Lyric Theatre, Belfast

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Coordinates: 54°34′44″N 5°56′02″W / 54.579°N 5.934°W / 54.579; -5.934 The Lyric Players' Theatre, more commonly known as The Lyric Theatre, or simply The Lyric, is the main full-time producing theatre in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The theatre was first established as the Lyric Players in 1951 at the home of its founders Mary and Pearse O’Malley in Derryvolgie Ave., off the Lisburn Road, and moved to its current site on Ridgeway Street in 1968, between the Stranmillis Road and Stranmillis Embankment. Austin Clarke had laid the foundation stone of the property in 1965.


In 1974 the theatre staged Andrew Lloyd Webber's Jesus Christ Superstar, leading to protests. In 1976 Liam Neeson appeared in Brian Friel's Philadelphia Here I Come!. Neeson's association with the Lyric has continued since, and he is currently the theatre's patron. Several of Friel's plays have been staged at the theatre, including Dancing at Lughnasa in 1996 and 2015.[1] A number of Marie Jones plays have been staged there including A Night in November. [2]

In 2004 the theatre announced a fundraising campaign to redevelop the theatre on its existing site. In June 2007 a £1m donation by Northern Irish businessman Dr Martin Naughton kickstarted the development. Naughton's donation was the largest in Northern Ireland arts history. He had previously made donations to Queen's University, where the Naughton Gallery is named in his honour.

New Lyric Theatre[edit]

The new theatre opened on 1 May 2011, with a Gala Performance of The Crucible. The new facility features a new main theatre with a seating capacity of almost 400 and a multi-function performance space 'The Naughton Studio' which can seat between 120 and 170.[3] The Lyric's chairman is Sir Bruce Robinson. Former Chairman BBC Northern Ireland journalist Mark Carruthers,[4] received an OBE at Buckingham Palace on 25 March 2011, in recognition of his leadership of the theatre at a highly critical time in its development.

In June 2010, Arts Minister Nelson McCausland praised the progress being made on the construction of the new Lyric Theatre in Belfast. [5] Minister McCausland paid a pre-opening visit to the new theatre on 11 March 2011, to view the new facilities and issued a statement expressing his satisfaction with the completed structure. He was described as 'lyrical' in his praise for the Lyric's fund-raising efforts and for the contribution of a wide range of people who had brought the construction phase to a successful conclusion.

A major report into the tendering process, instigated by Northern Ireland's Public Accounts Committee, later found that the contract for construction of the new theatre building had likely been 'both rigged and manipulated'. Lyric's spokesman referred to the publication of this report as an act of 'political delinquency'. On 24th November 2014 Finance Minister Simon Hamilton chastised the Public Accounts Committee for its sensationalist reporting stating:

"Let us be clear: the PAC suggests that there was fraud and makes these allegations publicly. It slurs organisations and, indeed, individuals, but, when asked to produce that evidence, none is forthcoming. In my view, the press releases that accompanied those particular reports were undoubtedly sensationalist in nature, were not evidence based and sought to attract media attention to specific issues, rather than provide a fair and balanced view of the Committee's deliberations. The Committee should not seek such headlines or, indeed, allege fraud where there is no evidence for it to do so."[6]

On 27 June 2012 The Lyric was the site of a meeting between Queen Elizabeth II and Martin McGuinness, Deputy First Minister for the Northern Ireland Assembly and a former commander of the IRA, including what many believe to be an historic handshake. The event is viewed by many as a positive sign for the ongoing peace process in Northern Ireland.


  1. ^ Lyric Theatre history
  2. ^ http:/ footnote, page 6
  3. ^ BBC News
  4. ^ News Letter
  5. ^ [1]
  6. ^ Hamilton, Simon. "Minister for Department of Finance and Personnel" (PDF). Northern Ireland Assembly. Hansard. Retrieved 1 July 2015. 

External links[edit]