Relatives of Seamus Heaney have turned out for the opening of HomePlace, the new arts and literary centre dedicated to the late poet in his native village of Bellaghy, Co Londonderry.
The Nobel laureate’s widow Marie Heaney, along with her children Michael, Christopher and Catherine, visited the new centre on Thursday morning ahead of its official opening later in the evening which will be attended by 200 guests.
They toured the £4.25m attraction which celebrates the life and work of the local literary legend.
Poets, literary figures, extended family and friends, and prominent politicians will be among the attendees which will also include acclaimed singer-songwriter, Paul Brady, performing as part of the opening ceremony.
Dublin-born star of stage and screen, Stanley Townsend, will also read from Heaney’s work at the event and the evening will close with a specially created piece of music, ‘LifeCycle’ which is being created by nine musicians from Ireland, Scotland, Japan, the US, Poland and Greece.
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.
Councillor Trevor Wilson, Chair of Mid Ulster District Council, said a lot work has gone into preparing for the museum's launch.
“In the last number of weeks as we’ve been preparing to open, training staff and testing elements of the building, those involved have found their own journey through the exhibition which celebrates life and work of Seamus Heaney to be a moving, and at times, emotional experience.
“This kind of response shows very clearly how significant Seamus Heaney and his work have been, and remain, for a great number of people – and that goes for the true poetry fans, as well as those with a natural curiosity and a wish to see and experience what’s on offer.
“And while the exhibition is naturally the focal point of HomePlace, we also have The Helicon, a performance space which we will use for drama, concerts, recitals, song, talks, lectures and discussions, all using Seamus Heaney’s literature as their ‘jumping off’ point.
“Our opening weekend programme of events is practically sold out and out first full programme season begins on 7 October with Death of a Naturalist, as the inspiration not just for readings from Seamus Heaney’s first collection of poetry, but for music and recitals which take their lead from the poetry”.
The councillor also thanked the Heaney family for their support and close involvement in the project, saying it would not have been possible without them.
He added: “We are incredibly grateful for their guidance and invaluable contribution at every step of the way. And we know we are extraordinarily privileged to be part-custodians of the legacy of this man and his work.”