SIZEABLE funds that had been earmarked for the now defunct Belltable Arts Centre are to be dispersed directly to cultural groups in Limerick under an innovative new pilot programme.
The Limerick Arts Encounter, a collaboration between the arts office in Limerick City Council and the Lime Tree Theatre, will direct Arts Council funding - backed by City Council funds - directly to theatre groups, practitioners and artists to present their work in venues around the city.
The development, arising from the ashes of the Belltable which went into liquidation earlier in the year, is being proclaimed as “an important development in arts provision for audiences and artists” by arts officer Sheila Deegan.
The programme of events will fun from mid-September to March and encompass theatre, film, visual art and literature.
Venues include the arts centre at 69 O’Connell Street, the Lime Tree, the Victoria Snooker Club, Dr John’s and the Blind Pig, and Dance Limerick - St John’s Church, previously home to Daghdha.
Louise Donlon, manager of the Lime Tree, has been integral to the project’s development and says it will “give a kick start to the whole sector in the city”.
“There was a couple of years when things were just not happening and there was a despondency there, it was one thing falling after another,” said Louise. “City Council approached us wondering if we would help them solve having the venue at 69 O’Connell Street reopened in some way or used in some limited way.
“We came up with a solution and put it forward to the arts council that we would facilitate a programme of work in the city. We came up with a proposal of wide ranging events across the city and the arts council were very supportive of this.”
The funding is in the order of €120,000 from the arts council for the programme, augmented by a similar amount from city council to administer the programme, the Leader understands.
“The council was very anxious that that money would still be used in Limerick rather than elsewhere, which would have been disastrous for Limerick because it needs that arts investment,” explained Louise.
“It is a pilot, and it is a short-term solution, but hopefully there will be a longer term solution to the idea of a multi-disciplinary arts centre for the city.”
Monica Spencer, secretary with recently formed artists’ network Plan, some of whom are involved in the arts encounter programme, said audiences could now “look forward to a programme of theatre, fine art, music, literature, film, dance as well as sonic art in venues that may not have been used”.
“This is quite an innovative project in terms of arts programming and a first for any Irish arts centre as a unique departure from the more conventional style of programming,” she said.
Maeve McGrath, who runs Theatre in the Savoy which has received funding, said it was “amazing” and would give “us that little bit more freedom and it means that right into March we have a really strong programme of events”.