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Directors & Members:

• Kathleen Holohan - Chairperson
• Bernie O’Brien
• Rachel Doyle
• Councillor Brian O'Donoghue
• Declan Doyle – Chairperson, Financial Committee
• Catriona Crowe
• Karan Thopmson
• Councillor Denis Foley
• Fiona Kearney
• Dr. Derek Coyle
• Fergus Cronin
• Tadhg O’Sullivan
• Michael Brennan – Company Secretary

Kathleen Holohan - Chairperson (appointed 2015)
Kathleen Holohan became Chief Executive of Carlow Council on 19th October 2015, having previously been Deputy Chief Executive of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council from July 2007 and a Director of Services with the Council from March 2001. Kathleen was a Director in 3 key directorates - Housing, Planning and Corporate Services and Human Resources. She previously worked in Dublin County Council and Dun Laoghaire Corporation.Kathleen has been a member of a number of Boards including Venturepoint, Southside Partnership and the Homeless Agency which she chaired from May 2004 to January 2009. She was involved in the establishment of the Pavilion Theatre in Dun Laoghaire and was a board member from June 2000 to April 2008.

Bernie O’Brien 
Bernie O’Brien is Director of Services with Carlow Local Authorities and is responsible for Community & Enterprise, Economic Development & Corporate Services/HR. Her role includes implementation of the Carlow Local Authorities’ Economic Development and Promotional Strategies for the county, management of all local authority activity related to community development, including the arts, and has responsibility for all Corporate and HR functions. Bernie has over thirty years experience in local government, having worked in all of the functional areas of the Carlow Local Authorities.  She is also a board member of Carlow Community Enterprise Centres Ltd.; Carlow Town & County Amenity Trust Ltd., and Carlow Rural Information Services Project Ltd.

Rachel Doyle (appointed 2017)
Rachel Doyle is the Chief Executive Chairperson of the five star award winning Arboretum Home and Garden Heaven, Leighlinbridge, Carlow and Arboretum Kilquade, Wicklow. Rachel’s entrepreneurial dream to start her own business started after graduating from college in 1976. Rachel identified a niche in the market and the seed was sown. She opened a small garden centre at the rear of the family home and soon the business grew in success.
Since then Arboretum prides itself on building strong customer rapport, supplying only the highest quality products and providing excellent customer service. This is the foundation for the achievements and growth of Arboretum which currently employs 117 people. In 2015, Rachel realised a long held vison and opened a second store in Kilquade, Wicklow. This new outlet boasts 5.2 acres with a multitude of inspirational gardens, onsite café and Arboretum shop.
This dedication to enterprise has gained Rachel worldwide recognition. Some of the recent accolades Arboretum has won include the coveted title of Retail Excellence Ireland (REI) Garden Centre of the year 2017, REI National Company of the Year 2016 and REI National Store of the Year 2015. Arboretum was also Bord Bia Garden Centre of the year in 2015 and 2014. Rachel is on the Women in Business Retail Excellence Ireland Committee and speaks at many events throughout the country and abroad, inspiring entrepreneurs and women in business.
To highlight how entrepreneurial Rachel is, she held the coveted position of President of the International Garden Centre Association from 2013 -2015, which for the first time in 56 years was held by person in Ireland. Rachel is also on the main board of Bord Bia and is invited as a guest to all horticultural board meetings where she has served since its inception. Rachel successfully bid for Ireland to host the IGCA international congress in 2014, bringing 240 people from all over the world to Ireland. Rachel has furthermore been a board member of County Carlow Chamber where she served as President for a two year period.

Councillor Denis Foley (appointed 2014)
Councillor Denis Foley (FG) has been a full-time politician since first elected to Muinebheag Town Council in 1979. He was elected to Carlow County Council in 1999 and served as joint Chairperson of both bodies on a number of occasions. His other roles have included Joint Chairperson of Carlow Education Training Board, Officer of the Educational Training Board of Ireland, Board Member of the National Adult Literacy Association and Executive Member of INVOLVE (Young travellers association). He is also Chairperson of the Board of Management of Mhuinebheag Vocational School. He is a lifelong supporter of the GAA, an active participant of the committee and Vice president of St Andrew’s SFC, and an active member of the IFA. 

