Internationally acclaimed stars of stage and screen arrived in Dublin yesterday (6 February) to celebrate continued global interest in Ireland’s much celebrated Nobel Laureate, Seamus Heaney.
In an ‘Embrace the Giant Spirit’ event organised by Tourism NI, actors Stephen Rea, Tara Lynne O’Neill and Laurence Kinlan, musician Neil Martin and the singer-songwriter Lisa Hannigan, gave a unique and moving performance to celebrate Seamus Heaney’s work at Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin.
The programme was curated by Seamus Heaney HomePlace, the literary centre in Bellaghy, Co Derry, which takes visitors on a journey through the life and literature of the poet, with an invited audience including members of the Heaney family, representatives from the local tourism industry as well as arts, culture and media.
The performers came together as part of an initiative which aims to highlight the literary connections between Seamus Heaney HomePlace, which recently reached its 130,000 visitor milestone, and the hugely successful ‘Listen Now Again’ exhibition, which draws on the National Library’s extensive Heaney archive and has welcomed over 162,000 visitors since it opened in Dublin in July 2018.
Featuring powerful performances of Seamus Heaney’s work, including an adaptation in words and music of an excerpt of Aeneid: Book VI and a haunting performance of Anahorish by Lisa Hannigan, the event comes as HomePlace prepares to extend its visitor experience into the landscape which so inspired the poet and which features in his work.
A total of 5 locations of significance to Seamus Heaney are being developed, notable among them being Lough Beg a place of ‘special memories’ for the poet where a boardwalk will lead visitors to a newly constructed viewing point to see Church Island and its famous spire, with extracts of poetry audible, as well as visible along the route. A riverside walk by the Moyola River is also being created and a newly commissioned sculpture will form the focal point for visitors to hear and read poetry at the eel fishery in Toome. Visitors will also be able to download an app, which will allow access to augmented reality as they journey through each location.
Fiona Cunningham, RoI Market Manager for Tourism NI said, “With the impressive Seamus Heaney HomePlace, situated in Bellaghy, only two and a half hours from Dublin, visitors can really immerse themselves in our greatest poet’s writing and discover many areas of his beloved hometown that inspired so much of his work.
“Over 162,000 thousand have visited the Dublin exhibition since it opened in 2018, and many may be unaware of the very unique and spiritually moving experience one can also get when visiting Heaney HomePlace. Visitors are coming from all over the world to soak up the beautiful place, people and landscapes in Northern Ireland that inspired him so much and we want to encourage people from across Ireland to make the unforgettable trip to follow his journey, walk the paths he took and explore through his words at Seamus Heaney HomePlace. We are really inviting you to embrace our giant spirit in NI and to awaken your own.”
HomePlace also recently opened its new Tourism NI approved Visitor Information Centre, offering a range of new services for visitors to learn about further immersive activities, places to visit and stay in the area.
Chris Heaney, son of Seamus Heaney, said: “It’s a pleasure to be here this evening to celebrate Seamus Heaney HomePlace and to highlight its outstanding events programme of readings, concerts and performances”.
Chair of Mid Ulster District Council, Councillor Martin Kearney, commented, “We in Bellaghy and Dublin share our custodianship of a significant legacy and this evening HomePlace has been very pleased to be curating here, sharing also a taste of the experience our visitors have in our performance space.
“We hope that we will continue, individually and collectively, to celebrate all our writers and the great literary talent which has emerged from this island. There is a momentum building across Ireland and an opportunity for us to create a cultural tourism network across the entire landscape, North to South, East to West, where we and our visitors can embrace a ‘giant literary spirit’”.
Brian McCormick, manager of HomePlace, commented, “We want to extend our sincere thanks to Tourism NI for hosting such a special evening and for continuing to highlight the incredible opportunities there are, through HomePlace and Listen Now Again, for visitors to engage with and be inspired by Seamus Heaney and his work”.
The latest Seamus Heaney-related investment is valued at over £500,000, with 75% funding from DAERA and the remainder from Mid Ulster District Council which owns and operates Seamus Heaney HomePlace.
To book your short break to Northern Ireland visit: www.discovernorthernireland.com