A Trade Magazine for Northern Ireland's Building & Design Professionals
Seamus Heaney’s HomePlace, Bellaghy
Step inside this significant addition to local heritage sector that remembers the legacy of the Northern Ireland Nobel Laureate…
A committed team effort produces an Inspirational building that celebrates the life and literature of poet, Seamus Heaney…
Seamus Heaney HomePlace, a new arts and literary centre celebrating the life and literature of the poet and Nobel Laureate, has opened in Bellaghy to great acclaim.
The village of Bellaghy is where Seamus Heaney was born, raised, and where he drew much of the inspiration for his poetry. It is also his final resting place.
The work carried out by main contractor, Brendan Loughran & Sons Ltd, is a fitting tribute to the Nobel Laurete.
The £4.25million project was developed by Mid Ulster District Council, with part-funding from the former Department for Culture, Arts and Leisure, and the 2,000sqm building is now home to a permanent exhibition, interpreting Seamus Heaney’s work through his connections with people and places.
Purpose-built on the site of a former RUC police station, HomePlace is the result of a collaborative approach, led by the team from Brendan Loughran & Sons.
The facility was designed by W&M Given Architects, with the exhibition designed by Tandem Design and installed by Marcon Fit-Out’s specialist heritage/museum team completing the new exhibition.
The building design is intended to combine modern architecture with a nod to the site’s historical past, and includes an elevated viewing platform with views across the surrounding countryside – allowing visitors to fully immerse themselves in the landscape which Seamus Heaney wrote about so often.
The core feature is a permanent exhibition about the life and literature of Seamus Heaney, arranged over two floors and filled with personal stories and artefacts, dozens of family photographs, video recordings from friends, neighbours, world leaders, cultural figures, and even the voice of the poet himself reading his own words.
The exhibition is fully interactive using the latest touch screen, video and audio technology and includes a recreation of the poet’s Dublin study.
In addition to the exhibition, the centre boasts a 189-seat performing arts space, education and learning spaces, a café, shop and an annex for community use. There is also a library containing a substantial selection of books from Seamus Heaney’s home, including biographies, works of fiction and the work of other poets. Translations of Heaney’s work in over 20 languages also feature. All have been donated by the Heaney family.
“Working closely with Mid Ulster Council, Marcon Fit-Out, Tandem Design and other stakeholders, we were able to deliver a first-class facility,” said Padraig Quinn, Contracts Manager at Brendan Loughran & Sons Ltd. “Using the latest technology and value engineering principles we take a collaborative approach on all our projects to deliver the best results for our customers. Over the years, we have built and developed a team of experienced personnel which is recognised for its ability to complete projects to very high standards.”
In addition to the main interpretative centre, the work on the Seamus Heaney centre comprised refurbishment and extension to an existing steel clad building to the rear of the site for use as a community youth facility.
The main works for the construction of the new HomePlace comprised a portal steel framed building with cavity walls, site insitu concrete floors, suspended precast concrete floors and a combination of external finishes to the walls and roofs to include Rheinzink roof cladding, Trocal roof covering, Monocouche decorative plaster, Cedar board cladding and cementitious board to the façade.
Works also included the installation of a passenger lift and all associated mechanical and electrical services to both buildings. All site drainage and site services were included, as well as extensive site works such as coloured block walls, decorative paving flags, rubber safety surfacing, lbex fencing and planting.
The exhibition is staged over two floors and contains a recreation of the poet’s attic study in Dublin.
Working with members of the Heaney family and a small, trusted panel of Heaney experts, an engaging, interactive and multi-sensory exhibition has been developed with a broad appeal, from the school child encountering poetry for the first time to a Heaney aficionado with extensive specialist knowledge.
The exhibition was enhanced by a carefully curated selection of artefacts and historic photographs and with input from Heaney’s family, friends and the public figures he inspired. ‘Man & Boy’ features opportunities for aural, visual, physical and social interaction and opens up the subject of poetry for all.
Creative areas featuring a series of hands-on activities for both young and older visitors, include dress-up, ‘thinking caps’, jigsaws and tile puzzles, kite building, word play games and reflective space.
Heaney’s widow, Marie, and children Christopher, Michael, and Catherine were joined by almost 200 guests at an official opening to mark the completion of the building. Poets, literary figures, extended family and friends, many of whom had travelled specially to be present and prominent politicians were among the attendees.
Speaking at the event, Marie said, “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.”
Christopher added, “It’s so important and right that it’s here. Physically he left (Bellaghy) 55 years ago, but literally, creatively, imaginatively – he never really left.”