Check it out! NI town turned into giant game of chess in tourism project

Enniskillen has been transformed into a giant art gallery and chess board as part of a new interactive tourism initiative highlighting the area’s link with Nobel laureate Samuel Beckett.

Sunday, 17th October 2021, 12:08 pm
Part of the Isle of Enniskillen Samuel Beckett Chess Set, a permanent public artwork by artist Alan Milligan. Enniskillen has been transformed into a giant art gallery and chess board as part of a new interactive tourism initiative highlighting the area's link with Nobel laureate Samuel Beckett.
Part of the Isle of Enniskillen Samuel Beckett Chess Set, a permanent public artwork by artist Alan Milligan. Enniskillen has been transformed into a giant art gallery and chess board as part of a new interactive tourism initiative highlighting the area's link with Nobel laureate Samuel Beckett.

The new public art installation will see a live game of chess played across the Co Fermanagh town throughout the year.

It is the next phase of a literary tourism project that aims to capitalise on Enniskillen’s association with Beckett and Oscar Wilde, who both attended Portora Royal School – which is now Enniskillen Royal Grammar School.

The Beckett Enniskillen Chess Set is a permanent work created by sculptor Alan Milligan comprising 32 1.5ft tall bronze chess pieces representing characters and motifs from the work of Samuel Beckett, and 64 one foot square steel cubes as chess squares in bronze mounted on wood.

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The pieces will be mounted in 64 different indoor locations across the town, within Enniskillen Royal Grammar School (Portora site), Forthill Cole’s Monument, Enniskillen Castle Museums and National Trust Castle Coole forming the four corners of the chess set.

A game will be played throughout the year, with performances at three key times.

The bronze pieces will be in their starting positions from January until Good Friday – Beckett was born on Good Friday – and they will will then be moved by hooded figures as part of the opening game.

The middle game takes place in August, to coincide with the town’s ‘Happy Days Enniskillen International Beckett Festival’, and the endgame will be on December 22, which was the date of Beckett’s death.

Beckett was fascinated with the game of chess – it appears in his plays Endgame and Play and the novel Murphy. He attended the Portora Royal School from 1920-23.

The first part of the literary tourism project saw the installation of 150 swallows in gold leaf across the town over the summer, to celebrate its link with Wilde, who attended Portora between 1864-71.

The swallows were designed by artists Simon Carman and Helen Sharp to mark the 150th anniversary of the playwright’s last year in Enniskillen.

Wilde’s most popular fairytale, The Happy Prince, is believed to have been inspired by Enniskillen’s Cole Monument, which he could have seen from his dormitory window at Portora.

In the story the statue of the Happy Prince pleads with a swallow to distribute his jewels and gold leaf.

The swallows have been placed on the exterior facades of retail stores and community buildings across Enniskillen and visitors are encouraged to follow a walking tour and find all of the swallows to discover more about the life of Wilde.