Wednesday 24 July 2019

Where now for Ballymote's Art Deco?

Public meeting hears issues regarding venue including the cinema projector hasn't been working for four years

The Art Deco cinema and theatre which was opened by Minister of State John Perry in June 2012
The Art Deco cinema and theatre which was opened by Minister of State John Perry in June 2012

Ciara Galvin

A call for new management at the Art Deco centre in Ballymjote was mooted at a public meeting amid concerns for its future.

Poor facilities, alleged lack of transparency of the umbrella group, the Ballymote Enterprise Company and lack of attendance from locals were all issues raised at the well attended public meeting.

Former councillor Pat McGrath, Chairman of Ballymote Enterprise Company said he wanted to step back and see what came out of the meeting and that was why Donnacha O'Connor had been asked to chair the meeting.

Before it began, Mr McGrath commented that the Art Deco was a 'fine fine facility' and one that many people from outside teh county were 'in awe of'.

He outlined the many groups that use the space, from Ballymote Bingo, The Corran Players, the Paddy Killoran weekend which is held their each year and local schools.

Profit and loss figures from the past two years put together by local accountancy firm, Mullin and McTiernan were circulated to those present.

"Tonight's meeting is about you the people of Ballymote and it's about the fine facilities we have here in Ballymote and let's see what the future holds," said Mr McGrath.

The meeting was informed that the theatre and film company that had been in existence was subsumed under the umbrella of the B.E.C on the instruction of legal advice to facilitate the legalities of running a limited company.

Peter Mullin a member of the B.E.C told the meeting that it was never intended that the group run the facility and instead the company's job was to set up projects in the community.

He noted that the cinema had "never reached its full potential."

"It seems it [the Art DEco] needs a management group," said Mr Mullin.

Pat Haugh, who helps to run the Bingo each week in order to fundraise for the community parks said there needed to be a separation of the cinema from the Ballymote Enterprise Company.

The meeting was asked if a complete separation was what people were seeking going forward.

Dick Cahill said it was important for the theatre and cinema to "stand on its own two feet" going forward.

Former Fianna Fáil councillor and B.E.C board member, Keith Henry told the meeting a "fresh approach" was needed.

"Some people want to get involved in the theatre but may not want to get involved in the Ballymote Enterprise Company and that's fair enough," said Mr Henry.

Members of the board were asked that if this approach to give up the management of the theatre and cinema was called for would they be happy to do so, to which Peter Mullin said it would be something that would have to be discussed going forward.

Mr Mullin added that he believed it would be a good idea for a new management committee to be set up.

"The Ballymote Enterprise Company was to put things into the town, but it wasn't meant to run things. I'd say the cinema hasn't been run at all and there was never an effort made with the cinema.

Dirty conditions, no hot water and no working film projector were just some of the crticisms aired at the meeting of the venue.

One issue raised was the fact that the projector had not been working at the cinema for approximately four years.

"Four years ago it broke down, I was assured it would be fixed. A week before an event was due to be held there I was informed it wasn't going to be fixed," said one man.

Mr Mullin said the projector was missing one bulb, which would cost €800, plus €600 to fit.

Former TD John Perry said Sligo County Council were prepared to put funds in place for an arts mentor for the theatre space and also money to replace the projector bulb.

Another issue regarding transparency was raised by a member of the community in relation to Ballymote Enterprise Company and its rotation of board members.

"Each year a third of the board should be stepping down, they can be re elected to the board but for transparency this needs to happen."

The board was asked what debts the cinema currently have and the meeting was told currently the cinema had a loan of €16,000 that is serviced each month.

A member of the Corann Players group which stages plays at the venue voiced her dismay at the lack of cleanliness and working facilities at the venue.

"We pay a high cost to rent the venue, but for what you get, the dressing rooms are dirty, there's cold water in the taps. We had to ask for the taps to be fixed the water was so cold coming out of them. It's a high fee to pay, but you need the return."

Deputy Eamon Scanlon, TD told the meeting that he believed the cost of renting space at the venue was ‘prohibitive’ to groups and this needed to be addressed.

It was then put to the meeting that a management group for the cinema should be put together comprising of all interested stakeholders.

Approximately eight people put their names forward and it was agreed that a management plan for the venue would be put in place going forward.

Sligo Champion