Hinterland 2019 is coming … 27-30 June

Hinterland 2019 tickets are now on sale

We're also looking for volunteers. If you have a few hours free over the weekend of 27-30 June and want to spend them wisely email heather@hinterland.ie 

Here’s what you can expect from Hinterland 2019.

Fifty years of Horslips, Abbey Roadand Woodstock …

Twelve years to sort out the planet …

The man who turned Che Guevara into an icon …

Snooping on the big beasts of the Celtic Tiger …

Brexit, Trump and how we got ourselves into this mess …

A look back at aspects of the pivotal year of 1969 …

A world première - well a world première reading anyway.

Irish Celtic rock band Horslips

Lined up so far for the last weekend in June are…

Irish novelists John Boyne (The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas), Hugo Hamilton (The Speckled People), both of whom have new work out, as well as crime novelists Olivia Kiernan (Too Close to Breathe) and Jane Casey (Cruel Acts) and Anne Griffin who’s debut in literary fiction is called When All is Said.

We will also feature two exciting new British talents in Christy Lefteri (The Beekeeper of Aleppo) and Stacy Halls (The Familiars) who have been attracting a lot of critical attention for their debuts.

Sinead Gleeson will talk to her good friend, novelist Liz Nugent, about her critically acclaimed book of essays Constellations.

Former British MP Chris Mullin returns to Hinterland to talk about The Friends of Harry Perkins, the long-awaited sequel to A Very British Coup.

The renowned TV and print journalist Paul Mason will decode Trump, Brexit, the financial crisis and the assault of neo-liberalism, all discussed in his latest book Clear Bright Future. He will also join Minister of State for European Affairs, Helen McEntee T.D., onstage for our (annual?) Brexit debate.

Luke Harding, the long-time Guardian Moscow correspondent will be tracing the golden thread that links Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump. Luke is the author of the New York Times #1 bestseller Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money and how Russia Helped Donald Trump Win.

Channel Four Countdown presenter and former BBC Apprentice sidekick Nick Hewer makes the trip to talk about his autobiography Alphabet: A Life from A to Z

Former Irish Times Environment Correspondent Frank McDonald will be talking about his autobiographical Truly Frank: A Dublin Memoir.

Former RTÉ Political Correspondent Martina Fitzgerald (Madam Politician) will celebrate women in public life. Fintan O'Toole of the Irish Times (Heroic Failure: Brexit and the Politics of Pain) will assess a political and economic mess/tragedy not of our own making.

RTÉ’s David McCullagh (De Valera: Rule 1932-1975) offers the second part of his biography of one of Ireland’s most controversial and enigmatic leaders.

Former British Army surveillance operative ‘Sean Hartnett’ (not his real name) will return to Kells to blow the lid off the paranoia of the latter years of the Celtic Tiger in his new book Corporate Confidential and tell us how he made his living spying on some of the big beasts of the 2008 ‘bust’.

Historian Diarmaid Ferriter, author of The Border: the Legacy of a Century of Anglo-Irish Politics, will look at the history of partition in Ireland, his most recent publication

We are honoured to host the legendary artist Jim Fitzpatrick, the man who produced that iconic portrait of the Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara and who, later in his career, launched a thousand album covers.

With twelve years left to get to grips with climate change we’ve asked the country’s best-loved scientist Luke O’Neill (2009 winner of the Boyle Medal – author of Humanology) to remind us why ‘we are in the middle of an extinction event’ and RTÉ’s Philip Boucher Hayes (Peak Oil, 2006) to explain why the media is so bad at handling the most important issue facing humanity.

Musically speaking Jim Lockhart and Barry Devlin of the great Irish Celtic rock band Horslips will reminisce about half a century of rocking and rolling, Today FMs Tom Dunne will reflect on two seminal musical events of 1969, the release of the great Beatles’ album Abbey Road and the joy and mayhem that was the Woodstock festival. Poet Peter Fallon will be joined by Saramai and Oisin Leech (The Lost Brothers) for the latest excursion by the Hinterland ‘house band’. Somewhere in between the worlds of music and graphic art, Tony Bucher will reveal some of the more interesting American album covers of 1969

Among the other historians (in addition to Diarmaid Ferriter and David McCullagh) speaking on our normal Thursday/Friday opening days will be Patricia Byrne, author of The Preacher and the Prelate, the story of the Evangelical Mission on Achill Island, Prof. Margaret Kelleher author of a new book on the 1882 Maamtrasna Massacres, and Gareth Russell, author of The Darksome Bounds of a Failing World, a book on the tragedy and the aftermath of the sinking of the Titanic. Lindie Naughton will also discuss her two books on the life and the letters of one of the most charismatic leaders of the revolutionary period Countess Markievicz and Cecelia Hartsell will share her enthusiasm for the great American abolitionist Frederick Douglass and Glen Gendzel will look at the dissident politics of the USA in 1969. Liam McNiffe will take us through the first three decades of the narrative of An Garda Síochána.

