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 in The Irish Times

Thoor Ballylee features in Irish Times Open Season

William Butler Yeats’s tower at Thoor Ballylee features prominently in an Irish Times list of tourist attractions open this summer. The Hiberno-Norman icon features alongside such destinations as Skellig Michael, the Swiss Cottage Tipperary, and Lissadell Sligo, home of the Gore-Booth sisters and visited by Yeats as a young poet.  Visitors are advised that it was at Thoor Ballylee Yeats “penned some of his finest work” and that the tower and stream also featured in John Ford’s classic film The Quiet Man (1952).

It should be added that Thoor Ballylee is not yet quite open for the summer. However the sandbags guarding against possible flooding have long gone, and the tower and cottage are being tidied in readiness for 2017 opening, expected on May Day, Monday 1st May. We look forward to welcoming new visitors and old friends then. Also make sure to look out for our summer programme of cultural events.

Meanwhile you can follow here the other Irish Times suggestions for historic and scenic visits across Ireland. The Times assessment of Thoor Ballylee follows below.

Thoor Ballylee, Gort, Co Galway

The engraving onto the cut stone plaque on this 16th-century tower house states: “I, the poet William Yeats, with old mill boards and sea-green slates, and smithy work from the Gort forge, restored this tower for my wife George; and may these characters remain when all is ruin once again.” Yeats penned some of his finest work, from the Winding Stair and Other Poems to The Tower Poems, in the four-storey castle on the bend of a Co Galway road. it is now restored and open to visitors, who can discover the winding stair to the top floor or look out through the river-facing window in the chamber described by the Nobel Prize winner as the “pleasantest room I have yet seen”. Thoor Ballylee appeared in John Ford’s timeless The Quiet Man(1952).
Open: From 1 May every day until September 30th
Hours: 10am-6pm
Admission: €7 (concessions also apply)
https://yeatsthoorballylee.org

Hamlet in my mind’s eye

A reminder that Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society is delighted to present Hamlet, not in performance but a talk aimed at Leaving Certificate students.

Denis Creaven, English teacher at the Institute of Education, Dublin, will lecture on several topics on Hamlet and the main characters of the play.

The lecture is designed to be especially helpful for Leaving Certificate examination requirements. Complimentary handouts will be distributed. We are pleased to say all proceeds go to Thoor Ballylee for its continued maintenance.

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Like the ghost of Hamlet’s father, Yeats had a habit of prowling his castle. In ‘The Tower’ (1926) he writes ‘I pace the battlements and stare / On the foundation of a house’. Yeats also drew on Shakespeare’s Hamlet for his Noh drama At The Hawk’s Well (1916). As Cuchulain climbs to the holy well, the musician remembers Hamlet’s claim to see things beyond most of us (like his dead father) ‘in my mind’s eye’:

I call to the eye of the mind

A well long choked up and dry

And boughs long stripped by the wind,

And I call to the mind’s eye

Pallor of an ivory face,

Its lofty dissolute air,

A man climbing up to a place

The salt sea wind has swept bare.

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Leaving Certificate 2017 Hamlet Preparation

12-2pm, Wednesday 22 February 2017

Sullivan’s Hotel, Gort, Co Galway

For booking contact yeatsthoorballylee@gmail.com or ring Nichola on 086 855 2124

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Thoor Ballylee receives Creative Ireland boost

The Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society is delighted to confirm that Thoor Ballylee has received a new grant under the Creative Ireland programme, “the most significant investment in regional arts and cultural centres in a decade”.

€22,000 has been allocated for the refurbishment of two rooms at Thoor Ballylee and the creation of a new Artist Space.

Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Heather Humphreys made the announcement as part of the Creative Ireland programme, with funding provided under her Department’s Arts and Culture Capital Scheme 2016-2018.

The aim of the artist space is to make a contemporary contribution to the spirit and tradition of Yeats, his mentor Lady Augusta Gregory, and their nurturing of the poets, artists, actors, musicians and designers of their era.

The space will offer opportunities for visiting artists and scholars to work, and to run workshops, master classes and summer camps for apprentice writers, designers, musicians, and schoolchildren.

It is also hoped that the artist space will attract artists and scholars to the Tower from around the world to perform and share their work as well as promote international collaboration in the run up to Galway 2020 and beyond.

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Contestants at the Thoor Ballylee Poetry Slam, 2016

Fidelma Healy Eames, Chair of the Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society, remarked: “I wish to note the thanks and delight of the Board of Directors of Yeats Thoor Ballylee Development Ltd to Minister Humphreys and the Government for their support for our development plan and vision for Yeats’s ancestral home at Thoor Ballylee. Well done to all of the hard working volunteer members of the society. The €22k is most welcome and will contribute greatly to an enhanced visitor experience at Thoor.”

