Bloomsday & Birthday updates

Happy Bloomsday, and happy birthday to WB Yeats, who earlier this week was 153 years young!

The message might be slightly late, but not nearly as late as the new ship from Irish Ferries, the WB Yeats, still immersed in deep revisions at a shipyard in Germany.

This is a rich time of cultural activity in the west of Ireland and Thoor Ballylee. Contemporary Irish writing here is evidently in rude health. Mayo novelist Mike McCormack, currently director of NUI Galway’s BA with Creative Writing in the Department of English, has won the prestigious 2018 International Dublin Literary Award for Solar Bones. This is just the latest recognition for his fifth novel  which has won a series of awards and plaudits since its publication by Tramp Press.

Mike McCormack with the 2018 International Dublin Literary Award

Probably Mayo’s finest ever writer the novelist and memoirist George Moore was also celebrated this week. The Ninth International George Moore Conference, George Moore: Transnational And Cosmopolitan Networks On The Page And Canvas, hosted by Dr Mark Corcoran and Dr Muireann O’Cinneide took place in the Moore Institute at NUI Galway over the last two days with the generous aid of the School of Humanities’s Research Support Scheme.

George Moore by John Butler Yeats

This coincides with the release of the biopic of George Moore’s friend Hugh Lane, nephew of Lady Augusta Gregory and Ireland’s greatest art dealer, whose exhibitions of Irish art and collections of old master and impressionist enrich the country to this day. Citizen Lane, directed by Thaddeus OSullivan and starring Tom Vaughan-Lawlor and Gemma-Leah Devereux is on general release, with a screening at Galway’s brand-new Palas Cinema on Sunday 17 June at 6pm. WB Yeats, Augusta Gregory, and George Moore all make an appearance on screen in this docudrama, which is also graced by expert talking heads Caitriona Crowe and Roy Foster.

In the coming weeks film comes directly to Thoor Ballylee. On Thursday 12 July at 3pm the Galway Film Fleadh holds a special screening at Thoor Ballylee, using our multimedia facilities. It promises to be a special atmosphere and a unique experience to watch contemporary movies in a old stone cottage attached to a fourteenth-century stone tower.

Thoor Ballylee itself is celebrated in this summer’s Galway International Arts Festival. The acclaimed biographer of WB Yeats for Oxford University Press, Professor Roy Foster, speaks on Sunday 22 July at 1pm about Yeats’s tower at the Aula Maxima in NUI Galway. Ezra Pound was notably sceptical about what he called ‘Ballyphallus, Yeats’s phallic symbol on the bogs’. Nevertheless Foster explores the central importance of the tower to Yeats’s life and work, and in a talk entitled ‘When All Is Ruin Once Again’ affirms Thoor Ballylee as his favourite dwelling.

Thanks to our volunteers, friends, and supporters, Yeats’s tower is far from in ruins. Thoor Ballylee recently hosted a special performance by Coole Music in honour of Yeats’s birthday, and a spectacular production of Yeats’s play The Only Jealousy of Emer by Galway theatre group DancePlayers.

Eithne Inguba (Orla Turbridy) comforts the hero Cuchulain (Oisin Porter) as his wife Emer (Catherine Denning) and musicians look on

The tower is also open throughout the summer for visits from all comers. Our exhibitions are open and a warm welcome is promised. Do come and join us!

The Only Jealousy of Emer: tickets selling fast!

This new production of WB Yeats’s play of The Only Jealousy of Emer is a world premiere: the first ever fully staged theatre production of Yeats’s play taking place in his own tower. Fresh from a highly acclaimed run at the Galway Theatre Festival this production has been entirely re-imagined for this historic space. As a site-specific movement piece in a resonant venue numbers are limited so get in fast!

DancePlayers presents

The Only Jealousy of Emer

By WB Yeats

8pm Sat 26 and Sun 27 May 2018

Thoor Ballylee, Yeats’s Tower, Gort, Galway

Tickets: €14/12 Concession

Booking:  Places are limited. Booking required by phone 091 631 436 (weekdays 10am to 2pm, weekends 11am to 5pm) or by email to yeatsthoorballyleesociety@gmail.com

The performance begins outdoors so we highly recommend outdoor shoes and appropriate comfortable clothing. Seating is available but only for some scenes.

