Sally Rooney, Daniel Woodrell and Bernard MacLaverty headline Cúirt festival

New songwriting showcase features Steve Wall, Julie Feeney, Paul Linehan, Brendan Murphy and Sharon Vaughn

Sally Rooney, Daniel Woodrell, Bernard MacLaverty, Juan Pablo Villalobos, Declan Kiberd and Forward Prize winners Sinead Morrissey and Daljit Nagra are among the big names taking part in next month’s Cúirt International Festival of Literature, whose line-up has just been announced.

The festival’s new programme director, Emily Cullen, said: “Cúirt provides a prestigious platform and convivial space for authors and readers, artists and performers to share ideas and a common love of literature. As Galway starts its build-up to European Capital of Culture 2020,we’re excited to bring together some of the finest Irish and international authors writing today.”

An exploration of language across art forms and a strong commitment to Irish-language writing are at the heart of the 33rd annual festival, which will take place in Galway from April 23rd to 29th, with more than 70 events, many of them free, featuring poetry, prose, music and the spoken word. The programme also includes theatre, talks, masterclasses, family events and exhibitions as well as its annual education programme for children and teenagers, Cúírt Labs.

Writers taking part include the Catalan author Eduard Márquez and Patrick McCabe, whose new novel, Heartland, is due out in April. Poets include Pakistani-born British poet and artist Imtiaz Dharker, winner of the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry, Jane Clarke, Michael Coady, Eleanor Hooker, Joseph Woods and Eva Bourke. The Salmon book launch will also feature Anne Casey, Paul Kingsnorth and Moya Roddy while Spotlight on New Voices will celebrate debut works of poetry.


In anew departure, the programme will explore language across art forms: music and visual art. Lyrics of our Lives looks at the creation of song lyrics as a writing practice and will feature The Stunning’s Steve Wall; Julie Feeney; Paul Linehan, lead singer and songwriter with The Frank & Walters; Brendan Murphy from The Four of Us and Sharon Vaughn, as they discuss the inspiration, anecdotes and the craft behind some of our favourite songs.

Play It Again, co-curated with Music For Galway, features the Guardian’s former editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger,who joins virtuoso pianist Finghin Collins for an evening with the haunting piano of Chopin, interspersed with readings and conversation about music, reading, writing andpolitics. Danny Diamond’s fiddle will converse with the poetry of Tom French in What To Bring When We Leave.

World Perspectives looks at the world through the lens of writers from Catalonia, Austria and France; Eduard Márquez, Norbert Gstrein and Hédi Kaddour; Éilís Ní Dhuibhne, Sean O’Reilly, Ger Reidy and Joanna Walsh examine the short story; and essayists Kevin Breathnach, Brian Dillon and Susan Tomaselli celebrate the best in contemporary non-fiction.

Author of the award-winning Solar Bones, Mike McCormack, will lead a reading and discussion on the migration of Ireland’s young generation with Andrew Meehan and EM Reapy. There are also contributions from Kelly Creighton, June Caldwell, Billy O’Callaghan, Kathleen Winter and Danny Denton.

A commitment to the promotion of Irish-language writers is a significant feature of the festival. An Focal: Cuisle will celebrate the written and spoken word in poetry, music, song and craic with three of the finest contemporary Irish-language artists; Marcus MacConghail, Ailbhe Ní Ghearbhuigh and Simon Ó Faoláin; author of Motherfoclóir: Dispatches From A Not-So Dead Language, Darach Ó Séaghdha, will lead a lively discussion about the work of Flann O’Brien, which will be recorded live for the Motherfoclóir podcast, and Mick Óg McGee will present a reading and dramatic enactments from his newly published play, Aislingí Grádha Oídhche Lughnasa.

