The Helicon

The Helicon

The Helicon is our intimate 190-seater performance space, designed with a nod to the Greek theatre which Seamus Heaney so loved, and where you can enjoy theatre, music, song, poetry, readings and talks inspired by his life and literature on the traverse stage.

Helicon, a mountain in Greece, is a sacred site in Greek mythology, said to have been favoured by the nine Muses – or inspirational goddesses of the arts – who shared their divine gifts with mortals. It is the location of the Hippocrene spring which, in legend, is a source of poetic inspiration.

In the poem ‘Personal Helicon’ from Death of a Naturalist, Seamus Heaney talks about his childhood fascination with wells and old pumps, and how, like so many of his childhood experiences and memories, they were a source for his poetic inspiration: becoming his ‘Personal Helicon’.

Personal Helicon
for Michael Longley

As a child, they could not keep me from wells
And old pumps with buckets and windlasses.
I loved the dark drop, the trapped sky, the smells
Of waterweed, fungus and dank moss.

One, in a brickyard, with a rotted board top.
I savoured the rich crash when a bucket
Plummeted down at the end of a rope.
So deep you saw no reflection in it.

A shallow one under a dry stone ditch
Fructified like any aquarium.
When you dragged out long roots from the soft mulch
A white face hovered over the bottom.

Others had echoes, gave back your own call
With a clean new music in it. And one
Was scaresome, for there, out of ferns and tall
Foxgloves, a rat slapped across my reflection.

Now, to pry into roots, to finger slime,
To stare, big-eyed Narcissus, into some spring
Is beneath all adult dignity. I rhyme
To see myself, to set the darkness echoing.