Updated: More news from Irish Central

Ireland’s Cultural Ambassador, Gabriel Byrne has vowed to support a campaign in London to save the Irish Cultural center in Hammersmith, which has been threatened with closure after the local council announced plans to sell off it’s building, once the current lease expires.

In London

The Irish Times reports on the state of the Irish Cultural Centre in London

Byrne wants to save Irish cultural centre in London

Actor Gabriel Byrne has expressed support for a campaign in London to save the Irish Cultural Centre in Hammersmith, which is threatened by the plans of the local council to sell off its building.

Faced with a £130 million (€150 million) debt, the Conservative-controlled Hammersmith and Fulham council wants to sell the building once the centre’s lease expires in March 2012.

Representatives from the centre will make a presentation to councillors on Wednesday night, urging them to extend an existing lease, or to offer time for the centre to raise the funds to buy the building.

Supporting the case, the New York-based Byrne, who is Ireland’s Ambassador for Culture, said: “[Its] closing would be a devastation for Irish culture in Britain. We must by all means prevent this, not only for this generation alone but for those who follow.”

The Centre’s website offers a ton of information about its programs and activities, so check it out.

In Iran

Amnesty International Petition Needs Your Signature in Support of Jafar Panahi

Background information: [The link to this report at the Amnesty International USA website is no longer available, effective May 18, 2017]

While speaking at his trial in Tehran in November, he said, “I, Jafar Panahi, declare once again that I am an Iranian, I am staying in my country and I like to work in my own country. I love my country, I have paid a price for this love too, and I am willing to pay again if necessary.” Jafar Panahi’s films have been described as “social realist” and often provide a critique of the treatment of women in Iranian society. Several of his films have been banned in Iran. His first feature “Badkonake Sefid” (White Balloon) used non-professional actors to tell the ostensibly simple story of a small girl attempting to buy a goldfish for her family’s Nowruz (Iranian New Year) celebration. “Dayareh” (Circle) is a film comprised of interlinked tales about several socially marginalized women struggling through challenging circumstances that reveal the oppression of women. His 2006 movie “Offside” combines humor with social criticism in a story about some girls who disguise themselves as boys so they can attend a soccer match, which is off-limits to female spectators.

Join Gabriel Byrne and some of the other signatories, including Paul Haggis, Martin Scorsese, Sean Penn, Harvey Weinstein, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Rudi Bakhtiar, Lina Wertmuller, Hamid Dabashi, Peter Billingsley, Sir Patrick Stewart, Josh Brolin, Gale Anne Hurd, Hans Zimmer, Susan Sarandon, Michael Apted, Elliott Gould, Harvey Keitel, Deepa Mehta, Edward Zwick, Azar Nafisi, Ridley Scott, Phillip Noyce, Ron Howard, Mia Farrow and Nancy Meyers.

In Ireland and the USA

Irish Central reports in more detail on the Launch of Imagine Ireland and why Ireland needs to be re-imagined in the first place!

On the Launch:

2011 is going to be an exciting year for the Irish arts in America. On January 7th, Culture Ireland announced its expansive project for the coming year, titled Imagine Ireland.  Launched in New York City’s Lincoln Center by Cultural Ambassador and renowned actor Gabriel Byrne, Minister for Art, Sport and Tourism Mary Hanafin, and Culture Ireland CEO Eugene Downes, Imagine Ireland will bring over 1,000 Irish artists and producers to the Unites States, and will encompass more than 400 events across 40 states.


Almost more impressive than the number of artists and events is the geographical scope of Imagine Ireland, which will extend far beyond the major tour destinations of New York and Los Angeles. Chicago, Washington D.C., Atlanta, Boston, and San Francisco are all set to be  hubs of activity, as are many other smaller towns and cities – from Chincoteague Island, VA to Bay City, MI. “New York is amazing, we love New York,” said Fiach Mac Conghail, Director of Dublin’s  Abbey Theatre,  “but it’s not the entire United States. We think that it’s important for the Abbey to go to other cities that it has a connection with as well.” That’s precisely why the Abbey’s production of Mark O’Rowe’s new play Terminus, like so many of the other shows and events, will travel. In this case,  to Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Durham, Middlebury, and Baltimore. People all throughout the states will now be able to share first-hand in Ireland’s rich cultural past and its rapidly evolving artistic future.

We begin to get a sense of the scope of this project now, don’t we?

On the Re-Imagining

Patricia Harty, the founding editor of Irish Central, has this to say:

Gabriel Byrne says that the line between reality and imagination is very thin. I concur. Perhaps it’s because my father filled my head with stories of banshees and haunted fields with gates that never stayed shut. Perhaps it’s simply the beauty of the Irish countryside – some of the magic that you can see in Bill Doyle’s photos in this issue. I always feel close to the otherworld when I’m there. As a child my belief in the supernatural grew stronger with every cloud formation. When the sun suddenly burst forth in a gray sky, as it tends to do in Ireland, I thought it was God watching.


I like to believe that the Ireland of my imagination is still there, I just can’t see it for the make-over. But perhaps it is time to marry the imagination to reality – and take a look at all that modern Ireland has to offer. A new campaign recently launched in New York could be just the thing. “Imagine Ireland brings to American audiences a wealth of contemporary creators and a calendar of culture which will reshape and reinvigorate notions of Ireland, what it means to be Irish and the potential for Ireland into the future.”


I’m hopeful too, that in addition to updating our notion of what it means to be Irish, the some 1,000 artists participating in the Imagine Ireland campaign will also look at Ireland anew, through the lens of Irish America. Perhaps they will discover some of the treasures of a latter-day Ireland that lie in the repository of our emigrant mind banks and take some of that back home with them.  Imagine that.

Yes, we can imagine that! Warning: some of the comments on Ms. Harty’s article are a bit on the polemical side, but that is part of this whole enterprise, I think–to get us all talking about Ireland, what’s wrong, and how to right it.

Sorry for all the quotes. Please read the entire articles. In my next posting (!), I’ll tell you why Imagine Ireland should go to Europe…  smile


  1. Cythandra

    Ms Stella!
    Thank you for this update. I hope they are successful in getting the money to buy that building in Hammersmith.

  2. He’s an angel to help us all

  3. Mr Byrne is an amazing man. In my opinion he’s a kind of angel sent by God to help us and many others to find a right way. He always knows what to do, how to do and the most important why he does the things and gives his support.
    He never does something that he doesn’t believe. For me it’s very important and in this case of Irish Centre in London for instance, to be Irish is very important to him, the meaning to be Irish and of course the Irish culture both in America and all around the world (as here to me in Brazil.
    Anyway, Mr Byrne has all my attention and my total support to everything he needs or he wants.

  4. Thanks for sharing all this Stella.
    Gabriel Byrne is a busy man and he really cares about the world around him. I really admire all his work.

  5. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EqmLOhpCd1Y

    Gabriel really cared about Ireland in the “old days” too.

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