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Pillow Queens perform, President Higgins and Colm Tóibín chat: This week’s unmissable online events

Plus: Dalkey Book Festival, Varo & Special Guests and play at Smock Alley Theatre

An Evening with President Michael D Higgins and Colm Tóibín
Thursday, June 17th, 6.30pm, €8,
Forget G7 summits and Davos and all that – here's an earth-shaking meeting of minds as two of Ireland's most towering intellects – President Michael D Higgins and author Colm Tóibín – meet up for a bit of an aul' chat about stuff. They'll be discussing the thrill of re-engaging with European culture and building a more inclusive and ecologically sustainable society, Ireland as a cultural force to be reckoned with and general stuff about literature, poetry and the many ways we can inspire change in people's lives. The conversation itself took place on Bloomsday before being broadcast today, so you can be sure that Joyce and the ineluctible modality of the visible will come up along the way. This is the final in the Spring Series of the Borris Festival of Writing and Ideas, and they've probably left this until last because your brain will most likely need a long rest after this rigorous intellectual workout.

Dalkey Book Festival @ The Tower
June 18th-20th, €50,
When life becomes a dystopian novel, where do writers look for inspiration? That's one of the questions that will be addressed over three days at this virtual version of the annual festival of literature in the scenic town of Dalkey. Over the past year of the pandemic, books have provided a welcome solace and distraction from world events, and also provided a way to pass the time during endless lockdowns. Festival organiser David McWilliams is staging the festival in the martello tower in Dalkey, an iconic location for a livestream. Among the guests being beamed in from around the world are science boffin Prof Brian Cox, Turkish-British author Elif Shafak and Chilean author Isabel Allende, but the inside of the tower will be turned into a studio space for guests including President Michael D Higgins, Conor McPherson and Anne Enright. More guests are set to be announced for this three-day online extravaganza, during which the winner of the Dalkey Literary Award for 2021, sponsored by Zurich, will be announced.

Rock Against Homelessness
Sunday, June 20th, 8pm,
It's funny that for a nation so obsessed and all-consumed by the concept of property and home ownership – and a literary tradition immersed in ideas of hearth and home – we can't seem to sort out the basic problem that a disproportionate number of our citizens have nowhere to call home. Focus Ireland is fighting on, though, with this virtual concert from the Olympia Theatre and Windmill Lane Studios in Dublin, featuring such guests as Pillow Queens, Aslan, Blindboy Boatclub, Wyvern Lingo, Rodrigo y Gabriella, Tolu Makay, Gilbert O'Sullivan, Jim Sheridan and many more. Panti Bliss and Laura Whitmore will be your MCs for the night, and just remember as you sit down in your home to watch the fun, you're one of the lucky ones.

Tradition Now: Varo & Special Guests
Sunday, June 20th, 8pm,
The NCH's cutting-edge Tradition Now series continues with a livestreamed performance by Franco-Italian duo Varo, showcasing their new album which features collaborations with an array of talented Irish artists, including Ian Lynch and Cormac Mac Diarmada from Lankum, Anna Mieke, Junior Brother, Slow Moving Clouds, Inni-K and Lemoncello. Lucie Azconaga from France and Consuelo Nerea Breschi from Italy were both drawn to Ireland by a shared love of trad music; when they met in Dublin, they began working together on their own arrangements of trad, influenced by their folk, jazz, classical and world music backgrounds. In this special livestreamed concert, they'll be joined by some of their collaborators on a selection of songs addressing issues of loneliness and separation during the Covid crisis and the importance of keeping strong connections. Don't worry – it'll be very uplifting, I assure you.


Smock Alley Theatre, Dublin June 21st-26th, 4pm & 7pm,
Another landmark in the comeback from Covid, Rogue is the first play to be staged at Smock Alley in front of a live audience. Now, that audience will comprise just six people each night, and needless to say tickets were snapped up in double-quick time. For the rest of Ireland's theatregoers missing the roar of the greasepaint and the smell of the crowd, this is an encouraging start, and there will be a livestream available to purchase. Rogue is a new play written by Lee Coffey and directed Tracy Ryan, and is performed by the Gaiety School of Acting graduating class of 2021, telling the story of a young Dublin woman on a hellish rollercoaster ride taking in domestic abuse and homelessness, but ultimately finding a light at the end of this dark tunnel.