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A Big Thank You to Contributors to Renovation Fund

A Big Thank You to Contributors to Renovation Fund
28 October, 2016

Dr. Martin Caraher, Professor of Food and Health Policy at School of Arts and Social Sciences at the University of London said: “When living in Sligo in the 1980s I remember the Hawk's Well being built, it brought a novel and dynamic edge to the Sligo cultural scene at the time. It acted as a centre for many touring productions and performers seeing a venue that was not a pub. Additionally it provided a centre for local groups and bands seeking an outlet. 

On moving to Carrick-on-Shannon I used to travel regularly to see theatre and listen to music in the Hawk's Well. One of my abiding  memories is seeing Ray McAnally in a production of Tom Murphy's play the Gigli Concert.  This was soon after he had won a BAFTA  (1986) for his part in the film The Mission, the audience was riveted by his performance  which was in all senses of the word 'towering'. I spent many an evening in the Hawk's Well being exposed to music, theatre, dance and performances which still sit in my memory.  Now, sadly, since moving to London, my trips to the Hawk's Well are annual and usually coincide with the Sligo Live (Music) Festival. The last couple of years have seen me and my wife experience some amazing music concerts and exposed us to many performers we would not normally seek out or even know about; O'Hooley & Tidow and  No Crows stand out in this respect. Both groups with clear Sligo roots and links. 

Venues such as the Hawk's Well need our support and custom if we are to ensure regional communities have the opportunity to see and hear diverse and challenging programme of arts and entertainment and to provide a focus for local talent to grow and mature. For these reasons, what I have gotten from the Hawk's Well in the past and continue to receive I am  more than happy to contribute to the renovation fund. We need to support local and regional arts projects. “

John Banks from Coolera Dramatic Society said: “We in CDS are delighted to have a top class theatre on our doorstep where we have staged our annual Christmas Pantomime since 1982 and where we've also presented our one and three act plays over the years. It’s a lovely intimate Theatre with all the facilities one would expect.”


The theatre launched the renovation fund earlier in 2016 to ensure this vital resource for future generations. Having reviewed the current facility and conducted customer’s surveys, the theatre have identified key areas that need to be addressed. The Hawk’s Well Theatre was badly flooded in December just as the popular annual pantomime from Coolera Dramatic Society was about to start. The theatre is actually built on a 19th century culvert (underground water drain) and the extremely heavy rain in December 2015 meant that this drain in effect, overflowed and water began to seep up from the ground into the bottom of the auditorium. The show, of course, must go on and staff at the theatre along with members of Coolera Dramatic Society were busy pumping water from the auditorium right up to the opening of the panto. Over Christmas the theatre was flooded a second time with water from the flat roof seeping in through the walls, causing further damage to the carpets in the balcony and back of the auditorium and threatening the sound and lighting desks.

However the theatre will flood again unless major work is undertaken to the foundations.

Thirty-five years in operation has taken its toll on the building. Funding is needed to make essential improvement within the theatre and update the buildings appearance. Mobility-impaired patrons must enter around the back of the building and all patrons climb steps to enter the building at the front to then descend steps to get to the box office. Access within the theatre itself is also difficult, with only one position at the back for wheelchair users and no handrail at the sides to help patrons down steps. The theatre have recently looked into installing a rail for this purpose but unfortunately radiators make such an installation impossible so alternative solutions must be found. The foyer space is often cramped and dysfunctional. The 4 full-time, 14 part-time and 10 casual staff are working in cramped conditions with no room to expand and little storage facilities. The building front is tired and does not reflect the vibrancy of the theatre inside.

In order to fund such major renovations, the Hawk’s Well have applied for several capital grants, if successful, all grants require a high proportion of match funding. Donations will form part of this match funding to help achieve a theatre building that reflects the artistic and cultural vibrancy of the region. 

Since 1982 the Hawk’s Well has been at the cultural heart of Sligo and has enlivened and entertained the people of the region and beyond. The theatre is firmly rooted as a social and cultural hub in the North West. Over 52,000 customers came through the doors of the theatre in 2015 and the theatre hosted nearly 400 events – over 260 shows and many workshops and courses. 720 professional artists were supported by the theatre in 2015 and 2,145 local people performed onstage. Figures are set to surpass these again in 2016.
Few people realise that the theatre is a registered charity. Public funding only makes up an average of 35% of the theatre’s income and core funding has been significantly reduced over the past number of years. Public funding goes towards funding programming and paying artists and does not cover capital needs and costs. The theatre held a celebration night over the summer to raise money for the renovation fund which was hosted by Sligo actor Pauline McLynn and featured a host of performers who have been part of the theatre over its 34 years. To donate to the theatre please contact or visit

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