Thoor Ballylee blooms for Yeats’s birthday

Every year a Poet’s Picnic is held in celebration of the birthday of WB Yeats. This year is no different. On afternoon of Saturday 13 June 2020 from 2 pm, the poet’s tower in Galway hosts a video event of poetry, music, and memories. This is the first in a series of events held all summer long at Thoor Ballylee, as the tower opens virtually and for outdoor visitors in compliance with COVID-19 restrictions.

WB Yeats Poet’s Picnic 2pm 13 June 2020

Visit Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society Facebook Page

Livestream on

https://www.facebook.com/yeatsthoorballylee/live/

or go to

https://www.facebook.com/events/317595142567428/

We are delighted to say the waters have long gone, our volunteers and staff have removed all sand bags, tidied away all flotsam, and the gardens are thriving: these are all recent photographs! Though due to current restrictions we have not been yet allowed inside, the grounds are spectacular for visitors. And this weekend Thoor Ballylee blooms again to celebrate the 155th birthday of WB Yeats.

First, a reminder of our story.

WB Yeats bought the old Norman tower at Ballylee for a song in 1916, and had it renovated by local builder Michael Rafferty under the direction of architect William A. Scott, with whom Yeats had a lively relationship, describing him on one occasion as a ‘drunken genius’. With its attached thatched cottage it became a comfortable summer home for his wife George and their two children, Michael and Anne, and the Yeats family returned year after year.

Living there inspired Yeats to write some of his best poetry. Fruits of this work were published in two volumes considered by critics among his best: The Tower (1928) and The Winding Stair (1933). They contain such poems as ‘The Tower’, ‘Meditations in Time of Civil War’, ‘Coole Park 1929’, ‘Blood and the Moon’, and many others, some featured in this weekend’s birthday celebrations.

The Winding Stair (1933) cover by Thomas Sturge Moore

The tower, which Yeats named Thoor Ballylee, fell into disrepair after the poet’s death in 1939. It was given by the children of the poet to Board Failte, who opened it as a tourist information office, while offering tours showing its extraordinary literary heritage.

Built by the de Burgo family in the 14th century as a Hiberno-Norman stronghold, the tower stands beside the Streamstown River and is subject to sporadic winter flooding. It truly is a livestream: the floods have been severe in recent years, so in 2009 the tower was shut by Failte Ireland who decided that it was no longer economically viable. It remained closed until a group of volunteers, with the grand-sounding name of Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society, appealed to Failte Ireland to let them re-open the Tower as a visitor centre once again. This was granted, and after restoration and repair work the tower was opened with music and song in June 2015, the 150th anniversary of Yeats’s birth. Exhibitions, tours, and all kinds of cultural events have attracted thousands of visitors. His birthday has been celebrated there ever since.

This summer, these events are set to continue. Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society continues to adhere to all the COVID-19 guidelines from the Government of Ireland. While this does not currently allow for visitors inside the tower, the Society continues to host special events with social distancing in place in the grounds, by the mill wheel, by the river, and online.

In addition to the Poet’s Picnic taking place this Saturday 13 June 2020, there are ambitious plans in the coming year to hold the type of events the tower has become famous for: poetry readings, plays, musical get-togethers, talks of historical, natural, and literary interest, including virtual multimedia tours, talks, and readings from WB Yeats’s inspirational home, and from our new studio space dedicated to art and cultural workshops which opened just last year.

This summer the magic of the tower can thus be experienced in a number of ways. The grounds remain open to visitors practising social distancing, while the tower hosts small gatherings for invited attendees, and an exciting series of events broadcast to the world by video or audio link.

WB Yeats Poet’s Picnic 2pm 13 June 2020

Visit Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society Facebook Page

Livestream on

https://www.facebook.com/yeatsthoorballylee/live/

https://www.facebook.com/events/317595142567428/

To donate to this voluntary group, our webpage yeatsthoorballylee.org has updates, and see also the Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society facebook page. Visitors this summer still be able to enjoy the charm of Ballylee, and perhaps agree that it is the perfect place for a poet to rest and write.