The great hero Cuchulain is on his deathbed. His body was washed up by the shore after a long and senseless fight with the sea. There are three women around him: his wife, Emer, his lover, Eithne Inguba, and Fand, an evil creature of the Sidhe. His fate is in their hands. Yeats’s poetic dance-drama focuses exclusively on the feelings and motivations of the female characters, and portrays the emotional turmoil that Emer has to suffer when she has to face her own jealousy to save her husband’s life.

DancePlayers is a new ensemble founded in Galway in 2018. It is a group of professional theatre makers and musicians who produce collaborative pieces for physical theatre.

This production aims at exploiting the qualities of the dance play to the full to show the availability of Yeats’s play texts for contemporary audiences within and outside Ireland. It thus features original masks, costumes, live music, dance, design, as well as newly imagined acting, speaking, and movement. Because of the unique arrangements of the venue, the audience move with the performers during the show and seating is only available for certain important scenes. The performance begins outdoors so we highly recommend outdoor shoes and appropriate comfortable clothing.

Funded by The Galway City Council, NUI Galway, The Embassy of Hungary in Dublin and the Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society.

Running time: 50 mins without interval.

As featured in the London Times, Galway Bay FM, and many other media outlets – this production promises to be theatre event of the season!

Jeremie Cyr-Cooke (Ghost of Cuchulain) and Orlaith Ni Chearra (Fand/Woman of the Sidhe) work on choreography

 

 

 

 

 

The Only Jealousy of Emer: Yeats play at Thoor Ballylee

Yeats’s tower this spring hosts the theatre event of the season, as WB Yeats’s play The Only Jealousy of Emer receives its Thoor Ballylee premiere in a spectacular production by Galway-based theatre group DancePlayers.

Fresh from a highly-acclaimed run at Galway Theatre Festival, this new production, featuring resonant music, dance, acting, and design is re-imagined especially for  Yeats’s tower. As a moving site-specific piece in a historic venue numbers are limited so get in fast!

DancePlayers presents

The Only Jealousy of Emer

By WB Yeats

8pm Sat 26 and Sun 27 May 2018

Thoor Ballylee, Yeats’s Tower, Gort, Galway

Tickets: €14/12 Concession

Booking:  Places are limited. Booking required by phone 091 631 436 (weekdays 10am to 2pm, weekends 11am to 5pm) or by email to yeatsthoorballyleesociety@gmail.com

The performance begins outdoors so we highly recommend outdoor shoes and appropriate comfortable clothing. Seating is available but only for some scenes.

The great hero Cuchulain is on his deathbed. His body was washed up by the shore after a long and senseless fight with the sea. There are three women around him: his wife, Emer, his lover, Eithne Inguba, and Fand, an evil creature of the Sidhe. His fate is in their hands. Yeats’s poetic dance-drama focuses exclusively on the feelings and motivations of the female characters, and portrays the emotional turmoil that Emer has to suffer when she has to face her own jealousy to save her husband’s life.

The Only Jealousy of Emer is a one-act dance piece by W.B. Yeats. Written in 1918, it is one of the earliest plays by an Irish writer for physical theatre, with dance, masks and music. Inspired by the Japanese Noh theatre tradition, Yeats wrote this piece for an empty stage, where movement, gesture, posture, masks, spatial relations and dance all contribute to act of storytelling. Physicality speaks it its own language in these plays, so the performers’ task is to elevate this form of expression to the standard of Yeats’s verse and create a piece of total theatre.

This production is an attempt to prove that Yeats’s Noh-inspired dance plays have every right to be presented in front of a heterogeneous audience, in any part of the world, even 100 years after their composition. The notion that these pieces are only accessible for scholars and those “select few” that have an interest in oriental theatre, poetry or Irish mythology is widespread, and is rooted in the absence of professional Yeats productions on the world’s stages. This production aims at exploiting the qualities of the dance play to the full to show the availability of Yeats’s play texts for contemporary audiences within and outside Ireland. It thus features original masks, costumes, live music, dance, design, as well as newly imagined acting, speaking, and movement.

