THE former Belltable theatre is to be re-opened in the new year as an arts and culture centre.
The building at 69 O’Connell Street 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 proved a headache for attempts to resuscitate it subsequently.
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 umbrella of 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 as an arts and culture centre early next year.
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.
“Public consultation took place earlier this year to identify the best approach to developing and sustaining a vibrant arts organisation in 69 O’Connell Street that functions as a centrally located multi-disciplinary arts and culture venue,” explained arts officer Sheila Deegan.
The committee, which includes Ms Donlon, playwright Mary Coll, musician Boris Hunka and Ms 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 be made available as a resource space.
“The centre will boast an enviable location in the centre of Georgian Limerick and will provide a medium scale performance and exhibition space for both emerging and established artists to present work,” said Ms Deegan.
“The development of a new municipal arts 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. Ms Donlon said that the “arts infrastructure in the city will be all the better for having a dynamic living space that gives opportunities to young and emerging artists.
“I look forward to working with the arts office to help put in place a coherent plan for the support and nurturing of the arts within the various venues throughout Limerick,” she added.