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Without funding ‘glór would not survive or exist’

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*Photograph by Eamon Ward

Clare is a “treasure chest of culture” but glór is heavily reliant on Council funding and questions need to be asked on whether enough money could still be dispensed to support the proposed Venue in Shannon. 

In 2017, glór eliminated their accumulated deficit while recording a small surplus, the multi-disciplinary arts centre has logged another positive financial year for 2018.

Opened in November 2001 at a cost of €8.5m, glór marked the largest investment in the Arts in Co Clare. Two years ago, Dublin native Orla Flanagan was appointed its Director having previously been Theatre Producer at the Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival for close to five years.

Briefing members of the Social Development SPC, Ms Flanagan revealed why she was initially attracted to glór. “When I saw the facility in glór I thought it was time to come home, we are blessed with a wonderful facility. When I came in we re-examined our vision which is to be a leading multi disciplinary arts centre of excellence which enhances Clare’s rich cultural landscape and enriches a wide circle of lives”.

She described Clare as “a treasure chest of culture” and stated the venue achieves its vision by placing community events centre stage. “We have created a welcoming home for artists and welcome many local organisations to regularly utilise glór providing a civic and cultural base such as the Brothers of Charity, Clare PPN and Clare Leader Forum”.

On the financial side, Orla commented, “we are in good financial health”. “In 2017, we achieved a small surplus eliminating our accumulated deficit. As part of our 2017-2019 strategy, we’re planning to build this small reserve year on year which will enable investment in technical equipment. We forecast another small surplus in 2018”. 37 people are employed in glór, 12 of which are full-time.

She added, “Clare County Council is glór’s most significant funder, in conjunction with the Arts Council it amounts to 46% of income (€824k for 2017). Without Council funding, glór would not survive or exist”.

For 2019, they plan to appoint a curator in residence and “create a cultural complex for Ennis and Clare from 2021 with the new library”. They will also air four premieres/co-productions with Rough Magic, Jacinta Sheerin of Ennistymon, Clarecastle native John O’Donovan and the Irish Memory Orchestra.

Next year will also see the return of the Druid Theatre for the first time in 2013, in the intervening years like the Liam McCarthy the theatre group has been based in Galway and Limerick.

“We will continue to work closely with the Council to tackle pro-active maintenance of the facility. We’re in a very good place and we’re finding this autumn we’ve seen a pattern that people have more disposable income which is a positive thing, the last few months have been very busy, we really need the continued support of the Council, as we go through the next two years”, Orla concluded.

Shannon councillor, Gerry Flynn who is also a member of the board in glór commented, “I see firsthand the work you and your staff do, we’re very proud of glór, it is our cultural home in Clare and the work ye do is tremendous”.

With plans for The Venue in Shannon abandoned after just €100,000 from the €8 million required was awarded by central government, Flynn queried if glór could become involved in the project. “We are a bit sad in Shannon and disappointed with The Venue. If possible and if the site in Shannon became ownership of Council, could ye have a subsidiary to glór”.

Thomas Guilfoyle who is the trade union representative was critical of the SPC Chairperson’s question, “Is it an abuse of privilege to ask that question”. Flynn responded, “I would be failing in my role miserable if I didn’t ask you, we’re in mourning in Shannon at the minute”.

A former General Manager at the Gate Theatre in Notting Hill, Orla answered, “I don’t know a huge amount about the site. Before we think about building other venues we need to think is the audience there. We would be very happy to advise on our own experience, we are on a very tight rope every year with the support. The Council needs to think if they can fund another project in Shannon, we are very open to working with any communities in Shannon”. She flagged an upcoming review commissioned by The Arts Council which included glór as a case study that would be of assistance “would be a very good guidance to approach new venues”.

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