The show is a world premiere: the first ever fully staged theatre production of Yeats’s play The Only Jealousy of Emer taking place in his own tower. Fresh from a highly acclaimed run at the Galway Theatre Festival this production has been entirely re-imagined for this historic space.

Cast and crew after rehearsals at Thoor Ballylee

Because of the unique arrangements of the venue, the audience move with the performers during the show and seating is only available for certain important scenes. The performance begins outdoors so we highly recommend outdoor shoes and appropriate comfortable clothing.

Running time: 50 mins without interval.

DancePlayers is a new ensemble founded in Galway in 2018. It is a group of professional theatre makers and musicians who produce collaborative pieces for physical theatre.

Funded by The Galway City Council, NUI Galway, The Embassy of Hungary in Dublin and the Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society.

Richard Murphy and the apples of Thoor Ballylee

The Irish poet Richard Murphy died last week at the age of ninety.

Late last year Poetry Ireland hosted readings and celebrations in honour of his birthday, attended by friends, admirers, and members of his family including his sister Mary and brother Christopher. As Christopher Murphy’s affectionate talk made clear, although his brother Richard now resided in Sri Lanka, he always maintained strong connections with the west of Ireland, where he is known for restoring and sailing an old boat between Cleggan and Inishbofin in Connemara, chronicled in his poem ‘The Last Galway Hooker’.

Though the family spent time away from their home in Mayo, Richard Murphy always returned. Living for a time in Rosroe in the house used by the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, Murphy made his life in the west, writing acute poems about land and seascape, included in the volumes Sailing to an Island (1963) and High Island (1974). These poems could only come from someone who fully inhabited the place and his subjects: the poem ‘Cleggan Disaster’ is a sensitive recounting of a shipwreck that profoundly affected the area. The Price of Stone (1985) tells a kind of architectural autobiography in sonnet form from ‘Connemara Quay’ and ‘Killary Hostel’ to ‘Oxford Staircase’, ‘Kylemore Castle’, and ‘Letterfrack Industrial School’.

In the west of Ireland especially Murphy’s life and poetry lives on. It is, for example, the major inspiration for the annual Inish festival on Inishbofin. At the inaugural event, ‘Sailing to an Island’, President Michael D. Higgins’s inspiring talk about Murphy’s love poems made discreet comment on the recent same-sex marriage referendum, and capped an evening of music, readings, and tributes from award-winning poets like Bernard O’Donoghue and Vahni Capildeo.


As it happened many years earlier the epilogue to Murphy’s ‘Cleggan Disaster’ won a prize in London for which one of the judges was the American poet Sylvia Plath. In this passage from Murphy’s autobiography The Kick (Granta 2000, Cork UP 2014), he is setting up home in the Old Forge in Cleggan when Sylvia Plath and her husband the poet Ted Hughes come to visit.

They day after they arrived, there was a forecast of rain and south-east winds, making a passage to the island undesirable. So I took them to Yeats’s Tower at Ballylee and Lady Gregory’s Coole Park. I had no car but a 7 horsepower minivan, used for selling the fish we had caught. Sylvia sat in front, talking to me about her marriage and mine. In the back, which was too small to contain seats, Ted talked to Seamus about poachers, guns, and fishing.

We went first to Coole, where I showed them the copper beech tree in the Pleasure Ground. Sylvia urged Ted to climb a spiked iron fence that protected the tree, and to carve his initials beside those of Yeats. She said he deserved to be in that company […] But the spikes were too sharp for him to climb over.

The Tower at that time was the ruin predicted by Yeats in the poem carved on a stone at Ballylee. People in the neighbourhood had taken everything that could be moved. The Tourist Board had not begun its restoration, and the road was still untarred. A patient ass was rubbing its ears on a gate. Jackdaws fled protesting as we climbed the spiral stairs. From the top, Sylvia threw coins into the stream. Then they noticed a moss-coated apple tree, planted in the time of Yeats, bearing a heavy crop of bright red cookers. Ted and Sylvia both insisted we should steal them. I protested. Ted said they would make good apple pie, enough to keep me through the winter. They put Seamus up the tree to shake the branches, and went to work among the nettles, picking up the apples, gathering more than a hundredweight. My objections were brushed aside. I asked Ted ‘Why are you doing this?’ Standing with his back to the grey limestone wall of the Tower he spoke in a voice of quiet intensity: ‘When you come to a place like this you have to violate it.’

