The Armagh Festival explores our concept of home and country through arts, culture and political discourse


This is my home and my country. Later

maybe I’ll find out that this nation is mine…

THESE words are taken from John Hewitt’s 1943 poem Conacre. The theme of this year’s John Hewitt International Summer School, inspired by the ideas and ideals of the famous poet, is “Finding the Nation: Redefining Home and the country for a shared future”.

Running from 25-30 July and based at the Market Place Theater in Armagh, the festival program promises a full week of culture, entertainment, discussion and collective celebration of literature and the arts.

Speaking at the program launch, Tony Kennedy, president of the John Hewitt Society, said he hoped the annual festival would “address issues of diversity, to explore how ‘home’, ‘country’ , ‘identity’ and ‘nation’ matter, or should matter in a common future, and take into account the experience of those who feel excluded from existing political structures”.

Highlights of the political discourse include Professor Katy Hayward from Queen’s University Belfast giving a talk on the impact of Brexit and the Protocol and how it is changing identities, understandings and narratives of the Britishness and Irishness.

Martin Collins, co-director of Pavee Point Traveler & Roma Center will examine traveler equality, while Andy Pollak, who wrote the biographies of Reverend Ian Paisley and Seamus Mallon, will discuss what the Republic could do to become more attractive to travelers. trade unionists in his speech. “The peoples of the South are not ready for reunification”.

The theme of ‘Where’s Home?’ will also be debated in a Slugger O’Toole panel discussion featuring Irish News columnist Alex Kane, Alliance MP Sorcha Eastwood and SDLP Councilor and Head of Programs at the North West Migrant Forum, Lilian Seenoi-Barr.

Poetry will again be strongly represented with readings from Queering The Green Anthology and poets Richard Scott, Victoria Kennefick, Nandi Jola, Jessica Traynor, John McAuliffe, Ailbhe Ní Ghearbhuigh and Molly Twomey.

And a special digital event will be broadcast live from the University of the West Indies in Jamaica, featuring former Jamaican Poet Laureate Professor Mervyn Morris, Edward Baugh and Raquel McKee.

There are, of course, plenty of literary fiction events, including Co Down writer David Park, whose new novel Spies in Canaan is a bold and unsettling parable of guilt, atonement and redemption.

Actor Ardal O’Hanlon, best known for his portrayal of Father Dougal in Father Ted and his role as Detective Jack Mooney in the drama Death in Paradise, will talk about his second novel. Set in a small town on the Irish border during the difficult transition to peace, Brouhaha is a satire on Ireland’s tangled memory politics.

Other fictional highlights include Jan Carson talking about his latest novel, The Raptures; Bernie McGill and Wendy Erskine celebrating the short story and a detective story special with famed crime writers Val McDermid and Mark Billingham.

Evening performances include The West Ocean String Quartet, Before, a solo piece by Pat Kinevane, The Mary Anne McCracken show with Jane Cassidy and Maurice Leyden, and a new musical Joycean Misses Liffey.

With seven creative writing workshops to choose from, new and existing writers can develop their skills, knowledge and confidence, supported by the Open University. Some attendees even have the opportunity to read their new work in the weekend writers’ showcase. and

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