The Ardhowen celebrates 30 years

Published: 19th May 2016

The Ardhowen is celebrating a very special birthday this week as it is 30 years since the theatre was officially opened by the late Brian Friel on Friday 16 May 1986.

Over the last three decades, The Ardhowen has brought the very best of comedy, drama and musical entertainment to Enniskillen, providing the opportunity for local people, and in particular young people, to both experience and take part in the arts.

To celebrate its milestone anniversary, the lakeside theatre is hosting musical lunches from Monday 16 to Friday 20 May 2016, 12 noon to 2.30 pm, featuring the Bob Quick and Jim McDermott Trios performing classics from the Great American Songbook. A special lunchtime menu, with 30 per cent discount, will be available during these times in The Ardhowen’s restaurant and an exhibition to mark the theatre’s opening in 1986 will also be on display.

The theatre, which is situated on a beautiful lakeside setting with unrivalled views of Lough Erne, is a service provided by Fermanagh and Omagh District Council. Council Chairman, Councillor Thomas O’Reilly, extended his congratulations and gratitude to past and present Council Officers and local residents who volunteer at the theatre for their role in developing The Ardhowen into a well-established and highly regarded arts and entertainment venue.

“People make places, and without the hard work and dedication of Council Officers and theatre volunteers The Ardhowen would not be what it is today.  Jackie Owens is leading the team at The Ardhowen with hard work, drive and enthusiasm to provide a varied programme to meet a broad range of interests.

The Ardhowen continues to go from strength to strength, providing good quality and broad based professional and community arts and entertainment for the enjoyment of locals and visitors alike. We appreciate the support of the many loyal patrons who frequent the theatre and I would encourage more local people to come along and enjoy all that is on offer. The Ardhowen also provides a platform helping to develop and showcase local artistic talent. Its community impact cannot be underestimated, ” Councillor O’Reilly added.

Throughout the years The Ardhowen has played host to a range of high profile professional and local community based arts and events. As well as hosting pantomimes, stage musicals, concerts, charity events and school performances, The Ardhowen has welcomed performers including comedians Patrick Kielty, Tommy Tiernan and BAFTA award winner Jack Dee, and music artists such as Westlife, Martin Kemp and Neil Hannon.

A number of well-known actors, including Ciaran McMenamin and Adrian Dunbar also cite The Ardhowen as the place where their talents were honed.

The theatre, with its two glass fronted foyers and its elevated position on the lough shore, was commissioned by the former Fermanagh District Council.

It was designed by the Enniskillen born architect, Tom Mullarkey with construction work beginning in September 1984. It cost £1.5 million with financial assistance provided by the European Economic Community (EEC), Fermanagh District Council and the Departments of Education, Economic Development and Agriculture.

The theatre adjoins the fine Edwardian, ‘Ardhowen House’ which was the home of the McDonagh family from the early to mid-20th century.  Charles McDonagh, who originally hailed from County Sligo and ran a successful drapery business – McDonagh & Co. – with his brother on Enniskillen’s High Street, built the impressive house and lived there with his family until his passing in 1958.

The origin of the name Ardhowen is unclear, however ‘Ard’ signifies a high place, but can also mean a place of importance, while ‘owen’ may simply mean ‘belonging to owen’. The house and theatre stands in the townland of Derrychara which means, ‘oakwood of the weir or ford’.

Ardhowen House was acquired after Charles McDonagh’s passing and the house was used as Council offices for a time before the construction of the theatre when it became part of the theatre complex.

Today The Ardhowen offers a year-round arts and events programme. Its facilities include a theatre with a capacity of 290, a studio, restaurant and theatre bar, outdoor terrace, marina and picnic facilities.

The Ardhowen recently launched its new Summer Programme which is available from For further information on The Ardhowen’s 30th anniversary celebrations contact The Ardhowen on 028 6632 3233.



For further information please contact Elizabeth Harkin, tel: 0300 303 1777 or email:

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