Catch The Enclave before May 5!

438872188_640‘Enclave': A portion of territory surrounded by a larger territory whose inhabitants are culturally or ethnically distinct. A place or group that is different in character from those surrounding it.

I encourage anyone who hasn’t been yet to catch the exhibition, The Enclave, by Richard Mosse before it finishes up in Limerick this Bank Holiday Monday, May 5. It is in two parts—the photographs in a building in Rutland Street (opposite and down a bit from the Hunt Museum) and the multiple screen film in Ormston House in Patrick Street. I gather they should be viewed in the order: photos and then, film.

Now, I want to preface this by saying that I’m no expert on this mod-ren art craic. Sometimes, I genuinely can’t make any sense of pieces in exhibitions. It’s very much like: “A plastic bag under a marble slab beside some fishing line connected to a 2 x 4 plank…What the f**k is this?!” It reminds me of a news item I saw recently where a cleaner at a gallery had binned part of an exhibit by mistake. Well, the piece did include “cookie pieces scattered across the floor”. Easy mistake! This kind of thing has happened at least twice before. I once saw a jacket hung on a radiator in a gallery and wondered was it art or storage. I would just like to point out at this juncture, that I’ve seen many pieces of art I did appreciate.

From my untrained point of view, The Enclave is appropriately named. It is wholly “different in character from those surrounding it”. It is the result of a three year exploration of the conflicted landscape of the Democratic Republic of Congo by the artist.

War and peace, order and chaos, living and dying…all human life is here

Firstly, the look of the photos and footage is unlike anything I’ve seen before; it uses a discontinued military reconnaissance film originally designed for camouflage detection but which registers an invisible spectrum of infrared light. The effect is a psychedelic, ethereal colour-palette. Everything is displayed in shockingly vivid hues and the beauty of the landscape, in particular, jumps off the wall and screen.

The film literally surrounds you. You step into complete darkness and it encloses you with a combination of the multiple screens, a haunting musical score and ambient sound recordings. The words “it grabbed me” don’t do it justice. Unless you’re made of stone, it reaches into you and takes hold.

1.south masisiThe phrase “emotional rollercoaster” is a bit hackneyed at this stage but The Enclave is fast and shocking and exhilarating and sickening and a hundred other things. The way it’s shot, with a steadicam, makes it seem as if you are walking through the landscape and villages and bearing witness to the beautiful and horrifying things too.

The stark contrast between all the things it is at once is both the best and worst thing about the exhibition: war and peace, order and chaos, living and dying…all human life is here.

I’m going to stop writing before I lapse completely into nonsense (or have I already? You decide). Just go and see The Enclave. It’s amazing. It reminded me why I still risk going to contemporary visual art exhibitions, lest I experience some kind of Falling Down style outburst. Picasso once said that art “washes away the dust of everyday life” (not literally, Italian cleaner). I really believe that. For all the dross and abstract that you find on show, there is no real way to sweep all traces of this particular exhibition away. It stays with you.

The Enclave was chosen as Ireland’s representative at the Venice Art Biennale 2013, the world’s foremost art event, so kudos to the team at Ormston House and City of Culture for bringing it here and executing it so well. The opening hours have been extended: Thursday 12-7pm; Friday 12-6pm; Saturday 12-6pm; Sunday 12-6pm and Monday 12-6pm. Admission is free.

Visual Art Round-Up

Now to the lesser spotted visual arts. There is a lot going on around Limerick and there is a bit of a round-up below.

Brian McMahon/Geraldine Sadlier Exhibition

geraldine-sadlier_brian-mcmahon-exhibition_shannon-rowing-club_limerick_nov20132An exhibition of works by two well-known local artists, Brian McMahon and Geraldine Sadlier, is running in the Shannon Rowing Club on Sarsfield Bridge until November 9. As you can see from the above picture, there are some beautiful depictions and scenes among the display in the historic building.

