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Lyric Theatre, Belfast

Coordinates: 54°34′44″N 5°56′02″W / 54.579°N 5.934°W / 54.579; -5.934 The Lyric Players' Theatre, more commonly known as The Lyric Theatre, or simply The Lyric, is the main full-time producing theatre in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The theatre was first established as the Lyric Players in 1951 at the home of its founders Mary O'Malley and her husband Pearse in Derryvolgie Ave., off the Lisburn Road, and moved to its new site on Ridgeway Street in 1968, between the Stranmillis Road and Stranmillis Embankment. Austin Clarke had laid the foundation stone of the property in 1965. The theatre remained on this site until 2011 when a new theatre opened on the Stranmillis Embankment.

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HistoryEdit

In 1974 the theatre staged Andrew Lloyd Webber's Jesus Christ Superstar, leading to protests. In 1976 Liam Neeson appeared in Brian Friel's Philadelphia Here I Come!. Neeson's association with the Lyric has continued since, and he is currently the theatre's patron. Several of Friel's plays have been staged at the theatre, including Dancing at Lughnasa in 1996 and 2015.[1] A number of Marie Jones plays have been staged there including A Night in November. [2]

In 2004 the theatre announced a fundraising campaign to redevelop the theatre on its existing site. In June 2007 a £1m donation by Northern Irish businessman Dr Martin Naughton kickstarted the development. Naughton's donation was the largest in Northern Ireland arts history. He had previously made donations to Queen's University, where the Naughton Gallery is named in his honour.

New Lyric TheatreEdit

The new theatre opened on 1 May 2011, with a Gala Performance of The Crucible. The new facility features a new main theatre with a seating capacity of almost 400 and a multi-function performance space 'The Naughton Studio' which can seat between 120 and 170.[3] The Lyric's chairman is Sir Bruce Robinson. Former Chairman BBC Northern Ireland journalist Mark Carruthers,[4] received an OBE at Buckingham Palace on 25 March 2011, in recognition of his leadership of the theatre at a highly critical time in its development.

A major report into the tendering process, instigated by Northern Ireland's Public Accounts Committee, later found that the contract for construction of the new theatre building had likely been 'both rigged and manipulated'.

It states:

"1 The private sector consultants who produced the tender evaluation report destroyed the tendering documentation very promptly after the tender evaluation meeting;

2 Proper arrangements were not put in place for either the sponsoring bodies (the Department and the Arts Council) or their technical advisors (CPD) to attend the tender evaluation meeting;

3 The Department, the Arts Council and CPD all received a copy of the tender evaluation report but failed to raise any concerns; and

4 The preferred bidder provided a donation of £150,000 to the Lyric Theatre.

Taking all of the points in the round the Committee is left with a very strong impression that the outcome of the tender process was both rigged and manipulated."

The Lyric's spokesman referred to the publication of this report as an act of 'political delinquency'. On 24 November 2014 Finance Minister Simon Hamilton chastised the Public Accounts Committee for its sensationalist reporting stating:

"Let us be clear: the PAC suggests that there was fraud and makes these allegations publicly. It slurs organisations and, indeed, individuals, but, when asked to produce that evidence, none is forthcoming. In my view, the press releases that accompanied those particular reports were undoubtedly sensationalist in nature, were not evidence based and sought to attract media attention to specific issues, rather than provide a fair and balanced view of the Committee's deliberations. The Committee should not seek such headlines or, indeed, allege fraud where there is no evidence for it to do so."[5]

On 27 June 2012 The Lyric was the site of a meeting between Queen Elizabeth II and Martin McGuinness, Deputy First Minister for the Northern Ireland Assembly and a former commander of the IRA, including what many believe to be an historic handshake. The event is viewed by many as a positive sign for the ongoing peace process in Northern Ireland.

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Lyric Theatre history Archived 2007-10-08 at the Wayback Machine.
  2. ^ http:/postcolonial.org/index.php/pct/article/download/711/445 footnote, page 6
  3. ^ BBC News
  4. ^ News Letter
  5. ^ Hamilton, Simon. "Minister for Department of Finance and Personnel" (PDF). Northern Ireland Assembly. Hansard. Retrieved 1 July 2015.

External linksEdit