Category Archives: Connacht Tribune 2015

Turning Cinema Inside Out

LARC pushes for new centre – by showing demand for arts with outdoor cinema


THE drivers of a campaign to turn Loughrea’s old Town Hall into an arts centre proved their point recently – by drawing hundreds to watch movies in the open air. LARC (Loughrea Arts Recreation and Culture) wants to restore the old Town Hall and Cinema building to public use as a multifunctional arts and cultural centre. But in the continued absence of such a centre, they still proved the demand was there – by using the recent Culture Night to host a pop-up outdoor cinema on the town’s picturesque Fairgreen overlooking Lough Riach. And fittingly – given their plan – the 1985 cult classic ‘Back to the Future’ was their choice on the night.



Conditions were perfect for their outdoor cinema event, with the Dublin-based Underground Cinema providing and assembling the pop-up cinema – and local businesses and volunteers all coming together to play their part. McCormack’s filling station, for example, granted LARC access to their electrical outlets. Free power provided by the local businesses enabled an otherwise eerie post-twilight Fairgreen to be converted into a rustic outdoor cinema club with cascading fairylights overlooking the waterfront. Another local business, McD’s of Loughrea, allowed free use of their car-park, and local volunteers assisted in guiding cars and pedestrians to and from the car-park and event site. Event organizers were surprised by the high turnout of families that attended, as the film was screened at 9.30pm.

LARC members at the Loughrea Town Hall (from left), Ciara Coy, Daniel Cronin, Tony Callanan, Fergal Anderson and Mary Paula Healy
LARC members at the Loughrea Town Hall (from left), Ciara Coy, Daniel Cronin, Tony Callanan,
Fergal Anderson and Mary Paula Healy


Daniel Cronin reported a turnout of around 300, with “at least 100 to 150 in front of the screen and the same again sitting on walls surrounding the Fairgreen”. People flocked to the park in festival attire with fishing chairs, blankets and take-aways in hand. Families, couples, groups of friends all huddled together, wrapped in jackets coats and blankets for an al fresco pizza-fuelled cinematic experience. And they left the place as they found it. “Everyone took everything away. There was no rubbish left behind. I went back the next morning to double check and there was nothing except for a pair of gloves that had obviously fallen out of somebody’s pocket,” says Daniel. It was just another idea with the community group hopes to convince Galway County Council – which owns the protected structure on the corner of Barrack Street and Church Street – to set aside their Part 8 planning application to redevelop the structure as start-up offices and a Heritage Museum.

The community has already shown a united front in opposition to the council’s plans. And they have been beavering away compiling a feasibility study – using findings from community surveys, discussion groups, drawing information from various arts centres and similar projects. “Loughrea doesn’t have any public infrastructure for creative arts or culture and we think that’s something that’s necessary – the town wants it. “There’s need for a creative outlet for the people that live here, and for access to cultural events – that’s part of a growing as a community, that’s part of a living society, that’s part of what makes somewhere a good place to live. “We want Loughrea to be a good place to live,” said LARC’ Fergal Anderson.

Following Culture Night, LARC held a meeting to discuss events and assess when they are in terms of plans, finance and scheduling. Going forward LARC focus their attention on their upcoming fundraiser event, the Big Gig, which is to be held on Saturday, November 7, in the Lough Rea Hotel. The fundraiser will host ten or twelve local groups, including drama groups and performers, poets, traditional dancers, singers and songwriters. The Big Gig is designed “to showcase all that can be done under one roof” serving as preview to the potential possible uses for their proposed Loughrea Town Hall conversion, says Fergal.

The local community group are calling on local artists to submit pieces for exhibition at the Big Gig, where the gallery will serve as a platform to show that the creative arts are very much alive in Loughrea. Local architect Maria Donoghue has been of invaluable service to the Loughrea community group. The Loughrea native now lives in Limerick but remains very much connected to her hometown and felt compelled to help LARC in their plight to save a precious local heritage site. Daniel describes her as ‘very enthusiastic about the project’ and relays her anecdotal tales of Town Hall dances she attended as a young girl.

