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09 Dec 2021

Kilkenny's Barnstorm celebrates bringing magic to audiences for thirty years

Kilkenny's Barnstorm celebrates bringing magic to audiences for thirty years

Philip Hardy, Anna Galligan and Vincent Dempsey

Thirty years ago, a driving vision founded Barnstorm Theatre Company in 1991.
The company was founded by Philip Hardy and who remains at the helm to this very day, working alongside Vincent Dempsey and Anna Galligan.
For much of their time Barnstorm’s home was tucked behind St Canice’s Cathedral but in recent times they have moved to the Home Rule Club, where they are operating from for now.
Barnstorm’s vision is that everyone has a right to a cultural identity, to a heritage borne from one’s past but one that moulds one’s future; that theatre’s purpose was to serve its community, to reflect and challenge; and to tell great stories!
In its 30 years of working from its home in Kilkenny, Barnstorm has pioneered work for children and young people, for communities and for adults through its various strands of work. It has achieved this through dedication and the support of others; in collaborations and partnerships; in pushing boundaries, challenging the work and offering opportunities to others to develop their practice.
Barnstorm is an integral part of the rich artistic tapestry that is woven into Kilkenny life and it has brought joy and creativity to both its audiences, it actors and the thousands of young people who are alumni of their youth theatre.
Some of the work that Barnstorm is involved in is:
Theatre for Young Audiences – commissioned and produced for children over four and eight to 12 year-olds.
- Youth Theatre – exploration of theatre arts for young people 11 to 18 years.
- Adult Theatre Club – training in theatre for adults.
- Barn Owl Players – local productions for local audiences.
- Curriculum Play Live for students and local audiences.
- Creative Schools Programme through the Arts Council with local schools.
- Kilkenny Arts Festival Family Programme.
Following on from the challenges of an 18-month lockdown, and to celebrate 30 years of success, the team at Barnstorm plan to present their most ambitious programme in 2022 and 2023 with a national tour of the highly successful and pertinent play Alice and the Wolf by Tom Swift this autumn.
Earlier this year the company presented new writing from Kilkenny online and through Zoom. The live version of the 10 plays, Love in Lockdown Parts One and Two, will be presented in Barnstorm’s new studio on John’s Quay this autumn.
World Premiere
Looking forward Barnstorm will present the world premiere of a new installation-style play for families presented in unusual places. Swansong is written by Shane O’Reilly and will appear in Kilkenny in early March.
A major success from 2016 is The Messenger by Mike Kenny, which was specially commissioned as part of the Decade of Centenaries and this too will tour extensively in Ireland in autumn 2022.
Philip Hardy, Artistic Director of Barnstorm Theatre, said that the youth theatre ‘ always amazes with its daring and challenging productions’ and outlined that they will present several projects, including a promenade production in association with Butler Gallery of three plays specially commissioned from young Kilkenny writers in the summer of 2022.
Also in development is an adaptation of an Irish novel for production in 2023 which will challenge theatre form and style.
Alongside this is a large-scale community theatre project that will be developed over 18 months for production in summer 2023 based on an element of Kilkenny history.
“We continue to work closely with local theatre groups, especially the Barn Owl Players, in making exciting experiences for local audiences such as Lunchtime Theatre in our new studio space in the new year and the Curriculum Play Live which will explore Shakespeare for the Leaving Cert play,” said Mr Hardy.
Barnstorm Theatre Company, in association with other stakeholders in Kilkenny, are searching for a new black-box theatre space to serve the performing arts sector throughout the county. This will be an adaptable 120-seat theatre which will act as a hub for existing local talent and the nurturing of new artists for the theatre.
Barnstorm has a core staff of three - Philip Hardy founder and Artistic Director, Vincent Dempsey CEO/General Manager and Anna Galligan Participation & Education - but there are many artists and associates that go to realise a full annual programme of theatre; and a Board of Directors to oversee operations (2021 Seamus Greene, Mags Whitely, Tony Walsh, Malcolm Noonan TD, Mary Cody, and Claire Noonan).
And what of the future? Theatre has been a thriving part of Kilkenny’s arts, cultural and economy for generations. New and exciting artists grow and take the helm; and stories will always be shared.
Hopefully Barnstorm will continue to contribute to the performing arts sector over the coming years!

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