New broom for Limerick arts hub, Belltable at 69 O’Connell Street

Marketa Dowling, Czech, multilingual and committed to Limerick
Marketa Dowling, Czech, multilingual and committed to Limerick

AFTER years as 69 O’Connell Street, Belltable was restored to its original title in November 2015 and official status now is arts hub – not mere venue.

There’s generous scope in that term for activity and sure enough, Belltable is  grooming CPD (continued professional development) with schemes HatchLK and Belltable:connect, platforming festivals such as film’s Tres Court and Bualadh Bos for children; cinema in the SEE series weekly; concerts, readings, solo shows, visual art and of course, theatre productions.

Whilst the programme was taken care of by the tight outfit headed up by Louise Donlon and Gill Fenton at Lime Tree Theatre since September 2013, finally in February Belltable acquired a dedicated programmer.

Meet career professional Marketa Dowling, Czech born and after 10 years work and marriage here, close to being Irish made. She is multilingual – even her take on Irish language names is right – and owns to good Russian, some Spanish and Italian. Dowling is an international boost ideal for Limerick’s profile should we snooker European Capital of Culture 2020 status.

Living in Limerick, her background saw her work in film production in Prague, move to Dublin and there embrace seven years with award-winning Fishamble: the New Play Company.

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Marketa Dowling spoke to Arts page about what lies ahead for these fallow summer months for performance arts while street and music festivals, literary and visual works absorb the limelight.

Belltable’s next season proper is September to December. Until then there are incidental projects for which the venue is ideal. The EVA symposium is on a slate for July 12 and 13. Children’s Bualadh Bos Camps will run for a week from Monday July 4 and July 11 and are themed ‘Mystery & Wonderland’.

Líosa Murphy and Band plan a gig on August 13. Limerick Youth Theatre waddles in with ‘Animal Farm’ for August 17 to 19 in association with Bottom Dog Theatre Company.

“In September our SEE Cinema series begins on Wednesday 14 with the Irish film ‘An Klondike’ and the director Daithí Keane will be present for a Q&A afterwards. We feature cinema weekly right into December 14.

“Theatre performances will include September’s ‘Remember to Breathe’, a production that is written and directed by Orla Murphy. I saw it in Dublin Fringe and it is going on to Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August.

“‘Remember to Breathe’ is new writing that has a lot of heart. The story is an Irish young couple who move to New Zealand in recession and it’s set during the huge earthquake that hit NZ [Christchurc] then. It’s really, really well written and produced by Orla herself. It is brilliant”.

“In October we have ‘Scorch’ by Prime Cut Productions from Belfast, written by Stacey Gregg. With this they won the Best New Play at the Irish Times Theatre Awards in February 2016.

“It is done ‘in the round’ so you will see Belltable in a different way.” She rates Prime Cut for their “dark, cutting edge and high quality” execution of works.

Twelve days of Bualadh Bos festival open out from October 10 with “a lot of focus on theatre and literature”, but this and other stories will hold for another Arts page.

You can peruse Belltable’s diary and other works at venue booking manager