The sun glistened on Birr Theatre last Thursday evening as members of Offaly Youth Dance and Offaly Youth Theatre busied about excitedly with final preparations for a performance for the Director of the Arts Council, members of Offaly County Council, Marcella Corcoran Kennedy TD, Pat Gallagher County Manager and an audience of artists, performers, writers and more. All were gathered for the launch of Offaly County Council’s new Arts Plan for 2012-2016, entitled Question, Connect, Imagine, Reflect.
The event was opened by a stunning series of performances by Offaly Youth Theatre, the final of which, clad in masks, they devised themselves. Arts Officer Sinead O’Reilly said, “We felt it was really important that we celebrate youth arts at this launch, so that we can clearly demonstrate the value of planning for the arts”
The plan which was devised from a series of public meetings and project evaluations over the past few years, was adopted by Offaly County Council at their April meeting. Speaking at the launch, Cllr Danny Owens Cathaoirleach of Offaly County Council said: “The arts are what help to build the character of Offaly; they help make us distinctive, proud and innovative. This plan is for everyone in the county, yes it sets out our leadership but it invites and encourages your ownership and your participation and your appreciation. We will constantly strive to achieve this, and as a council to support and celebrate the creative and cultural uniqueness of Offaly.”
County Manager, Pat Gallagher remarked “Culture and the arts has become one of the pillars of sustainability in public planning, one that is more about sustainability, social engagement and well- being. However, we cannot ignore the fact that we are in the midst of an extremely difficult financial climate, but we do know that the arts are credited to contributing to a growth in innovation and cultural tourism, so it cannot be at the periphery of our services.”
Director of the Arts Council Orlaith McBride, called Offaly “a blue chip county” when it comes cultural development. She congratulated the council on its strategic focus on flagship projects such Youth Arts, FilmOffaly, Anam Beo and for forging ahead with the new Tullamore Community Arts Centre. She spoke also of the important partnership role between Local Authorities and the Arts Council, and how in 2016, culturally there will be much to celebrate in Offaly, the national centenary and two decades of a dedicated local arts service.
A copy of the Arts Plan can be obtained from Offaly County Council Arts Office 057 9357400 or downloaded on www.offaly.ie/arts.