Last week, DHR travelled to Bellaghy, Co Derry, to manage media attendance and provide event management support for the official opening of Seamus Heaney HomePlace, a new arts and literary centre which marks the life and work of the Nobel Laureate and one of Ireland’s most celebrated writers.
HomePlace is located at the heart of 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 on him of the people and the place are central to the exhibition, which takes visitors on a journey through his life and literature: over two floors of photographs, stories and personal items, including a battered school satchel, an ink-stained desk and the poet’s trade-mark duffle coat.
There is also an interpretation of the poet’s Dublin study. The exhibition is complete with Velux window and replica fax machine, reminding visitors that Heaney was in Greece when he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, unaware for two days that he had received the greatest literary accolade.
To mark the opening of HomePlace, an impressive and emotional opening ceremony took place in the centre’s performance space, the Helicon. Close to 200 guests, including poets, literary figures, extended family and friends, and prominent politicians watched and listened to performances by singer-songwriter Paul Brady and the staging of ‘LifeCycle’, a piece of music which was specially created by nine musicians from Ireland, Scotland, Japan, the US, Poland and Greece.
Dublin-born star of stage and screen, Stanley Townsend read from Seamus Heaney’s work, and Seamus’ wife Marie delivered a moving speech about her late husband, while their three children, Mick, Chris and Catherine, each read out of poem by their father. Northern Ireland’s First Minister, Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness also paid tribute to the poet.
In addition to the permanent exhibition, the 189-seat performing arts space offers a highly interesting, year-long programme of shows based around the 12 volumes of poetry Heaney published in his lifetime. Between now and Christmas, it will host a multi-arts programme of theatre, dance, classical music and talks by writers including Booker Prize winners James Kelman and Alan Hollinghurst.
HomePlace also features a library with a substantial number of books from Heaney’s home donated by his family, and a café offering locally sourced food throughout the day.
For more information on Seamus Heaney HomePlace and to book tickets for the programme of events, visit: www.seamusheaneyhome.com.