Occupy Space

Cecil+St.Occupy Space, formerly of Thomas Street, has a new base in No. 9 Lower Cecil Street and later this week, will launch the new project, H-Q, which has been developed with artist, Gemma Gore.

H-Q is a cultural hub offering a platform for the arts in Limerick City. H-Q will provide professional studios for visual artists, an exhibition space for contemporary visual art and bookable project space for art-orms such as music, dance, theatre and literature. H-Q welcomes a diverse range of practices from local, national and international creative practitioners. H-Q is currently forging links with international organisations to develop an artist residency programme for 2014.

Limerick Arts Encounter

Michele Horrigan is curating visual arts at Limerick Arts Encounter and events will feature a selection of emerging artists based locally, nationally and internationally.

Arts_Encounter_Logo_RGB_mediumWhile using the old Belltable, 69 O’Connell Street, as a hub for these events, elements of the programme will also be located throughout the city. Debut solo exhibitions will be presented by two emerging artists, Aaron Lawless and Liz Ryan and two group exhibitions entitled Detonate and Undercover: A Dialect (part 2) will explore ideas of artistic process, each accompanied by public talks and events. A day-long symposium will feature national and international contributors, discussing the methods artists can now engage with new audiences and question the condition that art can exist in the public realm today.

The first exhibition, Detonate, will run until November 22.

Limerick City Gallery of Art

There are four distinct exhibitions running in LCGA until Dec 23. They are: Upending; Antennae; I go to seek a Great Perhaps and Difference Engine: Accumulator III.

Upending – an exhibition of enquiries presents new work by artists Kennedy Browne, Anthony Haughey, Anna Macleod, Augustine O’Donoghue, Susan Thomson and Bryonie Reid. The exhibition results from the artists’ participation in a year-long mobile think tank entitled Troubling Ireland which took place in 2010/11, commissioned by Fire Station Artists’ Studios and led by the Danish curatorial collective, Kuratorisk Aktion. Two years later, the artists were commissioned by Fire Station Artists Studios, in partnership with LCGA and directed by Think Tank participant, Helen Carey, to present new work in exhibition, which trouble Ireland from a wide variety of perspectives: addressing themes of sustainable energy, labour and loss in recessionary times, real and tourist approaches to Ireland, border identities, homophobia and its colonial legacy, and the landscape, both mental and physical, around the pharmaceutical industry in Ireland.

To complement this exhibition, there will be a symposium on ‘Art and Responsibility’ at LCGA on November 12 from 11am-4.15 pm. It will be run by Fire Station Artists’ Studios in partnership with LCGA and speakers include Galit Eilat; Tone Olaf Nielsen and Frederikke Hansen. There will also be contributions from Liz Burns; Helen Carey and a panel discussion with the artists presented in the exhibition. Admission is free. Booking necessary by calling 061-310633 or emailing

Difference Engine: Accumulator III is an evolving touring exhibition, a model of autonomous artist curation, by artists Mark Cullen, Wendy Judge Gillian Lawler and Jessica Foley, featuring Gordon Cheung, whose works infiltrate the grouping with the Portrait of Charles Babbage, the early founder of what was to become the ‘computer’. Cheung’s work is the only piece that is a constant through Difference Engine’s ensemble installations. For Limerick City Gallery of Art, Difference Engine bring existing work, but they also work with the spaces to make something that is particular to LCGA – theirs is a collaborative practice that is highly individual – an ambiguity that works for each artist, for each place and yet has a distinct character.

antennae_lowAlso on show is Antennae by David Beattie, which is in collaboration with Ormston House. LCGA in partnership with the Patrick Street gallery and collective, present Bring in the Noise, curated by Mary Cremin. The exhibition focuses on artists whose practice engage with and appropriate technology creating assemblages and installations. To complement this exhibition, David Beattie’s work presented in LCGA focuses on the experimental nature of his work, his methodology combines factors of low fidelity sound, organic movements, space, and the field of physics, introducing unlikely materials to gather and produce a set of object inter-relationships, keeping in mind their aesthetic dominance as well as distance.

