Power set to be talk of the town


Organisers of the Kilkenny Arts Festival say there is "phenomenal demand" for tickets to next Wednesday's appearance by Irish-born American writer Samantha Power, a Pulitzer prize winner and Harvard professor who will deliver the inaugural Hubert Butler annual lecture.

Geraldine Tierney, the festival's chief executive officer, described the level of interest as "unprecedented for a literary event" and said the venue has had to be switched from Kilkenny Castle to St Canice's Cathedral, which can seat 600 people.

Fintan O'Toole, Irish Timescolumnist, will introduce Power, who has worked with US presidential hopeful Barack Obama and has written on US foreign policy, international human rights issues and the humanitarian crisis in Darfur. The lecture honours the memory of Kilkenny writer and essayist Hubert Butler, who died in 1991.

The 10-day festival, now in its 34th year, features over 100 events showcasing music, art, literature and film and begins this evening with readings by novelist Colm Tóibín and poet Eavan Boland.

Tierney says "there is a huge range of exciting, thought-provoking and entertaining events for all age groups" and that "overall ticket sales are great and well up on last year".

Visitors from overseas are expected to account for more than one-third of audiences.

The literature and film programme, curated by Tóibín, also includes readings by American novelist Edmund White, English novelist Jonathan Coe and a symposium on the legacy of Éamon de Valera as a statesman.

Other festival highlights include the French theatre company Fiat Lux; the Irish Modern Dance Theatre Company presenting a world premiere of This Dancing Life; a visit by the Ulster Orchestra; The Ark, described as a "performance spectacle", by Polish theatre company Teatr Ósmego Dnia; and the world premiere of US theatre director Lee Breuer's production of A Prelude to A Death in Venice (Harvey's Version).

At rehearsals yesterday, Breuer described the play as "a parody of contemporary New York life which tells the story of an East Village punky kid and a dog".

Less conventional events include Balkan belly-dancers The Habibi Babes; "aerial theatre" from Belgium; Wexford's Buí Bolg street theatre company; and the Factotum Choir from Belfast, whose repertoire includes Stalinist folk songs.

Among many visual art exhibitions, the most keenly anticipated is an event in the nearby town of Callan entitled Tony O'Malley & Jane O'Malley - A Union. To celebrate the town's 800th anniversary, a selection of early paintings by the late Tony O'Malley, a Callan native, will be shown alongside works by his widow, Jane.

The festival is receiving funding of €437,000 from the Arts Council and €110,000 from Fáilte Ireland's Festivals and Cultural Events Initiative.

• Kilkenny Arts Festivalruns from today until Sunday, August 19th. Tickets and information on all festival events are available from the box office at the St Francis Abbey Brewery, Parliament Street - telephone (056) 7752175 - or from www.kilkennyarts.ie