Changes Ahead as The Lir Academy Reaches its First Decade

It is with immense appreciation that we announce the end-of-term of our current chair, Dermot McCrum, a leading founder of the organisation. Dermot McCrum has served as Chair for ten years on the board of The Lir Academy since 2011.

The Lir Academy was created through the financial support of the Cathal Ryan Trust working together with Trinity College Dublin and affiliation with the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London. The academy was the brainchild of Cathal Ryan who recognised the need for a conservatoire-level dramatic academy on the island of Ireland. Following his untimely death in 2007, his daughter, Danielle Ryan, a former RADA graduate, took up the reins.

Dermot McCrum was one of the leading advisors in bringing the project to fruition with his background in video and TV production, producing short video plays, building TV studios, as well as working in PR and communications and media training as the former owner and Managing Director of Carr Communications. After he sold the company in 2008, a long-time friend and architect, Joe Kennedy, asked him to meet with the Cathal Ryan Trust to discuss the project. He agreed to lead the team to develop the all-island academy. As a communications and public affairs specialist, he identified and brought together the various collaborators from the Trust, Trinity College, RADA and the Higher Education Authority for the successful development, building and launch of The Lir Academy.

He was asked by the Cathal Ryan Trust and Trinity to chair the founding board of the academy ahead of its opening in September 2011. During his tenure as Chair of The Lir Board, the organisation has grown from two full-time staff members to a team of 66 including teaching staff. The Lir now offers six full-time courses: a Foundation Diploma, two undergraduate Bachelor-degree programmes and three Master in Fine Art programmes.

To date, 124 actors, 99 stage technicians, 127 directors, playwrights and stage designers, as well as 94 foundation students, have all graduated from The Lir Academy. Their talent has been seen by audiences on stages and screens across the island of Ireland, as well as to international acclaim in films and TV series in recent times.

Speaking of this transition, Dermot McCrum said “I’ve always admired watching young people grow, develop, find their voice and display their talent. Getting involved with The Lir Academy has been immensely rewarding and satisfying for me personally in helping them to achieve that. Ten years on, the success of our students is reflected in recent Emmy nominations, in BAFTA awards, the recipients of significant bursaries and awards, and seeing them all secure leading and diverse roles across stage, screen and film.

In addition, we see our highly in-demand technical graduates working every day behind the scenes to ensure that the magic of stage and screen are made possible. It’s been incredible to see the calibre of creativity that the students have had to work with and the support of the leaders of Irish theatre and film industries including Lynne Parker, Garry Hynes and Damien O’Donnell. That relationship with the industry has been critical to our success and is deeply appreciated. It has been uplifting to see The Lir Academy working to become more open and diverse with the student body becoming more representative of contemporary Ireland and therefore ensuring that the professional sector is too.”

“Talent should have no boundaries or borders or limits to grow and develop on the island of Ireland. Part of our remit is to be open to discovering, nurturing and developing that talent wherever it can be found, regardless of background, beliefs or personal circumstances. We want our young people to thrive, to learn, to develop and eventually make their own mark within the dramatic arts in front of an audience or showing their creativity and technical ability off-stage.”

Mr McCrum said the academy’s bursary funding programmes, backed by local and national businesses and individual supporters ensure that The Lir Academy is accessible to all. The academy continues to develop and diversify its teaching programmes, staffing, board members and day-to-day governance to reflect the growing and changing nature of society on the island of Ireland in all its diversity, gender, race and abilities.
“Our first ten years has brought us to a place where we have solid foundations, an excellent management team and staff, successful students, and a growing reputation as a world-class and sustainable conservatoire for the dramatic arts in Ireland. From day one, that has been both my personal belief and a rigorous challenge in getting The Lir Academy to where we are today. I appreciate the time and commitment from all my colleagues on the board who have given of their time voluntarily and look forward to working with our new chair, James Hickey, over the next few months to ensure a smooth transition at board level. I’ll continue to support the board and our executive team, led by the superb Loughlin Deegan, who have managed the operation of The Lir Academy through some very difficult times in the last couple of years”, he said.

Speaking on behalf of The Lir Academy, Director Loughlin Deegan noted, ”It is with great appreciation that we congratulate and honour the culmination of Dermot McCrum’s term as Chair of The Lir Academy. His dedication and commitment to the founding and activation of the academy has been vital to the ongoing success of the development and realisation of our ambitions. We are delighted that Dermot will remain with us on the board for a short while under the leadership of our new chair, James Hickey, who takes up the role in January 2022.”

The Lir Academy has plans to celebrate its first decade throughout this academic year 2021-2022, which sees its tenth intake of new students to join their diploma, undergraduate and MFA programmes. This will include the launch of a new five-year strategy, the creation of an alumni network and the development of a number of critical fundraising campaigns to support student’s mental health needs; additional bursary supports, particularly in the area of access; and plans for the development of The Lir’s physical capacity.

Everyone at The Lir Academy, past and present, would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to Dermot for his guidance and leadership in making academy what is is today.