Published on October 6th, 2009 | by Darren Byrne9
Greystones Theatre – Ireland’s First BYOB Venue?
Is this the future of Irish venues? Or is it just a fresh approach to tackling the downturn?
Having commenced plans for a theatre and event space in the middle of the good times, completion of Greystones Theatre in Wicklow came at the worst moment – when Ireland was officially deemed to be in a recession. Complete novices to the game, husband and wife team Alan and Ramona Farrelly, knuckled down determined to make a go of it with what was fast becoming known as one of the best acoustic spaces in the country. Coupled with traditional new business problems and a general decline in spend, Greystones Theatre had to try hard and be proactive to keep afloat.
Declined funding from the Arts Council, the determination to bring quality Arts to the people became almost an obsession for Alan and Ramona and it began to take its toll. Originally most of its revenue came from late night music and DJ events which in turn covered the cost of traditional theatre, kids programs, community events and new live music. A group of local residents objected to the late nights because of noise problems. This, combined with a fall in revenue generated by late night events due to the general climate and also the difficulty in properly promoting events (because the Theatre was never sure of whether or not it would be granted a late licence which had to be applied for each month in advance) made things even harder.
With a genuine passion for the arts and live performances, Alan and Ramona were disappointed to see such great acts in the Theatre with small audiences. I myself had front row seats to see Juliet Turner with about 20 other people in attendance. I saw Director and Delorentos play to a half full house and even Duke Special’s wonderfully intimate set had seats to spare. Cathy Davey was wonderful and far too few people witnessed it.
What could they do?
They knew that people wanted to go out but were sitting in each others houses drinking; they knew that people couldn’t afford a complete night out anymore on a regular basis; they knew that if people could start to give theatre and live music a chance they would cherish it and want more – so what did they do? One of the boldest moves they could make, they got rid of their biggest revenue earner, Alcohol. Yes, they decided to no longer sell alcohol.
According to Alan Farrelly, the problem with being a licensed premises is that you are too restricted by regulation and law, getting rid of the license liberated the Theatre. Now with no license, people can bring their own alcohol, there is no closing time, so if the people want to hang around all night then great – people have somewhere to go thats affordable and they no longer have to meet in a friends house to drink.
Last weekend was the first time this was tested and it seems to have gone down well. Now plans are afoot to introduce multiple performances and exhibitions on the one night, an indoor Arts festival each weekend. Alan and Ramona:
Its all about the Arts and people enjoying themselves, becoming inspired and sparking something within them that might result in a positive change in their life. We remember one time we had a one man play, the Happy Prince and the Remarkable Rocket by Oscar Wilde, when we heard a bunch of 10 or so kids outside the Theatre who were shouting and horseplaying, the sort of behaviour that normally results in abusive language being hurled when they are asked to move on, but instead we invited them in to watch the play without charge. They sat there quietly with their chin in their hands totally engaged by the whole experience, at they end they all came over and individually thanked us and expressed their surprise at how much they really enjoyed it. Its these moments that make us want to go on.
How does it work? Well, according to the Theatre:
With this new departure, we will still offer the best of what’s out there in entertainment. Our BYOB policy requires you to become a member by emailing us your details and a request to become a member. We will issue all details of membership requirements and a detailed schedule of events coming up. Remember this is Your Theatre and your culture and taste is reflected here, please forward any suggestions and we’ll do all we can to bring it to you. We’d also like to remind anyone who doesn’t wish to sign up for the BYOB membership that our regular events are still open to all who just wish to come and experience them without alcohol. We will also be hosting absolutely no alcohol late night dance events which will require membership. We hope our new vision for the space excites your interest and look forward to welcoming you over the coming months.
Will it work?
Truthfully, I don’t know. I’m not sure anyone does. But I’m excited to see how it plays out. I would hate to see this venue, a fantastic amenity in our little town, falling to the wayside.
So, what’s on?
This week sees a great variety of events. Tonight, the superb Bruiser Theatre return to Greystones (I’m still talking about their performance of The Case of the Frightened Lady) with The Government Inspector. Thursday sees a visit from one of Ireland’s top folk singer/songwriters John Spillane. Darragh spoke to John in May this year. I loved his last couple of albums, so that should be fun.
Friday however, sees the much anticipated appearance of CODES. The band have played in the Theatre a couple of times before they made in big. Now, with the release of their debut album and in the middle of a national tour, they are bound to get a fantastic response.
Saturday, the Theatre will be showing the Ireland v Italy game live on the big screen, followed by live performances by Pushkin, Enemies and Bovine Frenzy with a DJ taking them into the wee hours.
Personal Note: I am obviously a huge fan of the Theatre. I live in the apartments right beside it and I have never experience a problem with noise. The Theatre, if successful, has the potential to be the single greatest feature in a great town.