Harvey Walnut

What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence

Posts Tagged ‘culture

Limerick: a city of culture

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The Limerick is furtive and mean;
you must keep her in close quarantine;
or she sneaks up to the slums
and promptly becomes
disorderly drunk and obscene.

The Limerick is furtive and mean but the citizens of Limerick city are anything but. Though the city has enjoyed a less than salubrious reputation over the last few years and has often been the target of bad press and sloppy journalism, the reality is of course quite different. Rugby may be Limerick’s best known export and the hallowed ground of Thomand Park known worldwide, but not many people outside of Limerick know that it is the cultural capital of the Mid-West region.

It is a vibrant city for culture and entertainment with a growing music scene; home to the Irish Chamber Orchestra, Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, the Island Theatre Company and Daghdha Dance Company. The city has produced international acts such as the Cranberries and world renowned DJ Aphex Twin, Richard D.James.

Showcasing all this entertainment requires great spaces as well and Limerick is not to be found wanting: with the historic Belltable Arts Centre, the state of the art University Concert Hall and the Millennium Theatre at the Limerick Institute of Technology plus gig venues such as Dolans Warehouse and the Trinity Rooms mean the city has an abundance of venues to suit almost every artistic need. Limerick has also added to its cultural repertoire by creating its own yearly festival.

Since starting in 2004 Riverfest, Limerick’s annual May bank holiday weekend festival has grown from a local party into a festival that now attracts visitors from all over the country. Every year the event hosts the Great Limerick BBQ competition along with The Great Limerick run, live music and a plethora of markets selling everything from locally produced gourmet food to exotic treats and handcrafts from France, Spain, Holland the UK and Germany.

The 2011 Riverfest was estimated by Shannon Development to have generated up to 20 million Euros in visitor spend over the weekend with thousands of visitors coming from outside the city.

It may yet lack venues on the scale of Dublin’s O2 but what Limerck is certainly not lacking in is character; an almost ubiquitous sense of personality personified in the pride and self deprecating humour of Limerick’s citizens. This character is most vividly seen in the creator and curator of the Whithouse bar Wednesday night poetry sessions.

It will be ten years this summer that Barney Sheehan at the request of Whitehouse manager Glenn McGloughan, decided to pick Wednesday nights, being the quietest, to start The Whitehouse Poetry Sessions, “No one really thought it would last, but Limerick has many people involved in the art scene so here we are ten years later” and the old world Whitehouse bar could not have been a more suitable venue.

With previous patrons such as Limerick’s most famous son Richard Harris and writer and politician Jim kemmy, the bar’s history has provided the back drop for a literary journey that shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon.

The bar is all gnarled dark wooden pannels and high stools, pictures of famous patrons adorn the walls along with the memorabila that a pub gathers with age. In the corner of the front room of the bar a lecturn stands; two thick wine colured curtains hang open on either side. It is here every Wednesday night Bareny Sheehan stands wearing an old suit and a colourful bow tie and introduces the first poet of the night to be followed by an open mic session.

Since the poetry nights began, opened by one of Irelands greatest poets, Desmond O’Grady, the standard has been exceptional drawing poets from as far afield as Australia. They have included such luminaries as Knute Skinner, John Liddy, Ciaran O’Driscoll, Tim Cunningham, Cristoir O’Flynn, Conor O Callaghan, Gerard Hanberry, Paddy Bushe and Mark Whelan.

Barney’s zeel and organisational skill have meant that in the ten years it has existed not a single Wednesday night session has been missed. And after talking to him I think not one will be missed over the next ten. When I ask him what the future holds for the whitehouse poetry night. “Well, there are millions of poets in the world, and I would like every one of them to know of the Whitehouse bar in Limerick and its Wednesday night poetry sessions”. One can’t but admire the heights of Barney‘s ambition.

Along with characters like Barney Sheehan and his coterie of poets, Limerick has a younger generation pushing the boundaries of art and music. Sarah Lynch, currently studying in the University of Limerick is the editor of the Limerick event guide and one of the founders of events promotion company Eightball Promotions and Media. Eightball has been behind some of the biggest events in Limerick since it’s foundation. Including hosting the Frames in the courtyard of king John castle, something that had never been done before in that venue.

Sarah has helped organise shows and events all over the city and has often used spaces that have never been used before like hosting The Swell Season in Daghdha Dance Company in St John’s Church. This capacity and will for creative thinking means Eightball has been gaining a reputation for bringing top class acts to Limerick and getting them to play in unusual places allowing for an exploration of the city outside of the normal venues. This in turn helps create new ideas and adds vibrancy to the music scene.

Like the rest of Ireland the recession has hit Limerick hard and nowhere is this more evident than Patrick street right in the city centre. This 3.2 acre site, once intended to be a shining new multi story shopping centre, now stands empty and derelict. Sold signs still attached to the many shop fronts add pathos to the scene. But the people of Limerick see this not as a failure but as an opportunity to develop a new area in the city with input and ideas welcomed from all.

With people like Sarah Lynch and Barney Sheehan at the centre of a creative and forward looking Limerick, it feels to me Limerick is not just a city with a thriving cultural scene but one that will grow and evolve into something that all of Ireland can be proud of.


Written by harveywalnut

May 20, 2012 at 9:27 pm


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