the Belltable will be an active participant in the local arts infrastructure again, especially in the context of Limerick’s bid to be European Capital of Culture in 2020.

After the mistakes of the past, I have a feeling that the Belltable Arts Hub has a secure future. I think I speak for many when I say I’m looking forward to attending lots of great events there in the coming years!

Féile Luimní to celebrate 70 years in 2016

One of Limerick’s cultural institutions, Féile Luimní, will celebrate 70 years of existence next year.

Having made a massive contribution to the social and artistic life of Limerick city and county, the organisation will mark the milestone with a series of competitions, a concert and by awarding special 70th anniversary Bursaries of Excellence, it was announced at the official launch this Tuesday.

IMG_1045I remember competing in Speech & Drama in primary school and it was a brilliant experience (our class group won a cup). Also, our very own Limerick Arts Officer, Sheila Deegan, has some Féile bronze medals for Irish dancing. It’s a real highlight for lots of primary school kids as well as musicians and trained singers.

The competition will be held in the first three months of the year—beginning in January with the Speech & Drama (Senior section, 20-24 January & Junior section, 29 January-3 February). The instrumental section will run 4-7 February. Applications are now closed for these competitions. The vocal competition will run 4-6 March (closing date for entries: 9 January) and March 2016 will also see the annual Roinn na Gaeilge Festival—which places a big emphasis on making our native language as accessible as possible.

The venue for all events is The Redemptorist Centre of Music.

The committee is “appealing for schools and teachers to encourage students to attend and, where already entered, to participate, so as expose them to the joy of the sense of achievement and the self confidence that public performance brings”.

The Prize Winners Concert will take place on 9 April in the wonderfully atmospheric setting of the ancient, St Mary’s Cathedral. This will feature winners from Féile Luimní 2016, and will be a real night of celebration. The top prize winners in many categories of performance, along with the winners of the 70th Anniversary Awards of Excellence will perform on the night.

The 70th Anniversary Awards of Excellence feature a €1,000 vocal bursary, which is awarded to the competitor who excels across the four genres of: Opera, Oratorio, German Lieder and Art Songs. There is also an Instrumental Recital Award of Excellence of €750 for over 18s. There are also 70th Anniversary Awards of Excellence for Speech and Drama; the Joe O’Connor Perpetual Cup and a bursary of €750 will go to the Most Outstanding Senior Performer and bursaries of €200 will also be awarded to the two Most outstanding Junior Performers (male and female).

Anyone that would like to assist in helping to organise any of the events or who can contribute in any way to Féile Luimní is asked to contact the committee.

Secretary Mary Scanlan can be reached on 087-2208616 or alternatively, email: feileluimni@gmail.com.

For more information, see www.feileluimni.com.

Twitter: @feileluimni Facebook: www.facebook.com/feile.luimni

A chance to support Dear Mr. Le Bon

Screen Shot 2015-04-23 at 19.23.06A friend of mine drew my attention to an interesting publishing project, which music fans may want to contribute to through crowd-funding.

Dear Mr. Le Bon is a proposed book made up of “letters to pop stars regarding their work from a retired member of the public with genuine replies from the artists themselves”. If this is something you’d like to read, you can support their efforts at the Kickstarter link here.

Derek Philpott and Wilf Turnbull, from Bournemouth in the UK, wrote to numerous musicians with friendly enquiries about their work.

The two lads had this to say: “Hello Everyone! We are both pensioners living in Bournemouth who write to popstars about their song lyrics, and they often reply. We also have animations on youtube which are very popular. It’s great to see popstars taking an interest in us ordinary members of the public! And, if you are in any doubt, please be reassured that all replies are totally genuine and are directly from the desks of the bona fide artistes themselves!”

There are a lot of artists involved, from Survivor to Slade, Edwyn Collins to Kaiser Chiefs.

The artists and the media have positive things to say about it, such as:

“It was most enjoyable to be involved in a letter that did not involve one of my ex wives’ solicitors” – Rick Wakeman

”Somewhere between Henry Root and John Shuttleworth – what a hoot!” Julie Burchill

”Now we have Wilf and Derek, two Bournemouth OAPS who write to pop stars old and new, taking them to task for their absurd lyrics. Follow their adventures” Bruce Dessau, Evening Standard

”Good luck, the both of you x” David Quantick

”Thanks for the brilliant work and for allowing me fence with such a formidable comic swordsman. Count me in for whatever helps the Grand Cause!!” Dave Was, Was Not Was

I love the feel of your jibe…Whatever you do will be creative and great. Hope I can help”..Chris Difford, Squeeze

This project will only be funded if at least £16,000 is pledged by Sunday, 3 May. Good luck to the chaps!

