Seamus Heaney HomePlace is exceeding its visitor and income targets, Mid Ulster District Council has insisted.
The local authority spoke out in response to media coverage about financial losses at the council-owned museum in Bellaghy, Co Londonderry.
According to a report in today’s Irish News, the arts and literary centre, which celebrates the life and work of the poet and Nobel Laureate who died in 2013, has lost £1 million since it opened in 2016. It added that the district’s ratepayers are having to pick up the tab.
The report detailed how a council-led delegation is expected to travel to the USA tomorrow for talks with a number of potential donors in a bid to secure funding for the £4 million facility.
It said the delegation will include council officials, senior councillors and Heaney’s son Christopher.
Responding to a query from the News Letter, a spokesperson for Mid Ulster Council insisted that Seamus Heaney HomePlace has created jobs, attracted tourists and generated visitor spend.
“Seamus Heaney HomePlace is meeting and indeed exceeding its visitor and income targets and operating within the annual budget, set and agreed by the council. To date we have welcomed almost 80,000 visitors from more than 20 countries and income stands at close to £500,000,” she said.
“A literary centre of this calibre, however, like the vast majority of arts, tourism or indeed leisure facilities, requires a subvention. This is not a surprise to anyone.
“This subvention is an investment, not just in an award-winning centre with an acclaimed exhibition, arts and education programme, but also in culture generally, in rural tourism and in the regeneration of a small village.”
The spokesperson added: “HomePlace has acted as a catalyst for business development, job creation and economic growth and is estimated to generate more than £800,000 in visitor spend and bed nights in the area per annum.
“Seamus Heaney was a figure of global importance and HomePlace is an international facility. Now that it is established and successful, we are working to extend our reach internationally and our visit to the US is part of that work to develop partnerships and to promote HomePlace.”