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AIMS President Rob Donnelly’s Opening Speech from AIMS Awards

Good Evening Everybody and Welcome to the AIMS Awards 2020. We are coming to you live from The Lock Up here in County Wicklow. Just as we did with the nominations in May we are bringing you these Virtual Awards in line with all the current COVID-19 Guidelines.We are indoors but taking all precautions including correct numbers allowed inside, sanitisation, social distancing and mask wearing procedures are being adhered too.

It is so good to be back in the suit. And wearing the chain again which as always I wear with pride.

Sadly it’s not the middle of June, we don’t have 1200 screaming AIMS members here from all over the country in the INEC in Killarney. We have no Fancy Dress Ball, No afternoon BBQ, No Botty and No sing songs in the bar until first light.  But most importantly and sadly we don’t have all of YOU, here to celebrate the great successes from all of the fantastic societies and its members from all around the country. It’s so sad for me your AIMS President to not be on that stage with all the cheering, celebrating and bringing all the magic that makes AIMS what it is. I hope there is great excitement, a great buzz and plenty of anticipation from whatever corner of the country you are celebrating in and from whatever socially distant bubble you are gathered in. I know the new guidelines will have affected how a lot of you are gathered and viewing tonight but I hope all tuning in will have a great night.

But what we do have tonight, Sat 19th Sept 2020, is a wonderful few hours ahead for you all to enjoy. We will have the awards of course but we will also have entertainment from our very special guests which I know you will enjoy all accompanied by David Hayes and his socially distant ensemble. And intermittently you will have the lads from the Odd Cast having the chats and the banter. We are so grateful to all of our performers for joining us tonight to help us make the night more special.

At this stage I would like to say a Big Hello to all our friends in our Sister Organisation NODA, The National Operatic and Dramatic Association over in the UK. NODA visit us every year for our Awards Weekend and although she was with us for last years awards as Vice President it would have been Christine Hunter Hughes turn to visit us this year as NODA President. Sadly due to Covid 19 Christine is unable to join us today but she has sent us a message of good wishes from all in NODA.. NODA always return the invitation to us to attend their AGM which coincidentally happened this afternoon and I have sent them a message of good wishes from AIMS. I hope we will be able to visit again in person very soon.

This really has been a year unlike any other.

Who would have thought that right in the midst of our show season when we are all doing what we love so much, that it would grind to a sudden halt on Thursday 12th March.

I was honoured to be elected AIMS National President on Sunday 26th January in Galway taking over from Carrick On Suir’s Seamus Power who I would like to congratulate on doing a wonderful job as AIMS President for the last 2 seasons. Congratulations also to Nine Arch ClareGalways Feargal Cavanagh who was elected AIMS National Vice President. Both of us were so excited and looking forward to travelling around Ireland representing AIMS and seeing all your wonderful shows.

As a result of these Covid 19 Restrictions we lost 50 shows from the AIMS Calendar. Some shows have been postponed and some societies had no option but to cancel entirely. This was such a tough and heart breaking time for all those societies. I feel so much for them all especially shows that were on that week in March and had to cancel midrun and those who were eligible for adjudication but sadly the Adjudicator didn’t make it.  I think about them all regularly, all the many Committees, Production Teams, Casts, Stage Crews, Sound Technicians, Lighting Technicians, Set Designers & Builders, Hair & Make Up Teams, Costume Suppliers, Props Companies, Kitchen Crews, Front of House Teams, Audiences and the local communities who are so dependent on the wonderful entertainment that we provide every year. AIMS felt that as so many shows had taken place that we would carry on with the Adjudication and Awards Scheme for 2019/2020.

Now in the midst of the Corona Virus Pandemic we are here today to celebrate our wonderful organisation and all the shows which did make it on stage this season and and all of our many societies that will be back on stage again when circumstances permit. We had  57 shows eligible for nominations this year and I would like to thank our 3 Adjudicators for another wonderful job travelling around the country watching and critiquing our shows. Big Thanks you to Billy Rea(Sullivan), Tony Mc Clean Fay(Gilbert) and our Programme Adjudicator Noel Dundon. The numbers might have been smaller but I’m sure the job to pick the nominees and winners was just as tough.

