Limerick kick starts city of culture stint early

Organisers hope programme will attract people back to their city


Limerick’s city of culture stint may not begin until next year but that didn’t stop some of its citizens invading Dublin yesterday evening and kick-starting the celebrations. Wenches from the county’s grand hotels, a stonemason from King John’s Castle and “Madonna” from Limerick’s pride festival were all watched over by barn owl Orlan and peregrine saker falcon Ozzy from Adare Manor. The birds were the only participants keeping calm amid the music, food and singing which filled the Smock Alley Theatre in Temple Bar.

“It’s amazing when the people get together great things happen. It’s a great community and people are so passionate about their city,” said Una Heaton, curator of the Frank McCourt Museum, opened just two years and dedicated to the author of Angela’s Ashes.

The museum is among the venues in the city expecting a boost in visitor numbers over the next two years for the city of culture events. Limerick will be the first to host the national city of culture.

Those running cultural and sporting venues, restaurants and hotels are hoping the programme will also attract Limerick people back to their city. “We need to keep people in the city. There has been a drift away with the shopping centres on the outskirts,” says Maeve McGrath, director of the Savoy Theatre, which runs lunchtime and evening plays.

The city may have got a “bad wrap” in the past but it is a changed place now, says Jacinta Khan of George Boutique Hotel.

“There is a healthy rivalry with the city but we are doing well. Adare has an excellent brand,” says Suzanne Kennedy, of the Dunraven Arms Hotel, promoting among other events a Medieval festival in Adare which will take place the weekend after this. Kennedy, decked out in full wench costume, was watched over closely by the two birds of prey, Orlan and Ozzy, who take part in the falconry activities at Adare Manor.

Claws may have been drawn when one of Limerick’s most famous sons, Minister for Finance Michael Noonan, turned up to support the evening as funding is reported to be thin on the ground for the city of culture events. He may have also had a word in his year from the representatives of Limerick pride, a nine-day festival in September celebrating gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender inhabitants. “We’re hoping to send a message to the Dáil this year to introduce marriage equality,” says Dave Cuddihy, chairman of Limerick Pride.