It’s only right that the birthplace of the Book of Kells should have its own book festival, although the Hinterland Festival this coming weekend is much more than just a bookfest.
It has developed in its few short years to become a major event in the national arts and culture calendar, featuring visual art exhibitions, antique displays, political debates, book launches, music gigs, comedy gigs, poetry readings, history talks, pop-up book stalls, the Kells Type Trail led by local artist Mark Smith, lots of childrens’ events and it has its very own “fringe” festival on Sunday called the Lit Crawl, where admission to everything is free. All of that is in addition to interviews with some very high-profile authors.
It’s a tightly-packed schedule for any committee to martial. But the old saying “If you want something done ask a busy man (or woman) to do it” seems particularly appropriate to Hinterland, as its committee is comprised of some very busy, career-oriented folks, supported by a huge army of local volunteers. Myles Dungan and Geraldine Gaughran deserve special mention for their seemingly endless toil and for helping to make Hinterland the multi-faceted arts, culture and literary festival it has become. It all kicks off at 10am on Thursday 27th with a whole day of history talks and it finishes late on Sunday night.
In 2013 Kells hosted Ireland’s only Hay Festival, affiliated to the original Hay Festival in Wales and it was immediately apparent that there was an audience – you could say a hunger – for something like this in the northeast. The town was packed on that first year with virtually every event sold out. Hay was to give the people of Kells their “wings” when they struck out on their own in 2017 and the growth of the festival since then has been truly phenomenal. Recent years have seen the spawning of lit-fests in almost every town, village and crossroads in the country, but Hinterland’s unique mixture of – well, just about everything you can imagine – has made it an event of national cultural importance.
The proximity of Kells to Dublin helps, of course, but the crowds don’t come unless the programme is good enough, the guests well-known enough, the “céad míle fáilte” sincere enough. Hinterland has many visitors who are returnees, a sizeable chunk of those making the trip from abroad. There is, quite literally, something for everyone in Kells this weekend.
THURSDAY 27th - Prime time slot for McCullagh to talk about De Valera
Kicking off a day full of history and historians, events begin at 10am. At 11.30am in the Courthouse, author of ‘The Preacher and the Prelate’ Patricia Byrne will be discussing her book, which has spawned a TV documentary and relates the true story of the “battle for souls” that took place in Achill Island during the famine. Truth really is stranger than fiction in this case. Prime Time’s David McCullagh (above) will be in the Church of Ireland at 2.30pm to talk about his second volume of De Valera’s biography.
‘The Maamtrasna Murders’, a savage murder scenario and an even more savage series of subsequent hangings of innocents, might have been forgotten about if it were not for Margaret Kelleher, whose book of the same name also prompted a TV documentary by TG4. She’s in the Church of Ireland at 4 pm to talk about it all. Local poet Tom French will be joined by trad fiddler and composer, Danny Diamond in the Courthouse at 8.30pm. This gig promises music inspired by poetry and poetry inspired by music and should be a unique event.
FRIDAY 28th - Martina to make headline news
Liz Nugent, doyenne of the Noir genre and one of Ireland’s best-selling authors teams up with the creator of the Detective Maeve Kerrigan crime series, Jane Casey, for an event entitled “Crimewriting” in the Church of Ireland at 1pm. With the continuing rise in popularity of crime fiction, and the emergence of so many excellent female crime writers here and abroad, it will be interesting to see what makes these women tick. Olivia Kiernan, yet another crime writer, author of ‘The Killer in Me’ and native of Kells, will be in the Courthouse discussing her particular brand of ‘noirness’ at 2.30pm.
The unprecedented success of Anne Griffin’s debut novel ‘When All is Said’ has catapulted her into centre stage both here and abroad. Her story of the life and loves of Maurice Hannigan has captured the hearts of everyone who’s read the book and she’s in Kells courthouse at 4 pm to talk about it. RTE reporter Martina Fitzgerald (above), native of Kilskyre and author of ‘Madam Politician’ will be talking about women in politics – and the lack of them – in the Church of Ireland at 5.30pm. Kells comedian who needs no introduction,
Fred Cooke, is in the Headfort Arms at 9pm.
Saturday 29th - Heroic return to Kells for O’Toole
‘The Beekeeper of Aleppo’ is a novel which was being talked about for almost a year before its publication last month and its author, Christy Lefteri, will be in Kells Courthouse at 10am. Christy herself is the child of refugee parents and this event promises to be one the festival’s highlights.