Local Arts News: Good and Bad

Welcome to 2015!! After an truly packed arts calendar in Limerick last year, I hope that momentum will carry on and I’m sure the community- whether practitioners or audience members- will guarantee this. Limerick will be one of the cities vying for European Capital of Culture 2020 and after a great City of Culture 2014 year, we’ve shown that ‘Yes We Can/Is Féidir Linn’ spirit that is essential to win the prestigious bid. Now onto some news…

The Good…

The Arts Council has awarded €1.8m in funding to Limerick arts organisations—a 3.5% increase on last year, The Limerick Leader has reported.

The Irish Chamber Orchestra received €860,000; the Association of Irish Choirs received €125,000; Limerick Printmakers, €60,000; Fresh Film Festival, €53,000; Dance Limerick, €125,000; EVA International, €222,000; Limerick City Gallery of Art, €112,500; Limerick Arts and Culture Centre (69 O’Connell Street, former Belltable) and the Lime Tree Theatre, €125,000 and Friars’ Gate Theatre, €20,000. The Limerick City and County Arts Service received €102,000.

The results of the funding means that there will be some great theatre, dance, music, film, visual art and more in local venues this year. Huzzah!!

On the Wire (7)On The Wire—a Made in Limerick project for City of Culture 2014—has been nominated for a prestigious Irish Times Theatre Award for Best Production. The piece, about World War I as seen through a local lens, was really excellent and a true highlight of the year. The atmospheric venue in the Sailor’s Home was complemented by amazing set/production design and the performances were superb. On the Wire was written and performed by Marie Boylan, Mike Finn, Conor Madden, Amanda Minihan and Shane Whisker as was directed by Terry O’Donovan  for Wildebeest Theatre Company.

Limerick City of Culture was also nominated for the Judges’ Special Award. Congrats to every involved with both nominees. The awards ceremony take place on February 22, at the National Concert Hall in Dublin.

The Bad…

It is with heavy heart that I say that one of my favourite regular theatre fixtures in Limerick, Theatre at the Savoy, is taking a break for the next while. The good news is that the venue, the Savoy Hotel, was purchased last year and will undergo some refurbishment—including the areas near the lobby where the monthly event has taken place since 2012.

A statement released said that “regrettably, Theatre at the Savoy will…go dark for the next few months”.

“Theatre at the Savoy opened its doors at The Savoy Hotel in Limerick in 2012 and since then has brought almost 70 different quality national and international productions to Limerick. In three short years, Theatre at the Savoy became a renowned fixture on the theatre touring circuit.”2dbbda33-04c7-4c82-ba5c-b866bd033f7c

Colm O’Brien, Maeve McGrath and Pius McGrath of Payday Productions (which ran Theatre at the Savoy) acknowledged “the management and staff of The Savoy Hotel along with the management of The Lime Tree Theatre for invaluable support over the past three years. Most importantly we would like to thank our loyal audience and members of the local press without whom Theatre at the Savoy would simply have been a good idea, instead of the cultural success it became. Thank you all”

I’ve had the pleasure of seeing lots of the productions over the last few years and greatly enjoyed most of them. Personal highlights for me included I Do, Bandit, My Life in Dresses, The Sweet Shop, The Wheelchair on my Face, Dorset Street Toys, A Chip in the Sugar and Songs of Joyce to name but a few. The event showed that there is a hunger for lunchtime/café style theatre in the city. We can only hope that Theatre at the Savoy returns with gusto later in 2015.

Randolf and the Crokers release debut single

Hangin' Single CoverLimerick band, Randolf & the Crokers, will release their debut single, Hangin’ tomorrow (Friday December 12).

The six piece have been gigging a lot locally and any time I’ve had the pleasure of hearing them—most recently supporting Brad Pitt Light Orchestra at the speigeltent at the Culture & Chips Festival—they’ve  been great. Their sound is a lovely blend of blues, country and rock and the single is no exception.

The track will be available on digital download through all the major retailers. It was recorded and mixed in the Lakelands Studios in Athlone by Mike O’Dowd and mastered by Wav Mastering in Limerick by Richard Dowling .

To hear ‘Hangin’ live, the band is having a release party on December 18 in Cobblestone Joe’s—co-inciding with the premiere of the music video for the single, shot by Shane Serrano.

The band formed in 2011 and is now taking the plunge with their first single and an EP in the works for early 2015. Over the past few years the band has played many support slots playing with the likes of O Emperor, Mark Geary, Moscow Metro, John Blek & the Rats and The Lost Brothers.

For more information on the band see www.facebook.com/randolfmusic or @RandolfMusic.

The local music scene has had a stellar year with the success of Fox Jaw, Leading Armies, Moscow Metro and Protobaby to name but a few. Roll on 2015 and more great music!