Former Belltable theatre in Limerick to get new lease of life

Alan Owens

Reporter:

Alan Owens

Relaunch: the theatre at 69 OConnell Street, formerly known as the Belltable Arts Centre, is to re-open in the new year on a full time basis after closing in early 2013
THE board of directors formulated to take over the former Belltable theatre will be a “group of people with genuine commitments to the arts”, according to one of those appointed.

THE board of directors formulated to take over the former Belltable theatre will be a “group of people with genuine commitments to the arts”, according to one of those appointed.

Mary Coll, playwright and director of the arts centre in the 1990s, has been elected to the board overseeing 69 O’Connell Street, which is to be re-opened in the new year as an arts and culture centre.

The building has been in use on a project basis under the administration of the Lime Tree since last year, after first closing in early 2013.

The company that ran the Belltable was wound up in March 2013 with debts in excess of €2.3m, a fact which has made it difficult to resuscitate it.

However, Limerick City and County Council acquired the building and an innovative plan put forward by Louise Donlon of the Lime Tree has allowed it to be used under the Limerick Arts Encounter Programme.

The local authority has announced that the theatre space and building at 69 O’Connell Street is to be re-launched. While a council spokesperson said that the new board was “currently being put together”, two directors are in place, Ms Coll and musician Boris Hunka.

“It is going to be a very smart, interesting group of people with genuine commitments to the arts and making things happen and are not coming in for any other reason other than to support work being done, and I am very excited about it,” said Ms Coll.

“I think it is very positive. It holds a special place in people’s hearts. The Belltable was a big gap. What it will be next, and how it will fit into the space, will be interesting. That has to be figured out.”

Following public consultation, a steering committee featuring representatives of the local artistic community was established to figure out the best way forward for the venue.

The committee, which included the two new directors, Ms Donlon and Sheila Deegan, elected to form a new company - Limerick Arts and Culture Centre Ltd - and a board of directors to run it.

While the venue will continue to be overseen by the Lime Tree, a creative director will be hired to programme it.

The neighbouring Sarsfield Credit Union, which is undergoing some refurbishment, will also be made available as a resource space.

Sheila Deegan said this would “provide a medium scale performance and exhibition space for both emerging and established artists to present work.

“The development of a resource like this will play a key role in facilitating, supporting and enabling Limerick artists in all art forms to develop their practice and create new work.”

A name for the theatre has yet to be determined and the Belltable name cannot be used due to the liquidation of the previous company.

The council spokesperson also said that the liquidation of the Belltable Arts Centre Ltd was “not complete due to outstanding issues outside of the control of the liquidator”.