Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Town Hall

Late last Saturday night i was mooching around Facebook when I came across this blog post about the closure of the Town Hall in Trim to public performance due to a safety report that had been carried out on the building in the previous months. As a result groups such as the local drama and musicals were left virtually homeless over night.
Over the coming 48 hours, through the power of Social Media, a Facebook group was set up and through that a gathering was arranged to protest to the local council at their monthly meeting. A large crowd assembled at the County Council offices to make their feelings known.
I attended the Council meeting where the local Cllr's overwhelmingly gave their support to the groups, promising to help them with alternative arrangements while a source of funding could be sought for the restoring of the Hall to a safe condition.
The problem I foresee is accessing that funding in these times, which will be more than difficult. The greatest tragedy of this is the fact that Ireland and Trim have gone through the greatest period of economic prosperity ever witnessed in the State and yet funds could not be found to maintain a building which all local residents, whether artists or not have very fond memories.

For those who don't know Trim well, it is a heritage town with a strong heritage dating back over a thousand years. There are no shortage of amenities in the town and there are activities for most people whether they be of a sporting nature or an artistic one. Most have been built on the sweat and tears of individuals who have given up decades in a volunteer capacity to put Trim firmly on the map. They are to be commended in the absolute.
I tried to form a group 12 months ago to give an added dimension to the town but there was little support after a positive start, but that's how things go. I also tried to engage with people of influence over bringing a film festival to the town, but after being left standing alone for arranged meetings and the promise of phone calls that never came, that too went by the wayside. With links to films such as the Oscar winning Braveheart, the cult classic Fatal Deviation and The Big Red One dating back almost 30 years now, one would think there was something there to be built upon and if I personally have anything to do with it, it will happen someday.

I entered filmmaking a few years back. The trials are documented here from Day 1. Apart from the support of John Kiely - a local publican - there hasn't been much to shout about. There's a TV Channel in Navan with a license to broadcast, yet it broadcasts very little. It's not like the means are not there if anyone was actually serious about getting something up and moving to build on the films already made around the town and county as a whole. Eventually when I finally get moving I hope to film in comedy/drama and documentaries. They are the genre's that interest me. But as I have well documented on my writing blog, all attempts to engage with bodies such as the Dept of Social Welfare, VEC, Meath Partnership to name but a few, leaves one who deems themselves pro-active in their unemployment scratching their head at times.

As someone who is interested in documentary filmmaking it makes me inquisitive by nature. For those who know Trim, the Town Hall is situated on Castle Street, which houses our biggest claim to fame, Trim Castle. When I was young we used to be able to play pitch and putt and roam the grounds freely. These days - with the exception of the odd day when it's free to enter the grounds as a Trim person - you have now to pay for the privilege.
The street in question has been subject to a visual and environmental assault - not my words - over the past ten years with the controversial building of apartments and a new hotel. I'll be honest, I'm all in favour of change and progress, but Trim has long labeled itself as a heritage town, which has been at times I feel not a great thing when it comes to a jobs supply. The building of the hotel sort of went against the grain of this claim.

This week I did a little digging based on the location of where the Town Hall is located. It's a prime piece of property and with the Hall in complete disrepair it is hard to see a future for it. The one thing that must never be allowed to happen in my opinion is another eye sore appearing there in its place whenever that times comes.
In 2004, the privately funded Centre for Public Inquiry did a report concerning the building of the hotel. The CPI was disbanded shortly thereafter after pressure from the serving Fianna Fáil government. Mary 'Cuticles' Harney said at the time, 'the idea of some group of citizens setting themselves up with absolutely no justification to the wider public is absolutely sinister and inappropriate.' Page 3 of this article.
It's a great article and from the angle it comes from had the CPI been allowed to continue, the corruption that was allowed to go on in Anglo that was to the detriment of every citizen of this country for the next generation might not have been as disastrous.
I looked to get my hands on the report this week but it seems to be now offline. I contacted An Taisce - Ireland's National Trust - three times this week asking for advice on how to get my hands on a copy of the report. The trust, as the link above will tell welcomed the report. But then in a PDF showing off aspects of our beautiful country that welcoming seems to have been abandoned with the inclusion of the hotel in it. All emails have remained unanswered at the time of writing. I've made further inquiries and to my joy it seems that there are still copies out there somewhere so hopefully I may get to see it sometime soon.

For me, and I speak for no-one else, to let the Town Hall go into the state it is in today was a disgrace. But if we are to move forward there seems little sense in playing the blame game. What happens from now on is what is important.
Whatever the future holds for it, I believe that the Arts and the groups facilitated at the Town Hall for the last 30 years should remain central in the town. The town center is the heart of the town and all artistic endeavor should be central to that, if for no other reason than to preserve the historical and cultural importance of the building and not let it be subjected to 'modernization' in the future years as we have seen happen over the past ten.

Time, like everything, will tell.