 

Thoor Ballylee year in review

The last year represents one of our most successful years ever here at Yeats’s Tower. The opening of the Studio at Thoor Ballylee represented 2019’s biggest achievement, and one that will keep giving for many years to come. With generous support, we completed in double-quick time the conversion of the Yeats family’s old garage into a new vibrant space for workshops, events, education, art, and community, further enriching this place full of poetry and creativity.

By October 2019, when the curtain came down on our fifth season open at Thoor Ballylee, an estimated 4, 580 visitors had come and experienced the magic of Yeats’s tower. With your help we hope 2020 can be even better! Your continuing support is much appreciated.

The season at Thoor Ballylee opened on Easter Saturday in late April, with spring springing and with tea and Easter Bunny cake kindly provided by our generous and longest serving volunteer, Tonii. This was just the warm up for our regular readings and celebrations for Yeats’s birthday party, held every year (with cake!) on or around 13 June.

‘Sailing to Byzantium’

Launching the Studio at Thoor Ballylee was our first major event of the season.  Guest of honour and speaker of a fine welcoming address was the inimitable Sabina Higgins. Spoken poetry came from poet Mary O Malloy, and was followed by a  fluid rendition of ‘The Salley Gardens’ by soprano, Helen Hancock. Doing the honours of the official opening in cutting the ribbon was our very own esteemed author and educator Sr Mary de Lourdes Fahy.

The exhibition, assembled from materials from our own and NUI Galway’s archives, featured women artists like Elizabeth Rivers and especially the work of Elizabeth and Lily Yeats, in arts and crafts, printing and embroidery, after whom the studio is dedicated. Pride of place went to exquisite embroidered banners designed and made by the Yeats family and female workforce at Dun Emer workshop, rarely seen outside their home St Brendan’s Cathedral Loughrea, woven under the direction of Lily Yeats and featuring saints designed by Jack B. Yeats and his wife Mary Cottenham Yeats. Presiding over the studio space and presenting an expert weaving demonstration was Kathy Mooney. Later in the year the Studio at Thoor Ballylee was the venue for a day of spinning and weaving, now becoming a very popular annual event.

Elizabeth Rivers, from Stranger in Aran, Cuala Press (1946)

So already the Studio at Thoor Ballylee has been put to good use. Local artist, Cindy Lund, came to reside in there  for a week, creating some amazing original work, attracting other artists, giving local children an opportunity to draw in Yeats’s garage, while generating great interest in Thoor.

The studio was also the venue for weekly evening classes with Jackie Quelly, a lecture on Maud Gonne’s Men, by Anthony J. Jordan, an embroidery workshop with Sandra from Sacra King Irish Fibre Crafters and an exhibition and various artistic activities by the wonderful Kinvara Sanctuary group. Later as part of the Yeats Lady Gregory Autumn gathering Marina Carr came to give an expert playwrighting workshop here.

Marion Cox in conversation with Marina Carr

We are indeed indebted to Denis Creaven, from the Institute of Education, who has faithfully, year after year, given his two day mid-term lectures to Leaving Cert students, free gratis, with all proceeds going to Thoor Ballylee.

The mill by the river, on a sunny summer’s day in June, was the setting for a joint recital by Coole Music and an incredible youth orchestra from Norway, conducted by Katherina Baker. Two weeks later we were treated to an afternoon of medieval music by the junior members of Coole Music, fittingly attired in medieval costumes, performing in our medieval tower house.

To mark Heritage week, field archaeologist Dr Christy Cunniffe gave a talk and presentation on vernacular houses. Anna O Donnell gave an fascinating demonstration on the story of butter and butter making while soprano Helen Hancock delighted us with an evening of opera and the story of song. On Culture Night two rare performances occurred at Thoor of Yeats’s and Augusta Gregory’s The Pot of Broth  by a pioneering local theatre group. This was followed by Anna O Donnell‘s own broth tasting, and with Lelia Doolan’s insights into the family life of the Yeatses, audiences went away fully satisfied.

