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!

Exciting times ahead for new Lime Tree Theatre

The Lime Tree Theatre launched its first autumn/winter programme today (August 30) which is sufficiently impressive to throw down the gauntlet to all of Limerick’s other performing arts venues.

The biggest coup for the 510 seat auditorium at Mary Immaculate College on the South Circular Road (only a short walk from the city centre) is the fact it will host the first Abbey Theatre main stage production to come to Limerick in over two decades. The national theatre’s take on the Sean O’Casey classic, The Plough and the Stars, is only visiting a handful of places in Ireland and the UK. The tour concludes in Limerick for seven performances from October 30 to November 3.

But there’s more…

Hollywood actress, Mischa Barton, and Neighbours favourite, Anne Charleston will grace the stage with Steel Magnolias on October 5 and 6. AND never mind the Abbey and yer wan off The OC, there will be a show featuring the hero of many an Irish childhood, BOSCO!! Now that’s what I call exciting. Chalk it down: the Lambert Puppet Theatre will bring Snow White & Bosco on November 17.

The successful production of Tom Barry’s, Guerilla Days in Ireland, will kick off the season on September 19. As part of the Limerick Jazz Festival, the Locke Keezer Group will perform on September 29. Shannon Gospel Choir with special guest, Paddy Casey, will perform on October 13. Brendan Grace brings his comedy stylings on October 18. Trad music’s finest, the Kifenora Céilí Band, will perform on November 18. Another noteworthy event is Ballet Ireland’s production of The Nutcracker on December 13.

In all this, there is a strong local flavour too. The nearby Laurel Hill Secondary School FCJ present their musical, Back to the 80s, from November 8 to 11. The Cecilian Musical Society transport audiences to New York for West Side Story from November 28 to December 1. Bottom Dog Theatre Company are doing the timeless Dickens adaptation, A Christmas Carol, from December 10 to 12. Limerick Panto Society will round off the year with Beauty and the Beast from December 27 to January 5.

In the tour, we got to stand on the stage and see the dressing rooms etc. It’s a super facility in terms of design and technical spec. The size of the stage itself gives a massive amount of scope for sets, choreography and so on, which is surely an advantage. I’ve been there for several literary readings but not a theatrical or musical performance, so I’ll look forward to that.

The theatre manager is Louise Donlon, who has extensive experience with companies such as Limerick’s own, Island TC, and Galway’s Druid TC as well as with venues such as the Dunamaise Arts Centre in Portlaoise. She praised the vision of the Board of Management and her hardworking team.

She also expressed her hope that the Lime Tree “will be a significant addition to the national cultural infrastructure and most especially to the cultural, social and economic life of Limerick and the mid-west”.

It’s great to see a venue of this quality in Limerick to complement the likes of the Belltable Arts Centre; the University Concert Hall; the LIT Millennium Theatre; CentreSPACE; the Loft; Daghdha Space; Friar’s Gate Theatre et al. We really are blessed with so many performance sites as well as a vibrant arts scene.

Now, that’s all the enthusiasm and optimism I can muster for today! Outbursts swinging from disbelief to fury accompanied by vigorous fist-shaking and face-palming will resume forthwith…

If you want more information on The Lime Tree Theatre, call 061-774774 or see the website.