About us

The Erin Arts Centre is a celebrated performing arts venue, cinema and gallery situated in the beautiful seaside village of Port Erin. A registered charity and non-profit organisation, we provide a diverse and dynamic programme of events for the people of the Island. We are committed to supporting and facilitating the local, creative community as well as bringing over an exciting selection of international artists. We have a small core of paid staff and a large family of volunteers and friends who keep us going.

History

The Erin Arts Centre started life as a Methodist chapel. Opened in 1911, it served the local parishioners for decades, until with its congregation slowly declining, it was put up for sale in 1970. Legend has it that Sue Bowring, an influential figure on the Manx arts scene, and John Bethell, a Manchester musician and frequent visitor to the Island, spotted the building whilst sunbathing in an adjacent garden. They decided it would make a great venue and hatched a plan to raise the £3000 asking price. In May 1971, John, enabled by friends and three local trustees, Iris Burton, Joyce Gilrea and John Bowring, took possession of the chapel and the Erin Arts Centre came into being. After a huge, collective effort to transform the building, celebrated pianist Clive Lythgoe gave the opening concert, setting the benchmark for the calibre of artist who would grace the stage here in the years to come. At this point, John Bethell was still based in Manchester, in his post as BBC North’s Music Librarian, his impressive book of contacts providing the Centre with a steady stream of quality acts from across the artistic spectrum. This eclectic array of guests, alongside a constant programme of local talent, quickly attracted an audience and an invaluable army of volunteers. In the following years, this incredible team would turn the EAC into a beacon of creativity, visible all over the world.

The inaugural Mananan Festival took place in 1975 and was followed by the first International Double Bass Competition and Workshop in 1978. This incredible spectacle was captured in the BBC documentary, ‘The Great Double Bass Race’ and anyone who has not seen the iconic image of John Bethell conducting 48 bass players whilst astride a large, inflatable elephant needs to do so immediately! The Centre subsequently became a haven for international events with viola, oboe and briefly a harp competition all finding a home here in Port Erin.

With ongoing support from the IOM Arts Council and a host of local sponsors and fundraisers, the EAC was able to expand. Various phases of development have seen the addition of an office, box office, lighting box, dressing rooms, a bar and an art gallery. With these new resources came new possibilities, adding screenings and exhibitions to the monthly schedule. Today, we host community groups, live music, plays, films, lectures, workshops, markets and conferences. The Centre is still a beacon for the Island’s creative individuals and its heart is still a small chapel, with beautiful acoustics.

The Erin Arts Centre enjoys the continued support of all our volunteers, sponsors and the IOM Arts Council. A massive Thank You to you all, we wouldn’t be here without you.


Patrons

  • Margaret Curphey
  • Julius Drake
  • Carol Ann Duffy CBE
  • Sir Mark Elder CBE
  • Prof Alexander Goehr
  • Legion Players (Douglas)
  • Kenneth Montgomery OBE
  • Sir Andrew Motion
  • Ronan O’Hora
  • Dame Patricia Routledge CBE
  • Sir David Wilson

Executive Council 2021

  • John Bethell, Chairman 
  • Ranald Caldwell
  • Judith Cain
  • Kirsty Hanks, Treasurer
  • Sally Holden
  • Mike Lean
  • David Leiserach
  • Heather Long
  • Dorothy Minshall
  • Martin Norbury, Company Secretary