7. The Arts Information Office


Venue: Parliament Street, Ennistymon. Employer. Youth Employment agency. Period: June 5- Sept. 7, 1984


The proposal for an Arts Office in Ennistymon is summarised as follows:

That an Arts Office be established in the town during the months June-August to assist in the administration of the Ennistymon '84 project.

That five young people from the area be employed to run the office.

That the office could be the forerunner to the Community Office proposed for the Community Centre in that those employed would receive training in community services and organisation.

That the office could also double as a tourist information centre for the town and carry out a survey and/or questionnaire of tourists.

That an information booklet and tourist trail be provided for the town.

That the staff would be involved with assisting at all levels of the Visual Arts Festival; i.e. installation of exhibitions and displays, invigilation, publicity, general information, etc.

That the committee's co-ordinator, being unemployed for the period, would be prepared to work on a full-time basis as office supervisor.

That a centrally-located premises with a good front and sufficient space would be leased as an office- cum-exhibition venue.


A visit was made to the National Manpower Officer in Ennis, who in turn advised that an application be made to the Youth Employment Agency. This was done, and the proposal was further referred to an office called 'Grant Scheme for Youth Employment', at the Depart- ment of Labour.

Towards the end of March, John Doorty visited this office and found the meeting both helpful and encouraging. The scheme discussed provided a wage grant for the employment of youth and a materials grant for the furnishings of the project. It transpired that the materials grant for this type of scheme would be based on a percentage of the total wages grant. So, to increase the materials grant an extra employee was added to the proposal, changing the overall figures as follows:

5 employees at £60 per week for 14 weeks.


1 supervisor at £90 per week for 14 weeks.



Materials Grant


Craft Grant





One area of the proposed scheme which loomed darkly at this stage was that of the PAYE/PRSI deductions. It was suggested that someone locally should be approached for assistance on this matter-apparently the Y.E.A. does not feel obliged to help with this side of things. (Ultimately it proved quite a headache for the Arts Office Staff).

Anyway, from this meeting John was instructed to contact Manpower for suitable clients from the live register, interview them, get insurance, and the proposal would then be formally considered.

During April time was spent in trying to secure suitable people for the Arts Office. In this much assistance was given by the local Employment Exchange officer. While Manpower could have made a selection of candidates on a county-wide basis, it was felt that the ideal for this community project would be to employ young people from the community, so a list was sent from Ennistymon to Manpower. Finally, a recommended list of eight names for interview was returned by manpower on May 1.

John Doorty, co-ordinator of the Ennistymon '84 committee and supervisor of the Arts Information Office


Two weeks later, six people turned up for the interviews which were held by John Doorty, our administrator Una, and Pat O'Doherty, a member of the committee.

Even at this stage the interview board wasn't quite clear as to what sort of people it was looking for, though office skills, carpentry, and some interest in the arts project itself were considered the main guidelines. On the day, one candidate had some experience with book-keeping and accounts, one was a carpenter, and one had management training. It seemed that a good cross-section had finally been found.

The following day, the grant form was filled in and sent off post-haste, and insurance was organised through Mid-West Arts.

The Arts Office staff with some members of the V.S.I work camp


A good deal of time was spent in locating a suitable premises. It was generally agreed that it should be on Main Street, and have a pleasing front; but despite the number of vacant premises in the town the possibilities gradually diminished either because the asking rent was too high or because the legal owners were unavailable.

A verbal agreement was then reached with an officer of the local Credit Union to use part of their building on the market-square, and it was planned to open the Arts Office there on May 28. However, just four days short of this date it transpired that these premises would not be available, and so the starting date was put back to June


Heads were scratched long into the following nights. Finally a premises was secured on Parliament Street. Formerly a furniture store-the property of Mr. Joe Roughan the place was off the Main Street, but nonetheless spacious and with a small office attached, and also adjacent to two important venues: The Community Centre and the Monastery Hall. The main area would be partitioned off to create an exhibition space/ workroom, and the small office would be used by our administrator, instead of the room at the Library which she had used up to this.

