The Crescent Arts Centre
Do you desperately need to know how to tap dance, or play the banjo? Perhaps your penchant is classical ballet or creative writing, maybe you just want to write your favourite poetry on a pillar; no problem, here’s just the thing.
The Crescent Arts Centre nestled just below Queen’s University Belfast, at the fork of the Lisburn and University Roads houses productions and classes in all the creative arts in custom built surroundings.
The art scene in Belfast has changed considerably in the last ten years. The changes have brought reinvigorated and new venues, theatres and work reflecting a post conflict Northern Ireland ready to present itself on a world stage.
Recently Remodelled Building
The Crescent Arts Centre has been in situ for the last thirty years but the original historic building was built in 1873 and would later become Victoria College. In recent years the Grade B1 listed Arts Centre and multi award winner has been remodelled and updated to create a multipurpose facility. The original building was in disrepair and the work included large scale conservation for the stonework of the original building but also a sympathetic refurbishment of the core, and extension. It may be of interest to wildlife enthusiasts to know that some of the most important residents of the Crescent are the 136 year old breeding colony of threatened swifts who nested in the open eaves prior to the refurbishment. The centre received The UK Man and Biosphere Urban Wildlife Award for Excellence from UNESCO in 2010 for their preservation.
Dance and Performance Space
The refurbishment has provided dance and performance spaces which are perfect for the classes available. Students can avail of mirrored studios and barre facilities in the Helen Lewis** dance studio, named after the acclaimed dancer, choreographer and Auschwitz survivor who lived in Belfast setting up the Belfast Modern Dance Troupe. There are also café spaces, meeting rooms, changing facilities, a photographic studio with attached dark room, workshop spaces, and art rooms. One of the most captivating things about the centre is the juxtaposition of old and new. The pieces of exposed stone from the building’s original walls run alongside the new glass interiors, like veins of the building’s lifeblood. The original main staircase still sits preserved inside the building where it once mysteriously turned blue half way down, and has felt the weight of thousands of students’ feet.
The excitement of The Crescent Arts Centre is not the new facilities it boasts in spades but rather the potentiality that comes from its extensive programme. The classes that adults of all ages wished they had done when they were children are now offered to them at a beginner level, with the potential to move up to intermediate and advanced. Beginners adult ballet, Bollywood, Charleston, cabaret, poetry, drama, Russian and Japanese language classes, life drawing, sewing, hat couture are just some of many. Young people are also catered to with classes in visual and performance arts, even classes in curating for those budding gallery owners.
It is the excitement which comes from the opportunities available which makes the Crescent a venue which must be explored. Pop in for a coffee or pick up a programme and find out if this is the year you’re finally going to learn Russian or wood crafting.
** For more information on Helen Lewis see here.
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Dawn is a drama lecturer and Chief Executive of a Shakespeare charity in Belfast. She’s worked in the arts for longer than she cares to remember, her focus is on youth drama and opportunities for young people in the creative arts. As editor of Inanity and the Girl she spends her free time writing about vintage living on the retro inspired blog where she discusses vintage styling, baking and tips on period design. She also investigates the social history of recipe books. She consequently can be found most weekends delving into the vintage stores of Belfast in search of the perfect atomic leg and, like The White Queen has often believed in, six impossible things before breakfast.