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CITY TRIBUNE

Town Hall set to welcome two millionth attendee

Stephen Corrigan

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The Town Hall Theatre is set to pass yet another major milestone with the venue about to welcome its two millionth attendee over the coming weeks.

This comes less than a year after the Town Hall celebrated its 20th anniversary. Playing host to an annual audience of around 100,000 people, the theatre has gone from strength to strength since it was officially re-opened in February 1996 by the then Minister for Arts, Michael D Higgins. According to theatre manager, Fergal McGrath, any punter that passes through the doors over the next couple of weeks could be the one that pushes them over the line.

“We’re guessing we’ll hit that figure in January and probably in the next fortnight we’ll pass the magic number – it could be you,” he exclaimed.

The Courthouse Square theatre incorporates the 400-seater main auditorium and a 52-seater studio space while also running the multi-purpose Black Box Theatre on the Dyke Road.

The venue held close to 500 different events last year and off the back of the ever successful Renmore Panto, which attracted a crowd of 7,500 over its run, Mr McGrath promised that 2017 would be another stellar year of theatre.

“In 2016 we presented close to 500 different events, performances and screenings – that is a very significant figure considering that the research shows that the average for peer venues is 204,” he said.

The average audience at aTown Hall show is over 170 people – a figure that well exceeds the national average of 115.

Mr McGrath believed that a huge part of the theatre’s success was the support of local people through their attendance and use of the facility.

“Outside of the festival, most of our business is local – in 2016, half of our customers were buying for the first time and that’s a huge number.

“If we sell between 85,000 and 100,000 tickets a year, and the population of Galway is just over 70,000, that highlights, number one the scale of the operation, number two the impact and number three that impact reflects the huge local support and participation,” said Mr McGrath.

He said that the Town Hall and Galway were blessed with a string of festivals across the year including Music for Galway’s Midwinter Festival, Prodigy, which kicks off this weekend.

Also on the way are the Subtitle European Film Festival, Cúirt International Festival of Literature, the Galway Film Fleadh, Galway Theatre Festival, Baboró and a Druid production lined up for September.

“We are really fortunate that we are playing host to festivals of that scale,” said Mr McGrath. “Galway Theatre Festival has been growing in recent years and Decadent is another local company directed by Andrew Flynn – there’s also a whole range of new and emerging talent.”

In 2017, The Town Hall will also be involved in ELEVATOR, a new initiative by the Irish Theatre Institute set up as a support system for emerging companies in Galway and Dublin.

“They will be given the opportunity to get regular advice and support,” said Mr McGrath. “We are always trying to nurture the next generation.”

CITY TRIBUNE

Designated drinking zones in city centre are ‘only solution’

Stephen Corrigan

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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.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Dispute simmers between businesses and Council over outdoor spaces

Dara Bradley

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Friction between businesses and local government over the reclaiming of public space to facilitate outside hospitality marred the beginning of the city’s ‘outdoor summer’.

Galway City Council has come under fire over its handling of plans by bars and restaurants to use street furniture to facilitate outdoor dining and drinking.

Most city watering holes and eateries resumed trading on Bank Holiday Monday – serving outdoors only – for the first time since Christmas, and the authorities reported that it was successful for the most part, although it needed time to ‘bed in’.

The city vintners’ group said its members with adequate outdoor space were happy to be back and described the mood as ‘euphoric’ in places.

But several outlets expressed disappointment with the Council.

In Eyre Square, the Skeff Late Bar and Kitchen claimed it had to cancel 200 advance bookings – up to 800 people – for this week, after the Council refused permission for “extended outdoor seating”.

On Middle Street, Sangria Tapas Restaurant lashed the Council for refusing it permission to use certain types of awning and windbreakers to facilitate outdoor dining. “Surely the powers that be can take time to support the industry that supports the city?” its proprietor said in a complaint to City Hall.

‘Back the West’, businesses criticised the Council for rowing back on promises to provide additional outdoor space on Dominick Street Lower and Dominick Street Upper, in time for outdoor hospitality’s reopening on June 7.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Council chief: ‘landlords see 4% rent increase cap as a target’

Enda Cunningham

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The Chief Executive of Galway City Council has said that the 4% annual cap on residential rent increases is now seen as a target by many landlords.

Brendan McGrath said that affordability continues to be a major problem for renters in the city and that an increasing number of people availing of the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme have to pay ‘top ups’ to their landlords.

The HAP scheme replaces rent supplement for those with a long-term housing need – the individual finds a private rented accommodation within specific rent caps and the Council pays the landlord directly. The tenant then pays a rent to the Council based on their weekly household income.

The maximum monthly rents under the scheme range from €330 for an adult in shared accommodation to €900 for a single parent or couple with three kids.

Based on their household size, tenants can also apply for a 20% extra ‘discretionary’ payment on top of their HAP payment.

However, Mr McGrath said many on the HAP scheme in Galway have to pay top ups to their landlords.

“Rents as a percentage of income is increasing and affordability remains a major problem for the city’s renters. The majority of HAP tenants require additional discretionary payments to assist them in maintaining their tenancies, particularly single person households.

“An increasing number of HAP tenants now have to pay top ups to their landlords even with the 20% extra HAP discretionary payment applied for their particular household size,” Mr McGrath said in a report to councillors.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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