Why Castletown House?

By Posted in - BIG HOUSE 2013 on May 12th, 2013

Castletown House has a history of arts and entertainment on-site for over 300 years. BIG HOUSE – as Ireland’s first site-specific arts festival, will build on this tradition with a distinctly contemporary twist.

This Palladian mansion was built in the 1720’s as a country getaway for Ireland’s richest man William Conolly – Speaker of the Irish House of Commons. Since then the house has played host to princes, rock stars and presidents’ wives. 18th century theatrical superstar Sarah Siddons performed at the house at the miniature Greek temple on the grounds that still bears her name. James Joyce visited in the early 1900’s and the American poet Robert Lowell lived in the house in the 60’s. Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithfull partied at Castletown when it was owned by Desmond Guinness – a member of the famous brewing dynasty. And Jackie Kennedy drew the crowds when she came to call in 1967. Even the Devil came to dinner one night back in the 1700’s according to one of the many colourful stories associated with Castletown House.

Our company, The Performance Corporation has been lucky enough to be based in these extraordinary surrounds for the past 6 years. We create what we describe as “theatrical adventures in surprising places” – events that are tailor-made for specific places such as a natural amphitheatre in the sand dunes in County Mayo, the medieval dungeons of Kilkenny City and even a fishing village in Kenya. The idea for Big House came out of a desire to take on a new, even bigger challenge – a festival full of special one-off events tailor made for one place and we realised if it was to happen anywhere it had to happen in Castletown House. It has everything from a beautiful ornate ballroom, to an old 18th Century farmyard to the meadows and woods of the parklands and they will all come alive with the imagination of hundreds of artists from all disciplines this August Bank Holiday weekend.

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