The respect of Plath and Hughes for the poetry of Yeats (and for Hughes especially for his astrological and magical investigations) did not prevent their harvesting the dead poet’s apples. Murphy, while disapproving of the violations of his visitors, took encouragement from their support during this visit for his writing of dramatic monologues, and in The Battle of Aughrim (1967), his deft disposal of these different historical voices demonstrates his conscience as a chronicler of violence.

Richard Murphy with the poets Douglas Dunn, Philip Larkin, and Ted Hughes

There are still apple and pear trees at Thoor Ballylee, flowering and bearing fruit, despite the odd period of neglect and flooding. Richard Murphy, their would-be custodian, and a sincere, generous, distinguished poet will be remembered fondly in many parts of the world, but nowhere more than in the west of Ireland.

Jennifer Johnston & Rita Ann Higgins at Thoor!

Join us for an exciting Saturday afternoon in which two of Ireland’s best-loved writers come to Thoor Ballylee to give us the benefit their words, wit, and wisdom.

Grand Dames at Thoor

Jennifer Johnston

& Rita Ann Higgins

with readings and discussion

3pm Saturday 9th September 2017

Tickets on the door €10 (concessions available)

These two storied writers give an afternoon’s entertainment talking over and reading from their work, and thinking about history, politics, and culture in Ireland and beyond.

Irish novelist and playwright Jennifer Johnston is the author of almost thirty books and plays, including The Old Jest (1979), recipient of the Whitbread Book Award, The Invisible Worm (1991), The Gingerbread Woman (2000), and recently Fathers and Son (2012), A Sixpenny Song (2013), and The Christmas Tree: A Play in Two Acts (2015). Her novels range in theme from depictions of the decline of Ascendancy Ireland and the events of the First World War and the Troubles to evocations of personal and familial sorrow in what Penelope Lively calls her ‘hallmark style … economic and staccato’. She also joined other Irish novelists like Roddy Doyle and Anne Enright as a key contributor to Dermot Bolger’s group of linked stories Finbar’s Hotel (1997). Born in Dublin, she is a member of Aosdana and in 2012 received the Irish Book Awards Lifetime Achievement Award.

Rita Ann Higgins is a poet and playwright born in Ballybrit, Galway, and the recipient of numerous prizes and fellowships for her work. Her poetry collections include Goddess on the Mervue Bus (1986) and Higher Purchase (1996) (both Salmon Poetry), An Awful Racket (2001), Ireland Is Changing Mother (2013), and most recently Tongulish (2016) (all Bloodaxe), as well as a recent excoriating and energizing poem about Galway’s City of Culture bid. She has been writer in residence at NUI Galway, received several Arts Council bursaries, and been visiting Professor and Honorary Fellow in institutions around the world from Texas to Hong Kong. A member of Aosdana, she is especially known for the empathetic undercurrent running through her verse and plays, her evocation of voices, and the power of her public readings, all drawn from her close connection to Galway city and county.

 

 

 

Autumn 2017 opening hours

An update on the autumn 2017 opening hours for Thoor Ballylee. Come along, enjoy our exhibitions, climb the famous winding stair, pop into the poet’s bedroom, admire the stranger’s room, and take in the view from the top of the tower.

Or come and see us late for Culture Night, or join our last event of the season, the spectacular Poetry Slam. All before our winter closing on Sunday 8th October. Details below, we hope to see you soon!

Thoor Ballylee Opening Hours

September-October 2017

Until  Friday 8th September

Open 10 to 6 daily

Saturday 9th September until Saturday 7th October

Weekdays: 10 am to 2 pm
Weekends: 11 am to 5 pm

NB our upcoming events

JENNIFER JOHNSTON & RITA ANN HIGGINS: 3pm Saturday 9th September

CULTURE NIGHT: Friday 22 September (from 7pm late opening)

and the 2017 season final event

POETRY SLAM: Saturday 7th October

From Sunday 8th October 2017 the tower closes for the winter months. Till then all visitors receive the warmest of welcomes!

 

Yeats in Bloom!

Thoor Ballylee wishes Happy Birthday to William Butler Yeats!

