An exterior view of the new Esker Arts Centre, High Street, Tullamore.

New Esker Arts Centre set to open in November

The much-anticipated opening of the new Esker Arts Centre in Tullamore is set to take place before Christmas following the appointment of an Artistic Director.

In an exclusive interview with the Offaly Independent this week, the Chair of Esker Arts Board and Tullamore native, Conor Brady, said it was hoped to be able to have what he described as “a soft opening” of the new facility in November, to be followed early next year by the official opening.

Mr Brady, who was invited to take up his role earlier this year, confirmed that an Artistic Director has been appointed to manage Esker Arts Centre and interviews are due to take place next week for three additional staff, namely a Technical & Facilities Manager; Marketing and Front of House Manager and an Administrator.

Sean Walsh, a native of Belmullet in county Mayo, has been appointed to the role of Artistic Director, and brings a wealth of experience to Esker Arts Centre, having previously served for 16 years as Artistic Director of Ballina Arts Centre. He is due to take up his new role in Tullamore on October 1.

Mr Brady, a former editor of the Irish Times, said the new Esker Arts Centre will be “transformational for the town of Tullamore and the wider county” and is “way ahead” of the vast majority of regional arts centres that he has visited since taking up the position of Chair of Esker Arts Board.

“I have visited a lot of other similar facilities around the country, and very few of them could rival what we have built in Tullamore,” he said.

Describing his role as “a labour of love” and a way of “giving back” to his native town, Conor Brady paid fulsome tribute to the officials of Offaly County Council and the elected representatives who have worked so hard on the arts centre project.

“In all my dealings with Offaly County Council I have found them to be extremely enlightened both at corporate level and among the elected members,” he said.

The renowned journalist, author and academic also paid tribute to his fellow board members for all their hard work, and said “all eyes are firmly fixed” on having an official opening for Esker Arts Centre early in 2023.

From a personal point of view, Conor Brady said he would like to see the official opening taking place to coincide with the new Bank Holiday which has been created to celebrate St Brigid’s Day in in the Spring.

The Bank Holiday is due to be held annually on the first Monday in February, which will be Monday, February 6 next year.

“St Brigid has many strong connections with Offaly, and personally I would like to see the official opening of Esker Arts Centre around then,” he said.

In recent weeks, testing has been carried out on the acoustics in the 228-seat auditorium at the new arts centre and Conor Brady described the sound as “second to none”.

The new facility also has an open-air amphitheatre, gallery space on two floors, workshops, changing facilities, rehearsal spaces, a coffee shop and a theatre bar.

One of the first major theatrical events to be staged in the new Esker Arts Centre will be the Tullamore Musical Society production of Bryan Flynn’s musical masterpiece ‘Michael Collins – A Musical Drama” which is due to open on April 29, 2023.

Chairperson of the Musical Society, Colin Hughes, said recently that they were “beyond excited” to begin this new chapter with the society and he thanked Conor Brady for the role he played in “making this move happen” and said the local society “can’t wait to get started in our new home.”

“There is a lot to look forward to in Tullamore over the coming weeks and months,” said Conor Brady, who confirmed that the keys to the eagerly-awaited arts centre are due to be formally handed over “in the next couple of weeks”.