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!

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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Thoor Ballylee Yeats Exhibition opens!

The Thoor Ballylee Yeats Exhibition opened by Guest of Honour Sabina Coyne Higgins.

Sabina Coyne Higgins, wife of the President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, and in her own right an actress and dedicated supporter of theatre and the arts, opened the inaugural Yeats Exhibition at Thoor Ballylee on Saturday 18th June 2016. A native of Mayo, Sabina Coyne Higgins  has a close relationship with Yeats and western culture as co-founder of the pioneering Focus theatre, and through her work with the Lyric Theatre Belfast, a theatre with a history of staging W.B. Yeats’s plays and those of his brother Jack B. Yeats, as well her long association with Druid Theatre, An Taibhdhearc, and other Galway theatre groups.

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Yeats Exhibition Opening with Sabina Coyne Higgins and guests

Since the Tower flooded last winter it seemed unimaginable that the beauty and tranquility of this special place would be enjoyed so soon again. However through the sheer hard work and dedication of the local community and the generous support of local and international donors Thoor Ballylee re-opened with a bang for another summer season. Special guests Joseph Hassett, Yeats Scholar & Thoor Benefactor, Fidelma Healy Eames, Chair of the Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society, and Councillor Michael Connolly all gave speeches for the exhibition launch. The event included local music from Gort Comhaltas and refreshments.

Yeats Tower Exhibition

Using material from NUIG’s “Yeats and the West” Exhibition, and UCD’s “Yeats and His Muses” Exhibition (conceived and produced by Dr Joseph Hassett), Dr Adrian Paterson, Lecturer in English at NUI Galway has curated a new exhibition for the Tower which explores Yeats’s relationship with the people and places that most inspired his work. The Thoor Ballylee Yeats exhibition 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; his talented family and long history of artistic collaborations, and in particular his close connections with the landscapes and people of County Galway, with Coole Park and with Thoor Ballylee.

TateImages_T06518 Samuel Palmer Lonely Tower

Samuel Palmer, The Lonely Tower (1879). This etching was inspiration for Yeats’s ‘The Phases of the Moon’ and many other Tower poems.

A series of family and cultural events takes place over summer 2016 to honour Yeats’s memory, his heritage, and his links with the literary revival and with 1916. The Tower and Exhibition will be open to visitors throughout the summer from 10am to 6pm Monday – Sunday.

The Winding Stair (1933) cover by Thomas Sturge Moore

The Winding Stair (1933) cover by Thomas Sturge Moore

 

Yeats exhibition opening at Thoor Ballylee

WindingStairs_2979 copy

Yeats Exhibition Opening

1pm Saturday 18th June

Guest of Honour

Sabina Coyne Higgins

with special guests:

Fidelma Healy Eames, Chair of the Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society

Joseph Hassett, Yeats Scholar and Thoor Ballylee Benefactor

Cllr Michael Connolly, Cathaoirleach, Galway Co. Council

Music from Gort Comhaltas & refreshments

All welcome!

rsvp: yeatsthoorballylee@gmail.com

Sabina Coyne Higgins, wife of our President, Michael D. Higgins, and in her own right an actress and dedicated supporter of theatre and the arts, officially opens the inaugural Yeats Exhibition at Thoor Ballylee from 1pm on Saturday 18th June. A native of Mayo, Sabina Coyne Higgins  has a close relationship with Yeats and western culture, as co-founder of the pioneering Focus theatre, and through her work with the Lyric Theatre Belfast, a theatre with a history of staging W.B. Yeats’s plays and those of his brother Jack B. Yeats, as well her long association with Druid Theatre, An Taibhdhearc, and other Galway theatre groups.

Thoor Ballylee May 2016

Thoor Ballylee May 2016

Since the Tower flooded last winter it seemed unimaginable that the beauty and tranquility of this special place would be enjoyed so soon again. However through the sheer hard work and dedication of the local community and the generous support of local and international donors Thoor Ballylee is re-opening with a bang for another summer season. Joseph Hassett, Yeats Scholar & Thoor Benefactor, Fidelma Healy Eames, Chair of the Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society, and Councillor Michael Connolly will participate in the exhibition launch. The event will also include local music and refreshments. All are welcome to attend and children will have an opportunity to test their knowledge of the tower with the new Thoor Scavenger hunt.

Yeats Tower Exhibition

Using material from NUIG’s “Yeats and the West” Exhibition and UCD’s “Yeats and His Muses” Exhibition, Dr Adrian Paterson, Lecturer in English at NUIG has curated a marvellous exhibition for the Tower which explores Yeats’s relationship with the people and places that most inspired his work. The Thoor Ballylee Yeats exhibition 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; his talented family and long history of artistic collaborations, and in particular his close connections with the landscapes and people of County Galway, with Coole Park and with Thoor Ballylee.

Pamela Colman Smith, The Tower, Tarot Card Park 1907

Pamela Colman Smith, The Tower, Tarot Card Park 1907

A series of family and cultural events takes place over summer 2016 to honour Yeats’s memory, his heritage, and his links with the literary revival and with 1916. The Tower and Exhibition will be open to visitors throughout the summer from 10am to 6pm Monday – Sunday.

 

Thomas Sturge Moore, Bookplate for George Yeats (1924)

Thomas Sturge Moore, Bookplate for George Yeats (1924)