Oh yes … the World Première! That will be a reading of our Writer in Residence, Matt Spangler’s (The Kite Runner) adaptation of Mary Manning’s account of the 1984 Dunne’s Stores Anti-Apartheid boycott Striking Back. We put Matt and Mary together for an event last year and now look what’s happened!

When it comes to Children’s events, after last year’s spectacularly successful Harry Potter Treasure Hunt we will be maintaining the tradition (how long before a ‘tradition’ becomes established?) with a Roald Dahl Treasure Hunt, and Kelly Gartland will host a ‘Marvellous Medicines’ session at which anything (within the bounds of health and safety) could happen. Comedian Jason Byrne and illustrator Oisín McGann will celebrate their collaboration on The Accidental adventures of Onion O'Brien: The Great Ape Escape. Oisín, author of the wonderful Mad Grandad series, will host his own event and there will be lots of activity for under tens, with a map-making workshop from Jennifer Farley, plenty of acting and colouring with Seámus O'Conaill, and sessions from authors Juanita Browne, Gerry Daly, Sadhbh Devlin and Owen O'Doherty.

Matthew Spangler to be 2019 Hinterland 'Writer in Residence'

Matt Spangler

Hinterland heads to San Francisco, via the Golden Gate Bridge!

Award winning playwright Matthew Spangler (The Kite Runner) has become Hinterland’s first ‘Writer in Residence’. Matt has become a regular visitor to the Kells Festival. Each year he has turned his skills to the innovative task of mentoring festival authors on templates for adapting their books for the stage. He has hosted, among others, Zlata Filipovic (Zlata’s Diary) and Kevin Barry (Beatlebone). His most significant session came in 2018 when he worked with Mary Manning and Sinead O’Brien on their Striking Back collaboration – the story of Mary’s experience of the 1984 Dunne’s Stores anti-apartheid strike. As a result of this session Matt set about adapting Striking Back for an Irish stage and, thanks to the assistance of the Pavilion Theatre, Dun Laoghaire, a rehearsed reading of the ‘work in progress’ will take place at this year’s festival.

The Hinterland Festival’s connections to the city of San Francisco (already evident in our association with the Litquake Festival through Lit Crawl) have been taken to a new level with Hinterland: West (8-10 November, 2019) – with substantial and pivotal support from Culture Ireland.

Hinterland: West is a collaboration between Hinterland / Kells and two of the leaders in the promotion of Irish-American cultural heritage in the Bay Area, Tony Bucher (former President of the Irish Literary and Historical Society of the San Francisco Bay Area) and Dr. Matthew Spangler (Professor of Theatre Arts at San José State University and playwright – author of the globally successful stage adaptation of The Kite Runner and the book Staging Intercultural Ireland). Tony and Matt feature prominently in this year’s Hinterland programme.

We’ll be running a bijou, eclectic festival of 12-15 events, encompassing Irish and Irish-American fiction and non-fiction elements between 8-10 November, 2019 in San Francisco. Support from Culture Ireland means that three of the participants in Hinterland / Kells 2019, novelist Liz Nugent, musician Jim Lockhart and artist Mark Smith, will travel to San Francisco to participate in our new sister festival.

Hinterland: West will be hosted by the Mechanics’ Institute Library in downtown San Francisco, a superb, centrally located venue with a long tradition of staging cultural events. Taryn Edwards, Strategic Partnerships Manager at the Mechanics Institute will be attending this year’s Hinterland Festival in Kells, from 27-30 June.

We’ll have more information after we recover from Hinterland / Kells in June!