At Ormston House, there is more work by Laura Buckley and Alexander Gutke in the same vein. More information at

I go to seek a Great Perhaps is drawn from the LCGA permanent collection. This exhibition, curated by Shinnors Scholar, Aoibheann McCarthy, is drawn from the Permanent Collection, using the methodology of involving the general public, in this case seven young adults who have been involved with LCGA in other projects. Through six sessions, the selection was made, and the resulting exhibition reflects an examination of issues and aspects of life pertinent to young people, such as environment, politics, relationships and ‘being’ in a rural context, as well as thinking about what the future holds for them in 21st century Ireland. The selection includes works by Mary Swanzy, Janet Mullarney, and Sean Keating alongside more contemporary works by artists such as Gavin Hogg, Donald Teskey and Siobhan Piercy.

538497_272197052865558_1713379594_neva International 2014
Ireland’s biennial of contemporary art will take place from April 12- July 6 next year. The 12-week programme of exhibitions and events taking place across Limerick City will be curated by Bassam El Baroni. Since being founded in 1977, eva International has worked with the world’s leading artists and curators, bringing outstanding exhibitions to diverse audiences.

Local graffiti

Walking around town these days, there seems to be colourful and intricate urban art springing up everywhere.

I’ve been taken to task about my praise for cool graffiti in the past. Generally people split into two groups—staunch NIMBYs (‘Not in my back yard!’) and people who really like it. I don’t agree with vandalising private property or artless tagging but I think we have some of the best graffiti in Ireland, if not the best. This is largely thanks to the Make a Move Festival but also talented artists in the locality. It adds a bit colour to a lot of derelict and drab spaces. Check out this page to get a taste of what’s around:

Graffiti 1

Limerick Arts Encounter/Dance Limerick events to note

Limerick Arts Encounter has been running, and will continue to run, various arts events around the city.

I saw the exceptional What Happened Bridgie Cleary by Bottom Dog TC in mid October and reviewed it for Irish Theatre Magazine. Read it here.

The episodic theatre piece, The Boneyard Man, has been running weekly for a month at Dr John’s to great success. The last instalment this Thursday is sold out but don’t fret, there are other delights to sample this week.

Sorcha Furlong & Gemma Doorly- Performing in W.A.G at Theatre at the SavoyTheatre at the Savoy is upon us. W.A.G by Gemma Doorly is in the lunchtime and teatime slots on Thursday and lunchtime on Friday.

W.A.G is a hilarious black comedy about the forced showdown between an Irish Soccer star’s wife and his mistress. Set in the lavish surroundings of the soccer star’s mansion while he is away, his wife has invited a guest around for a drink and a chat – his mistress. Armed with intimate photos of the mistress and a threat to leak the story to the newspapers – W.A.G is ready to fight for her marriage to the death!”

Evening Theatre at the Savoy then follows on this Friday and Saturday at 7pm. Galway’s Fregoli Theatre Company will present Dorset Street Toys.

Dorset Street Toys-Fregoli Theatre Company - Theatre at the Savoy“A child prophet is taken from a basket sent drifting down the Liffey. A young girl clutching a dolly is taken from her home. A man in a superhero cloak hides from the streets he once thought to save. A woman steps out into onto the street to sell the only thing she thinks she can. Fregoli are delighted to present the debut of Dorset Street Toys, a provocative, harsh but ultimately moving exploration of love, lost childhood and the Dublin streets”.

Bookings by phone at 085-8554341 or at


There are Indie and foreign film screenings going on at the former Belltable Arts Centre at 69 O’Connell Street. A particularly exciting upcoming one (Nov 27) is Before Midnight, the third in Richard Linklater’s masterful Before and After films with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. There’s also an ongoing visual art exhibition there too. Check out the Lime Tree’s programme for even more theatre etc too.

