A Day in the Life… Brian McCormick Manager, Seamus Heaney Homeplace
WHAT IS YOUR CURRENT ROLE?
I manage Seamus Heaney HomePlace- an arts, literary and visitors centre dedicated to the life and work of the Nobel prize winning poet. I took up post in November 2015, just under a year before we opened HomePlace, and a major part of that initial period was pulling together a team of people to staff the building. We now have a team of 20, who I work alongside to provide a world-class experience to our visitors. We have very high standards at HomePlace and, as a team, strive to achieve these on a daily basis.
WHAT IS YOUR BACKGROUND?
Before taking up this post, I owned the Tumbledown Bar, Moneyglass for 11 years. Before that, I worked for the Western Education & Library Board for 10 years, so I’ve had a variety in my career, which I think is very beneficial.
WHAT ARE THE BEST/WORST PARTS OF YOUR JOB?
The best part is the team of people I work with. We have a genuinely great rapport here and, collectively, we’re providing an exceptional experience for people who come. It is such a pleasure to bring the work of Seamus Heaney to so many people, and one of the most rewarding aspects is seeing first-hand the emotional impact the words have on visitors from all over the world. The worst part is trying to make enough time to do all the things we wish to achieve at HomePlace.
WHAT DO YOU FIND MOST CHALLENGING ABOUT THE SECTOR?
Challenging for us, here in Bellaghy, is the fact the tourism sector wouldn’t have traditionally been strong in this area. This is the only place a building of this nature could be based; Seamus Heaney was born and bred, and spent his formative years in this area, and is buried just on the edge of Bellaghy village. However, it still provides us with a challenge in that tourists are generally attracted to more established areas such as the Causeway Coast and Belfast. However, we are very centrally located, just off the main Belfast-Derry route, and with the help of the whole tourism sector, we wish to ensure people come to Bellaghy to immerse themselves in an authentic experience through the work of Seamus Heaney.
OUTLINE A TYPICAL DAY
I am very pleased to say, I don’t have a typical day as such. I suppose, like everyone nowadays, the day involves the ubiquitous emails quite a bit. A more pleasurable aspect of the job is working with the team here, with the wider Mid Ulster District Council staff (owner and operator of HomePlace), and engaging with the local community and businesses, plus key stakeholders such as the Arts Council, Tourism NI and Tourism Ireland. And, at the core of everything we do, is providing a memorable experience to our visitors to ensure the reach of HomePlace spans right across the world.
PROUDEST MOMENT OF YOUR CAREER TO DATE
We’re a very young facility and we actually just celebrated our second birthday on September 30. I suppose the most memorable occasion for me was actually our opening event. It was such as pressurised time and we wanted to put our best foot forward from the outset, and the event turned out to be an absolute joy. It culminated with a performance by nine musicians from places as far afield as Japan, Poland, and the US – countries Seamus Heaney had a real affection for, and the performers used his work as a catalyst for an entirely new piece of work called LifeCycle. To hear that piece of music performed in our just-opened theatre, The Helicon, was a very moving occasion. Over the last two years, we’ve been striving daily to ensure we adhere to those early highest of standards.
BEST THING ABOUT BEING INVOLVED IN THE LOCAL SECTOR
Seamus Heaney left us an amazing body of work, much of it centred on this area, and this has provided us with an absolutely magnificent opportunity to promote and celebrate those words. And we have found great support from the local community. The village of Bellaghy is undergoing a real and positive transformation on the back of our progress at HomePlace, and this is something we can all be very proud of.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO TO UNWIND AWAY FROM WORK?
The difficult part is unwinding and getting myself switched off but to help do that, I like to socialise, listen to music and go to see live gigs. I also play a little golf- not as much as I would like to though, and I really enjoy watching my son Fionn play football for Lavey and Magherafelt Sky Blues.
TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT YOURSELF NOT MANY PEOPLE MAY KNOW
I don’t know if I’m pleased to say, or embarrassed to admit, I have seen Bruce Springsteen live probably some 40 times in various places in Ireland, England, Europe and the States. It’s actually been a couple of years since I’ve seen him, so I’m feeling a bit of Springsteen withdrawal…