LARC pushes for new centre – by showing demand for arts with outdoor cinema
BY THÉRÈSE HANNON
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.
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: www.loughreatownhall.com or contact them via their facebook page @ ‘Loughrea Town Hall and Cinema’.