It gives me great pleasure to be here today to outline to the Seanad the celebrations of Yeats Day 2015 and surrounding events. Yeats Day 2015, which takes place this coming Saturday, celebrates the 150th anniversary of the birth of the Nobel Prize winning poet, William Butler Yeats. The key focal point for the celebrations is a four-day Yeats Festival from 11 to 14 June, centred in County Sligo, which was the inspiration for much of his poetry. This weekend will be the high point of Yeats 2015 - a year of tribute to W.B. Yeats, which includes visual art, poetry, drama, street performance, music and family events. The initiative has been embraced across the globe. More than 40 countries are marking Yeats Day with cultural events taking place in cities such as Melbourne, Vienna, Montreal, Berlin, London, New York, Singapore, Shanghai, Paris and Madrid. Events include a range of concerts, readings, talks and screenings with a host of well-known personalities taking part, including Sarah Jessica Parker, Matthew Broderick, Adrian Dunbar, Joanna Lumley, Edna O'Brien, Orla Kiely, Gabriel Byrne, Colum McCann and many more. This global response shows the incredible reach of Yeats's poetry and writing.
Yeats 2015 forms an important part of the official decade of commemoration celebrations. The funding of €500,000 provided by my Department is part of a wider allocation of €22 million for a number of flagship commemorative projects, including a GPO interpretive centre, the development of Kilmainham Courthouse and Jail and the redevelopment of the storage warehouse at the National Archives Project. The celebrations of Yeats 2015 are intended to capture the wonder of his work and to understand what inspired him. Yeats 2015 partners span the literary, cultural, historical and academic worlds. Through Yeats 2015, Ireland is making a statement to the world about its rich cultural heritage and our contemporary cultural wealth. Yeats 2015 celebrates the poet's work and showcases Ireland as a dynamic, inspiring and creative place.
I would like to look ahead to some of the highlights of this weekend's range of activities in Sligo. One of the key focal points will be the poet laureate event this Saturday in Knocknarea. This once-off event is a wonderful idea that will gather the poets laureate from Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and London to pay tribute to W.B. Yeats. The laureates have never performed together in Ireland so it promises to be a really special evening. President Michael D. Higgins, who is patron of Yeats 2015, will be in attendance at this event and I also hope to go along myself. I will also be attending the Great Yeats Birthday Party at Lissadell House, which will include a dawn cycle race, a hat party, special poetry readings in the house and an hour-long play by the Curlew Theatre Company.
In particular, I am looking forward to unveiling the audio-visual history project produced in collaboration with the National Library and awarding prizes in the Yeats poetry competition which has been sponsored by Newstalk. Lissadell is, of course, deeply associated with Yeats and I am sure it will act as the perfect location for his 150th birthday party. Indeed, I think it is only when one visits Lissadell and looks out across the lake and the beautiful landscape that surrounds it that one can begin to appreciate the profound impact of this environment on Yeats's work. Like Patrick Kavanagh in Monaghan and Seamus Heaney in Ulster, Yeats's work is Sligo and the county will certainly come alive in a celebration of his work this weekend. Another key event is the unveiling of "Clay and Wattles Made" - an architectural competition run by IT Sligo. The winning entry will create a temporary cabin on the Lake Isle of Innisfree for the summer months as a special tribute to the poet's well-known poem named for this picturesque location. There are many other events taking place in Sligo over the weekend and if they have not already done so, I would certainly encourage Members of the House to come along and check them out.
A series of other commemorative initiatives are marking Yeats 2015. As a special tribute, the Central Bank has issued a limited-edition Yeats-inspired €15 coin on 3 June while An Post will issue a new commemorative stamp on 11 June to honour the poet's 150th birthday. larnród Éireann is also set to partner with Yeats 2015, displaying some of Yeats's best-known and lesser-known poetry on DART trains for the month of June. It is also hosting a poetry carriage on the 11:05 a.m. service from Connolly to Sligo on Yeats Day with live readings, which certainly promises to liven up what would otherwise be a run-of-the-mill train journey. The 2015 Great Music in Irish Houses Festival promises to portray Yeats's influence on the musical world by offering audiences an array of vocal and instrumental works from the classical music tradition inspired by the poet. A distinguished line-up of musicians from Ireland have been invited to perform with four distinctly different performances taking place in historic venues in Dublin. In this context, the Dublin Musical Saunter takes place on 14 June at Dublin City Gallery, the Hugh Lane Gallery; the National Concert Hall; the Dublin Writers Museum; and The Chapel Royal at Dublin Castle. The Irish Film Institute will present Alan Gilsenan's special screening of "A Vision: A Life of WB Yeats" on 13 June. There will also be a series of free lunchtime short film screenings across the month of June entitled "Images from a Past Life: W. B. Yeats in Film." In Galway, Coole Park will host a special fancy dress family day celebrating Yeats with the Coole Harmonies choir and uilleann piper Eugene Lamb.
Coole Park was the home of dramatist and folklorist Lady Gregory, friend to Yeats, and was the centre of the Irish literary revival.