Councillor Brian O'Donoghue (appointed 2014)
Brian is one of the youngest county councillors in Carlow at just 26 and was elected to the council for the first time this year. Working as a journalist in Carlow since 2008 while still a student and continuing that work since having left Griffith College in Dublin with a degree in Journalism and Visual Media, Brian has a background in print and broadcast media particularly in sport but also in current affairs. Brian is no stranger to the stage having played the roles of Lieutenant Danny Gilmartin in Tullow Community Schools production of Calamity Jane in 2004 and the role of Samuel in the same schools production of the Pirates of Penzance. His main hobbies include GAA and most other sports.

Declan Doyle (appointed 2015)
Declan Doyle is Head of Development at the Institute of Technology Carlow where he has responsibility for Research, Innovation and Internationalisation. Prior to this he was the Head of Wexford Campus where he had responsibility for the Wexford Campus School of Art and Design.  In this position he worked with lecturers who are active in research and practice to develop a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Fine Art, a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Visual Communication and a unique Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Professional Arts Management.  During this time he also worked on a multi-million euro collaborative project with partners from Wales to increase capacity and to build linkages between artists, art centres and community groups on both sides of the Irish Sea. He has previously served on the board of Wexford Arts Centre.

In his teaching career he has lectured in the School of Business and Humanities of IT Carlow primarily teaching management and marketing modules.  He has also lectured in the Department of Marketing in NUI Galway, and has been a guest lecturer in ISC Paris, FHTW Berlin, University of Voronezh (Russia) and the Technical University in Warsaw (Poland) and with various Erasmus partners.  He is on the editorial committee of a major European network of educators and has been an invited speaker at international conferences across Europe and Asia.

Karan Thompson (appointed 2016)
Karan Thompson is founder and Director of Karan Thompson Consulting Limited (KTCL), a consultancy practice with specialist experience in the arts, culture, creative industries and tourism sectors. She specialises in innovation development, commercialising creativity, marketing and business development for arts and cultural organisations, support agencies and local authorities. Key projects include: Bid Adviser and Writer for the Three Sisters 2020 European Capital of Culture Bid; Industry Report on behalf of DCCoI to reposition Waterford as an International Centre for Glass Making and Design; Project management for Yeats 2015; Destination and experience Development for the Wild Atlantic Way; Project Mentor for Fáilte Ireland’s Cultural Insights Project; Evaluation of the National Music Education Pilots which led to the development of Music Generation. 

Prior to establishing KTCL in 2001, Karan worked in the public and private sectors holding significant roles including: Vice President of Global Customer Services, Braxtel Communications (Boston, Ireland and UK) and Events, Operations and Special Projects Manager at the National Concert Hall, Dublin.  A regular guest lecturer on third level programmes for arts and culture, at both University College Dublin and IADT.  She is a former member of the Board of the National Concert Hall and former Chair of the Helix Advisory Board (DCU).

Catriona Crowe (appointed 2014)
Catriona Crowe is Head of Special Projects at the National Archives of Ireland. She is Manager of the Irish Census Online Project, which has placed the 1901 and 1911 censuses online free of charge over the last 5 years. She is an Editor of Documents on Irish Foreign Policy, which published its seventh volume, covering the period 1941-45, in November 2010. She is editor of Dublin 1911, published by the Royal Irish Academy in late 2011.