The Dance Limerick programme is in full swing too, with classes and performances galore. It is taking part in Limerick Arts Encounter with The Limerick Experiment in its base, the Dance Limerick Church. This will involve performance and a conference (Nov 29-Dec 1).Fifteen Limerick artists, from different disciplines, have come together with a view to creating a collaborative, developmental work and that’s central to the event

Missing_webAlso, there is a really exciting event on in the same venue on November 7 in the form of Missing by Coiscéim Dance Theatre. I saw the Coiscéim show, Swimming With My Mother, a few years back in the Belltable Unfringed Festival and was absolutely blown away. It’s the only contemporary dance show ever where I enjoyed every single minute. The theatrical elements were fabulous. Rightly or wrongly, I have high hopes for this one! It’s great to see a company of Coiscéim’s calibre return to Limerick.

The premise of Missing is: “It is hard to imagine what it might feel like if a loved one went missing. This poignant new duet broaches the experiences of the families and communities left behind. Missing is a reminder of the fragility and beauty of moments shared. It is a dance poem to those absent and to those left in the abyss of the unknown.”
It is choreographed by David Bolger and will be performed by Emma O’Kane and Tom Pritchard. See the website for more info.

Three exciting new ventures for Limerick arts community


Arts_Encounter_Logo_RGB_mediumLaunched at the birthday party for the Lime Tree Theatre,The Limerick Arts Encounter is a new pilot programme of events funded directly by the Arts Council and the City Council. It is a collaboration between the Limerick City arts office and the Lime Tree Theatre.

What money would have earmarked for the now defunct Belltable Arts Centre is to be funneled directly to theatre groups and arts practitioners to present work in local venues. Many well-known companies and individuals are involved. One event that has already taken place was a rehearsed reading of an adapted version of the Kate O’Brien novel, Distinguished Villa, in the refurbished Boru House (sickened that I missed that).

The programme of events started in mid-September and will run until March. Theatre, film, visual art and literature will get an airing. Venues include the former Belltable at 69 O’Connell Street, the Lime Tree, the Victoria Snooker Club, Dr John’s and the Blind Pig and Dance Limerick—the former St John’s Church, which once housed Daghdha Dance Company.

It is hoped that it will give a boost to the arts sector in the city and all stakeholders are delighted that the Arts Council are still supporting productions and events.

The Limerick Leader has speculated that the funding is in the region of €240,000. While not a long-term solution, it will hopefully lead to one. Further information on the Limerick Arts Encounter programme is on


Limerick Dance. Picture: Alan PlaceA new contemporary dance hub is being launched this Thursday, October 3, in at the dance space at the former St John’s Church (previously occupied by the now defunct, Daghdha Dance Company).

The initiative—a new support and development organisation for professional dance—is also funded by the Arts Council and Limerick City Council.

Director, Jenny Traynor, will attempt to reinvigorate dance in Limerick city. She is a former manager of CoisCéim Dance Theatre, one of Ireland’s leading dance companies, so the future of dance here is in safe hands.

Commenting on the launch of Dance Limerick, Ms Traynor, praised the “phenomenal” facilities at John’s Square and is “delighted to have the opportunity to programme these world class facilities for dance artists and dance audiences in Limerick”.

Choreographer Mary Nunan has been commissioned to create a performance especially for the event. It will feature five female dancers and is set to the 2nd movement of Schubert’s String Quintet. Tickets for the launch are available via its Facebook.

Dance Limerick will offer a programme of performances, residency opportunities, master classes, talks and lectures.


johnssquareMinister for Arts, Jimmy Deenihan, has officially opened a subsidised living space for artists at John’s Square in the city—a unique scheme thought to be one of the first of its kind in Ireland.

Limerick Arts Office is providing use of six newly refurbished apartments at 1-2 John’s Square to contemporary visual artists, performers, musicians and writers. Six artists will take up residency straight away (they can stay for one to three years) and another two apartments are available to local arts organisations for short-term use i.e. to accommodate visiting artists.