In September we were, once again, honoured to host The Lady Gregory and Yeats Autumn Gathering, and the studio and tower was the host for important sessions on women’s writing and creativity. As noted, internationally renowned playwright Marina Carr with Head of Drama at Trinity College, Dublin, Melissa Sihra, conducted a workshop for playwrights in the studio. Film producer Lelia Doolan gave an enlightening lecture on the actress and artistic director Ria Mooney and the Abbey Theatre, while the local Wild Swan Theatre group brought the weekend to a close with their premiere production of a new play, Lady Gregory’s Ingredients.

World renowned storyteller, Martin Shaw (Cista Mystica) chose Thoor Ballylee as the Irish venue for his sold-out story telling workshop and evening performance. This event attracted participants from as far afield as Germany and New Zealand, and proved a most successful event in terms of enjoyment and publicity. A film made by Grant Thompson around the event with Martin Shaw at Thoor Ballylee discussing Yeats  was featured on social media and widely viewed.

Thoor Ballylee ended the year as it began as a hub for the arts and for community: the many musical events in the series included expert local group The Burren Bandits while Máirtín O Connor, Garry O Brien and singer Mary McPartlan brought another busy season to a close.

Thoor Ballylee would like to give thanks for the generosity of our amazing 2019 volunteers: Rosemary, Rose, Tonii, Karen, Liam, Gus, Pat O Looney, Pat Farrell.For their never-ending help, our Tús members: Khrystof , Dominic, Joe, and Frank (CE scheme).  To JJ and family members for manning the car park, controlling the traffic, lighting our way in the dark and helping where needed. And to our never-failing staff  Eoghan MacDonagh and the dedicated Nichola.

All this hard work, dedication, and passion for W.B. Yeats, for Thoor Ballylee, and for the arts and Galway culture, was fittingly rewarded in when we were awarded the prestigious Cathaoirleach’s (Mayor’s) Award for Arts and Culture 2019.

Marion Cox, Rena McAllen, Colm Farrell, Anna O Donnell, Lelia Doolan of the Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society

All this, and we couldn’t have done it all without you!  Despite our recent success in winning a competitive Government of Ireland grant to help open the studio, we rely entirely on volunteers and private donations to keep going, and making sure Yeats’s legacy is preserved and open for worldwide visitors and new generations. Please come and visit us in the new season, and if you can become a friend or donate to our fund!

Yeats dance play comes to Galway

The year is 1916. A young man arrives to the hills of County Clare by night. He is on the run, looking for refuge after his part in the Eastern Rising in Dublin. After some time trying to find his way on the mountain side, two strange figures emerge from the dark, and offer him guidance. It soon turns out that they are not ordinary people, but the ghosts of that infamous twelfth century couple, Dermot and Dervorgilla, who have been held responsible for the first invasion of Ireland by foreign armies. They need the young man’s help.

With Thoor Ballylee is now closed for the winter season (though visitors to exterior and grounds are welcome), Yeats enthusiasts must find their fun elsewhere.

Thankfully, with this dramatic staging, DancePlayers returns to Galway with another astonishing production of a rarely seen Yeats play. Their highly acclaimed performance of The Only Jealousy of Emer was a highpoint in Thoor Ballylee’s 2018 season and the Galway Theatre Festival. With original music, movement, and staging, this new imagining of Yeats’s play about violence and history promises to be even better. Set in the Burren, as the ghosts circle Corcomroe Abbey, Co. Clare, near Thoor Ballylee, The Dreaming of the Bones is in this production coming home to the west.

DancePlayers presents

The Dreaming of the Bones

By W. B. Yeats

Thurs-Sat 7-9 November at 8pm 

Sunday 10 November at 1pm with performer Q&A

O’Donoghue Theatre, NUI Galway

Running Time: 40 mins without interval

Tickets: €5 Concession / €10 Standard

Booking and more information:

https://the-dreaming-of-the-bones.eventbrite.ie/
https://www.facebook.com/DancePlayersCompany/

The Dreaming of the Bones 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. With its topical subject and completion only two years after the Rising, it was deemed too problematic for the public stage for more than a decade, hence no attempt was made to produce it until its belated premiere in the Abbey Theatre in 1931. Since then, it has become one of Yeats’s most frequently played dance dramas both in Ireland and abroad. Inspired by the Japanese Noh theatre tradition, Yeats wrote this piece for an empty stage, where movement, gesture, masks, spatial relations and dance all contribute to act of storytelling.

