Queen’s University Belfast has announced a $6.2m new landmark venue for the Seamus Heaney Centre at Queen’s, which will open for staff, students, and the public in early 2024.
The new venue at the heart of the University campus represents the next chapter for the Centre, whose original building was opened at a ceremony attended by Seamus Heaney himself in 2004.
A visiting Professor at Harvard in 1979, the 1995 Nobel Laureate went to be elected the Bolyston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory before moving on to be the Ralph Emerson Poet-in-Residence, a post he held at Harvard until 2006.
Director of the Seamus Heaney Centre at Queen’s, 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 – twenty 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 twenty years and to look with confidence to the next twenty – 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. A Centre with Heaney at its heart, a Centre where writing lives.”
With postgraduate student numbers in particular growing steadily in recent years, the new Centre’s vastly increased size – more than double that of the current building – will not just serve today’s needs but allow too for future growth.
The Centre will feature an expanded poetry library, a large venue space, teaching rooms, academic offices a ‘scriptorium’, with individual work stations for up to thirty students, and an exhibition area to display the Seamus Heaney archive held by Queen’s, providing for the first time a focal point to promote the literary heritage of the University and Belfast.
The Centre will also create a Visiting International Seamus Heaney Chair in Creative Writing bringing expertise and new perspectives to the expanding list of degree courses and activities, and engagement programmes with educational and community groups in Belfast and across Northern Ireland.
Welcoming the building, Catherine Heaney, daughter of Seamus and 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. As far as we’re concerned it plays a really important part in his legacy and we’re excited to see what it does next.”
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 Irish American Partnership and the Scott Griffin Foundation, an impressive $1.3m 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. If you would like to help write the next chapter of this Centre, please get in touch."
For more information on the Seamus Heaney Centre’s landmark venue and how to support through a philanthropic donation, please visit: www.qub.ac.uk/alumni/QueensUniversityofBelfastFoundation/SeamusHeaneyCentre/