Last year, the Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society unveiled a beautiful new exhibition which attracted more than 3,000 visitors to the tower over the summer months. Refurbishing two rooms at the Tower will bring the visitor closer to the poet’s life and work. With the new funding injection it is planned to further develop the visitor experience and celebrate Yeats’s Galway home.

Speaking at the announcement Minister Humphreys said: “Creative Ireland aims to promote individual, community and national wellbeing through cultural activity. This €9 million announcement is the most significant investment in regional arts and cultural centres in a decade. The largest funding awards – of €1 million each – are going to Wexford Arts Centre and the Riverbank Arts Centre in Kildare.”

Thoor Ballylee, both Yeats’s tower and the Exhibition is open to visitors from May 1st 2017.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Thoor Ballylee heads calls for flood relief

As Thoor Ballylee closes for the winter, representatives repeat calls for state intervention on flood relief for South Galway.

The Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society, a community group in south Galway which runs W.B. Yeats’s former retreat at Thoor Ballylee, has appealed for State support for the area as it anticipates fresh flooding this winter, the Irish Times has reported.

Speaking before a fundraising poetry slam event at the tower this weekend, curator Rena McAllen said flooding at the tower last winter did not recede until March.

Ms McAllen is part of a community group that acquired a lease for Thoor Ballylee – a 15th century Hiberno-Norman tower house with what Yeats described as a “winding, gyring spiring treadmill of a stair”– after it was closed by Fáilte Ireland due to flooding in 2009.

During Yeats’ tenure, the Streamstown river would food the building’s ground floor, but the flooding is now more frequent and much higher.

See more in the Irish Times report here.

The Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society is pleased to report that there is no immediate risk of of flooding to the tower and cottages. However the water table in the area is very high, and if rain comes then further flooding is in prospect again this winter.

Thankfully work has been completed on preparing the tower and cottages for the winter. This means that at ground level it has been entirely clear of its exhibitions and all movable goods. Permanent electricity and heating systems were moved above flood height earlier this year.

It is good news that all is dry at present.

Still, with flooding increasing year on year, better solutions might be found to relieve the annual uncertainty and the very real cost to livelihoods in the area.

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Thoor Ballylee October 2016

Poetry Slam at Thoor Ballylee

Poetry Slam Competition

Thoor Ballylee

Saturday 15 October 2016

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A slam poetry competition will take place in Thoor Ballylee, the former home of WB Yeats on Saturday October 15. Performance poets are  invited to apply for one of 10 places at the event. This is the first competition of its kind to be held at the tower house.

This event will be MC-ed by Galway poets and former Cuirt Grand Slam winners Elaine Feeney and Sarah Clancy who, jealous of the attention being given to the other poets, may decide to perform some of their own poems in the interval.

Prizes are available, for those who like fumbling in the greasy till, including a first prize €250, second prize of €100, and third prize of €50, sponsored by Poetry Ireland.

All poets who perform and all judges will also receive a copy of Poetry Ireland Review Issue 116: A WB Yeats Special Issue, also sponsored by Poetry Ireland.

There will be 10 slots for poets to perform at this event, with the contestants selected in advance by Elaine Feeney and Sarah Clancy based on submissions. Entries for this event are open now and poets wishing to enter must send a poem of their own in any format — text, video, or recording — to sarahclancygalway@gmail.com on or before October 4.  All submissions must include ‘Tower Poetry Slam Entry’ in the title of the e-mail.

Each poem must be three minutes’ duration or less. There will be two rounds, with the five highest scoring poets from round one going through to the second round, after which the winners will be decided. Qualifying poets must perform a different poem in the second round. In each round the judges will be selected from the audience and their decisions will be both subjective and final.

Poets are expected to perform their poems without using a script and scoring will reflect this. Poems must be the performer’s own work and not have been previously published in book form nor have been the winning poem in any other slam competition.

Transport from Galway will be available by bus which will depart from the Spanish Arch (in front of Jury’s Hotel ) at 6.30pm and will return to there after the event. Tickets for bus and admission are €20, €10 for admission only, and there will be no admission charge for performing poets.

Refreshments, including wine, will be available for purchase on the night.

To book tickets call Thoor Ballylee between 10am and 2pm daily on 091 631436. Or email yeatsthoorballylee@gmail.com. There will also be limited admission on the door.

Any funds raised will go towards supporting the Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society in its work preserving Thoor Ballylee.

Hear W.B. Yeats read his own verse here! As he says, he reads with great emphasis upon the rhythm.

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Yeats’s Women

Yeats’s Women performed by  Dublin trio, Glynis Casson, fellow actor Daniel Costello and renowned Irish Harpist Claire Roche, brought the poetry of Yeats into another dimension last Friday night at Thoor Ballylee.