Thoor Ballylee celebrates W.B. Yeats’s one hundred and fifty second birthday this weekend with the performance of Joe Hassett’s Two Stars, a play for voices featuring WB and James Joyce in conversation, directed by Ian Walsh and starring Fionnuala Flanagan as Molly Bloom and students from NUI Galway.

Two Stars

An Imaginary Conversation between WB Yeats and James Joyce

by Joe Hassett

2pm Saturday 12 June 2017

Music and refreshments

Admission Free

TWO STARS
An Imaginary Conversation between WB Yeats and James Joyce
Joyce             Cathal Ryan
Yeats.             Shane McCormick
Narrator         Fiona Buckley
Nora/Molly.    Fionnula Flanagan
Directed by Ian Walsh
Musical accompaniment and performance       Úna Ní Fhlannagáin
The Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society welcomes this collaboration with NUI Galway’s Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance.

From the Playwright Joe Hassett:

The 20 year- old Joyce famously told the 37 year-old Yeats: “you are too old for me to help you.” Despite the younger man’s  arrogance, Yeats recognized that Joyce had a contribution to make to  Irish literature and  generously helped him to do so. In one of fate’s twists, the relationship resulted in Joyce’s helping his elder. As Yeats defended the candor of Joyce’s writing on sexual matters, his own poetry took on a more erotic tone. The differing views of Yeats and Joyce on the proper subject of literature, particularly the role of the sordid in the creation of the beautiful, are as vibrant today as they were when these two stars in the Irish constellation struggled to launch their pioneering work.
The idea of presenting the two  stars in conversation arose from Ambassador Anne Anderson’s idea of recognizing Yeats’s 150th birthday  on June 13, 2015  as part of the Washington Embassy’s June 16th Bloomsday celebration. I put the play for voices together, and cultural officer Claire Fitzgibbon oversaw the production.
I’m delighted that the Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society is bringing the conversation home to the place where Yeats first read and admired the  ground-breaking prose of Ulysses and commented that, “I am making a setting for my old age, a place to influence lawless youth with its severity  and antiquity.  If I had had this tower of mine when Joyce began to write I daresay I might have been of use to him, and got him to meet those who might have helped him.” 

Thoor Ballylee reopens for 2017

We are delighted to announce that Yeats’s tower, Thoor Ballylee is now open for the summer months!

Mon-Fri 10am to 2pm

Sat-Sun 11am to 5pm

From June until the end of August the tower will be open every day, 10am to 6pm 7 days a week.

This year, 2017, is the one hundredth anniversary of work beginning on the tower by Yeats’s architect William Scott and local builder Michael Rafferty.

So all the more reason to come and climb the winding stair that inspired some of W.B.Yeats’s greatest poems.

The Winding Stair (1933) cover by Thomas Sturge Moore

Come and view our spectacular exhibitions…

…and our regular programme of cultural events.

The Curlew Theatre perform Cathleen Ni Houlihan

The doors of Thoor Ballylee officially re-opened on the occasion of W.B. Yeats’s 150th birthday on June 13th, 2015, after being closed for many years.  Donations from local business people, artisans, and artists generated much needed funding to cover operational costs. To find out how you can help, click here.

No winter flooding this year so we have been busy cleaning and refitting the tower ready for the summer. To find out more, how to visit, or how you can help look around our website at yeatsthoorballylee.org, and sign up for regular updates.

We would like to say a big thank you to all our friends, supporters, volunteers, and visitors over the last two years for their generosity and support. This coming year will feature a new programme of events, new challenges, and new excitements.

Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society Volunteers 2015

Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society Volunteers 2015

We still need your support to keep the tower open for future generations: to find out how you can help, click here. You can email us on yeatsthoorballylee@gmail.com and you can like us and stay abreast on our facebook page. Do please keep in touch!

 

Thoor Ballylee on The Poetry Programe

Following the successful poetry slam held at Thoor Ballylee late last year, Thoor Ballylee and its living poets are celebrated on RTÉ’s The Poetry Programme.

tower-slam-poets

The programme samples the lively atmosphere of the inaugural Thoor Ballylee Poetry Slam and hears from organisers Lelia Doolan and Sarah Clancy. Paul McNamara, winner of the competition, is second from left.

tower-slam-crowd1

‘Leabhar na hAthghabhála / Poems of Repossession’ is an impressive anthology of poetry in Irish from the past century with English translations. Editor, poet, and translator Louis de Paor chooses some poems from the anthology and talks about his desire to make this work visible to a wider audience.

