Ardmore Studios sale opposed by crowds at public meeting in Bray
Minister tells public meeting his ‘priority’ is to keep film making in Co Wicklow
Over the years a number of blockbusters and television series have been made at Ardmore including Braveheart (pictured) My Left Foot; Excalibur and in more recent times The Tudors; Moone Boy and Penny Dreadful.
Almost 500 people gathered at a public meeting in Bray, Co Wicklow on Wednesday night to express concern for the future of 400 job Ardmore Studios, which has been put up for sale as a going concern.
Workers at the studios, joined chief executive of the Irish Film Board James Hickey , Minister for State Andrew Doyle, TDs Pat Casey and John Brady and local councillors to hear calls for the Government to block the sale by using its 32 per cent holding in Ardmore.
The majority shareholders in Ardmore Studios, Ossie Kilkenny and Paul McGuinness, have owned 68 percent of the studios for almost 30 years . While bookings are said to be extremely healthy, and the studios profitable, the duo last year decided to sell the premises as a going concern.
In a series of contributions nearly every speaker called on the Government to honour its commitment to developing Ireland as a centre for creative arts and block the sale using its shareholding which is held by Enterprise Ireland.
Addressing the gathering at the meeting Mr Doyle gave a commitment that as long as he was a public representative “my priority is that film making remains in Bray and Co Wicklow”.
He defended Enterprise Ireland’s commitment to the film industry and commented that “this is the only studios which Enterprise Ireland ownes a part of”.
Mr Brady, a Sinn Fein TD , said he was aware that Minister for Finance Michael Noonan had lobbied successfully for the former Dell plant in Limerick to be designated as a film studios.
He said he had met Minister for Jobs Mary Mitchell O’Connor and Arts Heather Humphreys and while Ms Mitchell O’Connor had said Ardmore could not be sold while the Government retained its shareholding and used it as a veto, Ms Humphreys had confirmed the State’s interest in getting a fair price for a sale. Mr Brady said he had tried to raise the issue in the Dail with the Taoiseach but did not get a reply. He was concerned there was a silent understanding the industry would move to Limerick.
Mr Casey, a Fianna Fail TD said the Government’s Action Plan for Jobs identified Co Wicklow as a centre for the film industry while the Government’s recent launch of plans to rejuvenate regions had also cited film industry jobs growth in Wicklow. He also noted potential competition from the former Dell site in Limerick and said the news that Ardmore was being sold had been given to public representatives “by email”.
Mr Hickey said the Irish Film Board was “wish to see Ardmore Studios remain as a location to come to, to shoot films. We have expressed this view to everyone who is prepared to come and listen to us”.
A number of local area councillors also expressed opposition to any attempt to rezone the studios for housing or other development.
A number of speakers from the workforce recalled a similar public meeting in Bray in 1982 when the future of the studios was then in doubt and to general applause many speakers vowed their campaign to retain film making in Bray would be again successful. A number of speakers expressed concern that Enterprise Ireland was working in consort with its partners to sell the premises and a call for the Government to make a statement of its position received sustained applause.
Over the years a number of blockbusters and television series have been made at Ardmore including Braveheart; My Left Foot; Excalibur and in more recent times The Tudors; Moone Boy and Penny Dreadful.
Productions at Ardmore have received 14 Oscars and numerous BAFTA, Golden Globe and Emmy awards.
The studios are currently recording the popular series Dancing With The Stars which is being shown on RTE television.