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Summer concerts on the way for Esker orchestra

Denise McNamara

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The Esker Festival Orchestra has managed to raise over €8,000 in crowd funding for its series of summer concerts around the country featuring young musicians and a new tutoring collaboration with the country’s top professional companies.

Esker native Peter Joyce is the driving force behind the youth orchestra, which won the hearts of the Galway public last summer when it played an outdoor concert of movie theme tunes in the Spanish Arch during the Film Fleadh. The dynamic musical ensemble also played a concert in the Galway Cathedral.

Peter set up the Esker Festival Orchestra in 2014 to fill a void for emerging musicians to practice, play and socialise together and this year the plan – subject to funding – is to set up a residency in NUI Galway for nine days during the summer while they prepare their repertoire for film and chamber music concerts.

The group will then tour Galway, Belfast, Dublin and Cork with the main concert set for the Galway Cathedral on June 30.

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Their first collaboration is also planned with The Galway Music Residency and the Galway ConTempo Quartet who, along with members of the RTÉ Concert and Symphony Orchestras, will provide tutoring to the members.

The orchestra will be performing Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherezade, the Mozart G Major Flute Concerto with rising star Miriam Kaczor and as well as a new work by a young composer to be premiered by the orchestra.

“The Esker Festival Orchestra is a non-profit group, organised voluntarily by the musicians. All the funding received will go towards paying for the accommodation and food for the musicians taking part, transport, venue and equipment hire. It is very important to us that no musicians are excluded based on lack of financial means,” explained Peter.

The cost of putting on this summer’s project is around €25,000. They launched an appeal for funding of €8,000 on the crowd funding website, fundit.ie, and in a couple of weeks managed to attract €8,645 in donations. In exchange the donors will receive a range of tickets to the concerts and DVDs of the performances.

Peter, a saxophone and clarinet player, has previously worked with the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra, the RTÉ Concert Orchestra, the Ulster Orchestra, the Dublin City Jazz Orchestra and musicians such as Imelda May, Liam Ó Maonlaí, Sinead O’Connor and Mary Coughlan.

He set up the venture to give an outlet to musicians studying here who have been forced to emigrate to find opportunities to further develop their skills.

Auditions are extremely open – musicians simply video themselves playing a piece and email the video.

The National Youth Symphony Orchestra costs upwards of €500 to take part in, which has proved prohibitively expensive for many young musicians.

For advanced students and budding professionals who could not afford the fees, this meant there was no nationally inclusive ensemble and subsequently no opportunity to meet and perform with their counterparts across the country.

Last year they received funding from the Arts Council of Ireland but they have to rely on public support to shore up the rest of the cost.

Further details are available on their website www.eskerfestivalorchestra.com

CITY TRIBUNE

Galway City Council turns down Mad Yolk Farm site

Dara Bradley

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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.

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CITY TRIBUNE

NUIG student accommodation firm records loss

Enda Cunningham

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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.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Call for two-way cycling under Galway City outdoor dining plan

Dara Bradley

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Bike users want the local authority to examine the introduction of two-way cycling on one-way city centre streets.

Galway Cycling Campaign has again called for cycling to be allowed both ways. It comes as Galway City Council prepares to cordon-off parts of city centre streets to traffic, and make Dominick Street Lower one-way, to facilitate outdoor dining.

The cycling organisation said that the proposed pedestrianisation plan at the Small Crane, and the one-way system on Dominick Street, will result in lengthy diversions for people on bikes.

It has pointed out that school children and their guardians who cycle along Raleigh Row, and turn right towards Sea Road, will probably continue to do so even when the Small Crane is cordoned off to traffic, because the alternative route – via Henry Street – is too long a detour.

Similarly, it has been suggested that food-delivery services on bikes are unlikely to go the ‘long way round’ via Mill Street and New Road to get from Bridge Mills to restaurants on Dominick Street and would be tempted to cycle the ‘wrong way’ down the proposed one-way street or on the footpath.

Shane Foran, committee member of Galway Cycling Campaign, said now would be an ideal time to introduce two-way cycling on some one-way streets.

“It’s not controversial,” insisted Mr Foran. “It’s a general principle in other countries, if you are putting in new traffic arrangements, you would try and keep access for people on bikes.”

The regulation is contained in the National Cycle Policy Framework 2009; and a specific objective was contained in two of the most recent previous City Development Plans.

He said a former minister and Galway West TD, the late Bobby Molloy, had the vision to change the legislation in the late 1990s – but it hasn’t yet been embraced here.

“Bobby Molloy, who couldn’t be classed as an eco warrior, changed the law in 1998, so that it is available to local authorities to put up a sign granting an exemption from restrictions for people cycling on one-way streets.

“The road stays one-way for cars, and two ways for bicycles. Clearly that’s not going to be a sensible to do everywhere, like Merchants’ Road. In those situations, you might need a cycle track or lane to segregate people from traffic.

“But if it’s a low traffic street, with low speeds or relatively lower volumes of cars, then it should be possible for people on bicycles to cycle in both directions and still have it one-way for cars, without it being a major safety issue. It works in other countries,” said Mr Foran.

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