Who we are
The Colgan Hall Community & Resource Centre has served as a key community hub for the people of Carndonagh and the surrounding area for over 100 years – providing a focal point in the heart of Inishowen for various community, business, educational, cultural and heritage events.
The Hall & Resource Centre is named after John Colgan, a Franciscan friar born in Priestown near Carndonagh c. 1592 who was an accomplished hagiographer (biographer / historian) - including of Ireland’s three national saints: St Patrick, St Brigid and St Columba / St Columcille. A fresco created by Emmanuel di Como c. 1670 of John Colgan adorns the wall of St. Isidore's College in Rome.
The Colgan Hall was built in 1914 – following 20 years of local fundraising – and is one of the best examples of the ‘Celtic Revival’ in the North West. The building was designed with an ‘Irish Romanesque feeling’ and boasts circular windows in the gable end interlaced with the famous 7th century ‘Carndonagh Cross’.
For over a period of 55 years, the Colgan Hall operated as a Parochial Hall, Technical School, Diocesan College and for one year as a Community School. During the First World War and up until the early 1970s the Hall hosted plays, concerts, operettas, recitals and feiseanna – as well as having a cinema that provided entertainment for thousands of local people before the widespread adoption of television.
From the mid-1970s onwards, the Hall went into steady decline, until when in 2007 a newly established ‘Management Committee’ (now comprising of 9 Directors) took over the running of the facility.
Through the ‘Community Services Programme’ the Colgan Hall also employs a full-time supervisor and two part-time caretakers. There are also additional Tús workers and ‘Community Employment’ participants who assist with events and activities in the Hall.
Over the past decade, the Community & Resource Centre has grown from strength to strength – with an annual footfall in excess of 65,000 – hosting successful events including drama productions, musicals, comedy shows, bingo nights, exhibitions, public interest meetings and heritage events. The centre also now has excellent meeting rooms and training facilities to suit the needs of the local community – providing audio-visual equipment and temporary office facilities including hot desks with broadband access.
At the end of June each year, the Community & Resource Centre hosts the Colgan Heritage Weekend – which includes guest speakers, exhibitions, talks and entertainment dedicated to the memory of John Colgan whilst also celebrating local heritage and promoting projects and activities in the local community.
The Hall has been intrinsically linked to the arts scene in Inishowen for over a century – hosting an annual exhibition by local artists; music and drama productions; and various arts classes which remain a cornerstone of life in the facility.
Harking back to memories of the original Colgan Hall and its then fundraising committee who hosted the first ‘Great Four-Day Bazaar’ from 7th to 10th October 1914, the Community & Resource Centre continues with this tradition with an annual Christmas Bazaar as its main fundraising event of the year.
The Colgan Hall also provides public education providers with fully equipped rooms for ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) courses – in particular for Syrian families who relocated to Carndonagh in recent year, under the Refugee Resettlement Programme. In addition the Community & Resource Centre has hosted a ‘Taste of Syria’ event in conjunction with Inishowen Development Partnership (IDP) and the Community Food Initiative which was a wonderful opportunity for the local community to enjoy the ‘teas, treats and traditions’ of Syria and to meet some of the new Syrian families.
The Hall also provides a 150-seated space for post-funeral receptions with refreshments available on request.
Challenges & achievements
Over the past 10 years, the total transformation of a near-derelict building into what is now a vibrant and thriving community space for the people of Carndonagh and the surrounding area to enjoy is a huge achievement by the Management Committee.
Working in conjunction with IDP and Donegal County Council the Committee applied for grants for window repairs, installation of CCTV, upgrading of electrics and the necessary building works on the 100 year-old plastering. This work is ongoing.
In 2012, the Committee also undertook its biggest challenge to date – the building of a new extension which would include the installation of a lift to enable people with mobility issues to attend all events in the Hall. This particular phase of development provided improved disability access, new toilet facilities and improvements to the existing Committee room / new training rooms.
The extension to the listed building was accomplished with a LEADER grant of €150,000 with matched funding from the Management Committee and a loan of €150,000 from UCIT / Community Finance (Ireland). The National Lottery also funded the installation of the lift.
With the UCIT / Community Finance (Ireland) loan almost paid off, the Management Committee is now looking forward to carrying out additional improvements to the Colgan Hall including repairs to the 100-year-old windows and tarmacking the car park which will include proper lining / markings and disabled car parking spaces.
The Management Committee also aims to see additional ETB adult training courses provided at the Colgan Hall Community & Resource Centre in the future - including arts and choral singing classes.