The Courthouse youth forum enjoyed a visit to the Seamus Heaney Centre in Bellaghy, experiencing the famous writer’s relationships with local people and landscapes, and immersing themselves in his literature.

As part of The Courthouse Shared Space Creative Hub project’s community engagement work, hundreds of children & young people have participated in a range of creative workshops, from macrame and wreath making to watercolours and songwriting.

Along the way they have helped provide some fantastic ideas for new projects and programmes, so much so, that in the summer of 2022, the Courthouse team established a youth forum.

Twelve young people attended the first session, with meetings taking place every 6-8 weeks in local venues.

The forum aims to empower young people to play an active role in the development of the project by recommending themes for workshops, testing out new programme ideas and suggesting things they would like to see in the building, once complete.

It also seeks to provide opportunities to visit similar venues to encourage inspiration and ideas.

The Seamus Heaney HomePlace is an award-winning, purpose-built, arts and literary centre developed by Mid Ulster District Council.

The group was given a tour of its interactive exhibition space, exploring Heaney’s life and literature through a curated collection of his poetry, photographs and stories from his formative years in the Bellaghy area, to becoming one of Ireland’s greatest writers.

The group were also taken on a guide of the Helicon – the centre’s 190-seater performance space, designed with a nod to the Greek theatre which Heaney so loved, as well as the Back Yard, an outdoor sensory garden experience that aims to help young people develop their understanding of the natural world.

The visit provided an invaluable learning opportunity for the group, with the centre’s staff and resources enabling them to explore local heritage and culture in new and creative ways.

You can keep up-to-date with the Courthouse project via its Facebook page – @thecourthousepeaceiv or you can subscribe to its seasonal newsletter