Limerick’s Belltable arts centre: takings on the rise

Nick Rabbitts

Reporter:

Nick Rabbitts

DESPITE some well publicised problems with noise from a neighbouring mechanic, the Belltable Arts Centre has seen it’s takings rise by 82%.

DESPITE some well publicised problems with noise from a neighbouring mechanic, the Belltable Arts Centre has seen it’s takings rise by 82%.

Gerry Barnes, the venue’s artistic director, told this week’s meeting of the Culture and Sport committee that the box office takings from bookings had almost doubled year-on-year.

In 2010, when the Belltable relocated to Cecil Street for a number of months, takings for tickets were €82,000. But for the year 2011, this had risen to €147,000.

When the Belltable reopened in O’Connell Street in December 2010, on average the capacity of the 220-seater auditorium was 24 per cent.

However, thanks to the venue’s new digital cinema, and Christmas pantomime, Mr Barnes reported the seats were 60 per cent full on average.

Overall, some 17,102 people used the facility, he added, with 142 new titles coming to Limerick.

But there was a warning that due to a 15% cut in funding from the Arts Council, there may be a “pause” in theatrical activity over the summer.

However, Mr Barnes stressed that the facility will then go into a “strong autumn season”.

“We are very happy with the turnover, and the growth in the audience. Our box office takings have increased by 82%. More money has been brought in by visiting companies. We have made a bright start, and we are hoping for an even brighter future,” he added.

Labour’s northside councillor Tom Shortt, who sits on the board of the Belltable, said: “A municipal theatre, and an arts centre complex is vital for a city of our size. It supplies so much to the city. There is something fantastic about seeing live shows. Youngsters seem to forget the magic of acts playing in front of you. The city would be so much poorer without the Belltable.”

Cllr Kathleen Leddin called for a return of the Feile Luimni festival, which at one time brought up to 12 nights of drama in the springtime.

Director of service Pat Dowling warned the Belltable must stay cost-competitive. “The Belltable must be sustainable in the future. We are in a competitive market, and there is a need for a strategic plan for the Belltable. This must be done in close collaboration with the Arts Council,” he said.