The family of Seamus Heaney have said he would have been proud to see a new arts and literary centre where he spent his childhood.
The £4.25m (€4.9m) building was officially opened by the Nobel laureate’s widow Marie Heaney and their children, Christopher, Michael, and Catherine on the site of an old RUC barracks in his native Bellaghy, Co Derry.
The Seamus Heaney HomePlace is surrounded by the rural lands which inspired much of his work.
At its heart is a permanent exhibition on two floors about the poet’s life and writing along with a 189-seat performance space, a library with books from his home which his family donated and room for exhibitions.
His son Michael paid a glowing tribute to those behind the project.
“It will become a hugely important place for all of our family, and all of those who treasured Seamus.
“We are so grateful that dad is being honoured in such a generous fashion.
“The exhibition space, programming and general approach to HomePlace manages to intertwine the work and man.”
About 200 guests gathered for the official opening including singer-songwriter Paul Brady and actor Stanley Townsend who read from Heaney’s work at the event.
A piece of music LifeCycle, specially created for the event by nine musicians from Ireland, Scotland, Japan, the US, Poland and Greece was also played.
Those behind the project said the influence and impact on Heaney of the people and the place of Co Derry are central to the exhibition.
Visitors will take in a journey through his life and literature, including photographs, stories, personal items and objects and books and they can also watch a film of the reaction to his Nobel award.
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