Martina Evans is sure we all have a poem in us. She talks with Rick O’Shea and reads from her collection ‘The Windows of Graceland,’ published by Carcanet.

To listen to the programme, broadcast on RTÉ Radio One 7.30pm Saturday 7th January, follow this link.

tower-slam-poets-yeats1

 

Happy New Year from Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society

The Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society would like to say extend warm greetings for the new year, and to say thank you for our the generosity and support of our volunteers and friends throughout 2016.

thoor-ballylee-reopening

The doors of Thoor Ballylee were officially re-opened by actress Sabina Higgins in June with the unveiling of the new Yeats Thoor Ballylee Exhibition. The exhibition, curated by Dr Adrian Paterson, Lecturer in English at NUI Galway, explores Yeats’s relationship with the people and places that most inspired his work. It looks at the culture of the west, its crafts, stories, and songs; the central importance of the women in his life, most especially of his wife George; and his close connections with the landscapes and people of County Galway, especially with Coole Park and with Thoor Ballylee. It also features exclusive material from Joseph Hassett’s inspiring Yeats and the Muses exhibition. Come down and have a look: the new exhibition will be available to view from the tower’s spring opening.

Yeats Tower Exhibition

This season Thoor Ballylee welcomed well over 3,000 visitors with the support of twenty local volunteers who guided and entertained visitors seven days a week. The Society was overwhelmed with the goodwill of supporters near and far throughout the year. US Senator Chris Dodd donated $10,000 towards the new exhibition in January. Donations have flooded in from friends near far helping fund the continual restoration and staffing of the tower. Our long standing benefactor Joe Hassett funded the publication of a magnificient book which tells the story of Thoor’s restoration in a collection of photographs taken by Deirdre Holmes. People like Anita Swanson who donated €1,500 to simply keep the Tower open has meant a great deal to us as we strive to keep the tower warm and welcoming. We also received a plethora of favourable testimonials and feedback.

thoor-ballylee-horse

Throughout the summer, Thoor Ballylee was home to many artistic and cultural performances, playing a full part in the 1916 celebrations. The season kicked off onJuly 16th with a performance of “Yeats’s Women” by Dublin trio: Glynis Casson, fellow actor Daniel Costello and renowned Irish Harpist Claire Roche. Featuring original letters, poems, stories, and song, the performance uncovered in a dramatic interweaving of life and art the artistic collaborations and personal crises which the poet W.B.Yeats experienced together with an extraordinary cast of striking and hugely talented women. This was followed by the Wild Swan Theatre Company’s production of “Johnny I Hardly Knew Ya”, to a packed house on August.

thoor-ballylee-play1

A weekend long series events as part of the Yeats and Lady Gregory Autumn Gathering included a production by the Curlew Theatre Company:” History! Reading the Easter Rising” (above). Our annual Culture Night event took place in September with performances from Gaillimh Theas Comhaltas, Claire Egan and Eoin O’Neill, followed by a special screening of a film “Words Upon the Window Pane” based on the 1931 play by W.B. Yeats, in which Jonathan Swift visits a seance. To bring the busy season to a close, Galway poets and former Cuirt Grand Slam winners Elaine Feeney and Sarah Clancy MC-ed an extremely popular grand slam poetry competition in October.

tower-slam-poets

It is your kindness as visitors, supporters, friends, volunteers and donors that have made this all possible – to find out how you can help further, follow this link.

thoor-ballylee-oct2016-2

As many of you know Thoor Ballylee is prone to flooding – indeed when in January Bob Geldof visited to film a documentary about Yeats he had to be taken by boat! However, work is complete on preparing the tower and cottages for the winter season. This means that the ground level of the tower has been entirely cleared of its exhibitions and all movable goods. Permanent electricity and heating systems were moved above flood height earlier this year. All is dry at present, and the forecast is promising! Our aim is to re-open the tower in spring. Please keep in touch and check out further updates on this our website www.yeatsthoorballylee.org.

Best wishes for the season,

Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society

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