Locals have been denied access to the building since the late 1980s. Maria is working free of charge and has just completed first draft drawings based on results from a survey, carried out amongst the community. The first draft provides a general outlook, a suggested framework as to what Loughrea Town Hall could potentially become.

They say it is now “ready for scribbling and re-drafting”. Blueprints will be showcased for the local community to see at the Big Gig. An information desk will be made available to provide answers to questions and queries. A large function room on the ground floor level of Lough Rea Hotel will play venue to the event – large enough, they hope for the entire local community to rally together.

Tickets for the Big Gig will be available for purchase from ‘Bia Linn’ café on Main Street, Loughrea, priced at €10 or they may be purchased at the door on the night of the event for €12.50. For further information visit LARC website: or contact them via their facebook page @ ‘Loughrea Town Hall and Cinema’.

Loughrea Arts Recreation and Culture, (LARC)members outside Loughrea Town Hall. Fromleft: Ciara Coy, Daniel Cronin, Tony Callanan, Fergal Anderson, andMary Paula Healy. PHOTOS: ENDA NOONE.

Community wants to be at the heart of the arts

Ambitious plans to put life back into Loughrea Town Hall  – By Therese Hannon

In the wake of another hugely- successful Galway International Arts Festival, Galway City remains unparalleled as a thriving hub for artistic and creative talent. Now, county towns like Loughrea want to share this ‘joie de vivre’. “To have a Galway Arts Venue out here would be fantastic, It would give life to the centre of town,” proclaims Daniel Cronin of LARC (Loughrea Arts Recreation and Culture) – a community interest group with the objective of restoring the Loughrea Town Hall to public use as a multifunctional community, arts and cultural centre.

LARC aimto convince Galway CountyCouncil, the legal owners of this historic and protected structure, situated on the corner of Barrack Street and Church Street, to set aside their Part 8 planning application to redevelop the structure as start-up offices and a Heritage Museum. LARC committee member, Mary Paula Healy identifies this as the tipping point for the people of Loughrea. “This, I suppose, got people’s backs up around the town.

The most important thing was that the community weren’t consulted, the community weren’t engaged in the whole decision.” The local community showed strength and unity, presenting a united front of unabridged opposition to the council’s. “We saw the opportunity to get together as a group and appeal to the wishes of the community,” she reveals.

A public meeting was held last April, with over 100 in attendance, using the ‘WorldCafé’ format – essentially dividing participants into tables of 8-10. Questions were asked, feedback was gathered and information distilled. The format allows for democratic discussion, regardless of social standing or political stature; everybody is treated equally and“everybody had their say on the night”.

LARC collated information from the meeting and presented it toMinisterAlanKelly (Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government). He advised them to set up a Ltd. Company (ergo LARC) to communicate with the Co Council on a more formal level. The committee does not concern itself with provocation; they are not seeking conflict, in fact they are intent on working with theCoCouncil, in a combined effort to achieve a shared goal – getting the Loughrea Town Hall up and running again. “We need the council in order to access the funding, to develop the building, the council needs to be working with us and that’s the key here.

They are the legal owners of the building,” confirms Fergal Anderson of LARC. LARC are currently in the process of compiling a feasibility study – using findings they obtained from surveys, discussion groups and visiting similar projects e.g.Oughterard Courthouse Restoration Project. Mary Paula Healy is spearheading the feasibility study. She explains: “The feasibility study precedes the business plan, when we have all the ‘raw data’ captured, not just anecdotal evidence… when we get that tangible feedback, we can demonstrate that it’s going to be feasible. And, then, from that we can prepare a proper business plan with financial models”.