All these plans were made before the scheme was officially sanctioned by the Y.E.A., but the realisation was that now, at last, the Arts Office was ready to function. The newly installed telephone sat on the floor, waiting. 


Describing the daunting responsibility of the Arts Office, John recalls: ".... Una and I stood in the 'office' on the morning of June 5, full of apprehension; neither of us, if the truth be known, wishing to be there."

The staff rolled in, introductions were made, and sleeves were rolled up in anticipation. By the end of the first day, the 'borrowed' elements of the office were in place-typewriter, filing-cabinet, tables and chairs and it looked as if things would work out well.

Oh to be so lucky!

First of all, confirmation of the Y.E.A. scheme did not come through until a fortnight after the opening, which meant that wages for the first paying week had to come out of the Ennistymon '84 funds. This, of course, was later refunded.

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, the confusion of roles at administration level-brought on by the presence of the Arts Office-led to inconsistencies in the working of the office and also personal differences between the organisers. The confusion arose from the fact that Una's role as administrator of the project for Mid-West Arts overlapped with John's roles as co- ordinator of both the Arts Office and the general committee. Matters weren't helped by the fact that John was unavailable for most of the first two weeks due to teaching commitments and Una was left to manage all

affairs. It may also be significant that most of the Arts Office staff were actually earning more than the professional administrator.

In the office itself, a definite programme of work was lacking from the start. Work basically consisted of erecting the partition, getting the place re-wired, making posters, setting up a filing system, getting in some typing practice, painting the floor, washing the windows and generally cleaning up. And while ultimately there was lots to be done, it seems on retrospection that too many people were employed too soon in advance of the August Festival.


By the evening of June 26, 1984 the premises on Parliament Street had been knocked into acceptable shape. With the office now transferred next door, the partitioned area-suitably painted and well-lit-made a good exhibition space. On the walls hung an exhibition of Religious Icons from the Boys Training Centre, Mervue, Galway. And on the tables, bottles of wine generously donated by local publicans.

Noel Crowley, Co. Librarian, performed the official launching in front of a healthy mixture of Co. Council officials, business people, 'cultural attaches' from the region, international volunteers, AnCo trainees and the Plain People of Ireland.

In the midst of the opening speech, there was a telephone call from Denmark.

The Arts Office was launched.


In the original proposal it was suggested that as well as assisting with the arts project and Festival, the office would also assume the role of tourist information centre for the town.


At a point when lack of work and direction were leading to a certain amount of frustration, John decided to attack this idea by compiling an information poster to be called "84 Reasons To Be In Ennistymon". The poster would include photographs old and new, historical information and interesting snippets on the town.

The staff were sent off in all directions to gather information, and a local artist was asked to come up with a design. But progress was slow. In retrospection, the reasons for this seem to be two-fold:

(a) The Arts Office was at a great disadvantage in not having suitably skilled people involved in the pro- duction; and

(b) As the Ennistymon '84 project picked up momentum, the day-to-day business became more concerned with the imminent arts events, and the poster idea was overshadowed by these.

In the end a poster entitled "Ennistymon-Place and People" (sponsored by Textlite, Ennistymon) was completed, it being a modified version of the "84 Reasons". And while the photos, information and general idea were good, the finished product was disappointing from the printing point of view and could be improved in the future. Nonetheless sales continue albeit rather slow- ly and the evidence suggests that a tourist and community information office could be of great benefit to the town, particularly during the Summer months.

Eleanor, Aine and Ann demonstrating the ups and downs of the arts office...


One of the arguments put forward in favour of the Arts Office was that the voluntary committee would not be able to maintain a sufficiently high level of activity during the Summer months. This proved essentially true as the artists and business people on the committee obviously rely heavily on Summer trade for their existence. Even the lure of a sun-soaked beach was temptation beyond endurance.