Remarks at the Launch of Hinterland Festival 2019

Novelist & Theatre Director set for Hinterland: West

I. The spell of dry weather we enjoyed last summer had interesting benefit for archaeologists in this part of the country. In fields near Oldcastle [in the county Meath], from the air, markings became discernible of the walls of buildings that had long since been forgotten. It now seems likely that they outlined the walls of St Oliver Plunkett’s former home. The foundations of these walls, long since gone and forgotten, apparently retain moisture sufficient to sustain some growth when all around had become desert. Similar markings emerged in New Grange, where ancient passage tombs, hitherto unknown and thousands of years old, asserted themselves in the landscape causing much excitement among archaeologists.

What struck me about these discoveries was how easily such important buildings could have been lost and forgotten over time. Loughcrew, where Oliver Plunkett’s house was discovered, is itself an important public space where people continue to visit and the traces of the old house are in extensive gardens open to the public. And still they were lost and forgotten.

How fragile is our memory; how brittle and frail, even our communal memory is. The lesson, of course, is that we forget and even societies and communities forget. And things which we think are important and socially significant today, things we now regard as unforgettable, can slip easily through communal memory into oblivion unless conscious efforts are made to mark and preserve the memories.

If this is true of public sites and important buildings, how much more valid is it about the small but significant things that have no physical manifestation in our lives: our stories, our music, our culture and our history.

That’s why the Hinterland Festival in Kells is so vitally important.

II. Let me go further, and share with you another experience I had last summer. A group of American friends of mine rented a big house in Dunquin, west of Dingle. Four elderly couples who had been friends for many years. One fine evening as the sun– a veritable ball of fire – set, over the Blaskets we sat down to dinner, 10 of us in all. During the course of the meal, as I looked around at this group of old friends, the thought struck me that, cumulatively, at that table we totalled over 800 years. It was a sobering thought. What a wealth of experience – I did not say wisdom-was gathered there that evening. Although we did not hold hands séance-like, I drew my friends’ attention to the fact. There was a moment of silence, a pause, while we absorbed the fact. In an instant they resumed their meal.

With me, however, the thought lingered and to myself I developed the thought further. On this occasion the 800 years was a horizontal calculation of the ages of contemporaries. But what if, and bear with me here, we were vertically stacked, in a temporal sense, one on top of the other, then the 800 years would bring us back to 1219. And why stop there? If we extended the table the following evening and included two more centurions from around the area, we could stretch back nearly as far as Brian Boru. Surely, we might hope to meet his ghost!

A couple of years ago the Kells Festival adopted the word “Imagine” as the verbal slogan for that year. The word was translated into many languages and in many print forms appeared throughout the town. Embracing this as my spur I continued the ride from fact to fancy. I imagined the 10 octogenarians leaving the dinner table and, as the sun set, silhouetting the sleeping giant that is the Blaoscaod Mor, in the field in front of the house we climbed on each other’s shoulders. From the top, the view stretched out over the Western Islands into the wild Atlantic. From the island itself the gentle breeze brought with it the haunting ancestral tune of Port na bPucai. And as I looked at the totem pole of the 10 senior people, I fancied, in the fading light, that three of the faces were those of Tomas O’Criomhthain, Muiris O’Suilleabhain and Peig Sayers. The last three great storytellers from the Baskets.

I refrain from joining the dots save to say that we must appreciate not only our history and our imagination. We must also feed our imagination. And that is why I am so pleased with the programme we have adopted this year at the Hinterland Festival.

III. As someone who spent most of his life growing up and living in small provincial towns in Ireland, It warms my heart when I see a small community adopt a project and commit energy and enthusiasm to its realisation for no other reason than the general benefit of the village and the well-being and gaiety of the neighbourhood. Seven years ago a small group got together and organised (with the assistance of Hay Festival) a Festival of lectures, debates and performances on a wide range of topics. Three years ago, the organisers courageously decided to go it alone and they morphed into the present Hinterland Festival Kells. The ambition and the courage sprang from a deep commitment to an ideal and a strong conviction that it could be done. Support from the community was forthcoming, so much so that the Festival is now an established and well recognised fixture in the crowded calendar of such summer events in Ireland.

And it is worthy of note that this success has not just meant an expansion of the programme itself, year on year, with more lecturers, a greater variety of topics and an expansion of entertainments. No. There have also been other notable spin-offs which frequently follow in the slipstream of such a community dynamic -spin-offs that could hardly have been envisaged at the outset. Let me mention some of these here:

Last week the old refurbished Courthouse was opened by Minister Brendan Griffin. It provides another lovely space and venue for more local events and endeavours. It also acts as a Tourist Office and a museum with a small interpretive centre for visitors.