The feasibility study will be presented toGalway Co. Council – the legal owners of the building. Galway Co. Council presented an estimated figure of €850’000, for the renovation of Loughrea TownHall to facilitate offices upstairs back in 2013. LARC cite engineers’ quotes ranging €250’000- €300’000 to bring the building up to a structurally sound ‘shell and core’ state – that would allow the building to be filled with whatever the community want. “What we would like to propose is something along those lines… to look for support within the community to outfit the building, but it’s the council’s responsibility to bring the building up to a useable standard for the community, it’s part of the public infrastructure of the town,” says LARC committee member and local organic farmer Fergal Anderson The community group report how they were pleasantly surprised at insurance quotes. “Overheads are very manageable and not as expensive as we had predetermined. After investigating, we received quotes of €4,000. That’s absolutely doable”. €150,000 has been designated to the development of Loughrea Town Hall. As LARC’s Daniel Cronin relates: “It was the last dying wish of the Town Council before it disbanded.”

There is no money available in EU Rural Development LEADER (Liaisons Entre Actions de Developpement de l’ Économie Rurale) funding at the moment. LEADER funding usually goes into helping with the costs of a feasibility study. LARC do not have this available to them and, so, they are doing it off their own bat. LARC hope to explore all possible avenues of funding available to them, including; LEADER Funding, The Heritage Council, The Arts Council of Ireland, and Bord Fáilte. This committee have left no stone unturned, trying every possible course of action. They are well educated on the matter – with passion to match their accumulation of knowledge. Fergal Anderson points out: “There’s a need for a creative outlet for the people that live here, and for access to cultural events . . . that’s part of the growing as a community, that’s part of a living society, that’s a part of what makes somewhere a good place to live – we want Loughrea to be a good place to live.

“Loughrea doesn’t have any public infrastructure for creative arts or culture andwe think that’s something that’s necessary – the town wants it.” Their proposal aims to show – “yeah, we can make this work, because we’re going to get the community involved, it’s not something we’re going to turn a profit on,but it’s something that’s going to be able to sustain itself . “The fact that The Town Hall is empty is stifling the development of Loughrea’s Community,” he adds. Local musician and committee member Tony Callanan poetically describes how“It should be the beating heart, the life of the town, to have it closed – it kills it.”

Restoration of the TownHall would provide a crucial injection of revenue to local businesses and would manifest itself in an economical spill-over for local shops, restaurants, pubs, hotels etc. “For small towns and small businesses to survive – it’s events that bring them (customers/ audiences) in, that’s what we’re proposing.” CultureNight 2015 – a nationwide arts and cultural event will take place on Friday, September 18 all across the country. LARC plan to celebrate Culture Night with screenings of old black and white movies, projected onto Loughrea Town Hall,weather permitting.

LocalCafé ‘TheHungryBook Worm’, a small intimate venue will play host to mini fundraising events for Culture Night , complete with plays and poetry readings. LARC’s major fundraising gala event will take place on Saturday, November 7 in Lough Rea Hotel & Spa. It promises to be spectacle of talent from the town and surrounding area. The fundraising concert will afford the community of Loughrea the opportunity to showcase their artistic and creative skills – an opportunity they don’t have at the moment.Each of the groups represented in April’s meeting, will perform on the night, including musicians, actors, poets, artists, and writers. LARC committee member Daniel Cronin articulated how they intend to display architects sketches and proposed Town Hall restoration plans in the foyer at the event – helping to bring their plan from a conceptualized idea into a reality. “When we have this raw data with sketches, we can present that to the town and people will actually say – this is it.” If people want to get involved and have their voice heard, they should complete the survey available through the facebook page: https://www.facebook. com/pages/Loughrea-Town-Hall-and-Cinema/225928834281787. For further information visit

Get Involved 2015 - LARC Pg.2 - Connacht tribune
Old seating fromthe Town Hall’s heyday.
Loughrea Town Hall: hopes for amajor revamp.
Loughrea Town Hall: hopes for amajor revamp.
The rundown interior
The rundown interior