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Flagship Irish language, cultural and business centre is officially launched in Londonderry / Derry

Published on:  31 Aug 2009

Visitors to the North West recently cannot have failed to notice an impressive new addition to the skyline in Londonderry / Derry.

Cultúrlann Uí Chanáin, a £4million landmark Irish language, cultural and enterprise centre based in the city’s historic Great James Street area, will open its doors on Friday 4th September with a weekend of celebrations.

Designed by award winning Dublin architects, O’Donnell & Tuomey, the centre’s modern design is a work of art in itself. But it’s not just the architecture that is causing a stir; the new centre has already become a beacon for language and culture enthusiasts, and will greatly enhance access to services and facilities for the city’s Irish speaking community. It is also a symbol of the ongoing economic regeneration of the city.

Chief Executive, Gearóid Ó hEára said “The opening of Cultúrlann Uí Chanáin marks a major step forward for the development of the Irish Language community in Derry. The design style of the building, its city centre location and the functions which it will deliver make a powerful statement about the state of the language in Derry at the start of this millennium. This is a testimony to past Irish language activists from this city and a legacy to the young activists of future who will take this language revival to a new level.”

Cultúrlann Uí Chanáin includes a 200 seat theatre; classrooms; youth club; a 1,655 sq ft business incubation suite, housing three units; café and book store. All facilities will be open to both Irish and English speakers.

The building has been financed by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Foras Na Gaeilge, Office of the First and Deputy First Minister, ILEX, Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, International Fund for Ireland, European Union Peace & Reconciliation Programme, Department for Social Development, Ulster Community Investment Fund and the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said: "I am delighted that OFMDFM contributed half a million pounds from the Integrated Development Fund for the Cultúrlann Uí Chanáin, which is an important development for all the people of Derry. This impressive new complex will give valuable support to the Irish language community here as well as providing a resource for the wider community in the City. I would like to congratulate everyone involved and those who had the foresight and dedication to bring about the establishment of this Centre which is testimony to their efforts."

Arts Council Chairman, Rosemary Kelly said,   “The Arts Council has been a long term funder for arts and arts organisations in the North West and the opening of Cultúrlann Uí Chanáin celebrates a considerable milestone for the area. This cultural landmark will make a major contribution to the development of the arts in Northern Ireland, offering excellent facilities for artists and the public in a vibrant new building.”

Minister Éamon Ó Cuív, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs said ”I am very pleased for many reasons that my Department could help with this very worthy project.  Firstly, this is a north south joint venture which has been achieved with the help of organisations and departments in both jurisdictions.  This project is aimed at benefiting the Irish language and, in that context, I am aware that the Northern Ireland Schools census of 2001 shows that the  number of students who are educated in Gaelscoileanna in Derry has increased by 55% and that 13.75% of the population of Derry has an understanding of the Irish language.  It is also worthwhile mentioning that more than 7,000 people used services or facilities provided by An Gaeláras in 2008 – that is the group who were responsible for the development of the Cultúrlann.  Finally, it is my understanding that the Cultúrlann will employ 15 staff initially and that it is hoped to add to that number in the future.  I wish the Cultúrlann all the best for many years to come.”

“The International Fund for Ireland contributed £353,000 towards the business incubation units within Cultúrlann Uí Chanáin, and I’m sure the new state-of-the-art business units will be a tremendous benefit to the local business sector in Derry/Londonderry and the wider Northwest region,” said Dr Adrian Johnston, Board Member of the International Fund for Ireland.

“The incubation units will provide the necessary environment to encourage new and existing small businesses maximise their potential, and contribute positively to the local economy, helping to strengthen and underpin community life in the long-term. It is noteworthy that one of the three units is already occupied, which underlines the demand for such high quality business units.

“I would also like to take this opportunity to thank our international donors: the United States of America; the European Union; Canada; Australia; and New Zealand for their support, without which we could not fund such vital projects.”

“The opening of the new Cultúrlann Uí Chanáin centre is a very welcome addition to the ongoing regeneration of Derry~Londonderry” said Aideen McGinley, Chief Executive Designate at Ilex.

“Both the Integrated Development Fund (£500,000) and the North West Cultural Challenge Fund (£483,000) supported the construction of this landmark Irish language, arts, culture and business enterprise centre at Great James Street in the City.   The purpose of the Integrated Development Fund (IDF) was to provide additional support to strong wide-ranging partnerships in a small number of pilot areas to enable the completion of local integrated development plans. The North West was one of the selected pilot areas.  Ilex is responsible for overseeing and managing the delivery of the package of IDF regeneration projects in the North West area and a broad range of regeneration activities have been supported by the Fund.

The North West Cultural Challenge Fund, now complete, provided funding to support capital projects in the arts and culture sector and sought to optimise arts and culture within the regeneration context.  The fund was co-ordinated by Ilex.

We wish the new centre every success for the future and look forward to the contribution Cultúrlann Uí Chanáin will make to the rejuvenation of the city in the years ahead.”

Education Minister, Caitríona Ruane, commented “The rapid growth of the Irish medium education sector has resulted in more young people who speak or have some knowledge of Irish. Centres such as Cultúrlann Uí Chanáin provide children and young people with the opportunity to socialise and participate in activities with other young Irish speakers. I would like to congratulate all those involved in the centre which I am sure will be enjoyed by the community as a whole for many years to come.”

A packed programme of activities has been planned to celebrate the centre’s opening. Friday 4th September is the official launch and there will be an evening of traditional music, and taster sessions in language, music and art. Saturday 5th September is Children’s Day with face painters, balloon sculpture, instrument making workshops and circus skills. On Saturday evening there will be a Celebration Concert featuring the cream of Ireland’s traditional musicians and performers including Seamus Begley (accordion) Donagh Hennessy (guitar) Seosamh O Neachtain (Sean-Nós dancer) Seosamh MacGuiggan (Sean-Nós dancer) Naisirin Elsafty (Sean-Nós singer). The weekend will culminate on Sunday 6th September with traditional menu in Caife Fáilte, poetry readings, and the screening of a series of Irish language short films.

Entrance is free to all events but pre-booking is recommended as places are limited. Call 02871 264132 or visit www.culturlann-doire.ie for more information.

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