New theatre for the north side?


TEMPLE Bar is just so southside nowadays. The time is ripe for a dander across the Ha'penny Bridge, and the time is now ripe for The Lotts Warehouse Project on the North Lotts. There is an opening there, believes the group behind the project, Vesuvius Arts, for a new "serious middle scale venue".

"We have letters of support from 17 Irish companies who would use the venue", says artistic director Vanessa Fielding. She believes the some of the major out of town companies don't bring their shows to Dublin because they can't find a venue. Other venue managers it must be noted, frequently express their concern at the high number of seats which are for sale nightly in this town.

Vesuvius, which has up to now concentrated on airing the work of foreign writers, such as Silone and Strindberg, has set up a sister company, Vesuvius Theatre, to run the 400 seat theatre it proposes to develop as a purpose built theatre in the round. As well as being a receiving venue for touring theatre, (such as Druid, Red Kettle, Island, Rough Magic, Groundwork, Field Day and The Lyric, Vesuvius suggests) the venue would be suitable for dance.

A separate space would be provided for community arts, training and workshops. Another exciting thought - and managements of existing hard pressed theatres may look on with envy - is the development of a Music Club in tandem with the theatre. This will be, the group says, neither a dance club nor a pub and yet not a formal venue, but a sophisticated and comfortable place in which to enjoy music of a serious quality."

Cyril O'Brien, who owns The George, as well as two new pubs, The Mercantile and O'Brien's, Dame Street, has spent about £1 million purchasing 44-47 North Lotts and No. 7 Middle Abbey Street, and securing planning permission to develop the venue, and has committed £1 million towards its refurbishment.

It's not enough, folks' (if you had a fiddle you could play that song). Vesuvius has raised about £12,000 through the EU Local Employment Initiative. It has raised a guaranteed loan from an unnamed source of £100,000 to set up, a small amount of which has been released to kick start the project. It has also made an application to the Arts Council for an operational grant, and is expecting a decision as you read this. A further application to the Department of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht is for EU structural funds of £1 million; a decision should be made by the end of April on this, and Vesuvius says it could then be up and running 12 months later.

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