From the very outset eight years ago, the volunteer committee, intent on re-opening the Athenaeum, were overwhelmed by the depth of goodwill expressed by people with regard to the Athenaeum.
Prominent people with a link to Enniscorthy and the Athenaeum in particular were asked to support the restoration fund to save the historic building, steeped not only in theatre history but in the struggle for Irish independence.
“The Athenaeum in Enniscorthy is not merely an essential monument in the town’s past, but it is an essential cultural building in the town’s future.” That is according to Colm Tóibín, one of the erudite patrons of the Athenaeum.
The patrons of the Athenaeum Restoration Fund are:
Another multi-award-winning author, born and raised in Enniscorthy, Gerard Whelan has also pledged his patronage of the Athenaeum Restoration Fund. Mr. Whelan has, among his collection of works, the trilogy: The Guns of Easter, A Winter of Spies and War Children, which are historical novels for children based on events surrounding the 1916 Rising and the War of Independence. Since the history of the Athenaeum is inextricably linked with the history of the founding of the State in 1922, we thought Mr. Whelan would be a wonderful patron for the Athenaeum and we are all delighted that he has joined the rank and file volunteers who want to raise the tricolour above the iconic rounded pediment again.
Playwright, novelist, short-story writer, screenplay writer, actor, tutor, Billy Roche has almost single-handedly brought Wexford to the world, from the Royal Shakespeare Company and the BBC to the silver screen. And he has pledged allegiance to help us ‘Scalders’ re-open the Athenaeum because, as he so insightfully puts it: “…the fact that it is right at the heart of Enniscorthy town means that it should be the very heartbeat of the arts there.”
A veritable ‘guts Wexford man’, as he might put it himself, Nicholas Furlong thankfully, pledged his support for the Athenaeum. As one of the county’s and country’s most famous and widely-read authors, journalists, orators, and historians, possessed of an undying love for all things Wexford, having this colossus on our side is essential. The radiation of his enthusiasm for the history of our county is what will keep the bright beacon burning to guide future generations. Mr. Furlong’s patronage is priceless.
We are very proud and honoured to have the Artistic Director of the Gate Theatre as a patron. Mr. Michael Colgan is a film director and television producer of great renown and has been the Artistic Director of The Gate for the last 28 years. Mr. Colgan expressed the sadness felt when the national tour of ‘Waiting for Godot’, celebrating the 80th anniversary of the founding of the Gate, could not be premiered in the theatre where the Gate’s founding fathers – Hilton Edwards and Micheál Mac Liammóir – first met. As Mr. Colgan put it: “The people of Enniscorthy more than deserve a restored Athenaeum and The Athenaeum, with its proud tradition, more than deserves to be restored.” (2008)
Author of acclaimed novel ‘John the Revelator,’ as an Enniscorthy native, and a former player upon the Athenaeum stage, Peter says: “The life of a building is a powerful thing. The Athenaeum – located in the heart of a town that has produced so many writers and performers of every stripe – is not only an integral part of Enniscorthy’s history, but its future. Its potential as a rejuvenated venue, a point of intersection between all arts and all people, is vast. Every town needs its Chautauqua hall, its revival tent, its secular church. Without it, there is no community. We need this building far more than it needs us.” We are delighted to have a new generation of writers supporting the Athenaeum.
Claire is a County Wicklow native now living in County Wexford. She is a multi-award-winning short-story writer who currently teaches in America. She is a member of Aosdána and is an enthusiastic supporter of the arts. Her collections of short stories are ‘Antarctica’ (1999) and ‘Walk the Blue Fields’ (2007). Her many awards include the RTE Francis MacManus Award; The William Trevor Prize; the Olive Cook Award; the Los Angeles Times Book of the Year and the Rooney Prize for Literature. The directors are honoured to have her on board in support of the Athenaeum.
Daniel Day Lewis
In our formative year, none other than Daniel Day Lewis pledged his patronage to the Athenaeum Restoration Fund. Day Lewis only deals with the very best, hence his vast cache of Academy Awards, BAFTAs, Golden Globes, Actors’ Guild Awards and very many more from across the globe. We were ecstatic to have someone of his calibre and integrity acknowledging the importance of the Athenaeum.
Daughter of the legendary Brendan, who is currently heading up a revival of the Show Band era and Ballroom scene, Aisling is bringing a bit of balance to the female-male ratio on the list of patrons. Her family’s musical background inspired Aisling to take up her own professional singing career. Aisling’s grandfather was also a renowned Irish musical professor who trod the boards of the Athenaeum one hundred years ago.
Eamonn is a member of the well-known Enniscorthy family. He is the foremost writer of poetry from the Irish diaspora. He lectures in Irish Studies and is Professor of English at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. He teaches courses in Irish, Irish-American, and British Literature, directs the UM-St. Louis Irish Summer School in Galway, and serves as the director of the Irish Studies Programme.
Drucilla is a poet. She teaches poetry and essay writing, and Native American literature, at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Her awards include the Mari Sandoz Prairie Schooner Short Story Award; the Western Literature Association Willa Pilla Prize for Humor in Writing; and University of Nebraska Fling and Larson Fellowships. Married to Eamonn Wall, she has dual citizenship, Irish and American, and has spent many summers with family and friends in Wexford and Galway since 1985.
Ferns native Anne Doyle is a journalist, presenter and former newsreader. She is best known as a long-serving newsreader for Raidió Teilifís Éireann – RTÉ, who anchored the broadcaster’s main evening television news programmes during thirty-three years of service. Since retiring from television she has been very supportive and active with County Wexford-based organisations. Anne was made patron of the Athenaeum in the Summer of 2012.
Donncha Ó Dúlaing
A broadcaster of over fifty years standing, Donncha is our most recent patron. He came to Enniscorthy three years ago for Blooms Day and has been an ardent supporter of the Athenaeum since then. His radio shows were compulsive listening for many of the diaspora as well as those at home and he brought Irish culture, music and entertainment across the globe. Donncha interviewed Athenaeum favourite Mícheál MacLíammóir back in the 1950s.
We are grateful for and humbled by the support of our patrons.
Enniscorthy and County Wexford deserve the very best, and indeed produce the very best. We are honoured to have their support. We can’t all be literary giants; but we can all be part of a really great story….