Arts director heads Irish College in Paris

 

Ireland's cultural expansion into continental Europe will move forward today when Ms Helen Carey will be formally appointed director of the Irish College in Paris.

Ms Carey will begin work on September 1st, with a mandate to turn the college into "a major cultural and educational centre for Ireland in the heart of Europe".

The announcement will be made by Mr William Glynn, the chairman of the college board, who reinvigorated the college's management structure and campaigned tirelessly for funding to renovate the 18th-century building in the Latin Quarter.

The Irish Government has spent €10.5 million on the restoration and refurbishment of the college, which was designed by a royal architect 20 years before the French revolution.

The college was established to educate Irishmen who fled British rule in the 16th century. After its reopening in October, it will provide subsidised housing for 40 students, artists and academics.

Ms Carey (41) has been the executive and artistic director of Galway Arts Centre, Cuirt International Festival of Literature and Galway Youth Theatre since 1999.

She organised the 2000 Cuirt Festival in just three months, and has substantially increased attendance at the festival over the past two years. She invited the South African Nobel Prize winner Nadine Gordimer to this year's festival and oversaw a much-praised debate on war reporting. The 400-seat auditorium was filled to overflowing every night.

In the past, the Irish College held Saint Patrick's Day celebrations and some receptions and exhibitions, but there was no full-time executive with a budget to organise concerts, readings, theatre performances and a programme of cultural activities for 10 months of the year.

Ms Carey said the unprecedented Paris job was "very much like a blank canvas". But it shares the multidisciplinary nature of the position she has held for three years in Galway.

As in Galway, she will report to a volunteer board, and she will again be in charge of a historic building. The Galway centre is located in Lady Gregory's former town house.

Ms Carey was born in Zambia and grew up in Cavan and Monaghan. She earned a BA honours degree in history and politics at University College Dublin and studied for a year at the Institut Catholique in Paris.

Before moving to Galway, she worked for the London literary agency Curtis Brown, and commissioned public art for a millennium project in Bristol.