Belfast Telegraph

It’s like coming home, Liam Neeson declares as he pays a visit to Heaney centre

By Mark Bain

Hollywood star Liam Neeson was a surprise visitor to the Seamus Heaney HomePlace in Co Londonderry yesterday.

The Ballymena man paid homage to the former Nobel Laureate as he called at the centre in the heart of Heaney country and was greeted by centre manager Brian McCormick.

The star of Schindler's List and Taken is believed to be back in Northern Ireland to film Normal People, an adaptation of a play by Owen McCafferty.

The film is being directed by Lisa Barros D'Sa and Glenn Leyburn, who directed 2012 Belfast-based Terri Hooley biopic Good Vibrations.

Neeson and Lesley Manville will portray happily married couple Tom and Joan, who face challenges when Joan is diagnosed with breast cancer.

The star previously revealed that Heaney's work had inspired him to become an actor and earlier this year lent his voice to a promotional video showcasing the Bellaghy centre, which celebrates the life and work of Ireland's greatest poet (right).

Neeson said: "The power of his poetry began a lifetime love of language in me that led to my career as an actor."

In the visitors' book yesterday, Neeson wrote: "It's like coming home. A dream remembered fondly."

HomePlace houses an interactive exhibition, 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 the voice of the poet himself. HomePlace also features a recreation of the poet's Dublin study.

In addition to the exhibition, the centre boasts a 191-seat performance space - The Helicon - a library, education and learning spaces, a cafe, shop and an annex for community use.

Seamus Heaney died after a short illness in October 2013 and the HomePlace opened to the public in September 2016.

Over the weekend the actor also dropped in at O'Hanlon Park Amateur Boxing Club in Dundalk, Co Louth, to the surprise and delight of the community and club members.

The former amateur boxer spent time helping the youngsters hone their skills in the ring.

Last week Neeson paid a visit to one of Northern Ireland's biggest tourist attractions - Titanic Belfast.

In a picture uploaded on Twitter, Titanic Belfast staff wrote: "Lovely to have Liam Neeson call in to @TitanicBelfast yesterday for a quick visit!"

Belfast Telegraph

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