Arts Week with Judy Murphy
For a band that was set up as “a bit of craic” Galway foursome We Banjo 3, have become a force to be reckoned with. And they are teaming up with a similar force, Four Men and a Dog, for what should be a memorable concert in Monroe’s Live on Thursday, January 14.
We Banjo 3 was the brainchild of Corofin native Enda Scahill, one of Ireland’s top banjo-players and teachers who “wanted something built around the banjo that was fun”.
While working as an Environmental Health Officer with the HSE, he gathered together fellow banjo-players Martin and David Howley and they took to the road when time allowed, playing their own blend of Irish, old-time and bluegrass music.
The banjo isn’t exactly a fashionable instrument and some people thought they were mad, but when they played a lunchtime gig at the 2009 Galway Arts Festival in the Róisín Dubh at which people were turned away, they knew they had struck a chord.
Their initial success was partly due to talent and hard work, and partly due to serendipity.
“Martin entered us into the 2011 Music Network Award and when I was driving to Dublin for the event, [music expert] Mick Moloney was on the radio talking about the history of the banjo,” recalls Enda. “For the competition, I spoke about its history and we won, not just because of the music but because of our passion for the banjo,” he says with a laugh.
Joking aside, Enda realised early on that a banjo band needed a reason to exist beyond playing tunes.
And so their first album The Roots of the Banjo Tree was “very much about the history of the banjo, its place in Irish music and the influence of Irish music on the banjo”.
It incorporated bluegrass and old-time as well as Irish and became one of the most lauded folk albums of 2012, winning the Irish Times Trad Album of the Year award.
When the three met the director of the Milwaukee Irish Festival, Ed Ward at an event in Wisconsin, he invited them to play at “the biggest shop window in Irish culture” on the basis of their Wisconsin performance.
Despite “freaking out a bit” at the prospect of Milwaukee, they didn’t waste the opportunity.
Enda’s brother Fergal, a multi-instrumentalist and professional musician who has played and recorded with some of Ireland’s top performers, had featured on The Roots of the Banjo Tree and he joined them for the Milwaukee performance.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.
Galway City Council turns down Mad Yolk Farm site
An application to retain farming-related development on a site in Roscam has been turned down by Galway City Council.
The local authority has refused to grant retention permission to applicant Brian Dilleen for subsurface piping to be used for agricultural irrigation at ‘Mad Yolk Farm’ on Rosshill Road.
It also refused permission for the retention of a bore-hole well, water pump and concrete plinth; and two water holding tanks for 6,500 litres; and other associated site works.
In its written decision, the Planning Department at City Hall said: “The proposed development, would if permitted, facilitate the use of the site for the provision of sixty 15.5m high seed beds, which have been deemed by the planning authority not to be exempted development.
“Therefore a grant of permission for the proposed development would facilitate the unauthorised development and usage on the site, contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of the area.”
The site has been the subject of enforcement action by the local authority.
A lengthy Appropriate Assessment Screening report, submitted with the planning application, concluded “beyond reasonable scientific doubt, in view of the best scientific knowledge, on the basis of objective information and in light of the conservation objectives of the relevant European sites, that the proposed retention and development, individually or in combination with other plans and projects, has not and will not have a significant effect on any European site”.
A borehole Impact Assessment Report concluded that the proposed retention development “on the hydraulic properties of the aquifer is considered negligible”.
It said that there was “no potential for significant effects on water quality, groundwater dependent habitats or species associated with any European site”.
Six objections were lodged by neighbours, including one from the Roshill/Roscam Residents Association, which argued the Further Information submitted by the applicant did “little to allay our concerns” about the impact of the development on an “extremely sensitive site”.
The applicant has until June 29 to appeal the decision to An Bórd Pleanála.
NUIG student accommodation firm records loss
The property company which operates student accommodation on behalf of NUI Galway recorded a €3.4 million increase in turnover in 2019.
However, Atalia Student Residences DAC (Designated Activity Company), which is owned by the university, recorded a loss for the year of €6,300.
Accounts for the company for the year ended August 31, 2019, show that while there was a loss, retained profits are at more than €1.6 million. The accounts are the most up to date available from the Companies Registration Office.
The previous year, the company made a profit of more than €460,000.
Atalia Student Residences operates the 764-bed Corrib Village apartment complex and the 429-bed Goldcrest Village.
The figures show that the company’s overall turnover jumped by 52% – from €6.4m to €9.8m.
Turnover for accommodation services was up from €5.2m to €8.4m; and from conferences and events was up from €850,000 to €1.1m. Turnover from shops was down from almost €328,000 to €290,000.
Outside of the academic year, both complexes are used as accommodation for conference delegates, while Corrib Village is also used for short-term holiday lets.
The accounts show fixed assets – including fixtures and fittings, plant and machinery and office equipment – valued at €1.5m. Its current assets were valued at more than €7m, including ‘cash at bank and in hand’ of almost €6.9m (up from €5.6m last year).
The company owed creditors €6.9m, including €5.2m in deferred income.
It employed 38 people (which includes its five directors) last year, up from 31 the previous year.
As well as operating the student accommodation complexes, the company also markets conference facilities and services on behalf of the university.
It pays rent to NUIG but the figure is not included in the company accounts. In 2018, the rent figure was just over €2.25m.
In Corrib Village, a single bedroom with a private en suite for the academic year costs €5,950. For Goldcrest Village, the figure is €6,760.
Designated drinking zones in city centre are ‘only solution’
From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Properly staffed designated areas are the only solution to out-of-control outdoor boozing, according to the city councillor who drafted the city’s drinking bylaws.
Cllr Peter Keane told the Galway City Tribune it was likely that councillors would seek to ‘tweak’ the existing bylaws in the near future to find a long-term solution that would enable young people to ‘enjoy a drink outdoors in a safe and controlled environment’, not just now, but in the future too.
To avoid a repeat of scenes around Spanish Arch over recent weekends, the Fianna Fáil councillor said providing areas where the consumption of alcohol was allowed would enable Gardaí to properly enforce the drinking bylaws throughout the rest of the city.
He said he could ‘absolutely appreciate the concerns of residents’ in the Claddagh and elsewhere where anti-social behaviour including urinating in gardens ‘and worse’ had been a blight in recent weeks, but said with proper control, those worst excesses could be avoided.
In the first ten days of June, 83 on-the-spot fines were issued in the city for drinking in a public place.
And last Saturday night, Gardaí closed off the Quincentenary Bridge after hundreds of young people gathered on the carriageway and turned it into a “highly-dangerous road traffic risk situation”.
“Control is the key word for me. Gardaí don’t have the resources, nor do they have the appetite as far as I can see, to deal with the lack of control there has been during the recent good weather.
“If you were to designate, say for example the Spanish Arch or a green area in Salthill, where the bylaws didn’t apply, you could put a number of wardens in place there to control the situation. You could provide adequate bins and toilets, and enough bodies to staff it, and that would allow gardaí to police the bylaws elsewhere,” said Cllr Keane.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story and coverage of the re-opening of the hospitality sector and outdoor dining, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.