Upstairs at the MAC

I’m in Belfast for the opening of the Northern Ireland tour of Galatea. The tour has been put together by Sole Purpose Productions from Derry and will be playing in a number of venues across Northern Ireland during August, and thanks to support from the Canada Council I have the opportunity to spend some time with the company and observe the performances.

As I’ve been looking forward to the tour, one question on my mind has been: what would the Belfast venue be like? In a word: fantastic.

The MAC – it stands for Metropolitan Arts Centre, but no one calls it that – is a brand new facility in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter just north of the city centre. The MAC, with its motto of “selecting, creating and mixing up music, theatre, dance and art,” has instantly become an anchor in the neighborhood, which is clearly among the most vibrant in the city. It’s a thoroughly modern six-story building looking out on a little square with two theatre spaces (Downstairs, seating about 350, and Upstairs, seating about 100), as well as three galleries, a dance studio, modern rehearsal rooms, meeting spaces, offices for resident companies and artists, and a cafĂ© in the lobby that seemed to be throbbing with people throughout the day during my visit.

I couldn’t help but think of Arts Court in Ottawa, of course, which aims to fill a similar function. The facility has lately been a source of some concern in the community and the foundation that ran it has been dissolved by the city, leaving the future management of the building in limbo. If and when the parties concerned solve their issues, I hope that they’ll take a look at what the MAC has done – it’s an inspiring model.

More on Galatea in my next post…

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