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Joe Jackson talks to Helix director Nick Reed about the venue’s ever-growing stature in the world of Irish entertainment
Joe Jackson, 16 Oct 2003
The Helix in DCU is open one year this October and already has proven itself to be the single most exciting development in Arts and Entertainment in Ireland for at least the last decade. Look at it this way: Lou Reed played there, Aslan are playing this week, Dunphy broadcasts his TV show from the venue and it's about to stage innovative theatrical productions such as Usual Suspects, based on the movie of the same name. Not to mention 50 other major events between now and Christmas. All of which is reason enough for Nick Reed, director of The Helix, to pop the champagne bottles open way in advance of yuletide. So who is Nick Reed? Where did he come from? What was his brief opening the Helix? He's only happy to tell hotpress.
"I came from a venue called the North Wales Theatre, which was a 1,500 seat theatre with a conference centre attached and we did a fair bit of rock stuff there – a real mixture " says Nick. "But as for the Helix, DCU raised the funds and built the theatre, without any public support, apart from the seven million euro that came from the government. But it was a thirty five million euro building. And the University's prime objective was to provide a cultural centre of gravity on what was otherwise a culturally arid campus, as well as to cement a link between DCU and the wider community on the Northside of the city.
And they did build something that is unique in Ireland, in terms of the mix of facilities.
“My brief was to take the building on and run it without public subsidy or any subsidy from the university. Which is a tall order, if you look at, say, the Mahoney Hall, which is designed, first and foremost, as an orchestral concert venue. But my personal brief was to provide a broad sweep of arts and entertainment that was socially inclusive, and to a high standard, and that would fill the three different auditoria ranging from the 150 seat studio to the 1,200 concert hall."
Part of Nick's success, in this sense, is that he and the Helix are competing with the National Concert Hall for classical musical events and numerous venues across the city for rock gigs. Naturally enough, there was resistance at first from promoters who weren't sure of the venue. But the success of gigs such as Lou Reed's proved people will travel from all sides of the city, not just the Northside – particularly given the staggeringly accurate acoustics in the venue. But Nick Reed is just as proud of the fact that the Helix did serve the Northside – though the appeal of the play later spread outwards – when he staged Roddy Doyle's The Woman Who Walked Into Doors, which "played for two months to 95% capacity.”
"We're also very happy to be involved with the Fringe Festival this year,” he continues. “We're staging four of their shows and would hope to get even more involved in the future. Likewise in terms of the mainstream Theatre Festival itself. And having two shows broadcast from here – The Dunphy Show and The Panel – is a great boost for the venue. It helps establish the Helix brand."
As for forthcoming stage productions, Reed is "particularly excited" about a new production of The Usual Suspects, which runs from November 17-19th.
"It's a very simply staged production and though I don't want to give away how they do it, it is quite interesting how the 2-Way Mirror and Theatre productions company have translated the film onto stage," he says. "And there is already great interest in the production because it was such a hit at the Edinburgh Festival. So you're right to say I'm buzzing about all this! Who wouldn't be!"
The Helix Box office is 01 700 7000