Lough Shore Investments is a proud supporter of Belfast's new Lyric Theatre

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The new £18.1m Lyric Theatre on Belfast's River Lagan recently opened its doors with a series of special events. The opening ceremony included performances from actors Adrian Dunbar and Simon Callow, and concert pianist Barry Douglas. Lough Shore Investments is a proud supporter of the project and delighted to be listed amongst the Lyric's Patrons.

Liam Neeson OBE sent a message of support while filming on location in America: “You have taken the Lyric from a dream to a concrete idea, to a physical manifestation. You have made this building an actuality. May it be a living, breathing monument to and for the spirit of the people of Northern Ireland. I congratulate you all, and send my warmest regards for this great achievement.”

Celebrated playwright Brian Friel officially opened the Northern Bank Stage. He told the invited audience,

“I pray that Belfast, which must be rightly proud of what has been accomplished here, may reap the rewards of sustaining this theatre and that its excellence and excitement find echoes in the daily lives of Belfast people.”

The 390 guests including Lyric alumni Ciaran Hinds, Conleth Hill and Brid Brennan took their seats for a gala performance of The Crucible, directed by Conall Morrison.

The Lyric is a landmark building signaling the continued regeneration of the city and is viewed by many as a catalyst for real progress in arts provision for artists and audiences alike.

In 2003, the Lyric held an international architectural competition and selected O’Donnell & Tuomey from 56 entries as the architects to design a new theatre facility.

“When we took the first steps on the journey to rebuild our home almost a decade ago we could only imagine the day we would unveil our new theatre – but that time has come at last,” said Lyric Chairman Mark Carruthers OBE.

“This project has never been about just bricks and mortar. We were always focused on a bigger vision – a new landmark building which would be both functional and handsome, certainly – but more than that, we wanted to build a real home for everyone with an interest in theatre, and one that will play a central role in the cultural and economic development of Northern Ireland.”

Built in a stunning blend of ‘Belfast’ brick, steel, concrete and Iroko timber, the new theatre will be alive and dramatic at all times, including a café open daily and Sunday afternoon performances. Glass-fronted lobbies and bars overlooking the river, beautiful auditoria with an exciting artistic programme will make the Lyric a thriving social hub, creative learning space and a real attraction for visitors to the city.

Spacious dressing rooms, two auditoria - the Northern Bank Stage and Naughton Studio - and a rehearsal room with breathtaking views are just some of the features of the new building that will dramatically enhance the experience of being an actor in Northern Ireland’s only full-time producer of local theatre.

Architect John Tuomey said: “After eight years of immersion in architectural design, technical details, study models, working drawings, planning and construction, it is a strange sensation to walk through the Lyric Theatre, to see our first thoughts made real. We set out to design a house for Lyric, specific to the spirit of a producing theatre. Three brick-walled purpose-made spaces for performance and rehearsal are tightly wrapped around a flowing social space. The spaces in between are designed to have an intimate character, providing for impromptu theatrical occasions.

“Now that our work is done, the newly finished building passes out of our hands to fend for itself in the world. We hope that it will soon feel not so new, rather that it will be recognised as continuing the cultural ambition of the Lyric, as if this crystalline cluster has always been there, rising out of the deep background of Belfast’s urban architecture, between brick streets and tall trees, reflected in the river, belonging to its place.”

Rosalie Flanagan, Permanent Secretary, Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure said: "I am pleased that my Department's investment of over £9.5m has produced such a magnificent outcome. The Lyric has been the springboard for so many famous names and I have no doubt that this tradition will continue long into the future in these new, state of the art surroundings. I congratulate all those involved in bringing the project to fruition".

Roisín McDonough, Chief Executive Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said: “As principal funder of the Lyric, the Arts Council is delighted that the stunning new state-of-the-art theatre is now open to the public. The £2.4million that the Arts Council has invested in the Lyric will help to protect, strengthen and develop the arts infrastructure here in Northern Ireland, which in turn will stimulate the economy through cultural tourism.”

Peter McNaney, Chief Executive of Belfast City Council, said: “When Belfast City Council agreed to invest £1.25m from our City Investment Fund in the Lyric Theatre, it was another example of the Council working in partnership with its citizens and central government to enhance the economic, cultural and social life of the city. The Lyric will make a major contribution to helping Belfast become a truly cosmopolitan city on an international stage.”

With its cast of 19 actors, the opening production, The Crucible, will be one of the largest the Lyric has ever produced and is an ideal opportunity to break in the theatre’s rehearsal room with a wealth of local talent and showcase the new auditorium, the Northern Bank Stage.

Other highlights in the opening season include Martin Lynch’s Dockers, Kenneth Branagh and Rob Brydon in The Painkiller, and family musicals The Jungle Book and The Little Prince. And opening the Naughton Studio is Brendan at the Chelsea, a bio drama of Brendan Behan, written by his niece Janet and brought to the stage by Adrian Dunbar, who will direct and lead the cast as Behan.