GALWAY'S CULTURAL landscape has just acquired a lively and impressive addition in The Black Gate Centre, on St Francis Street. Catering for music, literature, art, film, dance, and learning, it aims to be a home for the artist and a haven for art lovers.
A stone’s throw from the Town Hall Theatre, it is a perfect place for a pre- or post-show tipple or nibble with its selection of wines, food, coffee, music, and company. The guiding spirits behind the venue are Inish Bofin duo Peadar King and Eamonn Day Lavelle. A well-established musician, King is also one of the chief organizers of Bofin’s excellent Inish Arts Festival.
“We’ve been doing the Inish Festival for three years,” he says. “The idea for the festival came out of the time a few years ago when the west coast was hit by those big storms. Bofin was hit very badly, the old east pier was completely destroyed –it still is, the north beach was breached and it almost became two islands overnight. A lot of the past was destroyed in just five or six days.
"There was a strong sense that something needed to be done to assert an identity of place so the Inish Festival came out of that. It includes music, festival, literature, talks around ideas of isolation and insularity. We have a max of 250 people at the festival and we hold back 50 tickets for locals. Leaving it small means everybody can get to meet each other and talk with each other. Because of that and the artists staying over the four days lots of other projects come out of it. We have backing from universities in Ireland, the UK and US. The festival runs from June 1 to 4 this year.”
King goes on to tell me about the inspiration behind the Black Gate Centre: “This started with me and Eamonn, we’ve been best friends since we were kids. The name comes from that, the black gate was a traditional meeting place on Bofin, it was a convergence of three roads, Eamonn and myself used to meet there as kids on our way to school so it was our first meeting point. I’ve lived in Galway for 15 years and I always had a feeling I’d do something arts-related here.
"I spotted this building a few years ago and I saw its potential immediately. We liked there being three separate areas and I always loved the idea of a place that could host different events, and there aren’t many of those in Galway and this is a social space as well –we have our wine bar down the front and we serve food as well so people can come here any day or night of the week for a glass of wine a coffee and a chat but it can easily transform into a place to put on a show, screen documentaries, have talks.”
The centre has the same calibre of audio-visual equipment as NUIG and King has a special affection for showing documentaries. “I think it is a beautiful genre and many people are interested in seeing them in the right setting and you can have a discussion after a documentary,” he says. “I know lots of documentary makers who’d like to come here and I’d like to organise talks around them including the filmmakers. I’d love to take historical documentaries as well, such as Man of Aran, there is a lot of interesting documentary lore and archive on Ireland that other countries don’t have.”
The centre's top floor is an office space and King draws inspiration from Building 20 in Boston in his vision for the facility: “Building 20 was an MIT prefab where lots of different departments were in the same building and that sparked new thoughts and innovation in technology and concepts. Noam Chomsky was there for example. There are six desks in our office being used by people from different genres but who complement each other, eg, a film editor and graphic designer. The Building 20 story was one I liked a lot and I had it in mind when opening up here.”
The Black Gate Centre is open daily from 9am to 11.30pm.