BY EMMA CONNOLLY
THE ICONIC music venue Connolly’s of Leap is gearing up for a 21st century makeover to include a recording studio, accommodation and restaurant.
Owner Sam McNicholl, who has been at the helm since it reopened two years ago, has announced the launch of their international Irish Music Venue architecture competition.
He is looking for fresh and diverse ideas from all over the world to reinvent the business while still staying true to its core values.
Sam is keen to point out that the beloved space where some of the country’s top musicians have performed, as well as the front bar, won’t be touched as part of the brief.
Instead the emphasis is on garnering ideas for its six outhouses where Sam wants to develop an outdoor recording studio.
‘It would be great to capture what happens in the venue and archive it on line. We’d also like to develop some accommodation here – West Cork is such a beautiful hub and people want to stay here.’
He’s also keen to incorporate a restaurant/ café element in the business.
Sam’s grandparents opened the bar in 1958, which was taken over then by his late father. It closed in 2006 for nine years before Sam reopened it two years ago.
The worldwide competition is hosted in association with leading architect competition organisers Bee Breeders with an overall prize fund of (or just over €5,000).
Sam added: ‘It’s been a dream of mine to renovate the family home and venue and I realise the huge potential of the building, which is at least 450 years old, and the 4,500 sq ft site. My mum grew up in the house, it’s been the same for three generations, and now it’s time to take it into the 21st century. The inception of the idea came from one of my oldest friends Andrew Kirwan, an architecture student who hails from the Leap area, he’s been amazing getting all of this together and driving it forward.’
Sam said the Bee Breeders project just feels right. ‘At the moment it’s just conceptual, but I’m looking forward to seeing a lot of experimental designs from this, and working with them to create some more magic for everyone to enjoy.’
Andrew added: ‘Having grown up with Sam and spent many a day running through the halls of Connolly’s, constantly surrounded by music, I’ve observed the strength a venue like Connolly’s has in bringing people and communities together. I’ve spent the last six years studying architecture, and I’ve dreamed of helping Sam reinvent Connolly’s.’
This competition is open to everyone with no professional qualification required. Register at https://irishcultmusicvenue.beebreeders.com/ until April 13th.
Closing date for entries is May 17th and winners will be announced on June 6th.
Meanwhile, Sam points out that Little Green Cars will perform on December 15th with tickets still available.