Comhaltas to build new centre at IT

Dónal Nolan

Decades of tireless work promoting the traditional arts of Kerry among the young people of the county have reached an extraordinary moment as the construction of a new Comhaltas Cultural Centre at the IT Tralee gets underway.

The purpose-built space, set to include recording studios, teaching rooms, editing suites and much more, lays nothing else than the foundation of an even stronger future for the traditional culture of Kerry into the 21st Century and beyond.

Comhaltas Ceoltóirí na hÉireann Ard-Stiúrthóir Labhrás Ó Murchú joined with Kerry Comhaltas officers - including Chairman John Canty, Development Officer and former chair Tony O'Connor and Vice Chairman Michael O'Shea - at the recent launch of the new plan, seen as a landmark moment not just in Kerry but within the organisation nationally.

Contracts were signed between Comhaltas and the Institute of Technology Tralee last week where the new centre is to take shape within the €15 million Kerry Sports Academy complex .

While the GAA is involved with the IT on the project for the most part, one part of the development at the IT North Campus will be operated solely between Comhaltas and the college with the trad-music organsation owning this 357 sq metre part of the complex outright.

"There is massive excitement within Comhaltas in Kerry and nationally as we finally succeed in realising a dream many have been working hard towards for the past ten years and more," Kerry Comhaltas PRO John Stack told The Kerryman.

It's expected the new centre will be start catering to Comhaltas music students from the end of 2018 and it's here, in the young musical talent of the county, that the organisation and the IT are really focusing their vision.

"Comhaltas is all about our youth as is the IT, of course, and the new centre actually represents a new model of how the organisation can go about realising its mission to promote trad music and culture among the young," Mr Stack said.

Within two years, children and teenagers of all ages will find themselves learning all about music and the business of recording, editing and producing work - to varying degrees - inside the purpose-built centre.

With its strong multimedia curriculum, the IT would represent a perfect next-step for those young talents emerging from the Comhaltas academy.

"As it is very much a joint-effort with the IT we will also be sharing a lot of equipment. The IT will have the use of the building for over 13 hours each week and we will benefit further from some of its equipment and services.

"It's a new model of developing Comhaltas's mission that our Ard-Stiúrthóir Labhrás Ó Murchú was extremely taken with on his recent visit to see the plans," Mr Stack added.

Indeed, Mr Ó Murchú is now urging other county branches to examine the pioneering work in Kerry in the hope of seeing similar projects with ITs the length and breadth of the country taking shape. Comhaltas would not disclose how much the centre is costing. But the cost does form part of the overall €15 million pricetage of the Sports Academy.

Comhaltas is planning to rent out conference spaces in the centre to businesses and organsations as part of a new, much-needed revenue stream.


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