Lyric Theatre, Belfast

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This is an image of the main entrance to the Lyric Theatre, Belfast

Coordinates: 54°34′44″N 5°56′02″W / 54.579°N 5.934°W / 54.579; -5.934 The Lyric Theatre, or simply The Lyric, is the principal, 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 O'Malley and her husband Pearse in Derryvolgie Avenue, off the Malone Road, and moved to its new site on Ridgeway Street in 1968, between the Stranmillis Road and Stranmillis Embankment. Austin Clarke laid the foundation stone in 1965 a deliberate choice by O'Malley to build a link back to her artistic hero W. B. Yeats.[1]

The theatre's current Executive Producer is Jimmy Fay,[2] previously the founder and Artistic Director of Bedrock Productions.[3]

History[edit]

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.[4] A number of Marie Jones plays have been staged there including A Night in November.[5]

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.[6] This new theatre was an almost threefold increase in the size of the previous building and the theatre remains the largest employer of actors and other theatre professionals in the region.[7]

The Lyric's current Chair is Sir Bruce Robinson[8] who took over in January 2015 from BBC Northern Ireland journalist Mark Carruthers,[9] who 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.

Since the theatre re-opened a permanent exhibition of the work of Belfast-born visual artist Colin Davidson (artist) has been on display at the theatre where he personally presented his work to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and the President of Ireland during the Royal visit to Northern Ireland on 27 June 2012. This was the occasion, and the Lyric was the chosen site, for a public meeting between Queen Elizabeth II and Martin McGuinness, Deputy First Minister for the Northern Ireland Assembly and a former commander of the IRA. The event is viewed by many as a positive sign for the ongoing peace process in Northern Ireland.[10]

In October 2018, as part of the theatre's 50th anniversary on the Stranmillis site, that theme of being "a shared place, a crossroads between communities" was marked at a symposium and over a weekend of celebratory events with the Irish Times noting the Lyric was a cultural bridge in a divided city.[11]

Controversy[edit]

A Stormont investigation found that there were serious failing in the selection of a preferred bidder for the new Lyric Theatre building.[12] The report stated that the way in which the contract was awarded was significantly flawed and failed to adhere to principles of good practice.[13] Chairwoman of the Public Accounts Committee Michaela Boyle said: “The quality of the rebuilt Lyric Theatre is undisputed; we recognise that it is a highly impressive theatre and that it has deservedly won a number of prestigious awards. However, the end does not justify the means. My committee has found that there were significant departures from good practice.”[14]

A year after Stormont's PAC reported, then finance minister Simon Hamilton suggested that if the committee had actually found evidence of fraud the people they should be speaking to are the PSNI, not the BBC and that the committee had "slurred organisations and individuals." [15]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "History of The Lyric Theatre, Belfast". history.lyrictheatre.co.uk.
  2. ^ http://artscouncil-ni.org/news/lyric-theatre-announces-new-executive-producer
  3. ^ "Jimmy Fay". The Lisa Richards Agency UK.
  4. ^ Lyric Theatre history Archived 2007-10-08 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ "footnote, page 6".
  6. ^ "£1m donation for Belfast theatre". 26 June 2007 – via news.bbc.co.uk.
  7. ^ Ireland, Culture Northern (6 February 2018). "Lyric Theatre announces plans to celebrate 50 years on the banks of the Lagan". Culture Northern Ireland.
  8. ^ Theatre, Lyric (30 January 2015). "Sir Bruce Robinson becomes Chairman of the Lyric Theatre". Lyric Theatre.
  9. ^ "News - Belfast News Letter". www.newsletter.co.uk.
  10. ^ Association, Press (27 June 2012). "Queen and Martin McGuinness shake hands and make history" – via www.theguardian.com.
  11. ^ Coyle, Jane. "The Lyric Theatre at 50: a cultural bridge in a divided city". The Irish Times.
  12. ^ "Lyric Theatre: New report says awarding of rebuild contract reeks of rigging and manipulation" – via www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk.
  13. ^ "PAC report on Lyric Theatre - a Freedom of Information request to Northern Ireland Assembly". WhatDoTheyKnow. 26 January 2014.
  14. ^ "Tender for rebuilding of Belfast's Lyric Theatre 'may have been rigged'". The Irish Times.
  15. ^ http://www.bbc.co.uk/democracylive/northern-ireland-30183188

External links[edit]

Media related to Lyric Theatre, Belfast at Wikimedia Commons