AT a recent glittering awards ceremony, former Ballymoney Town Centre Manager and Glenshesk man Niall McCaughan, Chief Executive of The Playhouse, picked up the prestigious “Promotion of the Arts & Culture” award at the Derry-Londonderry Business Awards for its groundbreaking work including inception of the idea of Derry as a City of Culture.
Niall McCaughan said: “We are really delighted to have picked up this award. Our success has not only been down to a great team at The Playhouse but also the support that we have continued to receive from the public and further afield. When I first suggested that Derry go for a City of Culture title in 2006, I never thought that that in such a short time that could have made this idea a reality in less than a few years”.
Founded by Pauline Ross in 1992, The Playhouse has become one of the leading art centres in Ireland, meeting its remit to make “the arts accessible to all”. It’s many firsts include, the first arts centre in N.Ireland to become accredited (over 700 students graduate from it each year), the first arts centre in N.Ireland to win “The Stage - Special Achievement in Regional Theatre”, the first building in N.Ireland to win the UK “BURA” (British Urban Regeneration Award) and, until recently, one of only two venues in N.Ireland commissioning, producing and touring new theatre.
Uniquely, it is the only arts centre in N.Ireland with an international arts department, working globally, but also bringing the best of arts from across the world to N.Ireland.
The Playhouse continues working right across the communities in the North West and further afield, making a positive difference to the lives of ordinary people. It’s promotion of the Arts and Culture, has brought it to a local, national and international audience.
But of course, if there ever was an organisation which “promoted the arts and culture” then it surely must come from Niall conceiving the original idea of Derry as a city of culture.
Niall Mc Caughan first suggested, in an article he wrote for the Belfast Telegraph in September 2006, that Derry must seek a City Of Culture title; the only title then was European City of Culture.
At the time this idea was picked up by the BBC and print media; he subsequently presented the idea to many people including to a packed audience at the London-Derry Connection Conference in January 2008; his presentation is still available online.
At the time, the idea received a mixed response; many liked the idea but some thought that it was ridiculous that Derry could be considered a City of Culture.
Undaunted, Niall continued to preach the message to everyone he met that indeed Derry could win such a title, and in fact was already a City of Culture. The rest, as they say, is history. City of Culture alone is envisaged to bring in nearly £100 million in wages and profit by 2020, with an additional overnight visit spend by £39.8 million by 2013, from 2005 baseline.
On an ongoing basis, Pauline Ross, Founder and Artistic Director, has grown the international reputation of The Playhouse with organisations across the globe, clamouring to work with The Playhouse.
During the current sixth-month period, The Playhouse will be working with and visiting with, groups in Italy, Germany, Poland, Finland, Austria, USA and India.
Pauline has a unique vision and belief in the power of how the arts can transform people and communities, “thinking globally, acting locally”.
The Playhouse is now held up as an example of international best practice, and Pauline continues to push the boundaries in the arts on a global scale.
If ever there was an organisation that promoted Derry as a place of arts and culture, surely it is The Playhouse which has been doing so for the past 21 years, and a Glenshesk man is part of this success story, both for the Playhouse and for Derry city.