After their acclaimed debut at the Galway Theatre Festival with The Only Jealousy of Emer in 2018, DancePlayers Company returns with a new staging of The Dreaming of the Bones in an attempt to exhibit the qualities of dance plays to the full, thus showing the availability of Yeats’s play texts for contemporary audiences. The play will be staged with movement and live music, composed exclusively for the performance.

View the on site Burren video promo here

Listings Information

The Dreaming of the Bones

Venue: O’Donoghue Theatre, NUI Galway
Dates: 7 – 10 November 2019

Time: 8pm on Thursday 7th, Friday 8th and Saturday 9th  November 2019, 1pm on Sunday 10th with open Question and Answer session from the director and performers.

Running Time: 40 mins without interval

Tickets: €5 Concession / €10 Standard

Booking and more information:

https://the-dreaming-of-the-bones.eventbrite.ie/
https://www.facebook.com/DancePlayersCompany/

Credits

Directed by              Melinda Szuts
Music                           Akos Lustyik
Choreography        Jeremie Cyr-Cooke

Lighting design         Sarah Timmins
Stage manager           Aisling Fitzsimons
Masks and design       Yvette Picque

Gergely Kuklis            violin
Nicola Geddes            cello
Gilles Dupouy             harp

Cast: Aimee Banks, Kashi Cepeda, Jeremie Cyr-Cooke, Conor Gormley, John Rice, Una Valaine

Melinda Szuts is a Galway-based director and researcher at the O’Donoghue Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance at NUIG. Melinda has been involved in many theatre productions both in Ireland and her home country, Hungary in previous years. Her theatre credits include many Yeats productions, both as actor and as director.

DancePlayers is an ensemble newly founded in Galway in 2018. It is a group of professional theatre makers and musicians who produce collaborative pieces for physical theatre. Their production of Yeats’s The Only Jealousy of Emer had a successful series of performances at Galway Theatre Festival and in Yeats’s tower, Thoor Ballylee in Gort, Co. Galway

Lady Gregory Yeats Autumn Gathering

THE LADY GREGORY–YEATS AUTUMN GATHERING

Friday 27- Sunday 29 September 2019

Join the Lady Gregory-Yeats Autumn Gathering and discover more about our rich literary heritage in Galway, especially at Coole Park and Thoor Ballylee.

This year the Lady Gregory-Yeats Autumn Gathering features a playwriting workshop with Marina Carr and Melissa Sihra and includes exclusive talks from guest speakers, drama, film from the archives, and plenty of chat and socialising.

Playwright Marina Carr in rehearsal

To mark the 25th anniversary of the annual Lady Gregory-Yeats Autumn Gathering at Coole Park and Thoor Ballylee, playwright Marina Carr and academic Melissa Sihra, conduct a playwriting workshop at Thoor Ballylee. Join one of Ireland’s greatest living dramatists for this unique opportunity. This workshop will take place in The Studio at Thoor Ballylee on Friday 27 September from 2pm to 5pm. To join this exclusive event email monaleen@msn.com – playwrights are invited to submit a one-page monologue in advance and places are limited.

Further highlights include:

Book launch: Marina Carr: Pastures of the Unknown, by Melissa Sihra
Cutting of the Gort Barm Brack by Lady Gregory’s great, great grandson, Robin Murray Brown
Women, Anxiety and Resistance in Fairy Legends Collected by Lady Gregory with Lucy McDiarmid
Patronage and Friendship: Lady Gregory and W. B. Yeats with Nicholas Grene
The Making of a Drama: Lady Gregory 1908-1910 with Anthony Roche
Other Women Pioneers at the Abbey with Lelia Doolan
Augusta in America: Lady Gregory finds a new audience, new voice and fresh sphere of influence in the New World with Cecily O’Neill
Lady G: screening of Carolyn Swift’s one-woman Abbey Theatre performance, with Barry Houlihan

and

‘Lady Gregory’s Ingredients’ short drama play which takes place at Thoor Ballylee, Yeats’s castle home.

