Building began on a new building for the Lyric Theatre in late 2009. The previous building, built in 1968, had long been unfit for the purposes of the ambitious company. Its construction is the result of some incredible fundraising work, by many people, over eight years. The development team hold the distinction of having secured the largest ever philanthropic gift made to an arts venue from Ireland. This incredibly generous donation of £1,000,000 was given by Martin and Carmel Naughton.
This new home for the Lyric is gaining more interest from the media as it approaches completion. An extensive piece appeared in the Irish Times this weekend, and this interest will only increase as the new theatre opens and its productions begin.
At such a momentous time for the Lyric, it is illuminating to look back through the archives here in NUI Galway and see the roots of this now flourishing institution. Here on the right you can see plans made by architect Neil Downes in 1957 for an extension which was built at the rear of the O'Malley residence on Derryvolgie Avenue, Belfast. The purpose of the extension was to provide a new entrance to the small auditorium (up until that point, audience members had to pass through the O'Malleys' home), to create some backstage facilities and a foyer. The extension was completed in September 1957 and it heralded the burgeoning recognition of the Lyric as a serious and potentially professional theatrical company.
Neil Downes went on to become instrumental in the design for the first purpose-built home for the Lyric, which was on the same site in Ridgeway Street as the new theatre. We will take a closer look at that project, driven of course by Mary and Pearse O'Malley, in a future blog post. Below is a video in which architect John Tuomey outlines his concept and vision for the new Lyric Theatre building.