28 Jun 2021
A new outdoor experience letting people listen to Seamus Heaney reading his poetry in locations that inspired him has opened in Northern Ireland.
The Open Ground experience, a new addition to the Seamus Heaney HomePlace in County Londonderry, links Heaney’s poems to five locations in the local landscape that held particular significance for his writing.
The late Nobel Laureate’s poetry is not only visible in each place, where interpretation panels explain the literary connections, but is also audible with the poet’s own voice heard via listening posts on site.
The new experience, recently launched by Heaney’s wife Marie and members of his family, is complemented by a dedicated Open Ground app. It uses elements of augmented reality to add to the experience.
Open Ground, named after one of Heaney’s collections of poems, brings his literature into the landscape of his South Derry homeland for the first time.
A newly constructed boardwalk at Strand at Lough Beg, a place of ‘special memories’ for the poet, leads to a woodland pathway which gently opens out into a clearing with uninterrupted views across the lough to ‘Church Island and its soft outline of yew’.
A riverside path along the Moyola River, where the poet walked, fished and thought, is now also more accessible. Literature lovers can meander alongside the same river banks Heaney did, re-tracing the steps of a poet who was ‘at home on the water in all sorts of ways’.
Sculpture is at the heart of the remaining three locations, with a tall, steel structure at the Eelworks in Toome reflecting the poet’s fascination with both the lifecycle of eels and the fishermen who trapped them.
An alleyway in Magherafelt is now home to the sculpted silhouettes of people walking towards the town’s bus station which featured in Heaney’s poetry, while the well-known Turf Man sculpture in the poet’s home village of Bellaghy now has an extended and freshly landscaped seating area. The new space is ideal for contemplating both the art piece and accompanying lines from ‘Digging’, one of Heaney’s most famous poems.
The Strand, Lough Beg
The Nobel prize-winning poet died aged 74 in Dublin in 2013 following a short illness. Widely acclaimed for his many notable achievements, he was one of the most popular poets writing in English and featured regularly in the bestseller lists.
The Seamus Heaney HomePlace is an award-winning arts and literary centre dedicated to his life, work and legacy. Both an exhibition and a performance space where new and exciting works echo Heaney’s words and pay tribute to his genius, it has pulled in thousands of literature lovers from around the world since opening in 2016.
Its interactive exhibition immerses you in a journey through the poet’s world. Hundreds of personal stories, photographs and artefacts reveal the man and writer and let you learn about the words, rhythm and rhyme that made Seamus Heaney so special.
The centre recently unveiled a brand new digital archive and book collection for its library.
Previously displaying a collection of books which were loaned and donated by the Heaney family, the library now also houses a handpicked selection of more than 800 titles, ranging from books by friends and contemporaries of Seamus Heaney to those authors the poet himself enjoyed reading, including Spike Milligan and Bob Dylan.
As well as providing comfortable seating and individual writing desks for browsing, reading and study, the library now boasts a brand new Seamus Heaney digital archive, bringing together for the first time radio and television broadcasts presented by, or featuring, the poet.
Moyola River, County Londonderry
The Turf Man
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