On the other hand it seems that both the Arts Office and the full-time administrator worked increasingly indepen- dent of the committee, in that decisions now tended to be made on the spot rather than through the formalities of the committee. Perhaps this was the only way to run the project as it moved into the 'Big League'. Nonetheless many committee members were left behind, and no doubt were disillusioned, maybe even angered, that control of THEIR community project was uncontrolably slipping away.

Ideally, regular briefing sessions should have been held between the Arts Office staff, the administrator, and the project committee. Ideally, the local committee should never have been in any way alienated from its goal.

However, ideals often melt away in the heat of the noon-day sun...


Apart from the four exhibitions and lecture which were organised in the Arts Office, the other main functions of the office included:

Preparation of venues and exhibitions.

Invigilation at exhibitions.

Booking centre for workshops, concerts and bus- tour.

Committee meetings from June 14.

Postcard project-all designed and executed locally by children, adults and artists; and sold for 10p each. Assembly point and base for members of Voluntary Service International workcamp.

Visitor centre.

Sponsorship collection of wine, food, adverts and materials.

Publicity-preparation and dispersion of posters, press releases, handouts, etc.

Accommodation list.

Framing of photos for display in pubs. Typing facilities.


Administrators office (i.e. Everybody's Office!). Storage of materials.

Back-up and resource for Sculpture Playground and Sculpture Garden projects.

Coffee and lots of aspirins.

Frank and Kevin of the Arts Office reaching new heights...


Perhaps the most satisfying part of the whole Arts Office project was the creation of a temporary, but independent, art gallery which competently managed four popular and successful exhibitions.

After the 'office' element had been moved next door, the space was cleared, cleaned, painted and suitably lit with spot-lights; and a large dull wall-space beside the equally large window was tastefully 'muralled' by Mike Fitzpatrick.

An indication of the success of the 'gallery' can be seen in the fact that the exhibitions by Manus Walsh and Mike Fitzpatrick both sold particularly well; especially the latter where a considerable amount of art-work was sold during the Festival.


John Doorty: "I have no doubt but that the Arts Office served the Ennistymon '84 project well, and contributed to the success of the whole project.

"My only misgivings are to do with the personal rewards gained by the staff".

"I was conscious of the achievements Mike Fitzpatrick was making with his ten lads, who all appeared to gain personally from the playground. The same didn't seem to happen for each individual in the Arts Office. Maybe this was due to the difference in duration of the two schemes, or maybe the lack of a singular goal. I don't know. I had hoped the 'Ennistymon-Place and People' idea would be the Arts Office achievement, but not everybody felt a sense of achievement in it.

I suppose the real achievement was the whole Ennistymon '84 project and the Arts Office was an integral part of the whole. Anything else would be too much to ask".

Exhibition of sculpture and paintings by Mike Fitzpatrick at the Arts information Office, August 13-31


Supervisor: John Doorty.


Eleanor Comber

Frank Gallery

Ann P. Neylon

Ann Gallery

Denis Hogan (replaced by Kevin Corry).

Professional advice and assistance:

Una McCarthy.

Special thanks to the following: Michael Petty

Mrs. Susan Vaughan

Michael Comber

Kathryn Comber

Noel Crowley, Co. Librarian

Ennistymon Library Staff

Des Nelson, National Manpower

Gerard McDonagh

Paddy Doherty

Mike Fitzpatrick

James Devitt

Enda Byrt, Ennistymon Voc. School

Manus Walsh

Clare Champion

McInerneys Supermarket

Hugh Gallagher, Dept. of Labour

Paddy Kelly, P & T.

Joe Roughan

Mrs. Anna Roughan

Marian Fitzgibbon

Bank of Ireland, Ennistymon Joe Wall

Community Centre Committee Colm Hayes, Printing Works Michael John Glynn

David Brown

Pat Barrett

Michael Marrinan

Phil Fahy

Mrs. Mary Haran

Michael Davoran

Mrs. Chris O'Malley

Voluntary Service International.

subs@thecourthousegallery.com April 15, 2024
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