Plus entertainment and candlelit dinner amidst the woodland of Coole Park!

Please see www.autumngathering.com for more details.

Autumn Season at Thoor

Music, culture, and storytelling comes to Thoor Ballylee for our summer and autumn season (with one unexpected closure for Sunday 25th August only to announce). Join us and donate, come to our events, or just visit anytime until the middle of October!

8pm Saturday 24th August The Art of Song Heritage week at Thoor Ballylee comes to a climax featuring the singing and playing of Helen Hancock and Mark Keane.

(NB Sunday 25th August Thoor Ballylee CLOSED as surrounding roads shut down for Galway Rally Race).

8pm Friday 30th August The Burren Bandits at Thoor Ballylee play guitar for the Gort River Walk.

Friday 27th – Sunday 29th September Lady Gregory Yeats Autumn Gathering comes to Galway, with events at Thoor Ballylee on the morning Sunday 29th September.

Saturday 5th October our Storytelling Workshop returns to Thoor Ballylee (details to follow).

Saturday 19th October Máirtín O Connor and friends close the season. Come along and join us for our traditional festive closure!

Further details on selected events below:

After Folk & Farm with Christy Cuniffe, The Story of Butter with Anna O’Donnell, Heritage week at Thoor Ballylee comes to a climax 8pm on Saturday 24th August featuring music, The Art of Song with Helen Hancock and Mark Keane.

The Art of Song

with Helen Hancock & Mark Keane

8pm Saturday 24 August

Thoor Ballylee, Co. Galway

€10/€5 admission

As part of Heritage week Oranmore soprano Helen Hancock presents a beautiful evening programme of singing and music, The Art of Song, at Yeats’s Tower, Thoor Ballylee. The concert also features pianist and accompanist Mark Keane. Helen, in her 5th year of vocal studies with international tenor Owen Gilhooly has just returned from Abingdon Summer School for Solo Singers in the UK and is very enthusiastic about the recital. “I love singing with Mark Keane and Thoor Ballylee is a gorgeous intimate performance space […]. I always enjoy explaining the background to the songs and arias which brings them to life for the audience”. The programme is a varied one with lots of takes on life and love – which W.B. Yeats memorably called “the supreme theme of art and song”. It features music from all classical genres – baroque, opera, art song, lieder and musical theatre. Admission is €10  for adults and €5 for children and tickets are available in advance, or on the door on the night. Refreshments are available at the interval.

 

8pm Friday 30th August The Burren Bandits at Thoor Ballylee sing and play guitar for the Gort River Walk.


 

27th-29th September Lady Gregory and Yeats Autumn Gathering comes to Gort with speakers including Marina Carr, Nicholas Grene, and Lucy McDiarmuid. Sunday 29th September at Thoor Ballylee from 10.30 with Lelia Doolan and Cecily O’Neill talking about women playwrights. More details at the Gathering’s new website!


Saturday 5th October our Storytelling Workshop returns to Thoor Ballylee (details to follow).

Saturday 19th October Máirtín O Connor and friends close the season. Come along and join us for our traditional festive closure!

Join us and donate, come to our events, or just visit anytime until the middle of October!


For more information about these events or any others at Thoor Ballylee contact 091 631436 yeatsthoorballyleesociety@gmail.com

 

Heritage week at Thoor Ballylee

Heritage week comes to Thoor Ballylee 17th – 25th August featuring fun, education, and cultural events for all the family.

Folk & Farm

with Christy Cuniffe

2-4pm Saturday 17 August

The Studio at Thoor Ballylee, Co. Galway

Free admission

A short but informative talk by Dr Christy Cunniffe, archaeologist, in The Studio at Thoor Ballylee. The talk explores old farming techniques from the local area and is followed by a guided walk to the mill by the river.

The Story of Butter

with Anna O’Donnell

2pm Wednesday 21 August

Local food historian Anna O’Donnell takes us through the story of butter in the Studio at Thoor Ballylee with a talk and demonstration in keeping with the week’s agricultural theme. Butter has an interesting cultural history – and freshly made is even tastier than you think!