She is Vice-President of the Irish Labour History Society, and a former President of the Women’s History Association. She is Chairperson of the Irish Theatre Institute, which promotes and supports Irish theatre and has created an award-winning website of Irish theatre productions. She is Chairperson of the SAOL Project, a rehabilitation initiative for women with addiction problems, based in the North Inner City, and also Chairperson of the Inner Cirty Renewal Group, which delivers employment and welfare rights advice and support to the community in the North Inner City. She contributes regularly to the broadcast and print media on cultural and historical matters. She is a member of the Royal Irish Academy.

Fiona Kearney (appointed 2014)
Fiona Kearney is the founding Director of the Lewis Glucksman Gallery, a purpose built award-winning art museum on the campus of University College Cork. In this position she has curated Folly: Art after Architecture, Living/Loss: The Experience of Illness in Art, Modern American Painting from the NYU Art Collection; The Year of the Golden Pig: Contemporary Chinese Art from the Sigg Collection and Through the Looking Glass: Childhood in Contemporary Photography. In June 2013, she was invited to curate a major exhibition of Irish art at the Galeria civica di Modena, Italy. Island: New Art from Ireland formed part of the International Culture Programme for Ireland’s Presidency of the European Union.

Throughout her career, Fiona has received several distinguished awards including the designation of college scholar by UCC, the NUI Prix d'Honneur from the French Government, a UCC President’s Award for Research on Innovative Forms of Teaching, and a Fulbright scholarship. In June 2006, she was awarded the Jerome Hynes Fellowship on the Clore Leadership Programme, the highest award offered to an individual by the Arts Council of Ireland. In July 2008, she participated in the Getty Museum Leadership Institute at the Getty Center, Los Angeles. In December 2008, she was appointed to serve as a member of the Arts Council of Ireland for a 5-year term, where she chaired its Policy and Strategy Committee. Fiona has published widely on contemporary art and has contributed articles and reviews to Source, Circa, and the Irish Arts Review. She is a member of the Irish Museums Association, ICOM, IKT and AICA.

Dr. Derek Coyle (appointed 2017)
Dr. Derek Coyle is a Lecturer in English in Carlow College. B.A. Th., M.A. Th. (Pontifical University, Maynooth); M.A. (Maynooth University); Ph.D. (University of Glasgow)

Dr Derek Coyle has published poems and reviews in the United States, Britain and Ireland. He has been shortlisted for the Patrick Kavanagh Award (2010, 2014), the Bradshaw Prize (2011), and in 2012 he was a chosen poet for the Poetry Ireland ‘Introductions Series’. In 2013 he was a runner-up in the Bradshaw Prize. Dr Coyle has read his poems in museums, galleries and lecture halls in Ireland, Scotland, and the United States. His research interests include Irish and international poetry, particularly the sense of place, and the relationship between poetry, theology and philosophy. He has published articles on Shamanism in the work of Derek Walcott, and the Sense of Place in the work of Martin Heidegger and Michael Longley.

Fergus Cronin (appointed 2017)
Fergus worked initially in the 1970’s as a performer with The Children’s T-Company and other theatre companies. He moved on to a twenty-five year career in Water Treatment Engineering including 15 years as MD/Company owner of a sizeable contracting company based in Kilkenny. Fergus retired in 2004 to become self-employed and set up Spool Communications Ltd (with partner and wife Maureen Kennelly) to undertake consulting work in the media and arts sectors. Fergus returned also, after many years, to perform in and produce a few theatre projects. He was an Irish Times Theatre Awards judge in 2013 and 2014 as well as founder member and first Chairman of Kilkenny Educate Together primary school. He engaged extensively in community development and cultural organisations in Kilkenny. Fergus has served on several Boards of Directors, such as Kilkenny Arts Festival and Team Educational Theatre Company. Currently Chairperson of Kilkenny Industrial Development Company, he currently divides his time between Connemara and Dublin and continues to work professionally with a small number of companies and spends a good deal of time writing fiction.

