Limerick's renowned Belltable Arts Centre re-opened on Thursday night with a street party and a rousing chorus of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah to welcome the return of one of the city's most valuable supporters of the arts.

Limerick’s bid for European Capital of Culture 2020 is likely to receive a boost with the return of the venue to the city centre.

The Lime Tree Theatre have signed a five-year lease with the local authority to run Belltable on a permanent basis and it has been given the all clear to use the name Belltable, after finally emerging from a lengthy litigation process.

The newly revitalised venue will now host a wide range of arts events to extend and complement the programme at the Lime Tree Theatre.

The offices in the former Credit Union building have been refurbished and will provide office space, rehearsal space, hot-desks and administration services to emerging, mid-career and established artists who want to create, develop and make new work.

Speaking at the re-launch on  Thursday evening, Deputy Mayor of Limerick, Cllr Ger Mitchell, said: “The Belltable is Ireland’s oldest regional arts centre and holds a special place in the hearts of the people of Limerick so I’m delighted that its future is secure and a new artistic vision has been realised.

“I want to congratulate and pay tribute to those who developed this resource with a partnership approach between the local authority and the Lime Tree Theatre. I look forward to visiting many events at the new Belltable and the venue playing a key role in facilitating, supporting and enabling Limerick artists to create new work.”

Sheila Deegan, Arts and Culture Officer, Limerick 2020, said the re-launch means that the Belltable will once again be at the centre of arts development and practice in the city.

“Limerick values the importance of places for people to meet, connect and to exchange ideas,” she said. “The re-launch of the Belltable with the added rehearsal and office space is key to building capacity of creative practitioners in Limerick, particularly as we enter the final stages of our bid to become European Capital of Culture 2020."

Brid Dukes cuts the ribbon at the re-opened Belltable 

Special guest at the re-opening was Bríd Dukes, who is the Founding Artistic Director of the Belltabl“I am delighted that this venue is opening again after a period when it was in abeyance," she said. "I am even more delighted that the come-back is under the original name as the Belltable.

"I remember keenly the first opening in the early eighties - the blood, the sweat, the mortally injured vacuum cleaners and the transfixing joy and pleasure that Limerick  City at last had the arts venue it so richly deserved. I wish the Belltable the very best for the future.”

The Belltable, which was founded in 1981 and became a centre for the arts in the city, went into liquidation three years ago following financial problems but has re-opened under a new service agreement with Limerick City and Arts Council.

Click on the audio link to hear Belltable's new programme director Marketa Dowling discuss the re-opening.