A BLACK tie dinner and community awards event will be held to mark the official opening of Larne’s newly regenerated Town Hall.
The historic building, which has undergone a £3.1 million interior and exterior facelift, will finally be unveiled next month to a select group of up to 130 people.
The state of the art facility will open its doors on Thursday, September 27 with an event celebrating community life in the borough. Guests will include people nominated by community and youth groups, relatives of the Freemen of the Borough, the project design team and contractors.
There will be no charge to those attending and funding is being sought from the Department for Social Development. The overall winner of the awards will represent the community by unveiling a plaque to commemorate the re-opening.
But in a bid to ensure that the wider public gets access to the Victorian building, the steering group wants open visitors sessions to take place on Thursday, October 4, giving local people and council staff the opportunity to look around.
Other upcoming events in the Town Hall include the Larne Business Awards on Thursday, October 11, and an art exhibition from Thursday, November 8 to Wednesday, December 5.
At the latest monthly meeting of Larne Borough Council, chief executive Geraldine McGahey told members that the delay in re-opening the building was because furniture and fittings were still being installed.
Councillors were also shown a list of charges for groups who wish to hire out the Town Hall. A morning or afternoon session in the McGarel Hall is priced at £160, while an evening session is £200 (as does a weekend session). A 25 per cent discount will be available for community groups, charities and schools.
Alderman Jack McKee said: “As a Larne man, I had been ashamed to see how the Town Hall had deteriorated over the years. But since the completion of the refurbishment, local people are excited about how well it now looks.”
However, Cllr Martin Wilson spoke of his concern about the black tie dinner. “Surely the idea would be to have local people involved in the opening event, but not ask them to hire suits etc and take them out of their comfort zone. These are down to earth people and to ask them to go to an event such as this undermines them. This event may be deemed as elitist,” he said.
Cllr Wilson also felt that local business owners who have been impacted by work being carried out on the Town Hall should be invited to the opening event. “These people have not complained about the limited access, even though it has been affecting their businesses. Inviting them would be a reward for their selflessness,” he added.
Mrs McGahey assured Cllr Wilson that the event organisers were “not trying to be elitist” and added: “You should not underestimate peoples’ desire to get dressed up.”