The Abbey Arts and Cultural Centre is situated at the top of the beautiful and ancient market town of Ballyshannon. It opened its doors originally as a cinema in 1959. It was taken into the ownership of Ballyshannon Town Council in the 1980’s and was managed by the Abbey Centre Trust which is also represented the interests of all the user groups. The Trustees were instrumental in developing and maintaining the Abbey Centre from the beginning and they oversaw a significant programme of investment to improve the building and the facilities in the centre. In 2005 the Abbey Arts Centre received Community Arts Status and is now classed as Community Arts Centre for South Donegal by Donegal County Council. The Centre’s broadly based artistic programme includes locally generated theatre, music, variety, community and youth performance, music education as well as visiting performance groups. The centre serves the local communities of South and West Donegal, Leitrim, North Sligo, Fermanagh & Tyrone with a rich programme of theatre, music, comedy, dance, visual arts, education and film.

To strengthen the governance arrangements and to establish the commercial viability of the Centre the Abbey Arts Centre Management Company was formed and the company was incorporated in January 2010 the new company took over operation management of the centre with effect from 1st March 2010. The company meets periodically with representatives of all the user groups to ensure that the needs of users is reflected in the business and marketing plans of the company.

The management agreement was signed between the Board of the new company and Ballyshannon Town Council in 2010. It sets out the terms and conditions on which the company will operate the centre. The Town Council has confirmed that the company structure will have security of tenure in the operation of the facility for at least the next six years.

In May 2014 ownership of the Abbey Arts Centre transferred to Donegal County Council following the abolition of Ballyshannon Town Council.

In 2016 Abbey Arts Centre was awarded refurbishment grant from the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs – Arts & Culture Capital Scheme 20216 – STREAM 1 with match funding from Donegal County Council. The Centre replaced seating & carpets in the main auditorium, incorporated installation of sound equipment, stage & lighting equipment, upgrade on heat recovery system, upgrade of oil boiler and installation of IT equipment. The refurbishment project was completed in January 2019.

Building & Facilities

The Centre has 3 auditoriums:

Theatre 1

280 seats, new comfortable fixed seating and have been recognised nationally as an excellent quality acoustically designed space complimented with a new sound system. Full Dolby Stereo sound and Epson EB G7900U Digital Projector is available, served by its own green room and changing facilities with showers and toilets.

Theatre 2

A comfortable venue with 100 seats. It offers Blue Ray DVD Projector and Dolby Stereo surround sound which makes it ideal for small showings for our film screenings.

The Patsy Croal Theatre

An 80 seater auditorium and serves as an intimate venue for theatre, music, comedy and other performance events. Also, this theatre is very suitable for conference and public presentation events.

The White Room

The Centre also has an excellent large workshop/dance studio and rehearsal space available for hire.

The Helen Allingham Gallery

This is lovely light and airy Visual Arts exhibition space located in the foyer, also available for exhibitions at an affordable rate.

The Abbey Arts Centre has full facilities for people with disabilities including designated seating in the auditorium and theatre 3, lift and specially adapted WC.

Clubs / Workshops / Groups

Abbey Arts Film Club

The Abbey Arts Centre Film Club meets every second Wednesday of every month for a world cinema viewing session in our screening auditorium Theatre 2.  After many years operating 35mm format films we proudly installed a Blue Ray DVD Projector. As a result, the digital projector for digitally screened films has greatly enhanced our film choices for Abbey Arts Film Club Members.

Helen Allingham Exhibition Space

The Abbey Arts Centre has a glass fronted spacious reception and foyer areas – the Helen Allingham Gallery. This exhibition area has recently been refurbished with additional track lighting installed to compliment the works being exhibited.

Arts Training Workshops

The Centre provides Arts Training workshop space in the form of the Green Room and the White Room. The Conor Carney School of Acting: One-hour Drama classes for youth are provided by experienced local dramatists/actors during the school term, usually between 6-7pm.

Dance Group

Youth can avail of modern & Musical dance classes every Friday afternoon in the White Room from 4:30pm-6:30pm are provided by SOTW.

Creative Art and Design Projects

Final Year University /third level Students in creative arts and design from University of Ulster at Magee, Letterkenny and Sligo Institutes of Technology together with TY students hold workshops in the Centre and exhibit completed work using graphic design, moving image, 3D, Animation and other design techniques  to produce short films and other creative works. To date 20 short films and a feature on “A walk with Allingham” are available for permanent exhibition.

Music Tuition

Local music tutors make use of the workshop space and the grand piano in the Centre for their music lessons to aspiring musicians of all ages. The Royal Academy of Music use our facilities three times a year to conduct their examinations.

The Commercial Operation of Abbey Arts Centre

The multi annual planned programme of events is designed to promote the artistic and cultural aims of the Centre and to generate as much revenue and own resources as possible.  Revenue is generated through a combination of box office / venue hire / room rental and sales incomes based on the occupancy rates projected for the uses of Theatres 1, 2 and 3 and the green and white rooms.

Marketing / Promotion

In accordance with the terms of the management agreement the Company will continue and actively market and promote the use of the Abbey Centre as part of the five-year plan.

The Abbey Arts Centre website www.abbeycentre.ie has recently been updated and redesigned with a modern, easy to navigate design and is linked to other sites/portals to widen the market coverage.

An Abbey Arts Centre Autumn Winter Brochure produced annually is distributed to the catchment area of South / West Donegal, North Leitrim, Sligo and West Fermanagh – two publications each season.

The database of users/potential users of the centre will be maintained and extended through various channels and regular mail shots and texting will be used to advertise events or special offers. The use of various forms of social media will be evaluated systematically over the next five years to access its cost efficiency as a marketing tool.

Posters, fliers and other promotional material used by Centre users to promote their events (Drama, Musical, Folk & Traditional festivals, Allingham Arts etc.) will also be used to promote the Abbey Arts Centre as an attractive and suitable venue for a wide range of artistic, cultural, exhibitions and other events. An example of the range of promotional material to be used for this purpose is set out below:

User Groups

The company is committed to working closely with all the user groups to achieve its overall objectivities i.e., promoting educational, community and cultural development in the town of Ballyshannon and the wider catchment area.  It is the user groups who use the centre for theatrical, musical, educational and community purposes and to promote the Abbey Arts and Cultural centre in promoting their staged events.

Our main user groups include:

  • GAA Bingo Ballyshannon
  • Ballyshannon Drama Society
  • Ballyshannon Drama Festival
  • Ballyshannon Musical Society
  • Allingham Arts Festival
  • Bluestacks Festival
  • Bel Canto
  • Ballyshannon Folk & Traditional Festival
  • Rory Gallagher Festival
  • Primary and Second Level Schools
  • Stars of the West Crockery Players
  • VEC
  • Donegal County Council Arts & Music Programmes
  • Abbey Arts Film Club
  • Ballyshannon Photographic Group
  • Royal Academy of Music

Board of Management

Since in its incorporation March 2010 the Abbey Arts Centre has been operated under a board of directors the directors as at February 2020 are:

Michael Daly (Chairman)
Michael McLoone
Valentine O’Kelly
Emer O’Shea
Traolach O’Fionnain

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