Plan for outdoor amphitheatre at County Museum

The council will add to its already ambitious plans to develop Ireland’s first National Storytelling Centre at the County Museum by adding an outdoor performance space in the form of an impressive amphitheatre.

To fit with the natural sloping topography of the Ballyjamesduff site, it’s envisaged the outdoor space could cater for up to 200 visitors at a time, and will be used not just by the museum in engaging tours, but for theatrical and musical performances also.

Part VIII planning was signed off on by the members of the Ballyjamesduff Municipal District at their meeting on Monday (July 26) where Chair of the authority, Fine Gael’s Trevor Smith, formally proposed the motion to allow the project to proceed. Party colleague Winston Bennett seconded.

The members were provided with a brief presentation of what is being proposed, with Senior Executive Engineer for the area John McGahern guiding the elected members through a report drawn up by senior planner Nicholas O’Kane.

The meeting was informed that the tiered “amphitheatre”, semi-circle in shape, will “fit with the storytelling centre”, for which Part VIII planning was formally granted by the same MD back in October last year.

Mr McGahern said the proposal would be sensitive to the surrounding area, and “follow the contours” that exist within the sloping grounds of the museum.

The proposal was recommended with conditions attached, and the Part VIII planning notice will be published in due course.

The proposed single-storey, fully-serviced storytelling centre, planned at the rear of the existing museum, will incorporate an archive and recording area and will be linked by a new sheltered walkway and carpark.

In one of her last formal addresses before retiring later this week, Museum Curator Savina Donohoe said she and her staff had looked at a number of uses for the area before hitting upon the idea of creating a unique outdoor performance setting.

She said in a post-Covid environment, the focus had changed with local authorities across Ireland to explore how outdoor areas could be best incorporated for civic use.

“It will be a great facility to develop,” said Ms Donohoe, who paid tribute to the dedication and creativity of the staff working at the museum, and also the local community, who had been approached regarding the proposed development and had given their backing.

“It will be a facility that can be used in many different ways,” she added, crediting the foresight of the council in that, when the local authority purchased the former convent, it also bought 12 acres of land attached. “There is so much potential use.”