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!

Big Beautiful & Oldest Woman subjects for local theatre/opera this week

2014 is coming to an end and so is Limerick’s tenure as City of Culture but there is still some great work to come so do keep an eye on the local press and social media for details.

big_beautiful_woman_156x110Two such quality productions are on this week. First up, local theatre company, Magic Roundabout premiere their new play, Big Beautiful Woman, by Darren Maher.

It will run from tomorrow (Wednesday December 10) to Saturday December 13 at 8pm nightly at the Red Cross Hall on Cecil Street. This venue was the off-site setting for the now defunct Belltable Arts Centre when it was undergoing refurbishment and it’s a great space. I’m delighted it is now a new Theatre & Performance Hub for local practitioners to develop/stage work—a purpose it was mooted for way back in 2011 but has now thankfully fulfilled.

The blurb is as follows: “Under the real shadow of a gargantuan puppet, and the figurative shadow of a looming deadline, a ‘resting’ actor and a would-be author pitch a series of increasingly bizarre narratives at each other in an attempt to find the true and historical Limerick-based story that will wow an audience and propel them to the big time.”

“They are hampered in their labours by the attentions of distractingly beautiful French people, a series of embarrassing costume malfunctions, unexpected physical exhaustion and an inability to commit to any one true story that can sum up the city that they love.”

Tickets: Adults €15/Concession €12 and all Wednesday tickets are €10. Booking on 085-2085737 or magicroundabouttheatre@gmail.com.

This Friday and Saturday (December 12 and 13) The Lime Tree Theatre and Wide Open Opera will present The Oldest Woman in Limerick.

“As you casually pass an elderly woman in the street or on the bus, do you ever pause to consider the treasure trove of life experience that lies within? If her thoughts and memories could sing, what would they say? If her reflections, achievements and regrets could come to life, what would they be like? The Oldest Woman in Limerick is a unique performance celebrating the individual lives and remarkable stories of older people from the city of Limerick told through the medium of opera.”

Devised by award-winning team of Brian Irvine (music) and John McIlduff (text), this opera actually searches for the oldest woman in Limerick and in doing so meets up with scores of individuals with plenty to say.

“Everything is documented and anything might surface in the opera. Bizarre encounters, chance meetings and poignant reflections are all in the mix. Performed by a specially assembled team of singers and instrumentalists with locally based choirs, this specially commissioned opera will engage and entertain you, reflecting a great range of human emotions and celebrating the life-affirming joy of the human voice.”

The cast includes Sylvia O’Brien, Sharon Carty, Emma Nash, Rachel Croash and Limerick’s Sarah Shine.

Tickets are €25/Concessions €20 and are available on 061-774774 and www.limetreetheatre.ie.

 

HatchLK Theatre Artist Initiative

HatchLK - ImageWith the City of Culture year coming to an end, there is a need for a fresh initiative for theatre practitioners.

HatchLK is a theatre artist development scheme designed to support theatre artists over a period of four months allowing them to develop their craft in a supported environment.

“Based at 69 O’Connell Street (former Belltable), HatchLK will provide participants with resources and space to engage with their own work, collaborate with other theatre makers to progress and hone their craft with support and mentoring.”

“Five participants will be selected and will be encouraged to enrich their own skills, experiment with other members of the programme, promote new ideas and enable the development of new work in a creative environment. The participants will work with the renowned ‘Theatre Uncut’ to create theatre in response to political situations.”

Applications are now open for the scheme, which will run from January to April 2015. Application deadline is this Friday, December 5.

More details from www.hatchlk.com or by email at: info@hatchlk.com.

HatchLK is curated by Maeve McGrath and funded by the Arts Council’s Theatre Artist Development Scheme and supported by Limerick City and County Council, The Lime Tree Theatre and 69 O’Connell Street. With support from The Limerick Spring and LCETB

Events for young talkers and readers at Bualadh Bos

Screen Shot 2014-09-15 at 19.23.44It’s October and the leaves aren’t just falling but being blown off the trees. Running all this month, the inaugural Bualadh Bos Children’s Festival—organised by the Lime Tree Theatre—is getting into the swing of things.

