Creating Sligo’s First Age-Friendly Cultural Space
In a ground-breaking project, Sligo Age Friendly Alliance, I.T. Sligo and Hawk’s Well Theatre have come together to work towards creating Sligo’s First Age Friendly Cultural Space.
Age Friendly Ireland consulted with older people across Sligo and their research identified disaffection with accessing key buildings and services in Sligo town. The Hawk’s Well Theatre, is a significant Sligo institution that requires modernisation. The busy theatre hosted 376 events in 2015 with 51,297 ticket holders attending events. The current front entranceway steps prohibit wheelchair users and causes major problems for parents with child buggies & those with mobility issues. An alternative accessibility entrance is located on The Lungy but patrons find this side unwelcoming.
I.T. Sligo Architectural Design students accepted the challenge to transform the current accessibility point to a “V.I.P.” type entrance that would be welcoming and engaging to all visitors. The students were keen to design a practical and elegant solution so that all users may have the special experience that a trip to the theatre should represent.
Several months of research, field trips and presentations to students by Hawk’s Well Theatre culminated in an architectural competition. The judging panel comprised of ; Marie O’Byrne, Director Hawk’s Well Theatre, Sean Martin, Age Friendly Ireland Sligo and Rosaleen O'Grady, Cathaoirleach of Sligo County Council. Feedback was provided by Trevor McSharry, Head of Department in Civil Engineering and Construction at I.T. Sligo., Sarah Wetherald, Age Friendly Ireland, and representing theatre user experiences were Laurence Cassells, Sligo Stroke Support Group and Sandra Dooley representing parents with young children.
The student pitches were of the highest standard and creatively tackled issues such as; accentuating the narrow space to make it fully accessible for wheelchair and buggies, improving lighting, path surface, aesthetically upgrading the space to make it a V.I.P. style experience appealing to all generations. The students were judged on stringent criteria ensuring that the designs complements existing building and surroundings, could be implemented cost effectively, mindful of maintenance and that it could be reused once the extensive proposed renovation works of the theatre were completed.
The winning pitch was awarded to students Peter Hannon (Sligo), Abaigeal Doherty (Charlestown), Sinéad McGeehan (Glenties, Co. Donegal), Severin Schlesier (Ennis, Co. Clare). Their design utilised timber and coloured lighting to create an entrance that met age friendly criteria in terms of social engagement, safety, accessibility and signage.
As the populations of many nations grow older, experts predict the most successful, economically viable and vibrant communities of the future will be those that allow for and actively encourage greater mobility, productivity, optimal health and well-being. An age-friendly community works for residents of all ages and is also one in which leaders understand the needs and preferences of older adults.
“We were delighted to contribute the skills of the architecture programme to a live project for the local community. It is particularly worthwhile for the students to be part of a project that highlights the importance of accessibility for all users as well as demonstrating what a difference design collaboration can make in Sligo” commented Clíona Brady Lecturer Architectural Design/Interior Architecture & Design.
I.T. Sligo, Hawk’s Well Theatre and Age Friendly Ireland will now work towards securing the funding to implement the winning design as soon as possible. As well as continuing to work in collaboration with I.T Sligo and engaging with local businesses, the partnership will also appeal to local community groups such as men’s sheds and tidy towns for support in seeing this project through to fruition.
Hawk’s Well Theatre is a registered charity (charity no.17611) and public funding only makes up an average of 35% of the theatre’s income. The theatre relies on ticket sales and generous donations from individuals and companies to survive. To learn more about the renovation fund please visit www.hawkswell.com/support.