Birr hall needs more community support

Thursday, 15 June 2017

THE much-loved Marian Hall in Birr has been an important facility in the town for many years but it now needs more support and more use.
At a public meeting held last week the hall's future was discussed by about 30 people from the local community. 
Fr David Carroll told the meeting that the Parish Pastoral Council would like to see more going on in the building. He pointed out that the building is owned by the Flannan's Trust which is a Diocesan Trust that oversees all church property in the Diocese of Killaloe. The decisions made regarding the hall are made by the Parish Pastoral Council.
Fr Carroll said the Pastoral Council were in discussions with Birr 20/20 regarding the future of the hall but unfortunately it didn't reach a successful conclusion. "The problem was that the Diocesan Trust and charity regulations were tortuous and Birr 20/20's ideas really weren't a runner because of this." However, he pointed out that the Parish Council basically wants to do with the Hall what Birr 20/20 wanted to do, which is to see it become a more active hall in and for the community.
He told the meeting there are a number of options facing the Pastoral Council. These include selling or leasing. "Both of these are possible but they are a long process. The third option is probably the best. This entails the establishment of a new management committee which would be answerable to the Parish Pastoral Council." He said the Parish Council is in favour of choosing the third option. Their idea is that a new committee will replace the current interim committee and will run the hall, reporting to the Parish Council on a regular basis. They will also fundraise, which will go towards the running of the hall. The hall will be self-funding," he remarked. "We have made great progress over recent months and I want to thank the outgoing, interim committee for their hard work."
  "We are open to any suggestions including holding discos and parties," commented a member of the interim committee. "We have to go forwards. Things can't stay as they are or else I am afraid it might close and we don't want that to happen."
She pointed out that the Hall is always available to the Stage Guild, and is an ideal venue for the Guild's productions, because it has a big stage and lots of seating. The Guild's first production was held in the Hall in 1958. This was "Beyond the Mill" by J.I. Fanning. 
 The interim committee, which took over in Christmas, includes Martin Walsh, caretaker manager, Ann Finnane, treasurer, and Michelle Hogan, secretary. Martin said that unfortunately the ballet evenings on Tuesdays and Wednesdays have moved from the Hall to Crinkle National School. About 200 attend Bingo every Friday. On Saturdays the building is used by Sarah Molloy Speech and Drama. Sunday is cards. Monday is Girl Guides. "Friday night is 95 per cent of what goes into the hall financially," said Martin. "It is the bread and butter." He added that financially "we are in the black. €75,000 was spent on the building over the last five years on repairs, insulation and cameras."
He said it's important to emphasise to the general public that dates are available in the building on an hourly and daily hire basis. "We would love to see more events happening here," he remarked, "including Summer Camps, Kiddies birthdays, Kiddies discos, Drama, Keep fit classes, Shows/Musicals, etc." He added that unfortunately to date the committee has had very little inquiries. 
Fr Carroll commented that part of the new committee's job will be to advertise the premises. There will be a defined period for the new committee of two to three years, and then a review will be taken of where they are at. He said the Hall is a fine building and an ideal venue.
Adrian Haines told the meeting that he would like to see the building in use eight hours a day every day. He referred to the successful community halls which he had recently seen in Germany. "Every church had a hall right beside it which was very active." He appealed to the community to get behind their Hall. Adrian added that the scouts have been using part of the Hall for their meetings for the last four decades.
 Fr Carroll said the focus of the new committee will be just that, getting more use and activity in the Hall. 
One attendee asked how many people at the meeting represented an organisation in Birr? There was a show of about ten hands.
Fr Carroll said it was a pity more didn't attend the meeting, adding that there is a "shyness about attending meetings in case you get landed with a job. But this here tonight is a good start."   
He asked members of the public who might be interested in joining the new committee to "please contact Ann, Michelle, Martin or myself in the parish office within the next week, or you can sign this piece of paper at the end of the meeting."   Brian Kennedy, Chairman of the Parish Council, thanked the interim committee. "The hall has been part and parcel of Birr's life since 1954," he said. "It is very special to the people of Birr and we in the Parish Council are keen to see it being used more."  
If you would like to help or have an idea or would like to use the hall please contact Martin Walsh at (086) 8636648 or Ann on (087) 6244592.


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