Dungannon was once the centre of Mid Ulster’s live music scene, with venues such The Fort attracting up-and-coming bands from across Ireland. In recent years however, with the closure of several bars, gigs have been few and far between. Things have taken an upturn recently though with the opening of Lulu’s, a bar in the centre of town that is dedicated to hosting top class musical talent: since opening in October it has brought guitar legends Eric Bell (Thin Lizzy founder) and Pat McManus (main man in 80s power trio Mama’s Boys) as well as local heroes Blackwater Conspiracy (formerly Million Dollar Reload). Caolán Coleman chatted with owner Lulu Donnegan to see how things were going.
►Since you had your opening in October, how has business been?
Business has been good, still a long way to go to get where I want to be, have had to iron out a few kinks but more than happy with the direction I’m going,
►How important was it to have a venue for live bands back in Dungannon?
I think it’s really important. The Dungannon area has a wealth of musical talent. We aren’t only a live music venue, down the line I want to be able to showcase local artists, comedy, theatrical pieces etc.
►As well as having legends like Eric Bell and Pat McManus, how important is it to feature local acts like Blackwater Conspiracy and Bunny and the Banned Its?
The most important thing to me is bringing quality entertainment to our venue. Times are hard and I appreciate that a lot of people don’t have enough disposable income to go out as much as they like. I’m just trying to give people a memorable night out. The Blackwater Conspiracy guys put on a fantastic show for our grand opening and are back at the end of February.
Also we have a fantastic trad session upstairs every Sunday (6:30-9:30) every week. If you appreciate live music it’s a great way to finish up your week.
►What difficulties are there when trying maintain a venue that promotes live, original music?
As I said before, we are much more than a live music venue, I believe I have the best range of drinks in the area and believe bringing great entertainment to the venue isn’t enough to set us apart. If someone comes in on a Monday night and there are only a handful of people are there we can take the time to introduce you to new drinks and cocktails and hopefully have them leave feeling they have had an experience. There are a lot of challenges really but the biggest is getting people to come out and support us. The busier we get the more we can do. I have very exciting and ambitious plans for the future, I’ll do the best I can I just need people to take a chance and come see us!
►And finally, how on earth did you get one of the Ramones to play in Dungannon?
I would love to say that getting Richie was all down to me, I have been working with a local company (SD ENTERTAINMENT) who does national and international tours with world class acts. Ciaran from SD has a huge set of cajones and terrifies me sometimes with the ideas he has but it’s great to have him on board.