The entire square was redeveloped by Limerick City Council and is now being dubbed “Limerick’s living cultural quarter”.

All of these news items bode well for Limerick City of Culture 2014. The applications process is closed for that now so hopefully a programme will soon materialise.


I’ve slipped back into my complacent ways about posting again. D’oh! Cue summary of some of my cultural intake for the last while…feel free to skip through; I’ll never even know!

I neglected to post about Angela’s Ashes: The Musical, which quickly blasted away my cynicism with a catchy score and fantastic performances all round. I hope it returns again so more people can see it. I didn’t get a chance to talk about the amazing documentary, The Summit, which was premiered as part of Elemental Arts & Culture Festival. The photography was breathtaking, the interviews heartbreaking and the tremendous courage and sacrifice shown by Limerick man, Ger McDonnell, on K2 was conclusively revealed.

I failed to mention the first birthday celebrations of the Lime Tree Theatre, which has totally excelled expectations and brought some outstanding performances to the local stage. The stage adaptation of Tuesdays With Morrie which followed was very moving; I read the book and it was lovely to see it played out so well.

I was seemingly stunned into silence by the dual brilliance of Break, at the Dublin Fringe Festival, and Fleetwood Mac at the O2 in Dublin. Both shows were just unreal!

I saw About Time…yeah I know it’s Richard Curtis and by default (A) Impossibly romantic (B) more than a little sentimental but I really enjoyed it. Domhnall Gleeson really comes into his own and it was very sweet and funny. I read the much hyped, Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn and I thought it was quirky, tense and had some killer twists—great stuff. I discovered a new bluegrass band, Punch Brothers, who have this fusion thing going on where there’s a bit of country, bluegrass and jazz. It’s a bit mad in a good way.


New performance at Belltable!!!

shitcreekDon’t get too excited but it’s a comedy of errors called Up Sh*t Creek Without A Paddle and will be starring the board of directors and senior management…if they can be tracked down for comment, that is. And of course, the audience is cast adrift in this mire of effluent too.

In better news, I have a feeling that the garage owner in the laneway behind the venue can cut back on having to work at unsociable hours. Every cloud…

The Limerick Leader reported this week that the company running the arts centre will be liquidated and debts are over €750,000, which is a colossal sum. The bulk of it is owed to the building contractor who carried out major refurbishment works. Worse, money is owed to local arts practitioners who put on shows there in the latter half of 2012. There must have been signs that it was heading for trouble by then so engaging those people was pretty despicable.

G.U.B.U anyone?

Less than two years after it reopened after €1.26 million worth of works (or maybe more?) the Belltable is closed and will remain so for the foreseeable future. Local playwright, Mary Coll, was on Radio One arts show, Arena, the other night talking about it. I’d urge people to listen to the podcast. She said that serious questions need to be asked about this and I agree, along with just about everyone with an interest in the arts in Limerick.

So, what happened? I don’t think there is a single individual or factor in this case but more like several. Responsibility lies with the Belltable’s management and board as well as Limerick City Council. The buck has to stop somewhere and it lands squarely at the feet of the people making the decisions. You could blather on about human nature, collective consciousness, peer pressure, diplomacy et al. It’s always hard to know what’s the right thing to do. But the state of affairs at the Belltable didn’t develop overnight; this slippage has been going on for years and left unchecked. Now that it’s all gone to pot, there’s not much point in blame. All we can do is hope that lessons are learned from the mistakes.

And there’s no point blaming the recession by the way. The economic climate is poor but then again I don’t hear of other regional arts centres closing in these circumstances. Bear in mind that the Belltable was one of Ireland’s first regional arts centres when it opened in 1981. In the Celtic Tiger years a lot of new, multimillion euro facilities were built i.e. the Dunamaise Arts Centre in Portlaoise, An Grianan Theatre in Letterkenny, the Civic Theatre in Dublin and the Riverbank Arts Centre in Newbridge to name but a few. You’ll note that all of them, and many others like them, are still open for business. It’s not all sunshine and roses but they’re doing their best.

