Seamus Heaney HomePlace, the new arts and literary centre in Bellaghy, has been officially opened by the Heaney family this evening.
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 (€4.9m) 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 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.
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.”