Home News Community Ministerial visit uncovers a hidden gem at Laois’s fingertips

Ministerial visit uncovers a hidden gem at Laois’s fingertips

Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys, began her grand tour of Laois this morning by officially opening the refurbished Mountmellick Arts Centre.

The Minister is in Laois today as part of the government’s ‘Our Rural Future’ roadshow.

The morning began at 9.30am with Minister Humphreys unveiling a plaque at the venue, which was refurbished with the assistance of funding under the Town and Village Renewal Scheme.

This was followed by a video presentation highlighting many of the projects across Laois which have benefited from the Minister’s department.

The presentation focused on Laois County Council and local communities’ efforts to “make Laois the space to work, play and relax.”

A collection of dignitaries then spoke, led by Cathaoirleach of Laois County Council, Cllr Paschal McEvoy, who, before introducing the Minister, said:

“This is an absolutely fabulous building. It is my first time seeing it in years and years and I must say well done to the committee who brought it back to life.

“It’s great to see such a structure in one of our main towns in the county.

“All around the country we see buildings of a similar vintage falling into disuse and disrepair; however, what you have achieved here in Mountmellick has delivered a fantastic community resource and an example of what can be achieved by community effort.”

Minister Humphreys then began her speech by expressing her delight at being invited to the incredible venue.

“I’m a former Minister for Arts and I really have a genuine interest in the arts, so you couldn’t have chosen a better place for me to kick off this visit,” the Minister said.

“I’m delighted that my department was able to support you with over €167,000 in funding under the Town and Village scheme.

“You really do have a wonderful story to tell about this Arts Centre. I note that the building itself was designed by renowned architect, Michael Scott and it was built in the early 1950’s at a cost of £22,000.”

The Minister chronicled the history and timeline of the venue, from it’s refurbishment in 1986, through its many changes, right up until the current iteration in the present day.

Minister Humphreys praised the efforts of the Mountmellick community in creating “the next chapter in the life of this magnificent building.

“This facility will do so much in terms of supporting the entertainment industry in the region, enhancing the local economy, and providing high-quality cultural education in the community,” she said.

“More people will be able to become involved in the creative arts and the music sector, which is so important to ensure our rural areas are both thriving and diverse.

“My objective is to create the conditions for more people to live, work, enjoy, invest, and raise a family in rural towns and villages.”

Minister Humphreys officially opening the Mountmellick Arts Centre

Mr John Mulholland, Chief Executive of Laois County Council, could not speak highly enough of the Mountmellick Arts Centre.

“If this building were in Vicar Street or the East End of London it would be packed every day,” Mr Mulholland said.

“It is a magnificent achievement in terms of value for money,  reconstituting old buildings into something that can be used by the community.

“To many of you have been here for the first time, it’s a real eye-opener. There’s not many places around the country that have this, and how do you get the story out?”

Mr Ger Lynch, Chairman of the Mountmellick Arts Committee spoke at great length the work that has been done in making the building the wonderful venue that it is.

Mr Lynch paid particular tribute to the Mountmellick Drama Group for their continued involvement in the upkeep of the venue.

Mr Ger Lynch giving Minister Heather Humphreys the tour of the Balcony Cinema at Mountmellick Arts Centre

The event was held in the upstairs area of the venue – the gorgeous Balcony Cinema.

Afterwards, there was a tour of the rest of the venue, where Minister Humphreys and the other guests were particularly blown away by the 450-seat theatre.

There were several politicians and community leaders in attendance, including Laois Offaly TDs, Sean Fleming, Minister for State at the Department of Foreign Affairs; Pippa Hackett, Minister for State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; and Minister Humphreys’ Fine Gael party colleague, local Mountmellick TD, Charlie Flanagan.

Laois County Councillors John King, Seamus McDonald, and  Mountmellick Cllr Paddy Bracken were also in attendance.

Martina Horan, on behalf of the Mountmellick Yarn Bombing project, presented Minister Humphreys with a wonderfully designed wreath. “A 21st century representation of the textile industry in Mountmellick.”

There was an overriding consensus from all in attendance – both those who spoke and those who did not – that the Mountmellick Arts Centre is a seriously underutilised gem at Laois’s fingertips.

The feeling was that more needs to be done to increase awareness of the venue to both the people of Laois and artists of all sizes and endevours alike.

The rest of the day’s pit-stops include the new library in Portlaoise; Carrigmeal Woods between Stradbally and Portlaoise; the Round Tower in Timahoe; culminating in Market House, Portarlington.

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