170711121655--IMG_1013Even the dogs on the street know that the Belltable hasn’t been doing all of what it was supposed to be doing. The mission statement and artistic policy on reads as follows:

“A space for arts development, excellent arts provision and social engagement in Limerick and beyond. This is achieved by:

  • Presenting work of calibre across the art forms: Visual Art, Live Performance*, Film and Literature
  • Fostering, developing and nurturing local, national and International arts practitioners and encouraging innovation in their practice
  • Making space and resources available to create new work across the art forms
  • Fostering Partnerships, networks and create debate and dialogues with arts practitioners, local communities and audiences
  • Being a focal point, a vital resource and social space for the arts in Limerick and Beyond

* This includes but is not restricted to: Theatre, Poetry, Circus, Music, Comedy, Dance, Opera, and Traditional Arts.”

Of course, it was fulfilling some of its remit but there was a dearth in some areas. I’ll let you decide how efficiently the Belltable was meeting these goals set out by organisation itself. I wonder how many of the people involved in running the place read and really understood this statement of intent. At no point does it say, “Enduring persistent noise pollution no matter how much it damages the experience of artists and patrons”. Seemingly most of the “debate and dialogues” revolved around getting paid i.e. ‘Where’s the money I’m owed?’ There hasn’t been a public forum to seek audience/practitioners’ views in quite a while.

What now?

The local authority owns the building itself so that cannot be sold. Is someone going to dismantle all usable equipment so these assets can be sold to settle some of the debt? I don’t see how that would be productive in the long term but it is possible. The contractor no doubt has sub-contractors and staff to pay.

According to the Leader’s latest article “Kieran Lehane, director of service with responsibility for arts, culture and sport in Limerick City Council, said this week that the local authority “fully understands the value of the Belltable to the city and to the wider public and also to the various groups that have played there over the years. It is an important asset in the arts infrastructure in the city and City Council is trying to work to resolve the issues with the Belltable as soon as we can.”

Although the sentiment is nice, it’s the same tired line trotted out all the time (I spent three years writing it in local news articles ffs). There has to be a will to address this situation. The city council played a role in allowing these problems to develop, even by maybe taking a hands-off stance. It was one of the main sources of funding and had a responsibility. Now, its arts service and relevant personnel can lead the push for recovery by approaching the Arts Council and asking for help/collaboration etc AND fast.

What happened to the proposal for the new and improved Daghdha Dance Company? There was an invitation for applications for a new director last June and then…nothing! The company’s former home, the extensively refurbished church in St John’s Square, is still sitting there—waiting for activity. That will happen to the Belltable if action isn’t taken. Local companies and audiences will go elsewhere while a top class facility gathers dust and eventually falls asunder.

I’m not a legal expert…

14563018-new-brand-stampI presume a new company needs to be founded to run the Belltable and a new board has to be appointed along with a CEO/Artistic Director. All avenues for funding should be explored but the Belltable is mostly at the mercy of the Arts Council. I hope that authority will be sympathetic and not leave the local audience and arts community without this resource. The form, structure etc will probably change but hopefully, for the better. Also, the City of Culture 2014 committee needs to play a part in this process—a reinvigorated arts centre could be the lasting legacy left by the event?

In the last post I wrote about the Belltable, the playwright, Mike Finn, suggested in a comment that the facility needs to re-open under a new banner as well as a new outlook because “it could be argued that the brand is so badly damaged as to be beyond repair”. Mary Coll also pointed out that the Belltable has met a very “undignified” end.

Maybe there should be a public meeting with all the relevant stakeholders in the Belltable and other interested parties to talk about what can be done and throw around ideas? I think the same drive and enthusiasm that got the Belltable off the ground three decades ago still exists if only it could be harnessed.

To quote Paul Smith in ‘Apply some pressure’: “What happens when you lose everything? You just start again. You start all over again.”