No summer stasis: seasonal schools for adults

Schools that focus on trad music, Irish dance, Beckett, Joyce, Parnell, Yeats and public policy should keep adults of all stripes busy

Samuel Beckett Summer School runs at Trinity College Dublin in August

Samuel Beckett Summer School runs at Trinity College Dublin in August


Blás Summer School

This school offers an opportunity to get a taste of all aspects of traditional Irish music and dance. It has its home at the Irish World Academy at the University of Limerick. Prestigious tutors include dancer Colin Dunne; fiddler Martin Hayes; singer Nóirín Ní Riain; and Steve Cooney and Dónal Lunny, who offer their expertise in harmonic accompaniment. Evenings are given over to concerts, and the annual Francis Roche Memorial Lecture, which will be delivered this year by musician and composer Toner Quinn. Irish World Academy, University of Limerick. June 23-July 4,


Willie Clancy Summer School

Uillean pipes and concertinas. Jigs and Reels. The Willie Clancy Summer School is a celebration of all the traditional arts, with formal lessons in music and dance during the day, and fleadh-style sessions at night. Between the two, there is ample opportunity for indulging in oral traditions and passing on performance tips and local legends. Miltown Malbay, Co Clare. July 5-13,


James Joyce Summer School

Experience the work of Joyce in the city that shaped his writing. Attend lectures at Newman House where Joyce himself studied. The James Joyce Summer School will appeal to specialists more than the casual connoisseur, but specialists will be pleased with the opportunity to hear experts like Terence Killeen, Luca Crispi and Anne Fogarty deliver their diverse verdicts on Joyce’s life and work. Dublin, July 6-13,


Gerard Manley Hopkins Summer School

“Hark hearer, hear what I say; lend a thought now” to the work of priest and poet Gerard Manley Hopkins. This year the summer school, which is based at the dramatic Dominican premises of Newbridge College in Co Kildare, boasts visiting speakers from Tokyo, Slovenia, America and Finland. Lectures are accompanied by readings, recitals, exhibitions and workshops, including a translation workshop with Rainer Schulte. Newbridge College, Kildare. July 19-25,


Joe Mooney Summer School

Inspired by the legend of the Tuatha de Dannan, who brought gifts of music, melody and harmony to the Leitrim hills, the Joe Mooney Summer School is a week-long celebration of Irish song and dance. Harp, mandolin, accordion, fiddles; all the traditional instruments are there. There is also an opportunity for primary teachers to brush up on their skills with a Department of Education approved master class. Drumshambo, Co Leitrim. July 19-26,


MacGill Summer School

Local writer Patrick MacGill, “the Navvy poet”, is the inspiration for the MacGill Summer School in Glenties. MacGill wrote widely about social conditions in Donegal in the early 20th century, and the school offers a range of discussions on contemporary public policy. The programme is hung on the annual John Hume Lecture, which will be delivered this year by Dr Maurice Hayes. There will be live webcasts available on the website throughout the week for those who can’t attend in person. Glenties, Co Donegal. July 21-25,


Meitheal Summer School

The residential traditional Irish music summer school offers masterclasses in arrangement and composition and culminates in a finale concert by the newly formed Trad Orchestra in Limerick Institute of Technology’s Millennium Theatre. Based on the idea that all participants are equal stakeholders, tutors this year include Breton flautist Jean-Michel Veillon, Italian pipe player Martino Vacca, and fiddle-players Dezi Donnelly and Aoife Ní Bhriain. Villiers School, Limerick. July 21-25,


Scoil Acla

A summer school for all the family that celebrates traditional Irish arts of the more unusual kind, against the backdrop of the wild Atlantic. There are opportunities to learn the art of basket-weaving and sean-nós dancing, as well as all kinds of music and language courses and creative writing through the Irish language with poet Macdara Woods. Achill Island, July 26- August 2,


Yeats International Summer School

This school is now in its 55th year, which makes it the longest-running summer school in the country. It offers lectures by Yeats scholars and poetry and drama workshops. The intensive academic programme attracts casual as well as committed interest, and is complemented by local drama at the Tread Softly arts festival. Extracurricular events include poetry readings set to musical arrangements, and tours of the local landscape, including a trip to Coole Park. Yeats Memorial Building, Sligo town. July 27-August 8,


John Hewitt Summer School

This festival of culture and creativity was founded in 1987, the year of the poet’s death. The opening address this year will be delivered by President Higgins, and there is an equally impressive line-up of speakers, including Jennifer Johnston, Joseph O’Connor, and David Park. Armagh, July 28-August 1,


William Carleton Summer School

A 17th-century hotel nestled at the confluence of the Blackwater river provides an evocative backdrop to this celebration of William Carleton’s life and work. Carleton is best-known for his sketches of the Irish peasantry. This year’s programme focuses on the later part of his career and the effect the famine had on his writing. Carleton was a big influence on Seamus Heaney, and this year’s programme acknowledges that relationship with reflections on the late poet’s work. Corick House Hotel, Clogher, Tyrone. August 4-7,


Samuel Beckett Summer School

Beckett’s alma mater serves as a centre for the Beckett Summer School, which features lectures and in-depth discussion sessions led by international experts. This year’s focused seminars emphasise the primary research material offered by Beckett’s letters and manuscripts, as well as the intriguing topic of “Beckett and Brain Science”. Make a trip to Enniskillen to the Happy Days Festival before or after (July 31-August 10) for full immersion in Beckett’s oeuvre. Trinity College, August 10-16,


Parnell Summer School

The centenary of the outbreak of the first World War is being marked at this year’s Parnell Summer School, which has the theme “War and Peace”. The lectures take place in Parnell’s idyllic Wicklow birthplace, and guests this year include High Court Judge Brian Cregan, who will read from his 2013 novel Parnell. There will also be a historical re-enactment of John Redmond’s famous speech at Woodenbridge, when he encouraged Irish volunteers to enlist in the British army. Avondale House, Co Wicklow. August 10-14,



I was an eager English student at Trinity College when I travelled down to Avondale House for the Synge Summer School, which is sadly not running this year. I had expectations of edification (there were lectures by people who wrote my textbooks) and self-revelation (Michael West was giving a drama workshop and I was hoping he could unlock in me some talent for the stage).

I would also get a chance to meet one of my heroes, the playwright Tom Murphy, who gave a typically frank interview to the gathered acolytes. What I hadn’t expected was how the dramatic Wicklow location would evoke the wildness of Synge’s work: the “grey and wintry sides of [the] many glens” where he summered with his family and where he set four of his plays.

Walking back by moonlight to Avondale House from a small pub in Rathdrum village, I could feel the loneliness of the countryside that Nora Burke is sent out into in In the Shadow of the Glen, and I could understand exactly how Douls of The Tinker’s Wedding find themselves so worn out by the weather.

The following year I travelled west to Sligo for the Yeats Summer School, where local Yeatsian Stella Mew serenaded us with Down by the Salley Gardens on the willow-lined banks of the river at Ballysadare and strode defiantly through torrential rain to a desolate rocky promontory that might have been the inspiration for At the Hawk’s Well.

Mew had been a student at one of the earlier incarnations of the summer school, and she regaled us with tales of seances in the library at Coole Park, where Yeats – a serious occultist himself – apparently appeared to his devoted fans. We took a Ouija board out one night in our hostel after too much poetry and wine, but Yeats declined our invitation to visit. Perhaps we weren’t serious enough in our scholarly intentions. – Sara Keating

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