The Glens Centre has won funding for an exciting two year programme called “Across the Lines” which will see it work with community groups in Leitrim and Fermanagh on projects which use creativity and the arts to forge cross community and cross border relationships. As lead partner in a network of arts and community organisations, the Glens Centre will provide high quality training, support the creation of new works for performance, and create jobs and work opportunities. The funding, from the International Fund for Ireland, amounts of €181,000 over two years. “We are thrilled to have been awarded these funds under the IFI’s Peace Impact Programme,” said Glens Centre director, Susan McKay. “We have designed a range of fantastic projects and we are confident that, working with local community groups and arts practitioners, we can contribute to its aim of building sustainable peace and prosperity in this border area with its high level of economic and social deprivation. We are also going to have a lot of fun in the process.”
The Glens Centre is an arts centre with its roots deep in the mountainy soil of North Leitrim. It was set up by local community activists during the hard times of the 1980s and has since then become a well loved venue for music, theatre and literature as well as providing creative facilities for local artists. Since taking over as director last summer, McKay has put an emphasis on upgrading the venue and getting in funds for new projects. The venue already receives generous funds from the Arts Council, Leitrim County Council and Pobal. This new grant follows a grant from the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht for improvements to the building and purchasing new recording and lighting equipment.
“The Glens is centred around the lovely old Methodist Church in Manorhamilton and is renowned for its acoustics and for the warm welcome our audiences give to performers. We have never been busier. But the building needs a lot of work to make it comfortable and inviting again,” said McKay. “We are also funded to support local artists and we do a lot of work with local schools to encourage children and teenagers to engage with their creativity. So we need to make sure we have state of the art equipment and safe facilities.”
Under the new programme sound manager Ray Duffy will lead a Creative Industries training course for young people while also developing a new recording studio using the old church auditorium as its hub. A new post as Co-Ordinator for Across the Lines is about to be advertised, and there will also be work for artists, musicians, writers and community development workers. Among the local groups involved are the North Leitrim Women’s Centre and the North Leitrim Men’s Group.
In mid May the first project, named after the Damien Dempsey song, “We are Strong” will begin. This will see the well known Irish American writer, Michael Patrick MacDonald, whose family roots are in Donegal and Kerry, work on creativity and life skills with a group of men from Leitrim and Fermanagh. He will also be writer in residence at the Glens Centre during the five week programme.
“North Leitrim has suffered for its proximity to the Border and the economic damage inflicted by the Troubles and the recession have had a lasting impact including the emigration from the area of the young. Now Brexit looms over us. We hope that “Across The Lines” will in its own small but significant way encourage confidence among people of all faiths and none along the border, keep some talented young people from leaving, train people for jobs and creative careers and even bring back some of those who have left,” said McKay. “It is brilliant that the Glens Centre can be at the heart of all of that.”