New Windgap tearooms opens this morning – with or without ancestral son George Clooney!
By SINÉAD CONNOLLY
SO FAR there’s been no word back from George Clooney, but the show must go on and the much-anticipated opening of the community café in his ancestral county Kilkenny village will go ahead as planned this morning!
There had been speculation (most of it, admittedly, of the wildly exaggerated variety …) that the Hollywood heartthrob might make a surprise appearance at the opening of the Lakeside Shop and Tearooms after George and his family jetted into Ireland for a family reunion over Easter.
“No, I doubt it unfortunately,” said volunteer Michelle O’Brien when asked if George may be coming to cut the ribbon.
If Mr Clooney did put in an appearance, you can be sure he’d be impressed by the fantastic community spirit that has made the tearooms a reality. The opening of the new cooperative venture follows months of hard work and preparation from volunteers in Windgap who, inspired by the success of Billy’s Tearooms and Shop in Ballyhale, wanted to breathe new life back into their community.
The volunteers have been holding training days in preparation for this morning’s grand opening.
Michelle told KilkennyNow.ie: “We opened for training on election day and it was fantastic, we had such a laugh. Everybody was working away together. We did our jobs and we had fun doing it. That’s what it’s all about.”
The community came together and decided to set up a shop and tearooms because they wanted to bring life into the area again.
“We wanted to create sense of purpose for everybody, a common goal, a common interest. It really is all about the feel-good aspect of it. Please God it will take off and keep us afloat as a business. We’re not looking to make loads of money, we are only looking to make enough to cover costs and put a bit back into it,” Michelle explained.
Michelle, and two other women, Noelle Egan and Julie O’Brien, are on the branch of the community development committee which looks after the shop and tearooms.
They depend on the tireless work of their volunteers and generosity of the locals. “Three local ladies came in with beautiful baked goods today. It’s fantastic because it’s all on a voluntary basis. People are so good. There’s a lovely feel to it, it’s what it was meant to be, the community coming together,” Michelle adds.
They currently they have approximately 20 volunteers from the Windgap and Tullahough area, but they’re always looking for more.
“You don’t have to be from the parish, anyone is welcome to come and join the team, it’s a lovely social thing,” Michelle says.
The tearooms is already bringing locals together, according to Michelle. Two men from the same area who had never had the opportunity to chat before, finally got to meet each other when they sat down at the same table in the tearooms on the first training day.
“Even though they grew up in the same area they never had a proper conversation until they ended up sitting at the same table last Friday. They had a right chat. One of them commented to me, you know I never had a proper conversation with that man until today. That in itself is a result,” Michelle says.
“We are going to open Bank Holiday Monday from 11am-3pm and after that we hope to open full time,” Michelle adds.
They hope to open four or four-and-a-half days a week, depending on how many volunteers are available. Offering toilet facilities, delicious food, tea, coffee, grocery essentials and a playground nearby, the shop and tearooms will be a hub of activity that will provide a vital social hub for the community.