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History of Tramway Theatre, Blessington
(compiled by Blessington & District Theatre Company)
In 1999, the 48-member Blessington & District Forum took an active interest in a new town centre and extensive housing development in Blessington.  They subsequently worked hand in hand with the developer, Cookehill Ltd. to achieve sustainable development within the town.   For the greater good of the community, a proposed Theatre site within the development was handed back to Cookehill in return for the discounted and expedited construction of a 16-classroom school and a co-located theatre.  The theatre area would be used by the school as a general purpose room during normal school hours, although much larger than the standard general purpose rooms of a school.   Outside of normal school hours the area is for the use of the Theatre Company in the running of its business; a Memorandum of Understanding is in place between both parties.

A feasibility study including a needs analysis was conducted to assist Blessington & District Forum in their decision to proceed with a dual purpose theatre or not.   Its findings clearly highlighted not just the lack, but the absence of a suitable venue in West Wicklow to encourage participation in the arts.  A VMOST analysis resulted in the following:
Vision:
A theatrical facility to encourage local youth and adult participation in the Arts whilst attracting high quality artists and groups.
Mission:
Provide a state of the art Theatre for stimulation and development of the Arts with access and participation by all sections of the Blessington and surrounding community.
Objectives:
Provide an artistic outlet for children, teenagers and adults.
Drive a higher participation rate in the arts.
Introduce an artistic and entertainment venue.
Strategy
Arrange regular events to maximise interest and participation in the Arts.
Tactics:
Encourage annual school plays (primary & secondary).
Facilitate local artistic schools and community groups.
Arrange regular theatrical events, including Drama, Dance, Music,
Visual Arts, Children's and Family entertainment.
Present various high quality artists and shows.

As we proceeded, an architect and theatrical consultant were engaged to design a dual purpose theatre.   For several years we met with the developer, architects, engineers, project managers, theatrical consultants, the Department of Education and Diocesan Trust representatives resulting in a planning application and detailed drawings.   That design provided for a 200 seat theatre with 156 of those on a retractable rack system and the remainder on a balcony.   In addition, it provided for all the necessary services and facilities required for theatrical productions including control room to the rear of the balcony, foyer, toilets, en-suite dressing rooms, scene dock and a servery.  The completed theatre space was handed over in 2007; however, while it would serve the needs of a school general-purpose area, it still required to be fitted-out as a theatre with sound and lighting infrastructure, drapes, communications etc.  This would require Blessington & District Theatre Company Limited to embark on an expensive fit-out requiring much fundraising and/or grant assistance.  A very detailed application for ACCESS II funds was rejected.  Fundraising continued with partial fit-out as affordable and we provided initially basic dressing rooms, some electrical wiring in preparation for lanterns and a few drapes.

There was a major fundraising event in 2008 - the Mock Wedding.

   The Blessington Society Wedding of the Year

The Wedding of Ms. Britnee Ravin
Daughter of
Mr. Augustus (Gus) Ravin and Mrs. Annuciata Ravin
To
The Right Honourable Earl of Hempstown
Lord George C. Looney
Son of
The Duke and Duchess of Hempstown
Sir Edwin Looney and Lady Edwina Looney

On Saturday, 1st March 2008
In The New Forum Theatre, Blessington
At 6.00pm Sharp

Followed by a Reception in
The Avon Ri, Blessington

“How Marriage ruins a man!
It is as demoralising as cigarettes and far more expensive”.
Oscar Wilde

This event effectively kick-started our major fund-raising activity and allowed us move to the next stage.
In 2009 we secured Leader funding of €47,009 for Phase 1 of our fit-out project totalling €67,156 to install a Truss grid over the stage area for the purposes of supporting lighting and drapes, installing the technology for operating the lights, namely a control desk and dimmer system, fitting theatrical drapes, and black-out blinds and an access control system.  This truss grid removed the need to use ladders for working at height on the lighting and drapes and added to the overall safe operation of the theatre.  With extra fundraising, forty eight extra seats were installed in the gallery.  This was the basis of a theatrical infrastructure for the Theatre Group in developing the arts.
       
In 2010, we secured Leader funding of €63,000 for Phase 2 of the fit-out project totalling €84,000 so lots of fundraising and voluntary labour was required to make up the difference.  We have now installed a top of the range sound system and all of the trunking and cabling infrastructure, some additional lighting equipment and other ancillary items.

With this fit-out, performers no longer require the hiring of expensive equipment and the safety challenges of installing it.  It makes this venue attractive and affordable to local users and groups while enabling us to attract performers of a higher standard.  It’s therefore well justified and we hope you enjoy it.   We have promoters, schools of speech and drama, dance and music making enquiries about bookings which is most rewarding and a clear message that this is truly a significant community development.

An immense gratitude is due to all those who volunteered their time over the past two years, whether fundraising, staffing events, contributing financially or with their time and skills.  In particular, a vast amount of voluntary labour has been provided over the past two years as we completed the fit-out.  This was a necessity due to the absence of cash and thankfully accepted by County Wicklow Partnership as part of the Leader application, without whose support, the fit-out of this amazing facility could not have been achieved.

We look forward to welcoming you to the Tramway Theatre at some time in the future, either as patron or performer.