Galway Film Fleadh comes to Thoor Ballylee

This year, the celebrated Galway Film Fleadh takes to the road with a programme of films from the IFI Irish Film Archive, celebrating the life and legacy of WB Yeats’s great friend and co-founder of Ireland’s national theatre, Lady Augusta Gregory.

Entitled ‘Local Films for Local People’, a special screening of these films is presented at Thoor Ballylee, at 3pm Thursday 12th July.

The range of Lady Gregory’s talents was considerable: co-founder of the Abbey Theatre, translator, folklorist, theatre producer and Yeats’s collaborator.  She was also an important, resolutely experimental dramatist in her own right.

And, although at times she tried to dissuade him from living there, it was she who found the tower at Thoor Ballylee for Yeats and his new wife, George, where he and his family spent many summers. Close by is Coole Park where, under Lady Gregory’s steadfast and welcoming spirit, poets, playwrights, painters and artists from every background – Yeats, Shaw, Synge, Hyde, O’Casey – created a renaissance of Irish literary, artistic, and political thinking and action.

This exclusive programme of short films includes Coole Park and Ballyee and Cradle of Genius, films about Gregory and Yeats’s connection to the local landscape and the cultural revival they inspired. It also includes a rare screening of a movie adaptation of Gregory’s one-act play The Workhouse Ward with the Abbey Theatre players. Featuring a pair of down-at-heel men arguing in a hospital ward, the comedy anticipates Beckett’s Waiting for Godot in exploring the strange co-dependencies of Irish masculine culture.

The screening is a wonderful chance to see these rare films in a site-specific setting. The programme is introduced by Sunniva O’Flynn, Head of Irish Film Programming, IFI, and by Lelia Doolan, Yeats Thoor Ballylee board member and former Artistic Director of the Abbey Theatre. There will be time afterwards for discussion and tea.

Galway Film Fleadh Screening

Local Films for Local People

Thoor Ballylee, 3pm Thursday 12th July

COOLE PARK AND BALLYLEE
This short documentary celebrates the cultural heritage of Coole Park and Thoor Ballylee and the serene landscape which inspired its visitors.

Producer: Queen’s University Belfast

1976 / 20 mins / Colour

THE WORKHOUSE WARD
This film recently acquired by the IFI Irish Film Archive is an adaptation of Lady Gregory’s one-act comedy which centers on two bickering paupers confined to adjacent hospital beds until the arrival of the Widow Donohue (Eileen Crowe).

Director: Ria Mooney

1950/ 25 mins/ Black and White

CRADLE OF GENIUS
This Academy Award-nominated film, written by Frank O’Connor and produced by Tom Hayes, presents a history of the Abbey Theatre and a record of Irish theatre culture in the late 1950s as fondly remembered by leading lights Siobhán McKenna, Maureen Delaney, Harry Brogan, Eithne Dunne, Barry Fitzgerald and Seán O’Casey.

Director: Paul Rotha

1959/ 42 mins/Black and White

Followed by questions, discussion, and tea.

 

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.

Thoor Ballylee Culture Night!

For Culture Night this Friday Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society hosts an evening of traditional music, song  and dance at Thoor Ballylee.

Oiche Ceoil at Thoor Ballylee 

Culture Night Friday September 22nd 2017

7.00 pm to 9.30 pm

Refreshments served. All welcome. Free event!


 For Ireland’s nationwide festival of the arts, Culture Night,  Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society hosts an evening of traditional music, song  and dance at W.B. Yeats’s Norman stone tower. 

Performing on the evening will be Gaillimh Theas Comhaltas, Gavin Dance Academy, renowned violinist Claire Egan, accordionist Eoin O Neill and guests.

Come along and join the excitement and witness the cultural richness of Galway’s finest performers, in a unique stone fireside setting restored and honoured by Ireland’s greatest poet.

The event is supported by Galway County Council, Oireachtas na Gaeilge & Arts. Culture night is brought to you by the Department of Culture, Heritage & the Gaeltacht & the  Creative Ireland Programme in partnership with Galway County Council.

Look out also for our closing season writers event 3pm Saturday 7th October with poet Sarah Clancy, novelist Lisa McInerney and performing poets..!

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

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.

thoor-ballylee-oct-2016-3

Thoor Ballylee October 2016

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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