Tadhg O'Sullivan (appointed 2017)
Tadhg O’Sullivan is a filmmaker and sound artist living in Carlow, Ireland. His self-produced directorial work includes films for the Arts Council (Ireland), Al Jazeera English, Channel 4 (UK) and TG4 (Ireland). His film editing and sound design work spans a ten year career in a number of countries, ranging from experimental shorts to feature films.
Working within the documentary and experimental film traditions his work often explores the relationships between individuals and societal structures of power. His first feature film “Yximalloo” (co-directed with Feargal Ward) has shown at numerous international film festivals, winning the Prix Premiere at FiD Marseille in 2014. He received the Arts Council of Ireland’s Film Bursary in 2015.

PH:DOX Copenhagen (2016)
DocPoint, Helsinki (2016)
FiD Marseille (2016)
Docufest Kosovo (2016)
MoMA Documentary Fortnight (2016)
Dublin IFF (2015)

VISUAL Centre for Contemporary Art and the George Bernard Shaw Theatre

Registered in Ireland – Company No: 403432

Registered Office: County Offices, Athy Road, Carlow

Strategic Plan:

The Company’s Strategic Plan 2017-2021 can be downloaded here.

Annual Report 2016:
In 2016, the Board of VISUAL continued to build on the developments of recent years.
Significant achievements and activities in 2016 included:

• 14% increase in VISUAL’s income from box office
• Over €90,000 in profit paid out to local performance groups during the year
• Continued increase in Gallery visitors, up 7% to 37,520
• Overall increase in visitors, up to circa 67,000 in 2016
• Increase of 19% in programme funding from the Arts Council
• Shortlisting for Allianz Business to Arts Community Award for Dancehall Youth
• Sustainability of 39 full-time and part-time jobs
• Spin-out economic effects, including approx. 350 local bed nights for visiting performers and crews
• Drafting of Corporate Governance Manual

Visitor numbers to VISUAL’s galleries continued to rise in 2016. VISUAL continued its approach of thematic programming across the galleries, developing related projects to engage diverse audiences and communities more deeply. Notable projects included:

Migration Stories – workshops, exhibition, performance and publication in partnership with Carlow Integration Forum, the Irish Writers Centre and Carlow College Citizenship and Community Studies and facilitated by poet Mark Granier, based on Spring season themes
Our Journey to Here – workshops and exhibition on cultural identity and belonging, in partnership with Carlow Women’s Network and facilitated by artist Pauline O’Connell
Conflict, Migration and Identity; Global and Transnational Perspectives - International conference in partnership with Trinity College Dublin and Carlow College
Antiphon – Free, responsive performance and conversation in the galleries by Caoimhin O Raghallaigh and Iarla O Lionaird, reflecting on the theme of cultural identity
Documenting the Sugar Factory – exhibition and talks by local photographer PL Curran, as part of Summer season theme
Art, War and Nostalgia – series of talks by lecturers from Trinity College Dublin and Carlow College as part of Autumn season themes
Reading Room – book club and reading spaces in partnership with Carlow library and Carlow Military Museum

Two of our engagement projects toured nationally in 2016 - ‘Body Space Action’ interactive drawing engagement project was exhibited in Limerick City Art Gallery as part of the Light Moves Festival, and the ‘Building Stories’ engagement project toured to Limerick City Art Gallery and Solstice Arts Centre. Alongside engagement projects, VISUAL continued to deliver a year-round education programme aimed at different age groups/audiences. This included Parent and Toddler art classes, Family Art Workshops, Drop-in Make and Do space, worksheets, Primary School Tours and workshops, Senior Cycle workshops, adult workshops and Artist’s talks. 

