Lights, camera, action. The old mantra from the world of celluloid illusions might soon be heard loud and clear here in Limerick city. Film addicts and cinema buffs alike may see their dreams of a film studio sited in their locality realized if Innovate Limerick, a company set up by Limerick City and County Council, gets its way.
For you see, Ardmore Studios, currently headquartered in Bray, Wicklow is running out of space, and it is looking to expand right here in our own very doorstep. The company’s eyeing up a gigantic 33,445sq metres (that’s about 340,000 square feet) building unit at Plassey Technological Park to fulfill its need for further studio space. That particular building was formerly occupied by Dell, and further back in yonder years, Wang Computers. The site was purchased by Limerick businessman PJ Noonan 12 years ago, and was leased to Limerick City of Culture last year as a dedicated events venue.
Ardmore Studios opened way back in 1958, and has evolved in sync with the times ever since. The studio has played host to a large number of productions over the years, both foreign and domestic. From episodes of Fair City to Braveheart and the stylish Excalibur, Ardmore is no stranger to fame and notoriety in the international circles.
Limerick is a city of many facets, but one that is sorely lacking is the presence of a large TV and cinema studio, one facility that can breathe life into the dreams of many, one focal point that can act as catalyst to spark the collective imagination of cinema fans the city over. It’s not for lack of local talent, mind you. The likes of Richard Harris, Liam Redmond, and Daragh O’Malley were all locally born and bred. And there is a wide array of amateur actors and filmmakers out there, scoping out projects, showcasing their stuff, hoping to make it big.
Furthermore, the city of Limerick enjoys great connectivity to the wider world; Shannon airport is only a stone throw away, and with comprehensive rail and bus links to the rest of the country, business trips in and out of Ireland would be a breeze.
The former Dell building is almost purpose-built for the job. While building a studio facility from scratch would take years, the mammoth size and roof height of the erstwhile manufacturing plant could be readily transformed into a dream factory in a matter of months, if not shorter.
The financial boost to the city in terms of jobs and the general economy cannot be underestimated. The studio itself would create about 750 new jobs, with many other ancillary jobs coming onstream in its wake; catering companies, supplies, entertainment, you name it. Limerick would get a new lease of life.
Besides, rumour has it that representatives from a major US film company have recently visited Ireland, looking for a studio to shoot a production early in 2016, and Limerick would be very much in their sights if the Ardmore expansion comes to pass.
We all hope for a rebirth of a city that has been being in somewhat of a decline over the last few years. Ever since the financial crash hit Irish shores, Limerick, as many other towns and cities across the country, has suffered badly in terms of unemployment and financial hardship. The arrival of a large and seasoned studio like Ardmore might herald the onset of a new epoch for the city on the Shannon.
And as the old movie goes, one might say that this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.