The Playhouse reaps reward for City of Culture vision

The Playhouse chief executive Niall McCaughan. (1506PG63)
The Playhouse chief executive Niall McCaughan. (1506PG63)

The fact that The Playhouse has been awarded for ‘Promotion of the Arts & Culture’ is fitting given that it first conceived the idea of Derry as ‘City of Culture’, says CEO Niall McCaughan.

Niall, first suggested, in an article in September 2006, that Derry must seek a City Of Culture title. The only such title then available was European City of Culture. He subsequently presented the idea to a packed audience at the London-Derry Connection Conference in January 2008. He called on Derry City Council, Ilex, the ACNI, DCAL, DVCB DsD, the DOE, and many of the other main bodies to work together in partnership with the various art organizations and venues in the city, to realise the potential of the “unique asset”. He said: “We don’t need more strategies telling us what we already know, but we do need an action plan with defined actions, timetables and resources so that we can make this city the Cultural Capital of the North. Who knows in a few years time we could all be reaping the economic dividend from the arts, and maybe sticking that application in the post for European City of Culture.”

At the time, the idea received a mixed response; many liked the idea but some thought that it was ridiculous that Derry could be considered a City of Culture. Undaunted, Niall continued to preach the message to everyone he met that indeed Derry could win such a title, and in fact was already a City of Culture. The rest, as they say, is history.

At the local Chamber of Commerce Business Awards recently, The Playhouse received a special award for the ‘Promotion of the Arts & Culture’ in the city.

Following the awards, Niall said: “Our success has not only been down to a great team at The Playhouse but also the support that we have continued to receive from the people of Derry and further afield.

“Pauline Ross (theatre founder and artistic director) has been a visionary, not only coming up with big ideas, but following this up with action; I believe that this thinking has rubbed off on the rest of us at The Playhouse.”

Founded by Pauline Ross in 1992, The Playhouse has become one of the leading art centres in Ireland, meeting its remit to make “the arts accessible to all”. It’s many firsts include, the first arts centre in Northern Ireland to become accredited (over 700 students graduate from it each year), the first arts centre in N.Ireland to win “The Stage - Special Achievement in Regional Theatre”, the first building in Northern Ireland to win the UK “BURA” (British Urban Regeneration Award) and, until recently, one of only two venues in Northern Ireland commissioning, producing and touring new theatre.

Uniquely, it is the only arts centre in Northern Ireland with an international arts department, working globally, but also bringing the best of arts from across the world to Northern Ireland.

The Playhouse continues working right across the communities in the north west and further afield, making a positive difference to the lives of ordinary people. It’s promotion of the Arts and Culture, has brought it to a local, national and international audience.

On an ongoing basis, Pauline has grown the international reputation of The Playhouse with organisations across the globe, clamouring to work with The Playhouse.

During the current sixth-month period, The Playhouse will be working with and visiting with, groups in Italy, Germany, Poland, Finland, Austria, USA and India. Pauline has a unique vision and belief in the power of how the arts can transform people and communities, “thinking globally, acting locally”.

The Playhouse is now held up as an example of international best practice, and Pauline continues to push the boundaries in the arts on a global scale.