|Cultúrlann McAdam Ó Fiaich
Hometown: Belfast, Northern Ireland
Web site: http://english.culturlann.ie/index.php
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Cultúrlann McAdam Ó Fiaich, at the heart of the Gaeltacht Quarter on Belfast’s Falls Road is the Belfast Irish Experience, a friendly drop-in space where you can engage with the locals and experience Irish culture but depending on your interests, it is also a dynamic arts centre, a centre for traditional music, a tourist information point, a café, a place to buy crafts or books, a place to learn the Irish language or take up new hobbies, to meet friends or book a tour, a place to feel proud of your heritage or to explore Irish culture.
Cultúrlann is housed in the old Broadway Presbyterian Church. Built in 1896, this building served its congregation until 1982. The church was also home to the Loyal Orange Lodge no. 824, and a number of today’s patrons still remember Orange marches coming and going from the present Cultúrlann building.
From small beginnings in 1991, when Cultúrlann first opened to accommodate a nine pupil Irish-medium second level school, the centre has been the springboard for many Irish language initiatives and enterprises that subsequently spread out around the area to create what is now Belfast’s Gaeltacht Quarter, the headquarters of which is now based here. The Irish Medium secondary school grown to become Coláiste Feirste, presently sited at Beachmount with over 600 pupils on the roll. Other early resident organisations were Lá/ Lá Nua, Gaeloiliúint and Comhairle na Gaelscolaíochta.
Today the centre produces a full programme of year round arts events and is also home to Caife Feirste, Oifig Fáilte tourist information point, the Siobhán McKenna theatre, the Dillon Gallery, Raidió Fáilte, An Ceathrú Póilí book/craftshop, Aisling Ghéar theatre company, Pobal, an umbrella group for Irish language organisations, Taca supporting Irish medium education and Tobar, a television production company. A hive of activity, more than fifty people are employed in Cultúrlann making it a significant contributor to the economy of West Belfast.
The name of the centre, Cultúrlann McAdam Ó Fiaich, recalls the enormous contribution to the revival of the language made by Robert Shipboy McAdam, a Presbyterian businessman from the 19th century and Tomás Ó Fiaich a 20th century Irish scholar from the Catholic tradition. Central to the ethos of this centre has always been a non political, independent mindset that values our language and culture as part of the common heritage of all the people. This open, welcoming attitude has given Cultúrlann its reputation as a melting pot of cultures and a hotbed of ideas and innovation.
The future is bright as we plan to build a new purpose built Dillon Gallery and interpretative space which will put Cultúrlann’s visual arts programme firmly on the map and make a strong statement about the cultural wealth of this area.
If you haven’t yet visited Cultúrlann, give yourself a treat. Chill out in the café, browse in the bookshop and check out the arts programme. You might take away a souvenir or an original piece of artwork from one of our regular exhibitions, you will certainly take away a sense of the warm welcome of a vibrant, engaged community who have created Ireland’s strongest urban Irish speaking area.
Speaking recently, Eamonn Ó Cuiv TD summed the enterprising and pioneering nature of Cultúrlann McAdam Ó Fiaich, recommending such a facility for all large towns throughout Ireland:
“The Belfast community have without doubt put a lot of hard work into Cultúrlann McAdam Ó Fiaich on the Falls Road, and that is what I refer to, a place to drop in and meet people with a wide range of Irish Language community services available.”