About Cultúrlann Uí Chanáin

An Gaeláras is Derry’s primary Irish language, arts and cultural organisation. Established in 1984, the organisation is now one of the most dynamic, innovative and award-winning Irish language organisations anywhere in the country, delivering a range of cultural initiatives.

The centre has attracted widespread interest and support from the local and wider community, and has become the major driving force in the development of Irish language and indigenous arts services on the island. Alongside a year-round programme of arts activity and performances, the organization has delivered several large-scale festivals over the past five years, and continues to produce a challenging and diverse programme to cater for all ages and communities. 


An Gaeláras was established in 1984 as Craobh Cholm Cille, a branch of Conradh na Gaeilge in the Bogside area of Derry. It is a company limited by guarantee and also has charitable status.

When Craobh Cholm Cille first started out in Dove House in the heart of the Bogside, the ambition was to provide Irish language classes for adult learners and for the young people of the area. However the demand for Irish classes was so great that it quickly outgrew its first premises.

To cater for learners from all over the city, and to be as inclusive as possible, it was decided to acquire city centre premises.

In 1988, An Conradh moved from Dove House to 35 Great James’ Street, Derry. In 1994 the group purchased a four-storey building at 34 Great James’ Street, which became known as An Gaeláras (the Home of Irish).


In 2001, An Gaeláras purchased McDaid’s bakery at 37 Great James Street, and secured planning permission for a new purpose built Irish Language, Arts and Cultural Enterprise Centre on the site at a cost of £4.6m. Construction of the O’Donnell & Tuomey designed building started in January 2008 and it was officially opened on 4th September 2009. In July 2008, the building represented Ireland at the Venice Biennale and has won many awards since its completion, coming second in the prestigious Stirling Prize competition, the first building from the North of Ireland to be nominated.

The building was financed by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Foras na Gaeilge, Office of the First and Deputy First Minister, ILEX, Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, International Fund for Ireland, European Union Peace & Reconciliation Programme, Department for Social Development, Ulster Community Investment Fund and the Department of Foreign Affairs Reconciliation Fund.

The facilities in the new Cultúrlann include a theatre and performance space, a cafe, teaching and training classrooms, business incubation suites and office space.

Cultúrlann Uí Chanáin also provided space for established related businesses and groups such as Dearcán (Irish language TV production company), Ciste Infhestíochta Ghaeilge, Comhaltas Ceoltóiri Éireann, and Cumann na bPíobairí, which are still in operation today and which have created a vibrant Irish cultural and arts based economy in the North West of Ireland. This continuing transformation of An Gaeláras’ Cultural Quarter to an Irish cultural and arts centre of excellence has placed a significant responsibility on the board of management and staff of An Gaeláras Ltd to match this pace of transformation in its delivery of community arts and education services.


The new building is a space for learning, creativity, exploration and enterprise and a beacon for the Irish speakers throughout the island of Ireland. The group currently draws the majority of its 126,000 annual users from the North West area, however there are an increasing number of users from outside this natural catchment and An Gaeláras views these markets as those with the most growth potential.

The overall project entails the management of 22 schemes, 36 staff and volunteers and the running of 4 buildings. The staff complement has grown from 2 full- time staff in 1998 to 20 full-time staff, 6 part-time staff and up to ten volunteers or placements at any given time.

The CEO and staff were central to the organising and delivery of the Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann in August 2013 and to the Pan-Celtic Festival in April 2014 and the profile, status and stakeholder relationships that they have developed as a result of this are significant and will contribute to the future development plans of the organisation.

An Gaeláras Ltd has grown at a significant pace since it was first established and since the completion of their new premises, Cultúrlann Uí Chanáin. The delivery of festivals, arts and education programmes has expanded beyond the confines of the current space and we have recently acquired the adjacent Church and Manse buildings to provide extra capacity.

Cultúrlann Uí Chanáin was named after long-time Irish language activist Seán O Canáinn. It was officially opened by Eamon O Cuív, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht on the 4th September 2009 with an enhanced programme of classes, courses, events and facilities. Within 12 months the organisation had outgrown this space and set about acquiring extra facilities.


  • Increased Irish language learners and classes
  • Increased traditional music learners and classes
  • Expansion of Club Óige Setanta
  • Procurement and delivery of Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann 2013
  • Hosting of Pan-Celtic Festival 2014/2015
  • Purchase of 33 & 35 Great James Street
  • Acquired planning permission for hotel at 34 Great James Street
  • Initiation of intense process of cross-community engagement
  • Using cultural heritage as a vehicle for collaboration rather than an area of contention


  • To increase the numbers of Irish-speakers, in Derry and in the North-West by providing for the teaching of Irish, through classes and courses, to all of the people of Derry in a way that is accessible, tailored and effective.
  • To develop a vibrant traditional arts sector within Derry City and the North-West through the provision of the highest standard of courses, workshops, festivals and events.
  • To create a generation of young Irish language activists through the development of Club Óige Setanta and the provision of a wide range of youth activities through the medium of Irish.
  • To create a bi-lingual environment in Derry and the North-West through the development of an urban Gaeltacht Quarter.
  • To promote awareness of cultural identity between the Irish-speaking community and those within the Protestant community through the provision of cultural awareness classes and events within the Protestant community.



The refurbishment and development of the Presbyterian Church and Manse at 33a-35 Great James Street, as an Acadamh Ceoil Thraidisiúnta and an Arts and Performance space, at a cost of £1.2m, to be completed in 2015.

Since the opening of Cultúrlann Ui Chanáin in 2009 there has been a huge increase in the demand for Irish language classes. There has been a similar increase in traditional music classes. A lack of space and the high demand means that the number of classes is restricted.

Following the success of Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann 2013, there has been an even greater demand leading to the proposal that an Academy of Traditional Irish Music be established as a legacy to the Fleadh. This will enhance the availability of music, song and dance classes.

The Academy will have the following aims:

  1. To provide business development units in the former church
  2. To provide facilities for individual artists
  3. To enhance Derry’s reputation as a ‘City of Music’
  4. To further develop the Gaeltacht Quarter in the district
  5. To contribute to the city’s tourism strategy.


In February 2016 Cultúrlann Uí Chanáin launches a new festival of Irish music with the following aims and objectives:

  1. To establish a flagship folk and acoustic music festival in Ireland
  2. To contribute to Derry’s City of Culture legacy and strengthen its status as a city that hosts events of international cultural significance
  3. To generate international tourism in Derry city during off-peak season
  4. To add to the growth of the Cultúrlann Uí Chanáin and the Cultural Quarter in Derry.


The development of the groups former premises at 34 Great James Street, as an Irish-language hotel, with 12 en- suite double rooms.

The purchase and development of another premises at Great James Street, Halla na nGael, in partnership with University of Ulster Magee, for Irish-speaking student accommodation.

The creation of a Cultural Quarter in Great James Street, comprising Cultúrlann Uí Chanáin, An tAcadamh Ceoil, Halla na nGael and the Irish language hotel.

The creation of a Gaeltacht Quarter in Bogside, Brandywell and Creggan. Work has begun on a comprehensive survey of the Gaeltacht Quarter to assess the demand and requirements of the area and to encourage active participation among the area’s residents. Work continues with local businesses to promote the use of bilingual signage in the Quarter, and with the Gaelscoileanna throughout the city to foster a sense of pride among the children.