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Queen’s University Belfast unveils plans for new €5.7m Seamus Heaney Centre

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Queen’s University Belfast has announced a €5.7 million (£4.9 million) new landmark venue for the Seamus Heaney Centre, which will open for staff, students and the public early next year.

The reimagined space at the listed buildings in University Road and Mount Charles is close to the campus’s main Lanyon Building.

The original Seamus Heaney Centre was opened by the Nobel Prize-winning poet in 2004.

Professor Glenn Patterson said: “It is an enormous pleasure to be able to announce this next stage in the development of the Heaney Centre, further honouring the legacy of Seamus Heaney – Nobel laureate, Queen’s graduate, honorary graduate, lecturer and one of Ireland’s greatest poets – 20 years after the centre was founded under first director the late Ciaran Carson.

“The new centre allows us to build on the academic and artistic achievements of those first 20 years and to look with confidence to the next 20 – and more – with greater scope for engagement with the wider literary community.

“In this new shared space we will create a centre that looks out, speaks out, and writes out confidently into the world.”

The new centre will feature an expanded poetry library, a large venue space, teaching rooms, academic offices, work stations for up to 30 students, and an exhibition area to display the Seamus Heaney archive held by Queen’s.

The centre will also help with the creation of a Visiting International Seamus Heaney Chair in Creative Writing.

Catherine Heaney, the poet’s daughter and a member of the advisory board, said: “The Seamus Heaney Centre is really important to me and my family because it’s about education.

“Queen’s is where my father started writing poetry, where he studied himself, and started his career as a lecturer and an educator.

“It’s very much part of his writing past and the amazing thing about the centre is that it’s carrying that into the future.”

The project will be funded by the university’s capital development programme and through philanthropic donations from donors across the globe.

Helen Carrick, assistant director (philanthropy) at Queen’s, said: “The original Seamus Heaney Centre was established in 2003 with a philanthropic gift from the Atlantic Philanthropies, so it’s fitting that philanthropy continues to play a crucial role in the success of the centre.

“To date, thanks to several generous donors, including the Wolfson Foundation and Garfield Weston Foundation, an impressive £1 million has been raised for this project.

“We aim to at least double this figure to support the vision of the Seamus Heaney Centre, including establishing an academic chair and expanding on the centre’s outreach activity with schools and local communities.” – PA

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