3rd Jul 2019 in Food & Drink

Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter is getting another £1m cultural boost – this time in the form of a creative Irish poetry courtyard

Willie Jack, director of Commercial Court Inns Ltd, is behind the new investment.

Mr Jack’s substantial portfolio in the area includes the Duke of York, the Harp Bar, the Dark Horse, the Friend at Hand whiskey museum and the New Orpheus.

Gareth Neill, BID Manager of Cathedral Quarter Business Improvement District (BID), said he was delighted with the new initiative.

“Willie continues to positively invest in a portfolio of businesses in the area, particularly in the hospitality sector.

“The Irish poetry courtyard is a fantastic idea and one that will significantly enhance further the cultural offerings in the area, for both tourists and local people,” he said.

Speaking to the Irish News at the recent Belfast Business Awards – where he was presented with a lifetime achievement accolade – Mr Jack said he believed the courtyard would attract a different type of new and young tourist and show Belfast in a positive light.

Last year Mr Jack injected £3.5 million into the old Harp Bar, and provided space for a cookery school fronted by leading chef and restaurateur Niall McKenna.

He was also instrumental in restoring the former Half Bap Lane.

Included in that investment was the opening of the Sea Holly gallery, which features over £500,000 worth of paintings and writings, including works by Michael Longley and Neil Shawcross.

“The City Council is exploring a permanent home for the ‘Writers of Belfast’ collection, but rather than leave it in storage, what better way could there be to showcase these excellent pieces of work than above a pub?” Mr Jack told the Irish News.

“And now we’re adding this unique Irish poetry courtyard, where an Irish oak tree will be illuminated via a laser-cut corten steel base featuring the words of Seamus Heaney’s ‘Wishing Tree’.

“His words, and those of others like Louis MacNeice, WB Yeats and Oscar Wilde, will be reflected in our courtyard, where new murals will tell the story of the recent troubles, but in a humorous and non-partisan way.

“I genuinely believe this can become one of the top tourist attractions in Belfast in the coming years and help drive the city’s economy, showing this amazing city off in a positive light.”

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