The Art of Song

with Helen Hancock & Mark Keane

8pm Saturday 24 August

Thoor Ballylee, Co. Galway

€10/€5 admission

As part of Heritage week Oranmore soprano Helen Hancock presents a beautiful evening programme of singing and music, The Art of Song, at Yeats’s Tower, Thoor Ballylee. The concert also features pianist and accompanist Mark Keane. Helen, in her 5th year of vocal studies with international tenor Owen Gilhooly has just returned from Abingdon Summer School for Solo Singers in the UK and is very enthusiastic about the recital. “I love singing with Mark Keane and Thoor Ballylee is a gorgeous intimate performance space […]. I always enjoy explaining the background to the songs and arias which brings them to life for the audience”. The programme is a varied one with lots of takes on life and love – which W.B. Yeats memorably called “the supreme theme of art and song”. It features music from all classical genres – baroque, opera, art song, lieder and musical theatre. Admission is €10  for adults and €5 for children and tickets are available in advance, or on the door on the night. Refreshments are available at the interval.

For more information about these events or any others at Thoor Ballylee contact 091 631436 yeatsthoorballyleesociety@gmail.com

 

Yeats’s birthday celebrations

W.B. Yeats was born on the 13th June 1865: on this day in 2019 that makes him a notional 154 years young, entering his 155th year. Though he complained loudly in verse about old age he did so from a very young age – and when approaching seniority retained a youthful vigour. Young, old, and somewhere in between gathered in Thoor Ballylee to read poems, sing songs, and share birthday cake for the grand old ever-young poet.

Rena McAllen, Tiana Fischer, Stephen O’Neill, and Melinda Szüts

Poems written early and late in life, from ‘Down By the Salley Gardens’ and ‘The Lake Isle of Innisfree’ to ‘The Tower’ and ‘Blood and the Moon’ were sung or read out loud (the way Yeats believed poetry should be performed) at our newly opened studio.

Colm Farrell and the Doolan family: Lelia Doolan about to read

Poems were read putting blessings on the tower, and expressing a wish to leave the country, or the body: “That is no country for old men”, declares ‘Sailing to Byzantium’. With the young jackdaws nesting in the tower having just flown their nest, reading ‘The Stare’s Nest By My Window’ from ‘Meditations in Time of Civil War’ was particularly poignant.

‘The Stare’s Nest By My Window’

The bees build in the crevices
Of loosening masonry, and there
The mother birds bring grubs and flies.
My wall is loosening; honey-bees,
Come build in the empty house of the stare.

We are closed in, and the key is turned
On our uncertainty; somewhere
A man is killed, or a house burned.
Yet no clear fact to be discerned:
Come build in the empty house of the stare.

A barricade of stone or of wood;
Some fourteen days of civil war:
Last night they trundled down the road
That dead young soldier in his blood:
Come build in the empty house of the stare.

We had fed the heart on fantasies,
The heart’s grown brutal from the fare,
More substance in our enmities
Than in our love; O honey-bees,
Come build in the empty house of the stare.

The Nobel prize medal for Literature he won pictured a young fellow listening to a beautiful muse. “I was good-looking once like that young man”, exclaimed Yeats, “but my unpractised verse was full of infirmity, my Muse old as it were. Now I am old and rheumatic, and nothing to look at, but my Muse is young.”

A horse joins the celebrations

In celebration this piece of music and reading by Ciaran Cannon features recent footage of Thoor Ballylee.

When You Are Old – WB Yeats from Ciaran Cannon on Vimeo.

Melinda Szüts reads from the opening song of the play ‘The Only Jealousy of Emer’.

Happy Birthday to W.B. Yeats from all at Thoor Ballylee, County Galway!

 

 

Invitation to Studio opening

The Studio at Thoor Ballylee

A new space for making and thinking

You are warmly invited to the opening of The Studio at Thoor Ballylee.

 Sunday 28th April 2019 at 3pm

Studio opened by Sister Mary deLourdes Fahy, local historian.

