Galway 2020 will bring the city and county an unprecedented focus at local, national and international level. It will allow Galway, and Ireland as a whole, to put our best cultural foot forward and promote the best of Irish creativity. As we move towards 2020, we have a huge opportunity to transform attitudes towards the creative arts, and to ensure they are valued both in themselves and for their broader impact.
NUI Galway plays a key role in the cultural life of our county and indeed, our country. By placing a theatre right at the heart of its campus, NUI Galway is providing a tangible statement of the university’s sense of the importance of creativity. Located beside Áras na Mac Léinn and the Bailey Allen Hall, The O’Donoghue Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance is a brand new venue for all performance related research and productions by Drama and Theatre Studies at NUI Galway. The centre, which was officially opened in April 2017 by President Michael D. Higgins, was unveiled at a time when the government was beginning to understand the essential role of creativity in the wellbeing of the nation. With growing evidence that creative arts contribute to our communities’ wellbeing, including our mental and physical health, we’re also seeing evidence that business leaders also recognise the importance of creativity as a key skill.
The new flagship facility has quickly become a hub for creative and performing arts in the university and the city. The Discipline of Drama and Theatre Studies, part of the School of Humanities, was established at NUI Galway in 2014. Drama at NUI Galway, which has 140 undergraduates, 20 MA students and 13 PhD students, has long played a substantial role in the life of the university with a a long history of excellence in the performing arts – a history that pre-dates the establishment of drama as a degree subject. Notable graduates include the co-founders of Druid Theatre, Garry Hynes and Marie Mullen, both of whom went on to become Tony Award winners for direction and acting respectively.
With an admirable aim to be known as the world’s leading centre for the study of theatre, NUI Galway is particularly strong in both the research and teaching elements of the subject. They locate the study of Irish theatre in a broad international context, using an Irish perspective to explore issues of global importance. Interaction and partnership with their international colleagues is an essential feature of their teaching and research.
The new centre was named in recognition of Dr Donagh O’Donoghue who has contributed so much to Galway’s cultural and economic life. Donagh began his association with what was then University College Galway when he completed both Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Commerce degrees in the 1960s. Combining his academic work with an active involvement in extra-curricular activities, Donagh was a member of Comhairle Teachta na Mac-Léinn (the Students’ Representative Council, predecessor of the Students’ Union) where fellow members included Michael D. Higgins and Gearóid Ó Tuathaigh. Shortly after completing his MBA degree, he was appointed group managing director of Thomas McDonagh & Sons Ltd. He transformed the company and delivered significant growth in both turnover and profitability. His external contributions included chairmnship of Bord na Móna and Galway Airport. At a crucial time in its development, Donagh was able to secure premises for the Druid Theatre Company. The guaranteed availablity of this physical space, as well as his guidance as chairman for 20 years, provided the vital commercial support for the artistic talent of Garry Hynes and the talented group of actors that emerged from University College Galway in the 1970s. The university now enjoys a close partnership with Druid Theatre, with whom they run a Druid Academy programme for training emerging theatre-makers. The university also has formal partnerships with many other theatre companies and arts organisations, including the Abbey Theatre, the Gate Theatre and the Galway International Arts Festival. Mr O’Donoghue continues his inspiring legacy by supporting this innovative hub as his vision allows NUIG to build and develop its strength in drama, theatre and film studies. His visionary leadership and philanthropic support has been instrumental to the success of this innovative initiative.Thanks to the generosity of the O’Donoghue family, and the hard work of the Galway University Foundation, this magnificent 120-seat, three studio space with classroom and workshops will allow generations of new students to imagine and inspire them to find the best of themselves, and to identify and express their own unique sense of creativity.
“I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being.”
The future is certainly bright at NUI Galway, that’s for sure. As it steers the way for Galway to take its rightful place as the culture capital of our country, the O’Donoghue Centre is an impeccable representation of all the work that is going on behind the scenes. The building salutes the powerhouse of cultural innovation that is consolidating Galway’s place at the very heart of creativity and innovation, and long may it continue…
WHAT LIES BENEATH
The building on Earl’s Island began life as a bleach and flax mill in the 1850s. The early twentieth century saw multiple uses for the building. A period as a bonded warehouse was followed by its use as a factory for cannon shells during World War 1, after which it housed British army personnel during the War of Independence. In 1935 it became Irish Metal Industries where three factories made cartridges, copper tubing and soda crystals. When IMI closed in 1987, the building w
as acquired by the university and was mainly used for engineering activities and soils labs. The design for the conversion of the nineteenth century industrial structure was by Taylor Architects (Castlebar) and Richard Murphy Architects (Edinburgh), with the work carried out by Purcell Construction.
‘Acting and storytelling are part of the Irish soul, no more so anywhere than in Galway and the west of Ireland. NUI Galway’s new centre for theatre and performance will surely spark the imagination and creative talent of a new generation of storytellers and artists’.
‘Galway is a place close to my heart – special to me and to many for its culture and creativity. With this new centre for theatre and performance, Galway’s place as a hub of artistic energy is strengthened’.
ARTISTIC DIRECTOR AND CO-FOUNDER OF DRUID THEATRE COMPANY
‘When I came to UCG in 1971, I was immediately seduced by Dramsoc. When I signed up that first day, little did I know I was signing up for the rest of my life. The O’Donoghue Centre will be a tremendous addition to NUI Galway and a testamant to how much its drama programme has nourished the Irish theatre and the west of Ireland in particular’.