THE new-look Belltable Arts Centre is a “significant addition to Limerick’s cultural capital” and should prove a catalyst for more to come, according to Arts Minister Jimmy Deenihan.
While audiences were welcomed back to 69 O’Connell Street after a €1.2 million refurbishment last November, the official re-opening only took place this week. Additional works have been carried out in the intervening months, chief among them the installation of a digital projector - at an additional cost of €75,000 and which will facilitate the screening of films from this week.
The auditorium now sits 220 people with improved lines of sight to make productions a more enjoyable experience for all.
John Gleeson, chairman of the board, said the works ensured audiences and performers now had “the high quality facilities with which to reinvigorate the experience of theatre, film, music, dance, visual arts and community arts in the heart of Limerick”.
Performances at the 69 O’Connell Street date back to the 19th century when Captain Henry Belltable converted his terraced Georgian house to indulge his daughter’s passion for opera. Minister Deenihan said the building had variously been used as a cinema and a shirt factory until the opening of the Belltable in 1981 as the first arts centre in the country outside of Dublin.
“The refurbishment of nearly everything inside the four walls - of the auditorium, the stage, the backstage, the foyer, the basement, the control room, has been both an extensive and intensive project,” said Mr Gleeson and one that had been “made possible not only by the financial support of Department of the Arts and Limerick City Council but their ongoing support in terms of advice, expertise and encouragement”.
Minister Deenihan noted that City Hall had contributed 30 per cent of the capital costs and the stake held by the local authority and by extension the ratepayers made the venture more sustainable in the long-term.