About Cultúrlann Uí Chanáin
As a registered charity, we are committed to the growth of the Irish language, arts, and culture in Derry. Established in 1984 through the work of volunteers and activists, we are now one of the most dynamic, innovative, and award-winning Irish language organisations anywhere in the country.
As of 2019, we engage with over 3,165 learners on a weekly basis, 10,000 audience and participants with events throughout the year, and 500 customers per week with our bilingual and in-house cafe, Bácús.
An Gaeláras is the name which our organisation is registered under, with Cultúrlann Uí Chanáin being the name of our award-winning, city centre building which is open to the public throughout the week. With this, An Chultúrlann is the name we are now most often referred to and identified with. The centre, opened in 2009, 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.
An Gaeláras was established in 1984 as Craobh Cholm Cille, a branch of Conradh na Gaeilge, in the Bogside area of Derry. 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).
Cultúrlann Uí Chanáin
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.
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. 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, enterprise, and a beacon for the Irish speakers throughout the island of Ireland. We welcome the majority of our learners, audience members, and visitors from the North West area, however there are an increasing number of people coming from further afield, reflecting the Irish language and culture revival we are witnessing today.
We are proud to contribute to this revival through the management of 22 schemes, overseen by 36 staff and volunteers, and the running of 4 buildings dedicated to the various aspects of our work.
A highlight of our work has been successfully bidding, organising, and leading on delivering Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann in August 2013 and the Pan-Celtic Festival in April 2014. The former of which attracted 430,000 visitors to the city. 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.
We have continued to grow at a significant pace, evidenced with the delivery of our flagship festivals of Seachtain na Gaeilge, and IMBOLC International Music Festival programmes. Our youth work, events hosting, and music classes have expanded beyond the confines of the current space and over the past decade we have acquired the adjacent three buildings, including a previous church and manse, to provide for rising demand.
- Teaching 440 students Irish traditional music on a weekly basis, with our 60 weekly classes and our outreach programmes.
- Teaching over 2,000 students with weekly Irish language classes and outreach programmes.
- Procurement and delivery of Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann 2013
- Hosting of Pan-Celtic Festival in 2014 and 2015
- Initiation of intense process of cross-community engagement and the publication of learning materials and video resources for schools across NI
- Programming over 10 years worth of Seachtain na Gaeilge festivities
- Hosting IMBOLC International Music Festival each year since 2016 as an annual draw for over 2,000 attendees and participants.
Goals and Objectives
- 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 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.