One of the earliest supporters of this endeavour, to my eyes, came from the establishment of Kells Local Heroes who not only help in the preparations for the Festival but whose efforts throughout the year greatly enhance the town and its environs. We’ve had the Men’s Shed. The Harvest Walk out to Headfort Bridge has been created and is an additional amenity for both body and soul. Let me also list the wonderful Kells Print Works Restoration Project. This is a truly wonderful idea which, when realised, will be of permanent infrastructural benefit to tourism in the town.

I have also been reliably informed that another couple of art type venues could become available in the town in the near future and these too will further add to the attractions and amenities of the town when they arrive. Lastly, were we not trying to advance all these projects, we would not now have the beautiful, intimate space that has become a nerve centre for artistic endeavour in the town: the Bookmark cafe.

One by one the lights are coming on.

All these developments and enhancements did not happen by accident. They are the direct result of the energy and the success of the Festival itself. The Festival showed what can be done. The Festival was the seminal event, the catalyst. It taught others to have courage and to imagine how they can contribute to the venture and to the ongoing enterprise that is Kells. And we are not finished yet: there are still further opportunities in the town. And I urge the people of the town to look around and ask themselves, what can I do to further this awakening for the benefit of Kells Hinterland and for the town of Kells itself.

This year’s programme has an extraordinary range: history, politics, current affairs, literature music and art are all there. And the speakers and lecturers are a veritable Who’s Who of Irish (and non-Irish) artists, media personalities, historians, etc. I will refrain from mentioning anyone by name, as an omission would certainly get me into trouble. But I assure you that there is something in the wide programme for everyone. I would urge you to take the programme home tonight and to sit down and study it – like you might study the runners and riders in the Grand National – and when you have carried out this exercise I ask you to make your selection well in advance. Inevitably there will be clashes, inevitably you may not be able to see everything you would like; but if you do your homework in advance you can be sure of selecting an interesting and personalised list that should satisfy all your intellectual and artistic appetites for the week. So if you want to know how you can help, all I would say is: attend as many of the sessions as possible and book early.

Tá áthas orm go bhfuil an scannán An Beallach go Baile Ghib cláraithe don Aoine. Chonaic mé an scannán sin cupla mí o shin i Solstice san Uaimh agus geallaim- se díbh gur fiú e d’fheiscint. Tá sé an-suimiuil agus an- tabhtacht ó thaobh stair na h-áite.

I am also delighted to see an enhanced programme for children. It is vital that the children also are exposed to our stories and our music. They are the future.

None of this, however, could be done without the help of patrons, sponsors and benefactors of all sorts and I would like to acknowledge their help here tonight. Time does not permit me to individually thank them, nor is it perhaps my duty to do so, but I would like to draw your attention to page 2 of the Programme where all their names are listed.

Finally, I would like publicly to pay tribute to the total commitment of a hard-working committee (again named in the program) and to acknowledge those few people who seven years ago imagined this event and had the courage and the energy to bring it all to fruition. They know who they are. Tá said molta má fhannaim – se im thost.

It only remains for me to formally launch the Festival and I do so now.

Go raibh maith agaibh.

Thanks to the generosity of Culture Ireland two additional participants in the Hinterland/Kells Festival (27-30 June), novelist Hugo Hamilton and theatre director Kellie Hughes will be travelling to San Francisco for the inaugural Hinterland: West festival at the Mechanics' Institute (8-10 November).

Hugo Hamilton (The Speckled People) is the author of nine novels, two memoirs and a collection of short stories. His latest novel is Dublin Palms ('a quietly powerful and wise fictional memoir' Irish Times). His work has won numerous national and international prizes, including the 1992 Rooney Prize for Irish Literature, and the 2003 French Prix Femina Etranger.

Kellie Hughes is a theatre artist with twenty years of professional experience as a director, performer and creator at such events as the Galway Arts Festival, Edinburgh Fringe, and venues that include the National Theatre and Barbican Arts Centre in London. For the 2019 Hinterland (Kells) Festival Kellie will collaborate with dramatist Matthew Spangler (The Kite Runner) in Striking Back, an adaptation of Mary Manning's account of the 1984 Dunne's Stores anti-apartheid strike. This process began at Matt's annual theatre adaptation session at the 2018 Hinterland Festival.