The Patrick Kavanagh Centre tells the story of Inniskeen’s most famous son, the poet, Patrick Kavanagh, in a new and exciting way by using immersive and interactive techniques to engage and inspire visitors. A number of key zones in the exhibition focus on different times and aspects of Kavanagh’s life, whilst an accompanying audio-visual experience featuring performed readings of Kavanagh’s poetry (including some by Kavanagh himself) provides an emotive core to the exhibition that is hoped will resonate with visitors long after they’ve left Inniskeen. The Centre also functions as a dynamic performance space for a variety of special events.
Very few writers have rooted their work so physically in recognisable fields and buildings as Kavanagh did and many of these places can still be visited today. Visitors are encouraged to get outdoors and explore either on foot or bike the Kavanagh Trail which features those places in the immediate area that so inspired Kavanagh’s works.
“The state-of-the-art visitor experience in the Patrick Kavanagh Centre is a fitting tribute to the poet’s life and work. It provides a wonderful context for exploring the unique landscape of Monaghan that inspired so much of his work. I look forward to welcoming visitors to the centre where they can experience the life and work of Kavanagh for themselves.”
Darren McCreesh, Manager, Patrick Kavanagh Centre
Project objectives and outcomes
The key objective of this project was to carry out major structural refurbishment of the Patrick Kavanagh in Inniskeen, Co. Monaghan, and to return it to its rightful place as a focal point and hub for the interpretation of the life and works of the internationally renowned poet Patrick Kavanagh.
The Centre had been located since its inception in 1994 in the former St. Mary’s Church, Inniskeen, where Kavanagh himself had been a mass goer and where his burial place can be found in the adjoining graveyard. The building was in need of significant structural works, including re-roofing, insulation, dry lining, damp proofing, rewiring, plumbing and upgrades to public toilets and car parking facilities.
The key aims for the re-development of the Patrick Kavanagh Centre were:
- Provide a much-needed local tourism amenity in County Monaghan to act as a driver for tourism development;
- Be a key offering for Monaghan under Fáilte Ireland’s Ireland’s Ancient East destination branding for the region;
- Be a welcoming and hospitable place for visitors;
- Work closely in collaboration with other relevant local tourist interests to attract groups;
- Act as a staging post for walking/cycling tours in Patrick Kavanagh Country;
- Act as a venue for major national literary events and festivals.
Phase 1: of the project consisted of an extensive refurbishment of the building, led by Gaffney & Cullivan Architects and Carolan Murphy Builders.
Phase 2: involved a complete re-fit of the existing exhibition space by a multi-discipline design team led by Makedot Ltd., updating and reimagining it for a modern audience by introducing a layered approach to the exhibits, providing an immersive multi-media experience, and devising interactive exhibits and displays using new technology.
The outcomes of the project would span the local, regional and national levels through increased visitor footfall, longer stays and increased spending. While not the sole purpose of the project, it was clear that County Monaghan had never to date fully benefited from Kavanagh’s story. A clear and measurable outcome from this project would be the telling of the Kavanagh story and its interpretation using professional and modern methods and developing a marketable tourism product, and the commercialization of this for the benefit of the local community and businesses in this part of the county and peripheral border location, which had suffered greater than most both socially and economically during the past decade.
The project benefitted from strong stakeholder engagement from the beginning. Monaghan County Council, as the main driver for the project, were ably and enthusiastically supported by the involvement of Inniskeen Enterprise Development group in all aspects of project delivery; from planning to copywriting, to sourcing memorabilia, etc.
The Kavanagh family, some of whom still reside locally, donated photos and proved invaluable as a source of information on the Kavanagh legacy.
The Board of Trustees of the Kavanagh Estate generously gave permission for use of poetry within the exhibition, especially those which make up the spell-binding audio-visual at the core of the experience.
The Patrick Kavanagh Society were also heavily involved in the project, and many of their festivals and events, including the Patrick Kavanagh Weekend which takes place annually each September, continue to form the cornerstone for the Centre’s events programme.
The project received funding from a number of various funding streams, including monies from Fáilte Ireland of €199,000 via Ireland’s Ancient East Grants Scheme for Story-telling Interpretation 2017, and €188,000 from the Arts Capital Funding Scheme 2016. Monaghan County Council made a significant investment in the project, contributing €820,000 overall.
Events and festival programming
Since opening in July 2020, The Patrick Kavanagh Centre has successfully hosted a number of high-quality arts events across multiple disciplines, including performances by Scullion, Michael Gallen, and Lisa O’Neill, alongside curated events by Cavan-Monaghan Music Generation, Féile Patrick Byrne and Culture Night. A revival of Out of that Childhood Country by John and Tommy McArdle, a humorous retelling of the Kavanagh story for the stage was rapturously received in July 2021 as part of the Centre’s summer programme, which also included a curated literary arts night entitled Sense of Place, featuring Sinead Gleeson and a panel of emerging writers.
Events were successful in reaching and engaging with audiences, through a mix of in-person and outdoor events as well as live or delayed online streaming.
The Patrick Kavanagh Weekend and Poetry Award returned for September 2021 and in October 2021 RTÉ Lyric broadcast Taking Flight, a series of four essay commissions inspired by Kavanagh, especially for radio.
For more information on the Centre, visit www.patrickkavanaghcentre.com