Seamus Heaney HomePlace, the new arts and literary centre in Bellaghy, has been officially opened by the Heaney family this evening (29 September).
Marie Heaney, together with children, Michael, Christopher and Catherine, were joined by almost 200 guests at the event to mark the completion of the £4.25M building which will celebrate the life and literature of the poet and Nobel Laureate.
Poets, literary figures, extended family and friends, many of whom had travelled specially to be present and prominent politicians were among the attendees which also included acclaimed singer-songwriter, Paul Brady, who performed ‘Slieve Gallion Braes’ as part of the opening ceremony.
In her address Marie Heaney said, “It is a great honour for me to be here this evening to officially open this magnificent building, dedicated to Seamus’s memory, to his work and legacy. I have watched in amazement with the rest of my family as it has taken shape – from plans on a computer screen, to a construction site, and into the wonderful space we are standing in this evening.
“It is a place to be proud of, a place that acknowledges and celebrates history and the past while looking to the future. I hope that it will become a meeting place for neighbours, friends and visitors – a congenial space for the local community as well as a cultural destination for those from further afield.”
Dublin-born star of stage and screen, Stanley Townsend, read Moss Bawn Omphalos and in a dramatic moment, the invited audience also heard the voice of the poet himself echo through the performance space, reading his poem ‘Personal Helicon’.
The evening concluded with a specially created piece of music, entitled, ‘LifeCycle’ which had quite literally been ‘made out of Bellaghy’, after nine musicians from Ireland, Scotland, Japan, the US, Poland and Greece, gathered in the village for the first time yesterday (Wednesday 28 September) to compose and then rehearse the work.
HomePlace is located at the heart of the area where Seamus Heaney spent his formative years and which inspired so much of his work across a career that spanned almost five decades.
The influence and impact of the people and the place on him are central to the exhibition which will take visitors on a journey through his life and literature, over two floors full of photographs, stories, personal items and objects and books.
There is also an interpretation of the poet’s Dublin study, where a film compilation of the reaction to his award of the Nobel Prize in Literature plays and a fax machine reminds visitors that he was in Greece, unaware for two days that he had received the greatest literary accolade.
Chair of Mid Ulster District Council, Councillor Trevor Wilson, said:
“This has been a truly special occasion and we in Mid Ulster District Council are extraordinarily privileged to be part-custodians of the legacy of a man and his work which continues to be so influential and impactful on people around the world.
“Our greatest hope is that all those who visit HomePlace will find something extraordinary in the ordinary, like Seamus Heaney, and will leave inspired by what they experience here”.
The First Minister, Arlene Foster said: “I am delighted to be here this evening to celebrate the legacy of Seamus Heaney in this beautiful new building. I congratulate Mid Ulster District Council, Anthony Tohill, Chief Executive, and all his team on the provision of this magnificent facility which is befitting of the man who enriched the lives of so many, not just in Northern Ireland but right across the world.
“The collections now on display in HomePlace bring a new, and very personal, connection to Seamus Heaney and his work. It will become a beacon for tourists and lovers of poetry from near and far who want to see for themselves, and feel close to, what inspired him.”
The deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness said: “I am honoured to be here to celebrate the life and legacy of a giant of Irish literature, Seamus Heaney. I pay special tribute to Marie and the wider Heaney family for being so accommodating and engaged in the creation of this centre. Whether people arrive here with a well-thumbed book of the work of Seamus Heaney or with no prior knowledge, they will leave truly inspired.
“The Executive was pleased to contribute £980,000 towards the Seamus Heaney HomePlace which will educate and entertain in equal measure and will be a resounding success.”
For more information and to book for the exhibition and the new season events programme, visit www.seamusheaneyhome.com or contact the Box Office on 028 7938 7444.