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Updates for 1st October 2008

The new Lyric Theatre reaches a memorable milestone.

Photographs courtesy of The Lyric Theatre & John Harrison Photography
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The performing arts in Northern Ireland laid a firm foundation for a bright new future today, with the unveiling of a ‘Threshold Stone’ by Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney to celebrate the start of construction on the Lyric Theatre’s new state-of-the-art home on its Ridgeway Street site in Belfast.

It was a star-studded affair which Brian attended recently. Brian is a big supporter of the Lyric and has done a lot to help their campaign to raise funds to build the new theatre. They have a final £800,000 to raise to reach their £18 million target.

Mark Carruthers (Chairman, Lyric Theatre), Rosemary Kelly (Chair, Arts Council), James Nesbitt, Seamus Heaney, BK, Conor O'Malley, Geraldine Hughes

Speaking at the event, which took place in the open on the recently-laid foundations of the new building, Seamus Heaney said, “The renovation of the Lyric Theatre is a reminder of the vital artistic achievement in the past and the promise of ongoing creative vigour in the future. The renewal of the fabric of the building stands for the kind of social and psychic renewal that the entire community aspires to. The Lyric has engaged with the life of its society and performed the classic Shakespearean task to provide ‘the abstract and brief chronicles of the time’. I am honoured that words from my poem will appear on the Threshold Stone and I add my voice to the chorus of congratulation.

Today’s event mirrored another symbolic occasion in the Lyric’s rich history. In June 1965, supporters of the Lyric Players gathered on the very same site to lay the Foundation Stone of the original theatre. They included a young up and coming poet, Seamus Heaney, who recited a new poem, ‘Peter Street at Bankside’, specially written for that occasion. Forty-four years on, a stanza from this poem has been engraved in the Threshold Stone which will mark the main entrance to the new theatre, scheduled to open in 2011.
BK with Ciaran McAuley (CEO, Lyric Theatre) actors James Nesbitt and Conleth Hill, and musician Neil Martin
Assembled guests at today’s event, which was hosted by Lyric actor Dan Gordon, also enjoyed poetry from Michael Longley and a solo cello performance by Neil Martin. Internationally acclaimed playwright Brian Friel, who celebrates his 80th birthday this year and has had a long association with the Lyric, sent a personal message of good wishes for the future, which was read out by actress Geraldine Hughes. Friel noted that: “A new theatre can be the most exciting building in any city. It can be the home of miracles and epiphanies and revelations and renovations. And building a new theatre - especially in times like these - is both an act of fortitude and a gesture of faith in your community.”

Welcoming guests to this major milestone event, Mark Carruthers, Lyric Chairman, said, “The unveiling of this Threshold Stone is a statement of intent for the Lyric’s future. In our new home we can introduce more people to live theatre than ever before and we can stage world class productions of important work in a way that, up to now, we might only have dreamed of. Today we truly are on the threshold of something wonderful.
BK and Seamus Heaney at the Lyric Theatre's 'Threshold Ceremony'

Details of the Lyric's new theatre and ways to help the fundraising campaign can be found on