€13.5m contemporary arts centre opens in Navan


ArtsCentres: A striking new arts centre has opened in Navan, Co Meath, at a price tag of €13.5 million. The centre plans to provide a regular diet of theatre, ballet, film and music.

Opened last weekend, the Solstice Arts Centre is an ambitious project funded largely by Meath County Council, with additional local contributions and a €2.9 million grant from the Department of Arts, Sports and Tourism.

Designed by award-winning Dublin-based firm, Grafton Architects, and built by Bennett Construction, Solstice features state-of-the-art facilities, including a 320-seat theatre, three visual art spaces and a café bar.

It enjoyed a suitably high profile opening last Friday with a weekend-long programme, including a circus, music by Fionnuala Hunt, performances by Argentine tango dancers and a comedy theatre show, Melody, by Tall Tales Theatre Company.

The stage offers a generous 100sq m (1,076sq ft) of space so there are plenty of theatrical options open to the facility.

"We used the term interior landscape in designing the theatre space," says architect Shelley McNamara, who designed Solstice.

"The organic contoured floor engenders a sense of intimacy between actors and audience and, on the exterior, the continuous glass wall of the foyer, which wraps around the theatre, was designed like a curtain."

The new centre is also important, however, as it has created 15 full-time and part-time jobs.

Solstice director Belinda Quirke says the centre would be a "cultural focus for the people of Meath and beyond. It is our intention to inspire, entertain, enthral, challenge and connect."

The inaugural programme includes musicians and singers, including Jack L, and uileann piper Paddy Keenan. Two forthcoming plays include The Crock of Gold and Wallflowering, and there will be a cinema programme for children during June as part of a children's arts festival.