There are lots of events, particularly theatre (read more here and here about the full programme) but also stimulating events that are designed to further engage little ones.

I’ve taken part and written about it for grown-ups but now Salon Du Chat is holding a children’s event for kids in fourth, fifth and sixth class this Saturday (Oct 11) from noon-1pm.

Salon du chat“In a world where children are told to be quiet and listen, Salon du Chat creates a place where children have their say.”

“The children are welcomed not into a theatre but into a cafe, for this event the gallery space at 69 O’Connell street is set up like a cafe.  They take a seat and are given a drink, a cookie, and a menu. But instead of ordering food they order conversation. Then for the next 30 minutes or so they chat their way through a meal that is all about talk. Salon du Chat creates an informal space for children to talk and listen to each other in a gently directed and unthreatening way. Sitting in small groups of 3–5 the children will have the chance to voice their opinion on topics that matter to them.”

It’s an interesting premise so if you have a chatterbox that age, or even a shy one who has a lot to say but needs an opportunity to express it, it might be a good way to pass an hour. The cost is €3 and includes a cookie and a drink. See www.salonduchat.ie for more deets.

I was a big reader (and writer) when I was a kid and Bualadh Bos has lots to offer in that area with author readings and workshops later in the month. All but one event (which happens to be sold-out) take place at 69 O’Connell Street (former Belltable).

On October 29, Sarah Moore Fitzgerald will give a workshop for over 12s called ‘Getting Started with your Writing’. From Dublin but living in Limerick, as a young child and in early adulthood, Sarah wrote fiction “constantly, furtively and under cover of darkness. Eventually, she came out as an author with the completion of her first novel, for yoReading-quotes-2ung adults Back to Blackbrick. Her second novel The Apple Tart of Hope was published in June 2014”. This workshop is open to all aspiring writers particularly useful for those writing for children and young adults.

On October 30, Andy Stanton eight to ten year olds are invited to a workshop withAndy Stanton, who is “the award-winning author of the Mr Gum series for a hilarious mixture of storytelling, mad jokes and true-life tales about being a writer. His mad wit is reminiscent of Roald Dahl and Monty Python and his crazy events are loved by children all over the world. Get ready to laugh your socks off—this is an event not to be missed!”

Also on October 30, ‘The Ideas Shop: Where Do You Get Your Ideas?’ for the over nines will take place with authors, Sarah Webb and Oisin McGann.

“The Ideas Shop is a very special interactive show presented by Oisin McGann and Sarah Webb, ideal for young readers and young writers. If you want to encourage your children or teenagers to think creatively, then this is the show for you!”

The first question writers are always asked is ‘Where do you get your ideas?’ Well, where do writers get their ideas? What inspires them to write in the first place? How do they create characters so real they practically leap off the page? Are any of their characters based on real people? How can young writers follow in their footsteps? And how does a book live on beyond the writer? During the show, the clever folk from The Ideas Shop will share all their writing secrets.”

Oisin McGann lives in Ireland and works full time as an author and illustrator. He has written and illustrated numerous books for young children, including the Mad Grandad series, The Forbidden Files series, and two short retellings of Irish legends, The Goblin of Tara and The Evil Eye. He has also produced seven Young Adult novels; The Gods And Their Machines, The Harvest Tide Project, Under Fragile Stone, Small-Minded Giants, Ancient Appetites and Strangled Silence, as well as his most recent novel, Merciless Reason.

Sarah Webb is the author of the Ask Amy Green series for readers of 10+. Her latest book is Ask Amy Green: Wedding Belles. Her books have been published in many different countries including the US, Poland, Italy and Indonesia. Ask Amy Green: Bridesmaid Blitz was shortlisted for the Irish Book Awards and Sarah is currently working on a new series for children called The Songbird Café Girls.

halloween-300x300As the spookiest time of the year approaches, Celine Kiernan will give a workshop for the over 12s on Halloween, Oct 31, called ‘Fantasy, Horror and the Supernatural: Why do we still love them?’

“For most of us today a flick of a switch can banish the darkness, and a quick internet search can reveal the science behind ‘supernatural’ phenomena. So why do we still tell ghost stories? Why do readers still hunger for monsters and aliens, when many of us no longer believe in god? Celine Kiernan explores her ongoing love affair with the fantasy genre, and tries to explain what she is looking for in her exploration of the supernatural.”

