THE FORMER Franciscan Church on Henry Street has the potential to play a “central role” in the regeneration of Limerick city centre, according to the trust that operates it.
The Bonaventure Trust, which was gifted the church and friary - which comprises a total of 22,000 square feet - when the Franciscans left Limerick in 2008 is seeking to identify ways in which the space can “contribute to the economic, social, cultural and educational development of Limerick city”, according to Stephen Rourke, project manager with the trust, which is chaired by diocesan administrator Fr Tony Mullins.
The church has only been used on a handful of occasions since the last mass was celebrated there in June 2008, but almost all of the rooms in the friary have now been let out to artists, craftworkers and musicians, and Mr Rourke explained that this was the start of a process that would see the church “become a magnificent civic and public amenity” for Limerick.
“We want to get the word out to people who might not have been in there since the last mass was heard in 2008,” he explained. “I would think that when we look into next year we would look at doing 6 - 8 events and build on that.”
The church will host a Christmas Crafts Bazaar on December 16-18 that will open it up to the public and more than 40 craftworkers from the Mid-West area will showcase their wares in the church.
“I suppose the sense I would have is that the Limerick Craft Bazaar is an opportunity to showcase the church,” explained Mr Rourke.
“If we can get maybe up to ten events taking place every year that would be a great start and I have no doubt whatsoever that in two or three years time footfall will increase and people will start to use it more and it will become a more recognised venue and it will be a magnificent facility for Limerick,” he added.
The Bonaventure Trust undertook a significant consultation process earlier this year, which involved interviews with nearly 100 people, to ascertain the best use for the church. In recent months it has been used sporadically for exhibitions, photo and video shoots and, most memorably, by the Irish Chamber Orchestra for a series of concerts. It is strongly believed by the trust that the building has the potential to play a key role in the regeneration of the city centre.
“With the redevelopment of the riverside and the boardwalk, that area could become a real hub of the city,” explained Mr Rourke. “We want to bring life back into it and create awareness of it as well.”