Cultúrlann - sharing premises

Shared space can be the catalyst for community building. The formation of Cultúrlann as a second Irish language school in Belfast grew into a space to promote Irish arts and culture and attracted the many organisations that now reside there.

Organisational details

Cultúrlann promotes the arts and the Irish language, together with events catering for all age and interest groups. It holds music and drama events, talks and workshops, films and exhibitions. Its events are accessible to all levels of Irish speakers with a simultaneous translation system available for all-Irish performances.

The growth of collaborative working in the Irish community

Cultúrlann opened primarily because there was a need for a secondary Irish language school in Belfast and this was identified as a good site.  During this time there was an acknowledgement of a need for different services to support the Irish language community.  This led to the establishment of Cultúrlann as an arts centre. As the popularity of the centre grew, different Irish language organisations including Pobal, Aisling Ghéar, Aisling Ghéar films and Raidió Fáilte became attracted to the centre and applied to set up premises within. The management committee of Cultúrlann decided these organisations fitted the criteria of the centre, that they were not religious or political in nature but that their visions were similar to that of Cultúrlann in their support of Irish language and culture. Within a short time a café and a book shop were opened. Today the three storey culture and arts centre contains a 130-seat restaurant, a 110-seat theatre/conference space, the Gerard Dillon Gallery where regular exhibitions take place, a book/gift shop catering for Irish language and Irish interest. It is also the site of an official tourist information point, which among its many services offers help in arranging accommodation in Belfast.

The working relationships between the different Irish language organisations in Cultúrlann developed organically.  Each has a strong desire to further develop and support Irish language, art and culture and in their efforts to do so began working together to promote the centre and the services it provides. The running costs of the centre are also shared.  Although each organisation in Cultúrlann had its own individual governance, originally there was a representative from each organisation on the management committee of Cultúrlann. Now Cultúrlann has become a company limited by guarantee and its governance is not solely made up of individuals from organisations within the building. Since then a tenants’ group has been established so that representatives can discuss issues which fall outside the remit of the management committee.

“There was no strategic plan or process to work in collaboration with other organisations, our relationship with our tenants and the sharing of certain resources grew organically. Our common goal was to promote Irish culture in Belfast however this has led to organisations that reside in Cultúrlann sharing other resources as well.”
Eimear Ní Mhathúna, Director, Cultúrlann

Currently the building is under renovation and most organisations have moved out until renovation work is completed.  Some have grown in recent years and have taken the decision to relocate to other areas within the Gaelic Quarter however the majority of organisations are intending to move back into the centre once it has been re-launched in September 2011. Once this occurs a new centralised telephone service will be installed with each organisation contributing to the cost and maintenance of this.  The Director hopes that once all tenants are back that there will be even more opportunity to work in collaboration.

“We are trying to work closer together in marketing, we already do quite a bit at the minute, but once everyone moves back in there will be a more strategic approach to pooling resources.”
Eimear Ní Mhathúna, Director, Cultúrlann

What went well?

Each of the organisations that are located in Cultúrlann share a common ethos of contributing to the Irish community.  The relationship between the staff at Cultúrlann and the other organisations has always been positive and communication between all individuals has been good.

Every effort is made to ensure that the contents of this document are accurate, but the advice given should not be relied on as a definitive legal statement.