Our show season might have finished on 12th March but AIMS has continued working on your behalf since then. I would like to thank the AIMS Executive, Officers Secretary Frank Foley, Vice President Feargal Cavanagh, Treasurer Moira Nolan, PRO Kate Furlong, Registrar Mairin Heffernan and all the AIMS National Council who have met regularly since March on Zoom continuing to work on your behalf. Our Choral Festival under Administrator Lizzy Heffernan was cancelled this year but it will be back. Our AIMS Summer School in Thurles with Director Peter Kennedy and Musical Director Shane Farrell was cancelled but it will be back. On a positive note we were still able to give out two Bursaries, The Anne O Neill Bursary and the AIMS Bursary and we congratulate the winners David O Donovan and Rua Barron and we wish them well in their respective musical theatre careers.

Last year AIMS President Seamus Power announced a new scholarship that would be provided for a member of an AIMS society to the Musical Theatre Course in the American College Dublin and I am delighted to announce the winner of this years scholarship is Caoimhe Boyle

We have received so many good wishes for tonights awards show. Thank you very much everyone. And we have a very special message from our President Michael D Higgins that I would like to read to you.

I joined Avonmore Musical Society in Arklow in 1996 as a way of making friends. Nearly 25 years later I am still there and am now National President of AIMS. I would like to thank all the members of Avonmore for all their help, support, best wishes and friendship over those many years. Also a big thank you to all the societies in the SouthEast Region again for all your support. For almost a quarter century I have been travelling the country watching shows and I would like to thank Colm Moules, Padraig Reid, Mick Russell, Tomas Byrne and for their company and laughter on the many journeys.

I would like to say a massive thank you to all societies for their kind invitations, the hospitality and the warm welcome and respect shown to me and the office of the Presidency. I thoroughly enjoyed all the shows and congratulate you all. I’m just so sorry that I didn’t get to see so many more. The standard of shows around the country north and south is improving year on year so a massive thank you for all your efforts in growing and promoting musical theatre on the island of Ireland. I was so lucky to get to see 36 of our adjudicated shows this season.

Being a part of a musical society is about so much more than the curtain going up, the bow at the end of the show. It’s about being part of something that we all give so much to but get so much from. It’s about hitting the right notes, getting the dance right, building confidence, fitness, community, about entertaining audiences, making memories and friendships that last much longer than when the curtain goes down.

I know it is challenging with the restrictions, the isolation, not seeing friends and family, but it has been heart warming to see so many groups, individuals and organisations getting creative in keeping social, keeping distant and keeping us all entertained. So a Huge Thank You to you all.

Now back to business. It takes a lot of hard work and effort to get any event up and running and tonight is no different. Once we knew that we wouldn’t make it to Killarney the wheels were put in motion. I’d like to say a massive thank you to the Awards Sub Committee and the Awards Nominations Committee for all their help in organising the Awards.

I’d like to say a massive thank you to John Vickers for providing the venue for tonight. We have a big crew here tonight and we could not have done it without them. And our Presenters for this evening you will see as we go through the Awards are National Vice President Feargal Cavanagh, National Secretary Frank Foley, National PRO Kate Furlong.

But tonight would not have happened without the massive efforts of AIMS Awards Administrator Fiona Shirran, Jason Fallon and our Awards Director Vinny Osborne. Thank you so much everyone for the endless patience, hard work and sublime effort in making the virtual a reality.

To finish up I’ll use a regularly used quote by AIMS hard working PRO Kate Furlong.

For now, just keep the Heads Up, Hearts Out and Play the Music... Loud! Sending you all a Virtual Hug and Good Vibes to you all!                                                                       Hope to see you all back on stage soon                                                                                                                          Rob Donnelly , AIMS National President


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