Special Guest Mrs Sabina Higgins.

Featuring Kathy Mooney, weaver; Áine Ní Shioradáin, harpist, Mary O’Malley, poet.

With an exhibition of artwork and craft by Lily and Elizabeth Yeats, with work by Jack B. Yeats, John Butler Yeats, and W.B. Yeats.

Elizabeth Rivers, from Stranger in Aran, Cuala Press (1946)

The new studio, intended as a meeting and workplace for today’s artists and craftworkers, honours Lily and Elizabeth Yeats, their creation of the Dun Emer Guild and Cuala Industries.

We gratefully acknowledge the support of the Department of Heritage, Culture, and the Gaeltacht and the generosity of our private donors.

Please join us as a new studio space opens at the Galway home of the poet W.B. Yeats!

Designed for workshops, exhibitions, craft sessions, youth groups, special events, talks, and discussion forums, it combines work space for artists with educational and workshop facilities. The Studio at Thoor Ballylee forms a cultural hub in the west of Ireland that matches the commitment of Lily and Elizabeth Yeats to art and education.

Thoor Ballylee is now open for the 2019 season 10am-2pm weekdays, 11am-5pm weekends. See our events page for more, including Leaving Cert lectures Tuesday 23rd and Wednesday 24th April.

Stonemason Jetro Sheen of Sheen Stone Works, Gort putting finishing touches to the new slate sign for the Studio. Design probably by Elizabeth Yeats, adapted from the Cuala Press. 

 

The Studio at Thoor Ballylee

The studio is inspired by two extraordinary examples: the work and legacy of the Yeats sisters. As a designer and embroiderer Lily Yeats (born Susan Mary Yeats) studied with May Morris, before setting up as an independent artist and maker of textiles with apprentices of her own. Her sister, artist and educator Elizabeth Yeats (known to the family as Lolly), pioneered the arts in the classroom, creating new watercolour brushwork techniques as a teaching method for children, and coaching young artists from Louis Le Brocquy to Anne Yeats. She became a hand-press printer and maker of books, publishing fine editions of art and literary works including by her brothers the poet W.B. Yeats and the artist Jack B. Yeats. Together the Yeats sisters were the founders of the Dun Emer workshop and then Cuala Industries, a groundbreaking nationalist and feminist collective producing art and providing skills, training, and apprenticeships across a range of applied artistic fields. Determined to revive, improve, and expand the reach of all the arts in Ireland, the example of the Yeats sisters stands behind the vision of the studio, with its emphasis on making of all kinds.

Originally an outbuilding converted to a garage by the Yeats family, the studio faces the Hiberno-Norman tower of Thoor Ballylee made famous by the poetry of W.B. Yeats, who lived and worked there with his wife George Yeats, also an artist and researcher of great ability, and their young family. Its transformation into a studio was made possible by generous private sponsorship and matching competitive funding from the Government of Ireland’s Department of Culture, Heritage, and the Gaeltacht.

To find out more – or see how you can help – see our website donate page  or contact yeatsthoorballyleesociety@gmail.

 

 

The Studio at Thoor Ballylee opens

Today thanks to the sterling work of our volunteers and helpers, Thoor Ballylee is now open for the 2019 season 10am-2pm weekdays, 11am-5pm weekends. There are an exciting line up of events planned throughout the year. We kick off in grand style with the launch of our new studio space.

The Studio at Thoor Ballylee

A new space for making and thinking

On Sunday 28th April 2019 at 3pm a new studio space opens at the Galway home of the poet W.B. Yeats. Designed for workshops, exhibitions, craft sessions, youth groups, special events, talks, and discussion forums, it combines work space for artists with educational and workshop facilities. The Studio at Thoor Ballylee forms a cultural hub in the west of Ireland that matches the commitment of Lily and Elizabeth Yeats to art and education.

