Brian McCormick, manager of HomePlace, reflects on the first year

September 27, 2017

On 1st September 2016 a group of people gathered together for the first time who would play a key and core role in the success of the whole Seamus Heaney HomePlace project - the staff team. 
On that first morning we made our introductions, managed to get to know a little about each other, and set out the aims and desires we all would work hard to achieve from opening day onwards.
I distinctly remember thinking by lunchtime of that first day - we undoubtedly have a group of people who can gel together and achieve our considerable ambitions. And so it has proved. On a daily basis, I marvel at the professionalism, passion and desire of the team to deliver for all visitors to HomePlace, and I'm so pleased to be part of that collective effort. 

While most of the team started at the beginning of September 2016, I had the luxury of being in post for nearly a year previously. During that period I worked alongside my colleagues in the Mid Ulster District Council and beyond, who displayed similar ambitions for HomePlace and we spent many long days working to ensure all would be ready for opening.
The official opening night itself is honestly a bit of a blur, except for one aspect of the evening, the ‘Lifecycle’ event, which brought together musicians from all over the world to play a piece of music they composed just 48 hours previously and after having just met for the first time in HomePlace! Very movingly interspersed through the piece was a reading of the poem ‘Digging’, with one line delivered by each of the musicns, in their own language, which included Japanese, Polish, Irish, and English.
The magnitude of what we had embarked upon hit me there and then. Seamus Heaney’s work had spread right across the globe and everyone involved in this project was helping to bring the words back home.
Over the course of the year there have been many, many highlights and, it should be said, inevitably some difficult days! At the forefront of the highlights are the reactions received from visitors to Seamus Heaney HomePlace on a daily basis. This gives great reassurance to know we are meeting and surpassing the expectations of people when they come to Bellaghy. 
We have had many illustrious performers and contributors across the year, so much so I need to take stock on occasion to think ‘we’re actually doing this, in Bellaghy!’. It’s sometimes hard to believe this time last year the building was just opening, and we all were full of hope, expectation, and some fear, for what lay ahead! Now one year on, we are established, solid, confident and building a world-class reputation as a facility undoubtedly worthy of carrying Seamus Heaney’s name.
My mother Sheena was Seamus’ sister, so this is both a personal and professional passion of mine. As we left The Helicon after that amazing ‘Lifecycle’ performance I was met by one of my relations who said to me, ‘your mother would be very proud’. I hope my mother would be proud of the work going on and the whole Heaney family can be confident that Seamus Heaney HomePlace does justice to the great man’s work every day.