Mid Ulster District Council has stepped in to correct misleading media reporting of Seamus Heaney HomePlace, the literary centre in Bellaghy which celebrates the life and literature of the Nobel Laureate.
Clarifying the position, Chair of the Council, Councillor Sean McPeake, said a press article which implied that a visit to the US has been motivated by financial pressures was incorrect.
“Nothing could be further from the truth,” said Councillor McPeake.
“Seamus Heaney HomePlace is meeting and, indeed, exceeding, its visitor and income targets and operating within the annual budget, set and agreed by the Council – to date we have welcomed almost 80,000 visitors from more than 20 countries and income stands at close to £500K
“A literary centre of this calibre, however, like the vast majority of arts, tourism or indeed leisure facilities, requires a subvention. This is not a surprise to anyone.
“This subvention is, in fact, an investment, not just in an award-winning centre with an acclaimed exhibition, arts and education programme, but also in culture generally, in rural tourism and in the regeneration of a small village.
“HomePlace has acted as a catalyst for business development, job creation and economic growth and is estimated to generate more than £800K in visitor spend and bed nights in the area per annum.
“Seamus Heaney was a figure of global importance and HomePlace is an international facility. Now that it is established and successful, we are working to extend our reach internationally and our visit to the US is part of that work to develop partnerships and to promote HomePlace.
“When I visited HomePlace this week, there were 4 coaches in the car park, a tour group from the United States had just visited, 3 schools had participated in an education event and the café was packed with a lunchtime crowd.
“The development of HomePlace has a much broader impact and importance in both monetary and non-monetary terms. It is achieving what we set out to achieve and is the jewel in the crown of Mid Ulster”.