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Old Georgian House to be transformed into new home for Irish poetry... and it has some major backers

After 40 years, it looks like Poetry Ireland may finally get its own centre in Dublin.
Jan 14th 2018, 6:31 PM 23,709 34

Source: Poetry Ireland/YouTube

ONE OF DUBLIN’s oldest townhouses is set to be transformed into the new home for poetry in Ireland.

Planning permission has been received to transform the 250-year-old Georgian House at No 11 Parnell Square with ambitious plans to convert the period features into a modern home for the artform.

Almost €1 million has been donated to the project to date, and Poetry Ireland and the Irish Heritage Trust have now launched a capital fundraising campaign in order to raise the other €4 million required.

With other forms of Irish art already commemorated with museums across the city, it is hoped that this new centre for Irish poetry can make sure the country’s rich heritage in this field is maintained and developed.

Poetry Ireland Director Maureen Kennelly told TheJournal.ie: “We need this. Irish people do love poetry. That goes without saying.

Playwrights have the Abbey. Musicians have the concert hall. Painters have the National Gallery. We think poets need this.

Citing poets from Heaney and Yeats to Muldoon and Boland, the centre would be a celebration of Ireland’s rich heritage in this field, while also encouraging younger generations to explore the artform.

Transforming the building

The building itself has a long history, having been built by Luke Gardiner – one of Georgian Dublin’s visionary “developers”.

It later housed The National Club, a members club that counted WB Yeats’ muse Maud Gonne, and the nationalist John O’Leary who featured in Yeats’ poem September 1913, among its regulars.

No 11′s council chamber is the setting for one of the stories in James Joyce’s Dubliners, which pays tribute to Charles Stewart Parnell.

Kennelly said that while the house is in “good nic”, there are some “essential things that need to be done”.

The overall goal here is to renovate the building to its former glory.

The plans for the restoration, compiled by architects McCullough Mulvin, include the careful conservation-led refurbishment of the house, with the provision of universal access.

The basement will function as an independent restaurant, while the ground and first floors will house the Poetry Ireland centre. This will be “a vibrant cultural hub comprising elegant performance and workshop spaces, a café and bookshop, and the custom Seamus Heaney Poetry Library”.

Backing

There has been major backing for the project, with the likes of comedian Dara Ó Briain, actor Aidan Gillen and former US vice-president Joe Biden expressing their support for the creation of the centre.

In a video created to show this support, Gillen said: “For a country with such a reputation for poetry and literature, it’s surprising that such a centre does not yet exist.

So it’s thrilling that this now seems set to happen.

Kevin Baird, from the Irish Heritage Trust, said: “No 11 Parnell Square is a precious building of historical, political and architectural significance that’s being brought back to life.”

Kennelly said that with around €4 million left to raise, there was still a long way to go but through its contact with the Irish Heritage Trust, it was hoped that €2.5 million could be raised through public sources of funding.

That would leave €1.5 million left to raise, and discussions are under way with philanthropic interests at home and abroad to try to source the remaining funds.

“We’d really love to be in a position to open by the end of 2019, or spring of 2020,” she said.

This is a completely worthwhile project, and it was very heartening to see the support we’ve gotten so far. Poetry Ireland is 40 this year. From the very start, our goal was to have a centre in Dublin. It has been a long campaign, but it could finally be within sight.

Read: Bob Geldof says he would accept Freedom of Dublin if it was reinstated

Read: Shane McGowan to be honoured at 60th birthday celebration in National Concert Hall

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