HOW do you fancy a modern theatre in Letterkenny, a modern arts centre in the old courthouse in Portlaoise, the comprehensive redevelopment of the Limerick City Gallery of Art? The extension and development of the Cork Public Museum, the renovation of the Waterford Theatre Royal, the restoration of the Everyman Palace Theatre in Cork, and the development of a 200 seat art house cinema in Cork City, a Roscommon arts centre?
These are the first eight projects to be granted funding in principle under the Cultural Development Incentives Scheme, which Minister Higgins is administering under the operational Programme for Tourism, 1994-1997. The project will involve investments of nearly £8 million - £5.5 million of EU and Exchequer funding, with the rest being made up from local sources.
These are terribly exciting developments. There were, however, over 150 proposals, some of which (such as Dunlewey's Ionad Cois Locha, for instance, and the North Lotts Theatre project), have been discussed on this page.
What is noticeable is the degree to which the Minister and a committee made up largely of Department officials, Arts Council members and representatives of local authorities, seem to have relied for guidance on the Arts Plan 1995-1997. A Department spokesman said yesterday that applications were sifted and chosen at first on the basis of the Plan's identification of culturally disadvantaged areas (Wicklow didn't figure because there was only one application.)
Fair enough, but the spokesman also mentioned the centres of excellence" suggested in the Plan, and the channelling funding to Waterford Theatre Royal would prop up that city's designation as a centre of excellence for theatre. The whole "centres of excellence" idea has caused a lot of controversy, in the case of theatre, Vic Merriman of the Arts Council has stated that the Theatre Review would prompt the rewriting of the theatre chapter of the Plan and it seems surprising that funding decisions seem to be being made on the basis of the Plan in its unreconstructed state.