Ministers Darragh O’Brien, Catherine Martin and Paschal Donohoe announce €11.3 million funding for Na Píobairí Uilleann’s Sound of Ireland Centre: additional €2 million funding from Dublin City Council.
Opening in 2027, it will include a Visitor Centre, Theatre and instrument making training facility.
Na Píobairí Uilleann Press Release | Friday 1st September 2023
Celebrating uilleann piping in the historic heart of the capital, Dublin city will have a new international visitor centre, theatre performance space and instrument making training facility following the announcement today by Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien TD of €13.3m in capital funding from the Government and Dublin City Council to construct Na Píobairí Uilleann’s Sound of Ireland Centre at 16 Henrietta Street, Dublin 1, in a newly refurbished and extended building connected to NPU’s current headquarters, totalling 940 sq.m. / 10,100 sq.ft. in size.
The Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Catherine Martin TD also announced that she will allocate €2m funding for the development of the Sound of Ireland Centre that will enhance the tourism potential of Henrietta Street. Na Píobairí Uilleann, which receives its annual funding from the Arts Council, is a lynchpin of our traditional arts and culture. Dublin City Council will also provide an additional €2million in funding.
Na Píobairí Uilleann (NPU), the society of uilleann pipers, was founded in 1968 and today is a thriving arts organisation dedicated to sharing the Sound of Ireland (as uilleann piping is frequently called), through Access, Education, Performance and Preservation.
The new Centre reflects the growing international interest in uilleann piping and the work of NPU. The Sound of Ireland Centre will be funded through the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund (URDF). The project is consistent with Dublin City Council’s Conservation Plan for Henrietta Street and plans to promote and support the growth of the Parnell Square and North Inner City cultural cluster. The Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage will contribute €9.3 million, the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media will contribute €2 million, and Dublin City Council will contribute an additional €2 million, a total of €13.3 million.
Designed by Dublin-based Ryan W. Kennihan Architects and scheduled for completion and opening in 2027, the new community and cultural hub is “shovel ready” and will welcome a diverse community of artists and arts audiences, enabling improved access to facilities. Within Na Píobairí Uilleann’s Sound of Ireland Centre, visitors will have an opportunity to see and experience an expertly curated insight into uilleann piping, charting the history and development of this uniquely Irish instrument.
Meanwhile, a dedicated space will bring tuition and mentoring in uilleann pipe making into the heart of Dublin for the first time. The new 300 sq.m. / 3,200 sq.ft. theatre that forms part of the complex and features “astute acoustic design”, will seat 200 people and will provide a purpose-built performance venue for artists from Ireland and abroad. It has been designed to be flexible to accommodate a range of different performance types and audience arrangements.
The international cultural significance of uilleann piping was recognised with its inclusion in 2017 on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien TD said: “I’ve been so impressed with the work that is being undertaken at Na Píobairí Uilleann. It’s no exaggeration to say that it has played a vital part in ensuring that the skill of making uilleann pipes and the teaching of that beautiful instrument to people continues, not just in Ireland but across the world. So I’m delighted that the Government’s Urban Regeneration and Development Fund (URDF) is supporting such a unique part of our cultural heritage to the tune of €9.3 million.
The URDF is about making our urban areas more attractive and vibrant places to live, work and visit – and we have already allocated more that €1.6 billion to 132 projects, comprising of almost 400 subprojects across the country. This investment on Henrietta St. in Dublin’s North Inner City is a further demonstration of our commitment to enhancing the offerings of our Urban areas.”
Speaking at today’s event Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Catherine Martin TD said: “I am passionate about the traditional arts including uilleann piping and I am very pleased to see this Sound of Ireland Centre development that is going to take place here in Henrietta Street. There is so much credit due to Na Píobairí Uilleann – to the staff and volunteers. My Department funded the refurbishment and fitting out of this building 10 years ago and I know that Na Píobairí Uilleann has been working on this next stage for over a decade. I am pleased to now be able to provide funding of €2 million in addition to that provided by my Cabinet colleague Minister O’Brien. In conjunction with the Tenement Museum at 14 Henrietta Street and the popularity of the Street as a film location, the Sound of Ireland Centre will see the enhancement of Henrietta Street as a cultural hub and attractive landmark tourism destination. With its inscription on the UNESCO list of intangible cultural heritage of humanity as well as the tax relief for pipe making introduced in last year’s budget and today’s announcement, the future of uilleann piping is bright”.
Minister for Public Expenditure, NDP Deliver and Reform, Paschal Donohoe TD said: “It brings me great joy to see the development that is taking place here at Henrietta Street in the heart of Dublin Central. The funding for the Sound of Ireland Centre is being made through the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund (URDF), as part of Project Ireland 2040, the design of which is to support our growing population through the provision of new homes, schools, roads and hospitals. The Fund specifically aims to support projects that have the potential to regenerate and rejuvenate our towns and cities and Na Píobairí Uilleann’s plans will do that; creating a creative space for artists, a visitor centre for tourists and an even stronger lifeline for the craft of pipe making and the skill of pipe playing. Na Píobairí Uilleann’s efforts which breathes life into, not only the present but, the future of the uilleann pipes is to be commended. I wish them every success in the time ahead.”
Welcoming the announcement, Gay McKeon, Chief Executive of Na Píobairí Uilleann said: “This investment by the Government and Dublin City Council is very welcome news for our members, staff and Board, current funding agencies, stakeholders and the wider uilleann piping community in Ireland and abroad. We have delivered on significant milestone projects in the past, including the restoration of our headquarters at 15 Henrietta Street, the establishment of our instrument making training centre, PipeCraft, and securing Irish Government support for the inclusion of uilleann piping on the UNESCO Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Our access and education programmes have brought weekly piping tuition and instruments on loan to young people nationwide. Na Píobairí Uilleann was founded in 1968 and over five decades, through the dedication and hard work of the uilleann piping community we have overseen an unimaginable positive transformation in the fortunes of the art of uilleann piping. We are very grateful for the support of the Government, Dublin City Council, Ministers Darragh O’Brien, Catherine Martin, Paschal Donohoe and Richard Shakespeare from DCC for helping us to provide new opportunities for people worldwide to appreciate and participate in this uniquely Irish artform.”
Responding to the announcement, Richard Shakespeare, acting Chief Executive, Dublin City Council said: “We are very pleased to support this important cultural initiative for several reasons. With expanded and enhanced performance areas, exhibition spaces and an instrument making training centre, Na Píobairí Uilleann’s Sound of Ireland Centre will act as a magnet for music lovers and visitors to Henrietta Street – one of the city’s most important Georgian sites. This also reflects our commitment to completing one of the final pieces of our 2006 Henrietta Street Conservation plan.”
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