Petition - An Bealach Nua
Recognition to be included
The aim of the document Values and Principles for Collaboration and Partnership-Working with the Community and Voluntary Sector at a Local and National Level is to provide Government Departments, Local and Regional Government Agencies of the State, and organisations in the Community and Voluntary Sector with an agreed set of the values and principles to be utilised as the foundation for all collaborative and partnership efforts with communities & organisations of the community. It specifically states:
"Building active participation involves a recognition that policies and programmes targeted at communities and groups will not and cannot be effective without the meaningful participation of those communities in their design, implementation and monitoring."
The An Bealach Nua project has ignored this recognition and are planning to submit their proposal without any discussion with the local community, the business or creative sectors. Signing this petition will hopefully allow the community to have their voices heard.
What is the An Bealach Nua Project?
Originally, the Western Development Commission (WDC) and Roscommon County Council (RCC) collaborated on a technical support fund to commission a Feasibility Study - Business Plan back in 2017-2018 into the establishment of a permanent flagship Creative Hub in Ballaghaderreen. This led to the An Bealach Nua project. In October 2018 a funding application to the Rural Regeneration & Development Fund (RRDF) saw a grant of €1.7m being awarded to to the refurbishment of a derelict building in The Shambles (An Bealach Social Innovation + Inclusion Lab with Integrated Family Resource Centre) and the renovation of an industrial unit in the Ballaghaderreen Business Park (Creative industries/creative tech enterprise and education space). For some unknown reasons this project was kept from certain stakeholders. When directed by Eddie Forsyth, Rural Fund & Corporate Support, RRDF, to forward an overview, the information was still kept from stakeholders. Even though this is a community project funded by the RRDF it took a Freedom of Information request to disclose the full details. The project in itself was admirable, however, none of the protocols laid out in it seemed to be followed.
For example, three of the seven Project Partners - GMIT, WDC, & GRETB - informed us they were never partners, but only agreed to support the development of the project. The Strategic Advisory Group, which was put in place to ensure the effective delivery of the project on-time and within budget, who were to meet three times per annum, never met once in the four years from 2019 - 2022. The project was to be completed in January 2020, but is now over three years late and has almost doubled in price. The RRDF withdrew the funding in 2020 due to the fact that project had changed dramitically and would cost substantially more. The new round of funding opens in November 2023, closing in early 2024. The An Bealach Nua board without any consultation with the Project Partners, or the local community decided all by themselves to construct a brand new building to incorporate the project - or did they?
Two train of thoughts emerge!
Thought one: if the newly proposed building is basically a space to host the original project, then there may not be a need for a new feasibility study - we simply accept the one from 2017-2018. It may be suggested that this is now out of date and the needs required for the citizens of Ballaghaderreen and the surrounding areas have changed. Let's say that is not the case and nothing has changed, and we accept that the new build will host the 2018 proposal.
Thought two: if anything were to change from the original 2018 proposal, then it will be considered a new application and a new feasibility study is required to support these changes. As part of any new feasibility study the Values and Principles for Collaboration and Partnership-Working with the Community and Voluntary Sector at a Local and National Level need to be taken into account. In other words, the voices of the local community and creative sector.
In October 2020 a new Scope of Services (Multi-disciplined consultancy services necessary for the realisation of An Bealach Regeneration Projects in Ballaghaderreen, Co. Roscommon) was put out for tender, which was won by Collins Boyd Engineering. It was an exact replica of the initial proposal, except to be housed in a brand new building to be constructed on the Fair Green, situated next to St. Nathy's College.
However, somewhere in the space of four months - between August 2021 and December 2021 - the scope of the project changed. The Integrated Family Resource Centre was no longer part of the project. Since then, it has also come to light that the Community Kitchen, the Ceramic Studio, the FabLab, and the Events Hall are nowhere to be seen on the new plans. (check them out here at Roscommon Planning Office). The original 2018 plan included a Film Studio with GRETB been very clear in their needs: To deliver the next generation of digital skills and training courses in filmmaking, film production, visual FX and the business of film production, specialist facilities are required. These facilities also seem to have disappeared and been replaced by a Virtual Stage - a circular bank of LED screens 14.5m in diameter, 6m high, and covered over with more screens. Why?
The Right to be Heard
This may be a brilliant idea and the five members of the An Bealach Nua board are visionaries (not one of them have any expertise in the creative sector), but here at Black Hole Studio we have not heard of anyone from the region ever saying, "You know what we need for film in this area, a gigantic one-of-a-kind LED Screen."
Filmmakers have mentioned a film studio with proper facilities, a sound stage, a green-screen stage, and even motion capture technology...but never once have we heard talk of a virtual stage. Apart from learning how to use this new technology, we fail to understand how this Virtual Stage will benefit the region, especially at the price it will cost to construct. We believe this money could be spent in a much better way, but only if the An Bealach Nua board are prepared to give the community a voice.
This petition is to have the right for the creative sector and the rest of the local community to be informed of the An Bealach Nua plans and for a proper discussion to take place to find out if these plans are what is needed by the community. It will be handed in to the Roscommon Arts Officer, the Creative Heartlands Project and the An Bealach Nua board before the submission opening in November 2023.
Have your say!
By signing the petition you add yourt name to request a discussion about the An Bealach Nua project.
You agree that your details will be forwarded to the Roscommon Arts Office, the Creative Heartlands Project, and the RLP / An Bealach Nua board.