Wednesday 21 February 2018

Crosbie to build amphitheatre venue with old Abbey stones

Harry Crosbie with some blocks from the National Theatre Photo: Gerry Mooney
Harry Crosbie with some blocks from the National Theatre Photo: Gerry Mooney
Melanie Finn

Melanie Finn

Developer Harry Crosbie has embarked on a plan that could see Ireland's culture lovers rocking out in a new venue built using The Abbey's original stonework.

The businessman who created the Point Theatre and the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre is hoping to use the historically significant stones to build a new public performance space at the Grand Canal Docks.

The Singing Stones
The Singing Stones

Founded in 1904 by poet WB Yeats and Lady Augusta Gregory, Ireland's national theatre was destroyed by a fire in July 1951.

The ruins were demolished 10 years later.

Realising the significance of the stones, city architect Daithí Hanly saved them from being dumped and arranged instead for them to be brought to the garden of his home on Vico Road in Killiney.

The granite blocks of the facade and the side walls have remained there for the past six decades under the watchful eye of his widow Joan Hanly.

But they could find a new home shortly, if Mr Crosbie and his colleagues get the green light for their innovative plan for an amphitheatre.

"I have been aware that these stones have been out in a garden in Killiney for the past 65 years and I always felt that they had a huge historical and cultural significant, in particular given the Abbey's links with WB Yeats, who's now recognised as a world-class poet," he told the Irish Independent.

"I've been trying to find something to do with them for years and Mrs Hanly has now given them into my care on the basis that whatever we do with them is not-for-profit, which it is."

He has joined forces with the former Gate theatre director Michael Colgan for the project - which has been dubbed The Singing Stones.

Also involved is broadcaster Gay Byrne, U2's studio manager Sam O'Sullivan and architect David Brown.

The proposed location for the open-air theatre will be adjacent to Hanover Quay, where Mr Crosbie says it will get the most benefit from any good weather.

He said that he would like to see the venue being used for a wide variety of events, including plays, concerts, children's performances, opera, ballet and even bingo.

With a capacity of between 200-300 people, he said that his 'labour of love' project is his way of giving back to the people of Dublin.

"I've always been interested in theatre and as a group, we would love to do it for the city. Nobody's getting paid here.

"All the consultants are working for free, we're not taking any Government money. Everything we do with this is non-profit," he said.

The developer received an honorary OBE for services to British-Irish cultural relations back in 2012.

The project is currently in its design stages and an application is expected to be submitted to Dublin City Council later this year.

Irish Independent

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