Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Tyrone Guthrie Centre, Annaghmakerrig, Ireland

Tyrone Guthrie Centre, Annaghmakerrig, Ireland
Just back a week ago from a week at the inspirational, atmospheric  writers and artistes' retreat, the  Tyrone Guthrie Centre.  It is hard to get to, in the 'back of beyond', surrounded by the green fields,  drumlins (hillocks) and lakes of County Monaghan and I wouldn't have got there at all as I arrived on the first day of a 3-day bus strike, but for my dear friends who drove me all the way from Dublin.  It's Patrick Kavanagh country of course but the Big House of TGC is more redolent of Anglo-Irish country life.  All meals provided, no domestic duties for the duration - only two rules, silence in the day, (everyone working away in their rooms or studios) and a compulsory dinner at 7pm where the craic was great.

Not one but two bronze busts of Tyrone himself are to be found, one in the hall by the dinner gong (still rung) and the other on the mantelpiece of his mahogany-shelved library - not a shy retiring personality one guesses - but as you may know, a famous stage director, directing Alec Guinness and Sir Laurence Olivier, who both came to stay at Annaghmakerrig and perhaps better known for founding a Shakespeare Company in Canada and there's a Tyrone Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, USA.  In his will, he left Annaghmakerrig to the people of Ireland to be an artistes' retreat.  It is owned by the Irish State and by both art councils North and South, a meeting place where shared artistic concerns can perhaps help understanding and peace.

The beauty of the house and grounds, the lake, the peace...perfect for generating ideas, notes, drafts or seeking inspiration from the great poetry library/corridor or solitary walks around the lake (avoiding the rather ferocious swans since it was nesting time). And great company in the evenings, chatting to writers and artistes of all stripes. My week there was a crime writer, a film director, a film script-writer, several poets, beautiful male dancers and a choreographer using the Dance Studio set back from the house, several painters, a print-maker, with their own studios in the former barns and stables,  a composer (using the Music Room with its fabulous grand piano), a singer/song writer, and given Tyrone's theatrical career, only fitting there should be a  playwright/actor  -  Irish, English, Americans, Australian and a German.  The variety changed as people came and went.  Pot luck whom you might get, but I was fortunate that everyone was lovely, so talented and interesting.

I felt I had died and gone to Heaven. Well back, home now, back to reality with a bump,  the laundry awaits, food shopping and cooking...but I'm determined to imagine I am back there,  the stillness of the lake and swans gliding by viewed from Lady Guthrie's sitting-room window-seat and get down to my project, this time on my side table/desk by my kitchen window.

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