Killian Collins, whose time as manager of Athlone’s Dean Crowe Theatre ended at the conclusion of this year’s RTE All Ireland Drama Festival.

Manager of Athlone's Dean Crowe Theatre moves on after four years

The Dean Crowe Theatre in Athlone will be looking for a new manager this summer, after Killian Collins' four-and-a-half year spell in the job came to an end earlier this month.

The theatre's hosting of this year's RTÉ All Ireland Drama Festival was the final act in Killian's tenure, and he is taking up a new position as Assistant Producer at Cork Opera House this week.

Killian was living in Cork city throughout the time he managed the Athlone venue, so the new job will have obvious advantages from a commuting perspective.

"It is a big lifestyle change. I'll be able to walk to work in 20 minutes now, which is huge," the Fermoy native told the Westmeath Independent.

He took up the position at the Dean Crowe in January 2019, and despite the Covid-19 pandemic dominating a large part of his time in the role, oversaw some significant initiatives including a €250,000 refurbishment of the venue.

While the manager's job was part-time, and allowed for a certain amount of working from home, he was still travelling from Cork to Athlone for meetings and events on a regular basis.

He and his wife, Deirdre, welcomed a daughter in recent years, which made the commuting more of a challenge.

"On average I was travelling to Athlone once a week, and, depending on the events we had, I might be staying overnight for a few nights. So I had a lot of time away from home, and then there was the driving, and all the rest.

"I suppose from day one there was probably an unspoken understanding, between myself and the board, that this would only be sustainable for so long.

"But it has been great. I am leaving because the opportunity came up to do this job in Cork, and the timing is right for me. But you could stay forever in the Dean Crowe, and keep working on the next thing.

"There was always a motivation and an energy there to tackle the next project," he said.

"A lot of what I did was 'unsexy' work, in terms of policies and procedures, and tidying up a lot of the operational side of the building.

"I hope that I've left it in a strong place for the next person to build on that and focus more on events and messaging with the audience. I think there is a solid foundation now for that.

"Obviously we got to do some major jobs as well, in terms of the big refurbishment, as well as a few other, more minor, investments in the building and the equipment, which were a bit more low-key but were significant in terms of making a difference to our day-to-day operations."

Killian Collins pictured in 2019, shortly after he started his job as manager of the Athlone venue.

Last year marked the start of 'Local Music Platform', a series of gigs in the recently-refurbished Dean Crowe Theatre Bar, and Killian said this was one of the initiatives in which he took pride.

"Music isn't really my background - I would have been more theatre-driven - but Brian McCormack came on board, on our staff, and Brian is really connected into the local music scene. He was a huge factor in making those gigs work.

"They were intimate gigs, they worked well, and the quality of the artists was really solid."

He said he was leaving the job in Athlone having made "loads of friends, and loads of connections," in the town, "particularly with the core Dean Crowe family, which would be the people involved with the panto, Athlone Musical Society, and the drama festival.

"I've also had a great chance to grow and gain a lot of experience in the role, a lot of which I mightn't even have been anticipating, because it is very broad.

"It covers everything from the artistic programming, and the event management side of that, to the marketing and communications bit, and then managing the general building, facilities, maintenance and staff. It's a really wide breadth of stuff."

Alfie Kilduff, the chairperson of the Dean Crowe Theatre's board of management paid tribute to the work Killian carried out during his time with the venue.

"We are definitely going to miss him, because he was a very safe pair of hands and he kind of jumped into, not just the theatrical set-up here, but also the town. He got to know a lot of people, and generate a lot of relationships, so we will miss him and we wish him the very best of luck."

He said the theatre's board was currently preparing to advertise the manager's role, in the hope of having the position filled towards the end of the summer.

"We will go through all the official and usual channels to try to source a candidate who might just peep out from the crowd, and be a suitable person, whoever that person might be," he said.