Esker Arts is the result of the culmination of many years of work by Offaly County Council, Tullamore Community Arts Centre CLG and the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport, and Media, and the support of the local community.
Above, seated: Colin Hughes (TCAC Board), Councillor Neil Feighrey, Anna-Marie Delaney (Chief Executive Offaly County Council), Councillor Peter Ormond, Val Gorman (FVG Construction) , Peter Lyons (Kenny Lyons Associates Architects), Des Doyle (TCAC Board), Niall Sweeney (TCAC Board)
Standing: Sally O’Leary (Arts Officer Offaly County Council), Rachel McKenna (Architect Offaly County Council), Councillor Danny Owens, Robert Whyte ( Galileo Energy Services), Councillor Sean O’Brien, Declan Kirrane (Retired Director of Services Offaly County Council), Sharon Kennedy (Director of Services Offaly County Council), Joe Dooley (Executive Engineer, Tullamore Municipal District), Brenda Corbett (Town Clerk Tullamore Municipal District), Councillor Declan Harvey.
This development of the Arts Centre was a collaboration between Tullamore Community Arts Centre Ltd. established as a partnership between Offaly County Council, Tullamore Town Council and the local community.
Offaly County Council has been committed to the delivery of an Arts Centre in Tullamore for many years. The Members of the Council along with the Chief Executives, Management Teams and staff have provided sustained support to this project over the past decade.
Offaly Local Authorities Corporate Plan 2010-2014 provided for: ‘the improvement in the quality of life for people in Offaly by supporting the development of arts spaces and infrastructure together with the provision of supports for community arts activities’.
The development of the Arts Centre was also referenced in Offaly County Council Art’s Plan 2012-2016 which referred to: ‘concerted investments are being made to enhance Tullamore’s cultural and community potential with a recently developed town park, new library, [and planned future developments of] a community arts centre. ….’
This ambition was later restated in the County Offaly Arts Strategy Inspire-Imagine-Involve 2018-2022, which stated as an objective that the County Council and the Arts Office would: ‘lend support to the Management Committee, Tullamore Community Arts Centre, as necessary, to ensure a viable, sustainable, fit-for-purpose multi-disciplinary arts and community centre is developed for Tullamore and the County.’
This development of the Arts Centre was a collaboration between Tullamore Community Arts Centre Ltd. established as a partnership between Offaly County Council, Tullamore Town Council and the local community. Offaly County Council purchased the former Kilroy’s Shop in High Street, Tullamore and subsequently, a design team headed Kenny Lyons and Associates, Tullamore were appointed to design and project manage the build project.
A number of years earlier, a grant in the sum of €2 million was secured from the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media under the ACCESS II scheme. In 2019, Offaly County Council, under the management of the Chief Executive, Anna Marie Delaney, secured approval from the Council Members to raise and service a loan for the required balance amounting to €2.5 million euro. Further funding in the sum of €200,000 was secured from the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage towards landscaping improvement around the site and the funding bundle was finalised when a further €500,000 was pledged in 2019 as a local contribution to be raised by Tullamore Community Art Centre Ltd. With this funding package in place, the project could begin in earnest.
In 2020, Offaly County Council contracted FVG Construction and Maintenance Company Ltd to commence the construction programme, in consultation with Tullamore Community Arts Centre Ltd. The project’s progress was hampered by the onset of Covid 19 which resulted in a number of construction shut downs on site. However, the construction of the new Centre was completed in late 2022 to a very high standard. With the completion of the fit out, the Centre was opened in April 2023.
Offaly County Council, in consultation with Tullamore Community Arts Centre Ltd, established a new company, Esker Arts CLG, which has been tasked with managing the operation and governance of the Centre into the future. This Company is responsible for overseeing the recruitment and management of staff, finance, marketing and programming of the centre.
Reflecting on the ambitions of Offaly County Council Art’s Plan 2012-2016, the aim of Esker Arts will be: ‘to support programming that is consistent, accessible, inclusive, stimulating, and of a high standard. … Audience engagement and development will propose initiatives that will expand participation.’ And importantly also referred to in the Arts Plan 2012-2016, the centre will ‘work in collaboration with other cultural infrastructure within the county, particularly Birr Theatre and Arts Centre, to develop initiatives, share resources, increase audiences and participation and raise the profile of Offaly nationally’. It is intended that this ambition will be realised through an alignment with the recently published Arts Infrastructure Strategy and the newly planned Offaly County Council’s Arts Strategy 2023-2028.
Offaly County Council is delighted that this project, which it has progressed in association with Tullamore Community Arts Centre Ltd is now completed and wishes Esker Arts CLG every success in realising the ambitions of many through Esker Arts.
Tullamore Community Arts Centre Ltd
In 2009, Tullamore Community Arts Centre Ltd was first established - a partnership company and registered charity project between the Tullamore community and Offaly County Council in developing the Esker Arts Centre as we now know it, on High Street in Tullamore. The aim was to develop a space to provide excellent quality arts facilities in Tullamore and be a major resource and catalyst for artistic, community and economic development and participation in the arts.
A committed Board played key roles in their determination over the years in making this ambitious project a reality. Throughout each step of the process, huge support from the local community helped to continue development in many ways. Esker Arts Centre would like to acknowledge all parties involved in these efforts, and commit to continuing the much-needed advocacy for engagement in the arts, cultural education and creative community activities in Tullamore for many years to come.
Tullamore Community Arts Centre Board of Directors
Desmond Doyle, Chairman, Thomas Farrell, Secretary
Declan Kirrane, Niall Sweeney, CE Reps
Cllr. Declan Harvey; Cllr. Tony McCormack, Cllr. Danny Owens, Cllr. Sean O'Brien.
Dominic Doheny, Colin Hughes, Community Reps
Activities and events in support of the Arts Centre
A great many activities have happened over the years to promote the importance of and need for an Art Centre in Tullamore including the establishment of the Tullamore Foundation Arts Festival, in 2013 as an Offaly Arts Office programme with curator Brendan Fox. This festival took place during the summer every year between 2013-2016 and was supported by the Arts Council of Ireland, it engaged with many local artists and arts organisation to deliver a wide ranging programme both in Kilroy’s and around the town. More recently the Art Centre was a partner in the national Arts Council supported programme In the Open |Faoin Spéir between September 2021-April 2022 which included spectacular events in the open spaces of Tullamore in anticipation of the opening of the new centre.
Tullamore Community Arts Centre also hosted and supported a number of events and activities generating awareness and engagement with the arts in Tullamore in 2016, in partnership with the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs and Offaly County Council. These included the 100 Years 100 Faces exhibition - a collection of artworks from the art facilitators and participants of Anam Beo, Offaly's Arts, Health and Wellbeing Programme. It was supported by Offaly County Council Arts Office and the Offaly County Council 2016 Centenary Fund, the Dublin Mid-Leinster HSE, ANAM BEO the Arts Council. The 2016 celebrations also saw Tullamore Community Arts Centre participate in Culture Night, with a free line up of local, national and international acts, again taking place at Kilroy’s.