These days it is easy to find yourself saying nothing positive about Limerick. This week we were given the news that three more established retail outlets in the city centre are closing their doors; it was revealed that our Regional Hospital is hugely over budget half way through the year; nationally our credit rating was relegated to junk status and locally a man was appearing in court on charges of using an Alsation to commit buggery. One could be forgiven for finding it tough to say anything positive.
But this was a week when a little gem in Limerick city beat off competition such as the Aviva Stadium, the Long Room Hub at Trinity College and the Humanities and Social Science Building at NUI Maynooth to become Ireland’s favourite building. It was a week when the cast, crew and creative team of a major opera production based itself in Limerick in advance of the world premiere of an important piece of work. It was a week when Ireland’s best tourist pub put its gleaming plague behind the bar in Limerick city.
So, please forgive me. This blog is going to be positive.
Early on Monday morning I heard of Limerick’s Milk Market winning the People’s choice award at the RIAI awards. I immediately knew that this was a significant coup for Limerick from both an architectural and tourism point of view. Possibly the most positive thing to happen to Limerick in many years was now getting national recognition for what it is: a splendid celebration of market life and community. Morning Ireland were on to the story. By lunchtime it was being featured on national news. This was a big deal.
The philosopher Alain deBotton would argue that:
“one of the great, but often unmentioned, causes of both happiness and misery is the quality of our environment: the kind of walls, chairs, buildings and streets we’re surrounded by. And yet a concern for architecture and design is too often described as frivolous, even self-indulgent.”
DeBottons book ‘The Architecture of Happiness’ suggests that the buildings around us have a huge impact on our moods and impact on our sense of wellbeing. I think it would be easy to agree with deBotton when you consider some of the many areas within Limerick city and it’s surrounding areas. But on Monday our Milk Market was deemed worth of the title ‘Ireland’s favourite building’.
The Milk Market has become a popular destination for people from all parts of the city and county. It has brought a new life into a part of our city. Despite our economic woes we have got to maximise the potential that this iconic structure has brought to Limerick. With a bit of thought and a bit of planning we could soon have a cultural quarter in the heart of our city to rival anything Europe.
Rehearsals are currently underway in Limerick for the forthcoming production of a new edition of Jean Phillipe Rameau’s opera Dardanus. The University Concert Hall has collaborated with the European Opera Centre and has welcomed them for a month long stay as an international line up of singers prepare to take to the Limerick stage under the bator of French conductor Lauent Pillot.
The project is an extenstion of a strong relationship developed beween UCH and the European Opera Centre. It is a hugely significant production from the Concert Hall’s perspective and is sure to be a spectacular piece of work.
I am no opera buff but I have been appreciative of the genre since my secondary school days. On a visit to New York in 2006 I was lucky enough to get a ticket for Zeffirelli’s production of La Boheme in the Metropolitan Opera. It was my first full scale opera and I was blown away. There is nothing more powerful than a full scale opera, staged beautifully with a full scale chorus and orchestra.
Limerick is very lucky to have the opportunity to have such a production rehearsing in the city with a view to performing on our doorstep. This is a must see production . Tickets for the opera are notoriously expensive but in this instance the production has been supported by Plassey Life Service, the Irish Chamber Orchestra and the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance and the University of Limerick. The production takes place on Wednesday the 20th and Friday the 22nd of July. Tickets are a steal at €20.
I was in the Locke Bar on Tuesday evening and was delighted to see a shiny new plaque erected behind the bar. A few weeks ago the Locke was announced as winner of the Best Tourist Bar in Ireland at a ceremony in Dublin. Yet again this was a coup for the Limerick. A well run and progressive establishment in a key part of our city beat off stiff national competition to be recognised as the leading place for tourists to visit.
It is vital for not just the Locke but for all powers that be in Limerick and the Shannon region to promote this win to all tour companies visiting Ireland. We need to be screaming from the rooftops that we are home to the best tourist pub and Ireland’s favourite building. I will take this opportunity to plug The Old Time Irish Radio show which has been running in the Loft Venue at the Locke since June. The show is ideal for tourists and a great opportunity to start to market Limerick as a destination city and not just a drive through for tourism. That debate is for another day.
During the week we also saw the opening of the Frank McCourt Museum. Readers have been captivated for almost 12 years by Frank McCourt’s masterpiece, “Angela’s Ashes,” now they can finally see his home described in the book. The museum is home to an exact replica of the home on Roden Lane that McCourts family lived in.
Despite what some say about the book, Angela’s Ashes undoubtedly put us on the international map. We need to celebrate the book's success and this new museum will be another attraction which places us in a position to be a real player in Irish tourism.
Someone said to me recently that we in Limerick are getting into a habit of being down on ourselves. Seeing the city centre slowly dying, seeing regeneration stalling and seeing retailers being forced to close their doors does not help. Focussed debate is necessary to right the wrongs in Limerick city.
But enough of the wrongs. This was a good news week.