The studio is inspired by two extraordinary examples: the work and legacy of the Yeats sisters. As a designer and embroiderer Lily Yeats (born Susan Mary Yeats) studied with May Morris, before setting up as an independent artist and maker of textiles with apprentices of her own. Her sister, artist and educator Elizabeth Yeats (known to the family as Lolly), pioneered the arts in the classroom, creating new watercolour brushwork techniques as a teaching method for children, and coaching young artists from Louis Le Brocquy to Anne Yeats. She became a hand-press printer and maker of books, publishing fine editions of art and literary works including by her brothers the poet W.B. Yeats and the artist Jack B. Yeats. Together the Yeats sisters were the founders of the Dun Emer workshop and then Cuala Industries, a groundbreaking nationalist and feminist collective producing art and providing skills, training, and apprenticeships across a range of applied artistic fields. Determined to revive, improve, and expand the reach of all the arts in Ireland, the example of the Yeats sisters stands behind the vision of the studio, with its emphasis on making of all kinds.

Saint Colman, design by Jack B. Yeats, embroidery by Lily Yeats and the Dun Emer workshop (1903) (image courtesy of St Brendan’s Cathedral Loughrea)

Originally an outbuilding converted to a garage by the Yeats family, the studio faces the Hiberno-Norman tower of Thoor Ballylee made famous by the poetry of W.B. Yeats, who lived and worked there with his wife George Yeats, also an artist and researcher of great ability, and their young family. Its transformation into a studio was made possible by generous private sponsorship and matching competitive funding from the Government of Ireland’s Department of Culture, Heritage, and the Gaeltacht.

With a variety of configurations and uses the studio is designed to host artists, workshops, and young people. A series of craft workshops is planned throughout the year featuring textiles, printmaking, spinning, poetry, drama, storytelling, and more.

Dr Catherine Morris and Dr Barry Houlihan with Cuala Industries handpainted banner (NUI Galway)

The 2019 opening by local historian Sister Mary De Lourdes Fahy at 3pm Sunday 28th April features as special guest Mrs Sabina Higgins, with poet Mary O’Malley, weaver Kathy Mooney and harpist Áine Ní Shioradáin, plus other important artists and visitors. The studio hosts a special exhibition featuring work by Lily, Elizabeth, Jack and W.B. Yeats and the Cuala Industries workshop.

from Elizabeth Rivers, Stranger in Aran (Cuala Press, 1946)

To find out more – or see how you can help – see our website donate page  or contact yeatsthoorballyleesociety@gmail.

John Butler Yeats, Musician

 

 

 

Thoor Ballylee opens!

Thoor Ballylee opens to all visitors from Saturday 20th April 2019. Yeats’s famous tower is open all summer for visits, cultural events, crafts workshops, and more!

Come and visit the fourteenth-century Hiberno-Norman tower featured in so many of W.B. Yeats’s best poems.

The Winding Stair and other Poems (1929)

Climb the winding stair (and mind our precious bats and nesting jackdaws!).

Discover more about the life and work of W.B. Yeats in world-class exhibitions.

Join in our numerous cultural events, performances, and workshops!

Jeremie Cyr-Cooke (Ghost of Cuchulain) and Orlaith Ni Chearra (Fand/Woman of the Sidhe) work on choreography for Yeats’s The Only Jealous of Emer

Treat yourself to tea and cake by our roaring fire, and browse in our giftshop.

Or just soak in the atmosphere of the Norman tower and beautiful surrounds.

Our first special event of 2019 is the launch of our new studio space, The Studio @ Thoor Ballylee. Open as a working space for artists and audiences, and featuring workshops, educational events, exhibitions, symposiums, and discussion groups, it forms a vibrant cultural hub in the west of Ireland that matches the commitment of the Yeats sisters to art and education. Funded by generous donors and the Department of Culture, the studio opens in honour of Lily & Elizabeth Yeats, artists and pioneer embroiders, printers, and educators.

Our grand opening at 3pm Sunday 28th April features local artists and speakers and a wonderful exhibition of the Yeats sisters’ Cuala Industries material.

For more details see our visitors page. Our latest 2019 calendar of events is available here. As a non-profit community organization, Thoor Ballylee is run by volunteers. To find out how you can help us in our mission to keep open Yeats’s tower for new generations click here.

See you soon!