This month Barnstorm Theatre Company celebrates 21 years serving the people of Kilkenny.
Back in 1991 with the support of Margaret Cosgrave of Kilkenny County Council Arts Office and Barry Lynch of Ossory Youth Services Barnstorm first poked its head out. “Theatre belongs to everybody and the origins of Barnstorm were based on that very premise. In the 1980s when I first started off as actor, theatre was an elitist pursuit. There were only a few regional companies like Druid and Red Kettle. I was a pup and wanted to shake up the system and I thought, well theatre belongs to everybody”, says founder Philip Hardy.
“I remember a patronising smile from older professionals; they claimed my vision was three or four theatre companies, not one theatre company, that you couldn’t do children’s theatre, adult drama, professional training, and community theatre and a youth theatre. But I was a pup and I said I would do it! Looking back now, twenty-one years on – well, we’ve done all that and are still doing it”.
Since 1991 Barnstorm Theatre Company has enjoyed 87 productions, 1,943 performances in local venues including The Watergate and The Barn in Barnstorm and in 56 venues nationwide. They have also visited three countries, including Wales and Japan. To date more than 500,000 children have seen a Barnstorm production. “Barnstorm is renowned for its children’s theatre because it tours the country and even in recent years has gone abroad. But the basis of Barnstorm is about serving local people, creating opportunities, often giving the first opportunities to adults and children to experience theatre”.
“There’s still so much to be done locally, that we have to channel our resources and in doing so, we must also look at the future of Barnstorm and theatre in Kilkenny by encouraging new artists and new audiences - children, teenagers, adults - for the theatre. There was a great supporter of Barnstorm in the early days, Peter V. Farrelly, who lovingly recorded six hundred years of theatre in Kilkenny book is called “600 Years of Theatre in Kilkenny 1366-1966”. The support of theatre in Kilkenny is not new, it’s been around so long – six centuries. So we must prepare Barnstorm for the take-over in the future by the likes of young usurpers like Liam Woodgate (age nine, featured) so that it continues serving Kilkenny. Here’s to the future,” he added.
Mayor Seán Ó hArgáin is holding a Mayoral reception this evening to celebrate Barnstorm’s 21 years serving the local community. A photo exhibition of Barnstorm Theatre Company’s productions will be launched in Loughboy Library on Friday at 4pm.