Construction Begins on Seamus Heaney Centre

£4m development offers creative haven for the arts in Bellaghy, birthplace of the famed poet

More than 2,000 books and reference materials from the personal library of the late poet, Seamus Heaney, will create a haven for literature and the arts in a new visitor centre to celebrate the life and work of the late Nobel Laureate.

Work begins on the £4m centre in Bellaghy, County Londonderry in early 2015, which is being developed by Magherafelt District Council with the support of the Heaney family, and is expected to attract up to 50,000 visitors each year when it opens in 2016.

As well as the library, which will be a controlled space for academics and researchers, the centre’s public focus will be a large exhibition space linking the people, places, landscapes and traditions that influenced and inspired Heaney, and also a selection of his personal belongings, from his signature duffel coat to his fountain pen.

A 160-seater theatre and performance space for poetry readings, art, drama and music performances will also be a focal part of the building, with specific learning, activity and creative zones designed to meet the needs of children and young people, as well as large tour groups.

Welcoming the beginning of construction, councillor Kate McEldowney, chair of Magherafelt District Council, said: 'Beginning construction is a significant milestone in our plans to celebrate the life and works of a man from the village of Bellaghy who gained international standing and a global reputation.

'The centre is not only an opportunity to ensure his contribution to the arts and wider society is recognised and remembered, but will also be a catalyst for regeneration in Bellaghy and, with the potential to generate an additional £6m in visitor spend for the local economy, a clear boost to the tourism industry of the wider Mid Ulster area.

'The commitment and generosity of the Heaney family, the support of the local Bellaghy community and now the endorsement of the new Mid Ulster District Council mean that this centre will undoubtedly rank as one of the most significant legacies of Magherafelt District Council.'

Mid Ulster District Council, which assumes responsibility for the existing Magherafelt council area together with Cookstown and Dungannon councils in April 2015, has supported the centre, which will form a key element of its capital programme.

The project architects are W&M Given and the building contractor is Brendan Loughran & Sons. The interpretive element of the project is being managed by Tandem Design.