During 2016 we programmed 72 local productions/events in the theatre. Notable box office successes from local producers included John MacKenna’s Corner Boys, Carlow Little Theatre’s The Plough and the Stars, Striking Productions Aladdin.  We programmed 17 national touring works in the theatre, wholly financed through our commercial activities, including Monkeyshine’s new production as a partner in the Stroller’s Network. We also supported the production of How to Live, a new play by Carlow Youth Theatre supported by Carlow Arts Office, Arts Council Young Ensemble Scheme, Carlow Youth Services and 1916 Commemoration fund. We introduced ENGAGE, a programme to support organisations and practice through resource sharing and benefit in kind support. Through this, we were able to offer additional support to a number of organisations, including Carlow Little Theatre, Carlow Arts Festival, Carlow African Film Festival and the Pan Celtic Festival. We also supported performer Susie Lamb in her research, and the development of a scratch theatre night for new work in the region. In addition, we hosted two residencies in the theatre, with Theatre Artist Joanna Williams, who worked with local crèches on developing a new show for 3-5yrs olds, and Dance Artist Emma Martin, who we also supported to further develop a youth production for inclusion in Carlow Arts Festival 2017. We also created a home for Carlow Youth Theatre in the building and provided tech support, advice and access. Dancehall Youth, our teen dance project in collaboration with Carlow Regional Youth Services, was one of four projects nationally to be shortlisted for the Allianz Business to Arts Community Award 2016, and was Highly Commended by the judges.

With a total audience of circa 67,000 people in 2016, VISUAL continued to make a significant impact to the local economy. In addition to the impact of locally-sourced services, supplies and wages, Lennon’s Restaurant provides employment for approximately 18 staff, also sourcing many supplies and services locally. Visiting performers, crews, artists, technicians and stage hands required an estimated 350 bed nights in Carlow throughout the year.

Within the Galleries, 41% of visitors in 2016 were from Carlow town and county, 45% were from the rest of Leinster, 3% were from the rest of Ireland and 11% from overseas, an increase on 2015. Of those gallery visitors surveyed, 20% were staying overnight in Carlow, again generating additional spend.

Press coverage in national publications included 5 main features in national press, and 4 reviews. Further national coverage included features on RTE Radio 1’s Arena programme and on TG4’s Imeall arts programme.

Four recruitment processes were undertaken in 2016. This resulted in the appointment of a part-time Marketing Manager, part time Financial Controller, Maternity leave cover for Theatre programming (4 days per week) and Technical and Facilities Manager.

The Finance Committee held 4 quarterly meetings in 2016 to review operating budgets, management accounts and any other matters pertaining to the financial management and controls of the centre, including approving the appointment of Financial Controller Brian Scobie. The Finance committee reported to the Board at 4 quarterly meetings in 2016.

The Corporate Governance Working Group met a number of times to review the company’s governance audit and process, and reported to the Board quarterly. The group worked with IT Carlow MBA students who conducted a governance audit of the organisation, and the working group drafted a Corporate Governance Manual for sign-off in 2017.

The Board met quarterly in 2016, and the CEO presented quarterly reports on performance and targets, measured against 2015. The Directors who served throughout the year, except as noted, were as follows:

Brian O’Donoghue
Bernie O’Brien
Robert Quinn (resigned November 2016)
Kathleen Holohan
Karan Thompson
Denis Foley
Declan Doyle
Catriona Crowe
Fiona Kearney

The Company Secretary who served throughout the year was Michael Brennan.

The Directors and Company Secretary hold no interests in the company’s issued share capital.


The company has adopted the Governance Transparency Scale and is compliant with the standards as set out therein.

The Company is in compliance with the recommended guidelines for financial reporting including adjustment for FRS102, and files annual accounts with the CRO.

The Company is on a path to compliance with the Governance Code for community, voluntary and charitable organisations in Ireland. We confirm that a review of our organisation’s compliance with the principles in the Code was conducted in 2015. This review was based on an assessment of our organisational practice against the recommended actions for each principle. The review sets out actions and completion dates for any issues that the assessment identifies need to be addressed.

The Company has annual updated policies in place regarding Health and Safety, Dignity at Work, Child Protection, Employment, Equality and Data Protection.

Audited accounts for 2016 are available here. In 2016, the company continued to operate at a surplus, prior to depreciation and inclusion of deemed interest as per FRS102.