New ‘state of the art’ Irish Cultural Centre opens to the public next month
Londoners will have a new £3m ‘state of the art’, Irish Cultural Centre and performance venue from next month.
The new (ICC) building in Hammersmith opened its doors last week for a VIP – Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Diaspora Minister Joe McHugh – but work is still being completed. Jim O’Hara, Chairman of the Board at the ICC, said last week’s initial unveiling to Dispora Minister Joe McHugh – whose department gave £670,000 towards the centre – was the result of nearly four years work.
He promised it would be a community hub for Irish people here “for generations to come”. The person for whom the centre was opened and the photocall organized, Minister Joe McHugh was fulsome in his praise: “I’ve heard it talked about for so many years, especially when I was joint chair of the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly.
“To see it in reality and the physical environment is wonderful. The Irish government may have given a significant financial contribution but ultimately it was the drive and volunteer spirit of the Irish community here that delivered it,” said Mr. McHugh.
The £3 million centre, which will open to the pubic next month, will be a totally new, state-of-the-art building in the heart of west London, promised Mr O’Hara.
“We’ve been able to give it a whole new design and there are lots of different aspects now.
“It’s ideally located with very easy access to the Tube and the main road and with plenty of windows and light, it’s been expertly designed,” he said.
The original ICC site was put up for sale by Hammersmith and Fulham Council in 2010 but – with significant help from the Irish government – the freehold was purchased by the directors in 2013. There was also help from local businesses and investors. The government contributed £550,000 in 2012 and Mr O’Hara explained how this donation was vital in securing the ICC’s future.
“I have to pay tribute to the Irish government because it provided us with a very important grant,” he said.
“It was the base that then allowed us to get further funding so we are indebted to the Department of Foreign Affairs.”
Further support of £120,000 from the Irish government was granted on the 50th anniversary of the ICC in 2015 to promote its services and cultural activities. Now, after demolishing the old site, members of the Irish community and those with an interest in Irish culture have got a brand new centre.
“Because we purchased the freehold, we will be responsible for this centre for generations to come,” Mr O’Hara said. “It will be a valuable asset to members of the Irish community in Britain and we want to establish a new beginning while continuing the story of the ICC.”
The Chairman explained how, while the old building was fit for purpose, it was due an update. He added that he hopes to see further investment into the new edition of the ICC as it moves into the second and third stages of the fit-out.
“We hope to be open to the public within the next few weeks – we’re just finishing off phase one of the fit-out,” he said. “We then have the second and third phases so we are still looking for support from members of the Irish community and from Irish businesses.”
The new centre – which will officially open in June – will include a 180-seat performance space, three multi-purpose rooms, a library and a bar. The ICC will continue to offer a variety of services including language classes, theatre and music performances and community support events. And Mr O’Hara said the response to the new building has been “nothing short of fantastic”.
“The reaction has been really positive, which I’m delighted about,” Mr O’Hara said. “We had a gathering here last week and people spoke in glowing terms about the design of the new building and what we have planned for the future.”