THE BEST SEAT IN THE HOUSE John Corless is pictured in the Claremorris Town Hall Theatre that he manages.
Name: John Corless
Occupation: Manager, Claremorris Town Hall Theatre
THIS time of the year my day starts at around 5.30am because I can’t sleep in the summertime. Before I get up I read the Irish Independent and The Guardian online, and I also have a look at the RTE and BBC news websites.
I’m quite a healthy eater so my typical breakfast would be cereal with fruit mixed through it. I don’t drink tea or coffee so I’d have a bottle of mineral water or an orange juice.
I might be working on a play, editing photos, writing e-mails or replying to them before I head into work in the Town Hall Theatre in Claremorris around 9am.
I took over as manager in April 2015. I’ve always had a long history and association with drama, and I was a season ticket holder for the Claremorris Drama Festival in the hall for years and years. I always thought there was a lot of untapped potential to the venue.
I’ve learned a lot over the last five years. I’ve also been overwhelmed by the decency, support and goodwill of people in the area towards the Town Hall Theatre.
When we are hosting an event, I’d always stand on the door beforehand and afterwards. That way if there are any issues or problems, I can try and deal with them there and then.
What you are always aiming for is that people leave a show and say, ‘That was a good night’. That’s what you want to hear, from patrons and performers.
If there is a problem, you might not be always able to solve it there and then, but I’ll try to. And if I can’t then I’ll make a note of it and action it for the following day.
It could be nearly 2am by the time I’d get home after a gig and I’d try and switch off then for a few hours by watching YouTube videos of bands like the Rolling Stones, The Pretenders, The Cars and Tom Petty. I have no worries at that stage of the night!
We have an absolutely brilliant staff in the hall. There are five of us working there full-time: Darragh Burke, our sound engineer, is a huge asset and Amanda Cleary, our office manager, is a brilliant woman. I couldn’t speak highly enough of both of them.
Our caretaker, Michael Staid, is so helpful and no job is too big or small; and Donna Ireland is a great worker as well. They’re all great ‘people-people’ and it’s impossible to buy what each of them bring to their roles. It’s impossible to train it too.
The highlight of my time as manager was a Sawdoctors ‘stand-up’ gig a few years ago. I’d always been a fan of them and their lyrics, and felt that they were the best group for being able to tap into what it meant to be Irish.
The first time that Christy Moore played in the Town Hall Theatre was special too. That was the first big gig we did after I took over and it was a ‘test case’ really for a lot of our systems.
Christy’s gig this year had to be cancelled due to Covid-19.
Covid landed just as we were about to hit our busiest time, at the start of the Claremorris Drama Festival in March, so the timing couldn’t have been worse from a financial point of view. But, of course, it’s only money, people’s health is the most important thing.
Over the last few months we had been working from home a lot of the time, processing refunds for shows and doing a lot of administration. The hall was also a standby venue for the HSE in case it was needed for any reason, so we needed to make sure it was ready for use.
We didn’t know what help might be needed exactly, but we were willing to help.
We’re back working full-time now again. The original Government roadmap said theatres would re-open in August so the plan at the moment is to run gigs from September.
But we’ll be following public health guidelines and will have all the necessary measures in place when we re-open for shows and concerts. We’ve had a few small events over the last few weeks, including a speed dating night last weekend.
I believe the arts will always survive, they’re as relevant in a recession and a pandemic as they are in the boomtime. We’re a small, tight team here in Claremorris who have a responsibility to the town who own the hall, and to the Board who run it.
So whatever the needs of the community, we’ll adapt and we’ll be there.
In conversation with Mike Finnerty
If money was no object, what would you do all day?
Count the money, or make things in the shed or around the house.
What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever eaten?
Snails in Paris one time. They’re not that unusual, but for a West-of-Ireland lad, they were unusual to eat.
Tasted okay too.
Favourite place in the world?
Home. After that, Italy.
What makes you angry?
Lack of enthusiasm.
Who was your first hero?
My late father.
What makes you nervous?
Middlesbrough FC’s position in the Championship, and Liam Horan.
Which three celebrity guests would you invite to your Zoom party?
I’m not big into celebrity-worship or Zoom parties.
What’s the best advice you ever got?
Make it happen.
Name three things in your fridge?W
Sparkling water, jalapeños, milk.
What’s your most prized possession?
Last book you read?
“Kindest Regards” by Ted Kooser
Sum up Coronavirus in three words?
Opportunity to rethink.