President Michael D Higgins has opened the O’Donoghue Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance at NUI Galway. The new state-of-the-art facility will act as a central hub for cultural innovation and creativity in the University and Galway City. Under the directorship of Professor Patrick Lonergan, the O’Donoghue Centre will deliver ground-breaking programmes, firmly rooted in NUI Galway’s local strengths and capacities, but globally significant in vision, ambition and innovation.
This pioneering Centre is a 120-seat theatre space with retractable tiered seating allowing for multifunctional use and accessibility. It comprises of studio spaces, a classroom, and a workshop and rehearsal room that will have a transformative effect not only on the University’s students but on the vibrant cultural hinterland that surrounds the campus.
As a long-standing advocate for the arts and innovation, the President of Ireland paid tribute to the O’Donoghue Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance, praising what he called its "key role in establishing Galway’s reputation as Ireland’s cultural capital and an international centre for innovative drama, theatre and performance."
The Centre recognises the generous philanthropic support of Galway businessman, Dr Donagh O’Donoghue who began his association with the University after he completed both Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Commerce degrees in the 1960s. Donagh combined his academic work with an active involvement in extra-curricular activities. He was a member of Comhairle Teachta na Mac-Léinn (the Students’ Representative Council, predecessor of the Students’ Union), where fellow members included President Higgins.
President of NUI Galway, Dr Jim Browne said: “Today is a milestone in NUI Galway’s history - marking the opening of the O’Donoghue Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance, a flagship new facility for the performing arts in the heart of our University. NUI Galway has always had a deep commitment to the arts, a commitment which continues to be central to our vision. Over the years we've supported a vibrant ethos on campus which has enriched national culture and confirmed Galway’s position as a city of creativity and innovation. Today’s development is a consolidation of that effort and today I want to commend Dr Donagh O’Donoghue and Galway University Foundation and to thank them sincerely for their commitment and support. As we look to the future, we imagine the stories that will be told, the careers that will be forged and the ideas that will be sparked in this wonderful place.”
NUI Galway has a distinguished tradition of producing important theatre-makers: great actors such as Siobhán McKenna, Caitlín Maude and Marie Mullen, directors such as Garry Hynes, and many writers, designers, producers, and scholars. The University now welcomes up to 50 undergraduate and 30 postgraduate students to its Drama courses every year. These students take classes in both theatre history and practice, and develop skills in acting, research, creative writing, directing, design, and much more. Their education is enhanced by partnerships with major arts organisations. Together with Druid Theatre, NUI Galway founded the Druid Academy, a new initiative to provide workshops and masterclasses for Galway students, including an annual directing workshop with Tony Award-winning director Garry Hynes. Students also have access to an annual internship programme with Galway International Arts Festival, which provides a behind-the-scenes insight into the management of one of Europe’s biggest festivals. The University also has major research resources in theatre, including the digital archives of the Abbey and Gate Theatres, which provide more than two million scripts, videos, photographs - making NUI Galway the home of the world’s largest digital theatre archive.
Minister Heather Humphreys, TD, Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, commented: “Galway is a wonderful hub of Ireland’s cultural life and this development of the O’Donoghue Centre at NUI Galway will be a powerhouse for cultural innovation and will consolidate Galway’s reputation as a centre of creativity. The new centre is a timely addition to NUI Galway’s offering as the Government implements the Creative Ireland initiative, which aims to put culture and creativity at the heart of both public life and public policy.”
The building on Earl’s Island began life as a bleach and flax mill in the 1850s. It was then converted into a jute factory, became a bonded warehouse, a factory for making cannon shells during World War I. and was occupied by the 6th Dragoon Guards and the 17th Lancers during the War of Independence. In 1935 it became Irish Metal Industries and was officially opened by Seán Lemass, then Minister for Industry and Commerce, on July 22 1935. And with today’s official opening it has now become the home of the O’Donoghue Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance.
Professor Patrick Lonergan, Director of the O’Donoghue Centre for Drama and Theatre Studies at NUI Galway, said: “This Centre is opening at a time when governments are beginning to understand the essential role of creativity in the wellbeing of their nations – and not only in the cultural sphere. There is growing evidence that creative arts contribute to our communities’ wellbeing, including our mental and physical health. And we’re also seeing evidence that business leaders recognise the importance of creativity as a key skill.
As Galway moves towards 2020, when it will be Europe’s Capital of Culture, we have a huge opportunity to transform attitudes to the creative arts, and to ensure they are valued both in themselves and for their broader impact. By placing a theatre right at the heart of its campus, NUI Galway is providing a tangible statement of the University’s sense of the importance of creativity.”
The Centre was designed by Taylor Architects in Co Mayo and Richard Murphy Architects in Edinburgh, with the work carried out by Purcell Construction.
For further course information at the O’Donoghue Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance visit: http://www.nuigalway.ie/creativearts/