Reading My Way Around the World

Tuesday 2 December 2014

An Artist's Retreat

The Tyrone Guthrie Centre at Annamaghkerrig
I've fulfilled a long held ambition this weekend past, to have a stay at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Co. Monaghan.

This is a residential retreat for artists of all disciplines to come and have a space away from home and be looked after, fed, watered and housed to facilitate the creative process.

And it is magnificent.

Some more of the residence block

Part of the old formal gardens
The opening of the Tyrone Guthrie Centre at Annaghmakerrig, County Monaghan is today seen as a turning point in the cultural life of Ireland. At his death in 1971 Tyrone Guthrie, with the encouragement of his family, left the house in his will to the Irish State for use as a residential workplace for artists.

Guthrie’s dream was pursued by visionary and dedicated people through the two arts councils in Ireland at a time of deep political division. The old house was skilfully converted and Annaghmakerrig opened its doors to its first residents on 10 October 1981."

At Annaghmakerrig Lake

Anyone from any art form (and you don't have to be Irish) can come here for some seclusion - and the only rule is that everyone comes together for dinner which is home cooked and 5*.   There's a dance studio, library, art and sculpture studios .....
I had no less than 3 grand pianos to choose from!!! 
... we were in the music room which houses two grand pianos - luxury.  Plus there's another grand piano in Lady Guthrie's drawing room.  
The Music Room - the other grand piano is in the opposite corner
I found that this piano on the right in the big room brought a new tune from me every time I sat down ... the one at the window in the photo above that was perfect for working over ideas and transposing chords and the one downstairs only wanted folk music played on it!!!   

What a luxury to be the only player and be allowed free access to all these instruments - my piano at home does not compare and might have to give up its place for a newer model.  Although it breaks my heart to part with instruments that are still intact, still it would be wonderful have one that feels good under your fingers.

Writing a melody at the piano

I was fortunate to be here with a poet, Csilla Toldy, who secured a bursary for the two of us to work on a project for 4 days.   Very lucky for us.

Csilla (pronounced tShiela) is from Hungary.  I have been setting some of her poems to music and we are co-producing a piece about emigration which we hope to have ready for International Women's Day in March next year.  

As our stay went on the creative energy just grew and grew to the point where I found it very hard to switch off and get some sleep - I wanted to write, paint, play, create - anything to get the adrenaline, ideas and energy out of me and onto paper or into the voice recorder on my phone.

An oasis of calm
Each night all the artists come together for dinner.  One night we had a singing and storytelling session afterwards and on another night a tour of the art workshops.   There were 4 painters, 2 other poets, a playwright, a storyteller, a journalist, someone developing a script for an animated film, another working on a poetry Ph.D, an essayist (who knew such a thing existed) and at least two novelists.  We come from Holland, Germany, Australia and America as well as Csilla from Hungary and a few of us from Ireland.

Looking in to the big dining table
where everyone gathers each evening
It has been so interesting to hear the conversations at dinner and to exchange ideas from all around the country North and South - and to exchange ideas with people from different artistic disciplines.

The stairs beside my room
and some artwork that a previous resident had done.

Over the years, many world famous artists have stayed here - and most leave some of their work behind to dress the walls, fill the library and add to the already huge collection.

We've made very good progress over the weekend, had many long conversations and pushed ourselves hard to produce work that would not so easily happen at home.   I've written two piano pieces and one song and Csilla has written several new poems.

I will definitely try to go back here for some time on my own in the future.   It's a working holiday and everyone leaves utterly exhausted ....  but oh what a wonderful exhausted.


  1. Hi Fil - that sounds positively wonderful ... amazing place. I'd love to be musical or arty .. but I guess I'm happy with my lot ... cheers and good luck with all things in 2015 - cheers Hilary

  2. What a lovely and inspirational place! I know you will go back there.

  3. Oh Fil - that sounds absolutely fabulous. I'm so glad you got a chance to experience it and reap the benefits of the time. And I'll keep my fingers crossed you get to return again.

  4. This sounds such an amazing thing to do !!! I'd love to do something like that. In recent times, all my composing usually takes place under really harassed circumstances or late at night for a deadline at school for a rehearsal. I also miss making cards which I seem to leave less and less time for. Lovely to meet you! x

    1. Hi Kezzie - it's really hard to find inspiration in stolen minutes between doing a million other things .... great to meet you too :)


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