A series of special events in Irish entitled Cúirt Cois Fharraige, presented by Cúirt in association with Ealaín na Gaeltachta and Poetry Ireland Writers in Schools, will support contemporary writing by local Gaeltacht writers and foster writing skills in young Irish-language authors of the future. Events will include a poetry reading by Áine Durkin and Paddy Mhéme Ó Súilleabháin in Ros a Mhíl; a special reading with Jackie MacDonncha and Dara Ó Conaola on Inis Óirr, while distinguished Irish-language authors Darach Mac Con Iomaire, Réaltán Ní Leannáin and Jackie Mac Donncha will conduct a writer-in-school visit to secondary schools on Inis Mór, Inis Meáin and Inis Oírr.

Highlighting emerging talent in poetry and fiction, the Cúirt Over the Edge New Writing Showcase returns and features readers and winners from the popular Over the Edge Literary Series in Galway. Winners of the 2018 Cúirt New Writing Prize, sponsored by Tigh Neachtain in memory of Lena McGuire, will join the showcase line-up and read from their winning entries. This year’s winners are Eoin Hegarty (poetry) and Eimear O’Callaghan (short story). The youth strand of the prize, for ages 12-17, was won by Hannah Riordan.

This year’s Spoken Word Platform will feature guest performer Felispeaks (aka Felicia Olusanya), a promising young Nigerian-Irish spoken word performance artist and writer. This high-energy event will showcase both poetry and short fiction with performers having up to three minutes to present their piece to a panel of three judges. The top three participants will go on to perform at the Cúirt Showcase at Electric Picnic in September.

Writing as a visual art is explored by guest artist, Sam Winston, in an exhibition of prints and works, which includes his award-winning project with Oliver Jeffers, A Child of Books. An illustration from the book is this year’s Cúirt programme cover. Winston will also give a talk about his collaboration with Jeffers; how they found new approaches to storytelling, why writing is a visual art and the joys and pitfalls of collaboration.

Other exhibitions include Speaking Space from Red Bird Youth Collective, a visual art group for young people; Bosom Pals featuring eight women poets’ experiences of breast cancer with drawings by Ruth Cadden. Editor of the collection, Marie Cadden, died earlier this year and had hoped the book would raise awareness and put a human face on living with breast cancer. This exhibition, initiated by her, honours her life and work.

Poetry Ireland and Cúirt are offering the Poetry Ireland Access Cúirt Bursary, which will provide an emerging poet from a background that is currently statistically underrepresented in Irish poetry the opportunity to visit the festival and become immersed in the poetry programme. A new initiative, The Irish Writers Centre / Cúirt Young Writer Delegates Programme offers four writers aged 18-26 an opportunity to attend and contribute to Cúirt as inaugural Young Writer Delegates.

Workshops and masterclasses for writers will include a session on getting published with Tramp Press, and a mentorship and writing event in association with Words Ireland for anybody who is curious about the mentorship process and supports available for writers.

A series of educational workshops and talks for children and teenagers, Cúirt Labs, returns, featuring writers and artists Caroline Busher, Siobhán Parkinson, Anna Carey and Sam Winston. Paul Linehan from The Frank and Walters will lead a workshop on songwriting at St Enda’s secondary school, with the goal of producing a song. Family events include Storytelling with Niall De Búrca, one of Ireland’s finest traditional storytellers.

A theatre programme features Pan Pan Theatre’s The Importance of Nothing; Rabbitby Nana Raines, presented by students of Drama and Theatre Studies at NUI Galway in association with Galway Arts Centre and directed by Andrew Flynn; and Imagining Nora, presented by Tara Breathnach and Sarah O’Toole, which will celebrate Nora Barnacle’s influence on James Joyce.

The Cúirt festival claimaxes on April 29th with the annual Far From Literature we were Raised event, a night of spoken word, poetry and song in aid of Cancer Care West. Contributors include Alan McMonagle, Sarah Clancy, Elaine Feeney, Aindrais deStaic, Gerry Hanberry and Páraic Breathnach.

Tickets for all events are on sale now on or through the Town Hall Theatre on 091 569 777.