Fintan O’Toole’s fans are legion and he’ll be discussing his latest book, ‘Heroic Failure: Brexit and the Politics of Pain’ which, according to the Guardian, “skewers the myth of English
nationalism and finds comfort in Beckett” in the Church of Ireland
Fintan O’Toole has been in Hinterland before and he wowed a packed house. At 2.30pm, also in the Church of Ireland, one of the world’s bestselling authors and an Irishman - John Boyne – will be talking about his books, including his controversial latest novel ‘My Brother’s Name is Jessica’.
At 2.30pm also, in the Courthouse, Tom Dunne presents ‘The Making of Abbey Road’, outlining the story of the Beatles’ most successful album. Jim Fitzpatrick, the man behind the iconic Che Guavara portrait and so much more, is in the Church of Ireland at 4pm, with Sinead Gleeson in the Courthouse at the same time.
The Brexit Debate, chaired by Myles Dungan, is bound to attract a huge crowd to the Church of Ireland at 5.30pm. Internationally renowned tenor Matthew Gilsenan - from Moynalty - sings in the Headfort at 8pm.
Sunday 28th - Shatter spills the beans
Alan Shatter will be venting his spleen about his abrupt dismissal from politics in the Church of Ireland at 2.30pm. Should be fun. Also at 2.30pm – dear oh dear, some tough choices here - in Kells Theatre, Barry Devlin and Jim Lockhart take us down memory lane with Horslips at 50-ish. And, to drive us mad altogether, at exactly the same time Philip Boucher Hayes will be talking about the most urgent issue of all - how we’re killing our planet – in an event titled ‘If You’re Not Part of the Solution…’ The Lit Crawl begins at 5.30pm in various venues across town with oodles of events and finishes with a pop-up Gaeltacht and trad session in the Railway Bar at 8.30pm. There is also a full programme of children’s events featuring Jason Byrne, Oisin McGann and many more.
This is really just the tip of the iceberg. Pick up a programme or check hinterland.ie for full details of who’s coming, where they’ll be and when. You’ll be busy!
For more information see www.Hinterland.ie
And for the kids...Children’s Events at Hinterland
There is something for every member of the family at Hinterland this year…why not pack a picnic and make a day of it.
Jason Byrne (right) and Oisin McGann
Saturday 29th June 2019 10.00am (9+years)
Comedian Jason Byrne (pictured) joins forces with illustrator Oisin McGann to a live introduction to Jason’s first book for children – The Accidental Adventures of Onion O’Brien: the Great Ape Escape- madness ensues
Seamus O Conaill
29th June 2019 11.30am (4+years)
Join Seámus for a lively reading session where children get to release their inner Leprechaun and act out scenes from the book Seámus’ new book Spuds and the Crock of Gold. Magic!
Saturday 29 June 2019, 1pm (4+years)
Another event for the littlest readers in the family. Oisín McGann is a writer and illustrator who has produced dozens of books, including Headbomz: Wreckin’ Yer Head, the Mad Grandad series and The Forbidden Files…all good fun.
Saturday 29 June 2019, 2.30pm (5+years)
A fun workshop for young explorers with illustrator and author Jennifer Farley, kids will map their own house, garden, street, even the map your route to school.
Saturday 29 June 2019, 4pm (4+years)
Inspired by the works of Roald Dahl, Kelly Gartland will be inventing some magical medicines with the children in the audience. Add in some games and a bit of mess and fun will be had by all.
Sunday 30 June 2019, 11.30am (4+years)
Open children’s eyes to the natural world with this special nature-themed event from Juanita Browne, author of The Great Big Book of Irish Wildlife (O’Brien Press). Juanita will explore Irish nature from what’s in your back garden to our mountains, rivers, forests and seas.
Sunday 30 June 2019, 1pm (4+years)
Join Gerry Daly on an adventure to explore the Skellig islands and meet the many animals that live there and learn all about the life of a puffling. Where Are You, Puffling? is the new book by Erika McGann and Gerry Daly.
The Great Roald Dahl Treasure Hunt
Sunday 30 June 2019, 2pm - 2.30pm
This year the shop windows of Kells will give treasure hunt clues to the zany characters created Roald Dahl. Just call into Insomnia Café, get your form and your start time and begin the search for the Fantastic Mr. Fox, a golden ticket, George’s medicine and a lot more. Please bring your own clipboard. If
you are under 16 please bring an adult too.
Sunday 30 June 2019, 2.30pm
Author Sadhbh Devlin will read her picture book Bí ag Spraoi Liom and afterwards discuss inventions and creativity with the children, who will then have a chance to design their own inventions.
Sunday 30 June 2019, 4pm (8+years)
Are you curious where all our stuff comes from? Join Owen to hear stories of some of the world’s great discoveries, inventions and designs, and the women who made them.
And finish of the festival with a Harry Potter Table Quiz Kells Library 6.30pm 30th June 2019.
For all prices and venues and bookings please go to www.hinterland.ie