Seamus Heaney HomePlace, the new centre in Bellaghy which will celebrate the life and work of the Nobel Laureate and one of Ireland’s most celebrated writers, has reached a construction milestone.
Members of the Heaney family visited HomePlace as the £4M project moves into its final stage – the fit-out of the internal spaces which will take visitors on a journey through Seamus Heaney’s life and literature and which will also see the creation of a performance space for a literary-led events programme.
Being developed by Mid Ulster District Council, with part-funding from the former Department for Culture, Arts and Leisure, the 2,000sqm building will be home to a permanent exhibition, interpreting Seamus Heaney’s work through his connections with people and places.
The entire space over two floors will be peppered with personal stories and artefacts, dozens of family photographs, video recordings from friends, neighbours and cultural leaders, and the voice of the poet himself reading his own words.
A recreation of the poet’s attic study in Dublin is also underway, complete with velux window and a replica fax machine which, in November 1995, went into overdrive with messages of congratulations on the award of the Nobel Prize in Literature. Seamus Heaney himself was in Greece, unaware that he was the recipient of a great literary accolade ‘for works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth, which exalt everyday miracles and the living past’.
‘12 Books, 12 Months’ will be the theme for the year-long programme of events with each month focussing on one of Seamus Heaney’s twelve main collections of poetry in chronological order, beginning with Death of a Naturalist in October and concluding with Human Chain in September 2017.
At the heart of the programme, serving as inspiration for every element, will be Seamus Heaney’s life and work, incorporating music, from the classical to the traditional, poetry and staged readings, drama, dance, talks and discussions, visual art and installations.
Chair of Mid Ulster District Council, Councillor Cáthal Mallaghan, said:
“We have reached a milestone in the development of HomePlace. From next week, we will begin to fill this space with the words, images, objects, memories, stories and, of course, the poetry, for which Seamus Heaney is renowned the world over.
“Today we’re looking at a blank canvas, or more appropriately, a blank sheet of paper. Our aim is to make our mark on that paper and in so doing transform it into a place which celebrates Seamus Heaney’s life and work and which is a source of inspiration for anyone who visits”.
Speaking at the event, Seamus Heaney’s son, Michael, said:
“Having seen the first plans for the HomePlace early on, we are delighted to be here today as the project enters its final phase. It’s been exciting to see it taking shape from building site to magnificent building, and we now look forward to filling this space with an imaginative and inspiring exhibition that will mark Dad’s work and life.
“We are so grateful that he is being honoured in such a generous fashion, and we know he would have been proud at what we have seen and heard today”.
HomePlace, named to reflect the physical position of the centre at the heart of the area where the poet was born, grew up and is buried, as well as its significance as a source of inspiration for Seamus Heaney’s work throughout his life, opens in September 2016.
For more information about Seamus Heaney HomePlace, visit www.seamusheaneyhome.com or follow @SHHomePlace.