THE Limerick woman who gave Moneygall a makeover in advance of Barack Obama’s visit last year is part of a similar effort in her native city which, it is hoped, will culminate in national honours in Tidy Towns.
Colour consultant Cora Collins is working with the city’s Tidy Towns committee to give a splash of colour to over 20 buildings which need a lick of paint. The city centre clean-up is largely reliant on the voluntary efforts of local businesses and began at the weekend with jobs at Texas Stakeout and the derelict Dunnes Stores building opposite Brown Thomas.
Cora is a freelance consultant who was not only involved in the Obama homecoming but also last year’s transformation of Charleville as part of RTE’s Dirty Old Towns series.
Through her contacts with Dulux, the paint company has donated tens of thousands of litres of paint to get through the Limerick job this summer.
“Helen O’Donnell (chair of Limerick Tidy Towns) rang me some time ago with the idea and I was delighted to ask Dulux to come on board. They have asked me to co-ordinate it and we have put a lot of thought into the plans. It’s not just about how your building looks, the building next door or across the road but the whole lot together,” Cora said.
Growing up in Limerick city centre - she is a daughter of Tom Collins of the famous Cecil Street pub - Cora said the makeover of its main street comes not before time.
A mix of Georgian redbrick and plaster, with old sash windows next door to PVC, O’Connell Street has “a lot of shabbily painted buildings which don’t relate well to one another and do little for the overall impression”.
“My goal is to try and get everybody involved and working together to see if we could set that right.”
Cora’s work sees her do a lot of ecclesiastical projects and she has been recently involved in jobs at the Redemptorists and Raheen Church. So she was naturally excited to work with the Augustinian community on their church and monastery, which she regards as O’Connell Street’s “jewel in the crown”.
“The monastery to the left was not picking up the stone of the church and did little for the gorgeous moulding and relief work around the windows,” she said. A “colour scheme has been agreed and is ready to go” with the order, involving what Cora said was a “duck-egg grey-blue” to bring out the building’s full glory.
Helen O’Donnell said the Tidy Towns committee was taking on the job “to do our bit to improve the socioeconomic and cultural image of the city”.
“Limerick has its image problem and we see this as a positive, practical step and we hope that by upping the ante, others will come on board,” she said.
Tidy Towns has already enlisted plenty of help locally. All of the buildings on O’Connell Street and elsewhere are being spruced up by professionals.
“We have got sponsorship for cleaning down the buildings and other preparatory work. We had A1 Access come in and provide hoists. Joe from Just Windows has come in and done a great job hosing down the ACC Bank. Mike Kirwan from Limerick Paint Supplies in Pennywell is storing the paint for us,” explained Helen.
“We said at the outset that if we were going to do this, we needed to do it properly so we are delighted to have professional painters who do commercial work to come on board.”
Sean O’Halloran, O’Halloran & Sons, and Westside Painters Johnny O’Sullivan were on site on Sunday morning as Tidy Towns took advantage of a break in the weather to get the job started.
“We realise that people have families to feed and can only do so much for free. So what we are asking is for contractors to give us a day and then we will give them back a day with a pot of money collected from the building owners. It’s been great to get them on board but we do need others to come in,” said Helen.
The paint project is only part of what Tidy Towns have in mind in a three-year plan. “Our aim is to win it in three years time, if you don’t mind. Why not?” said Helen.