Hinterland: West 2019

Hinterland heads to San Francisco!

The Hinterland Festival’s connections to the city of San Francisco (already evident in our association with the Litquake Festival through Lit Crawl) were enhanced over Veterans' Day weekend (8-10 November, 2019) with the inaugural Hinterland: West in the Mechanics' Institute.  

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 Performance Studies 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 themselves featured prominently in this year’s Hinterland programme.

It was an eclectic festival of 20 events, encompassing fiction, history, sport, drama, music and fine arts mostly with an Irish or Irish-American twist. Generous support from Culture Ireland meant that three of the participants in Hinterland / Kells 2019, musician Jim Lockhart, (who gave two wonderfully informative and witty talks on Irish music), theatre director Kellie Hughes and artist Mark Smith (see below), were able to travel to San Francisco to participate in our new sister festival. Sadly novelist Liz Nugent had to withdraw due to ill health, but the good news is that while Liz was recuperating she was long-listed for the Dublin Book Prize. 

A large travelling party from Kells added more than a dash of colour to the festival as Irish and American accents mingled around the beautiful old Mechanics' Institute Library building. There was lots of local participation as well, among the highlights being Brian 'US Murph' Murphy's recounting of a lifetime spent in American sports journalism and broadcasting, Gray Brechin's account of the vital contribution to the city of San Francisco made by Irish-born engineer Michael Maurice O'Shaughnessy, interviews with Irish-American novelists Emer Martin and Ethel Rohan and UC Berkeley academic Catherine Flynn's talk about her book on James Joyce and Paris. 

Another highlight was the visit of Dunne's Stores striker Mary Manning to talk about her book 'Striking Back' and to check in with playwrights Kellie Hughes and Matt Spangler about progress in their theatrical adaptation of the book. 

Thanks also to Geordie Lynch for a great talk on his film on the four Irish 'Silver Kings' of the Comstock Lode, to Consul General Robert O'Driscoll and Derry's finest, Matt Regan, for their contribution to yet another Brexit debate (when will they ever end?), to Elizabeth Creely for her fascinating walking tour of the Mission District, to Kathleen Walkup for channelling Mark Smith's enthusiasm for the Kells Printworks project (and to Mark for making some valuable contacts on his brief visit). 

So huge gratitude to Culture Ireland for making it all happen, also to the Mechanics' Institute (especially the indispensable Taryn Edwards), the Irish Consulate in San Francisco (cheers Noellen, Elizabeth, Michael and Robert), all our local sponsors and patrons (take a bow Adriene Roche and we'll see you with a big gang in Kells in 2020) and roll on the next Hinterland: West. 

San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge
Mechanics Institute
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