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Saturday 20 October 2018

O'Keeffe wants Yeats Society to be a 'more welcoming' place

Jessica Farry

The Director of the Yeats Society says she wants to open the doors of the association and make it more accessible to everyone.

Former Senator, Susan O'Keeffe, founder and Chair of Yeats Day, and founder and Chair of Yeats2015, wants to see the Yeats Society grow significantly in the next three years.

Addressing a gathering at last week's SPC meeting, O'Keeffe said that the society is aiming to welcome more people in the coming years.

"There is a next stage that the Yeats Society is going to embark on, we want to encourage people to think about Sligo as being the place to stand where Yeats stood. There are so many places in Sligo where you can go and stand where W.B Yeats stood, and see what he saw and have that experience," she told the meeting.

"Private funding has been raised from a variety of sponsors, mostly individuals who have put in some money for a three year turnaround plan. That would allow the Yeats Society to have some security for three years, that allows me to work there as Director on a full-time basis to try to increase the amount of work that we do. We'll be hoping to look at grants from various organisations that have already given grants to the Yeats Society over the years and we will look to do further fundraising. In other words, we hope to make the best of what was there, to professionalise it and to do more."

Next year, the Yeats International Summer School will be celebrating its 60th year. With that being a significant milestone, Susan says it is crucial that the success of the event is built on.

"We want to throw open the doors of the Yeats Society, to make it a more welcoming place as a cultural institution and specifically to celebrate and support local artists and writers. We'll be building on the traditions that are there, celebrating the Summer School - next year is the 60th year.

"We reckon, it is the longest running summer school, certainly in Ireland possibly in the world. Sixty years is a significant milestone so we'll be building on that, ensuring that the academic ethos of the summer school remains, we'll be sharing ideas with those people who have been involved with the summer school over a long period of time and making sure next year that we are celebrating something that Sligo is proud of."

The Yeats Society will host a number of events throughout the year to mark occasions such as World Poetry Day, Easter, St. Patrick's Day, Culture Night and much more.

As for the Yeats Memorial Building, it will undergo a small transformation by way of cleaning, tidying and organising, but nothing drastic.

The Yeats building, and the Yeats Summer School draw visitors from across the world throughout each year.

And this year, already, Susan says she has seen a huge variety of nationalities visiting, despite the fact that January is usually a quieter month.

"We have visitors from all over the world. Last week we had visitors from Israel, Canada, Italy, America and this is January, it's usually quite quiet. I had four Americans yesterday and I asked why are they here and they said they had come specifically to hear about Yeats. It's up to us to make our best offering when people arrive."

As part of the society's attempts to grow even further, there are plans to construct a 'Wall of Poetry'.

"We have a cornerstone project that we are introducing the idea of today. We would like to build a 'Great Poetry Wall of Sligo'. As far as our knowledge goes, there isn't a poetry wall in the world. This would be a stand-out destination itself that would celebrate poetry. That's a project that we hope to bring more about to you at a later stage. We believe that it can be a public space, a public celebration of poetry and a public celebration of inspiration.

"Our gallery will continue to support local and emerging artists."

Councillor Marie Casserly suggested a 'Poetry Bench' similar to the ones in Warsaw that play the music of composer Chopin.

"In Warsaw they have music playing benches where they play Chopin, when you sit down and press a button, I wonder could we apply for funding for a bench where you could sit down and hear some Yeats poetry."

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