Celine Kiernan is an award-winning author of dark, complex fantasy novels for young adults. Her books, The Moorehawke Trilogy and Into the Grey have between them won: the 2009 RAI Best Book Award; been included in the White Raven Collection; short listed for the 2009 Irish Book Awards; won the 2012 CBI Book of the Year (formerly The Bisto award) and the 2012 CBI Children’s Choice Award; won the 2013 RAI Book of the Year, and been shortlisted for the Sakura Medal (English High) 2014.

Also on Halloween, author Darren Shan, “will be reading out some of the especially grisly passages from his books and answering questions from fans. All ages are welcome, but the content is most appropriate for teenagers upwards. Under 13’s should only come if they are VERY brave!”

Darren Shan was born in London but has spent most of his life in Limerick. His books, some of which include Cirque Du Freak, The Demonata and Zom-B have sold over 25 million copies across the world, in more than 30 languages.

Events involving the incredibly popular author, Judi Curtin, as well as as the puppet and book-making workshop have already sold out so get booking…no pun intended!

See the full programme at www.limetreetheatre.ie.

Bualadh Bos has other exciting events and I’ll do my best to post about others soon.

Bualadh Bos Children’s Festival for October

Screen Shot 2014-09-15 at 19.23.44After two great family-friendly weekends just passed with the epic, The Giant’s Journey, and the Elemental Arts & Culture Festival, October is also going to be jam packed with cultural events for kids with the inaugural Bualadh Bos Children’s Festival—organised by the fab folk at the Lime Tree Theatre.

The aim of the festival—launched today by education and skills minister, Jan O’Sullivan—is to “capture the imagination of young audiences with magical theatre, raucous book readings, chatty talks, interactive workshops plus a host of other activities for the rest of the family too. For the entire month of October, the Lime Tree Theatre and 69 O’Connell Street will be buzzing with active, curious and spellbound minds”.

Galway has a children’s festival in the form of Babóro and I’ve always thought what a great idea it would be to have something like that in Limerick.  Families are always on the look out for fun things to do with kids. Also, catch ‘em young and you’ll have an audience for life!

The programme will bring together theatre companies and writers from the UK, Europe, Australia and the USA to perform shows in Limerick. Irish company Branar do Pháisti will present their new show, The Way Back Home (recently premiered at the Galway International Arts Festival) and Fidget Feet Aerial Dance Company will amaze audiences with their special interpretation of The Elves and the Shoemaker.

Lyngo Theatre will present the classic, Jack and the Beanstalk. Limerick company, Beyond The Bark, has a new show Spun—based on a book by local theatre practitioner/designer, Emma Fisher and the Kidding Ensemble Theatre Company’s show Sweet Hands and Spicy Feet is a 30 minute show suitable for babies aged from 3-18 months.

Screen Shot 2014-09-15 at 19.55.32For the 8+ year olds, the Australian company Slingsby will present The Tragical Life of Cheeseboy—a show about a boy made of cheese coming to Earth for the first time. Morning performances will cater for schools but there will also be early evening shows for families. Experiental Theatre Company, in association with Baboró, will present a completely interactive production, The Odyssey Experience.

Voracious readers and future authors will have chance to meet and learn from some of the country’s best writers. Judi Curtin will talk about her inspiration and adventures in the world of storytelling and publishing. Darren Shan is back to read some of the especially grisly passages from his books. Celine Kiernan, Andy Stanton, Sarah Moore Fitzgerald, Sarah Webb and Oisin McGann will host various events for 8-15 year olds. For juniors we have short story telling sessions throughout the festival along with hop-scotch, face painting, dressing up and some make and do.

Along with performances catering for younger age groups, Fibin will present Othello and An Triail for Leaving Certificate students—in a very new, imaginative way.

There will also be film screenings, a Salon du Chat for young-uns, puppet and book-making workshops and more. The Bualadh Bos Children’s Festival is funded by Bord Gáis Networks and the Limerick City of Culture 2014.

All events are listed on www.limetreetheatre.ie; tickets can be purchased online or through the box office on 061-774774.