Yeats Women July 8th 2016

This performance brought to life the fascinating story of Yeats’s women. Featuring original letters, poems, stories, and song, it uncovers 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: his sisters, his lovers, and his remarkable wife George, presiding spirit of Thoor Ballylee.  George Yeats herself would design and paint much of the interior, creating ‘a beautiful house’, and found she could drop a line from the tower window to fish.

Yeats Music 1

The castle walls resounded to the sound of the magnificent Irish harp as  the group delighted a captive audience with tales of W.B’s life, family, friendships, loves lost and won, through music, poetry, drama and song. While sipping wine or juice during  the interval, members of the audience climbed the winding stair, browsed through the exhibitions, strolled in the garden or sat on the ancient bridge. Following a standing ovation  at the end of the show, the cast mingled with the audience, and very positive feedback about the performance and hospitality was shared over tea and brack .
As well as locals in attendance at the sold-out event, the audience also consisted of people from Galway City, Headford, Loughrea, Dublin, and further afield from Germany, New York, Australia, and China. The performance raised a generous sum of money for Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society and its continuing efforts to restore and refurbish Yeats’s historic tower. 

Part of the new Thoor Ballylee Yeats exhibition is devoted to the women of Yeats’s life, in a room called Yeats and the Muses, arranged by Joseph Hassett. So it is fitting that a celebration of the life and talents of these extraordinary women should come to Yeats’s tower.

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Yeats’s Women: performance on Friday 8th July

Yeats’s Women

a dramatic performance in story and song

with

Glynis Casson

Daniel Costello

& harpist Clare Roche

8pm Friday 8th July 2016

Thoor Ballylee

Tickets available to book or on the door

Yeats Women July 8th 2016

This performance brings to life the fascinating story of Yeats’s women. Featuring original letters, poems, stories, and song, it uncovers 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: his sisters, his lovers, and his remarkable wife George, presiding spirit of Thoor Ballylee.  George Yeats herself would design and paint much of the interior, creating ‘a beautiful house’, and found she could drop a line from the tower window to fish.

Part of the new Thoor Ballylee Yeats exhibition is devoted to the women of Yeats’s life, in a room called Yeats and the Muses, arranged by Joseph Hassett. So it is fitting that a celebration of the life and talents of these extraordinary women should come to Yeats’s tower.

Yeats’s Women: The Performers

Glynis Casson

Glynis comes from the well known Casson theatrical family and has played many leading roles over the years in Gilbert and Sullivan productions, in Gigi, My Fair Lady and Me and My Girl in the Gaiety Theatre Dublin. She has toured her one woman show Oscar and the Sphinx in Ireland, London and Egypt. The Harp That Once and Dauntless and Daring with Harpist Cormac de Barra in Ireland and the Continent, Seven Ages with Daniel Costello, and the comedy show Ladies Who Lunch with Irene Gaffney in venues around Ireland.

Other stage work includes: Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest, The House of Bernarda Alba, Very Heaven, and Harold Pinter’s Party Time.  

TV & Film Credits include: Kathleen in RTE’s Fair City, The Clinic and TG4’s Maru crime series. Imelda in winning Irish film 32A, Mauyra in The Riders to The Sea, Pensioner in the short award winning film Bollybrack in which she did Indian dancing for the first time in Moore Street!   www.glyniscasson.com

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Daniel Costello, Glynis Casson, & Claire Roche from a recent perfomance in Birr Castle

Daniel Costello

Daniel has recently played Polonius in Hamlet at The New Theatre.

Other stage work includes: Nicolas in Pinter’s One For The Road, Friar Laurence in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Solange in Genet’s The Maids, Duke of Ferrara in De Vega’s Justice Without Revenge, Antonio in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, Jimmy Jack in Friel’s Translations, Sir Peter Teazle in Sheridan’s The School for Scandal, Carl in Rebecca Gilman’s The Glory of Living, and Clov in Beckett’s Endgame.

TV & Film credits include: Bachelor’s Walk, The Clinic, & Fair CityAlbert Nobbs, Situations Vacant, Breakfast on Pluto and The Magdalene Sisters.

Claire Roche

Claire studied harp and voice with Maírín Feiritear in Sion Hill Convent Dublin, who encouraged her to compose her own songs, and at the age of 13 set ‘To A Child Dancing In The Wind’ to the music of harp. Poet Brendan Kennelly inspired Claire ‘to set some more’ when she was studying Anglo-Irish Literature in Trinity College Dublin, so in all she arranged eight of Yeats’ poems for the Harp. Michael Yeats kindly gave this permission before the copyright had run out on his Father’s work. Claire has had very successful tours of singing with her harp accompaniment in America, Australia and Ireland. www.claireroche.com

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