Clifden Arts Festival opens in north Connemara

Tribute to composer Seán Ó Riada and Druid Theatre productions among highlights

A tribute to composer Seán Ó Riada by musicians Micheál Ó Suilleabháin and Mel Mercier and Druid Theatre's latest Tom Murphy productions are among highlights at the Clifden Arts Festival which kicks off in north Connemara tonight.

Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, Moya Cannon, Paul Durcan, James Harpur, Pete Mullineaux and Des Kavanagh are among participating poets, and a special screening of Pat Collins's documentary, Living In a Coded Land, is also part of the ten-day programme.

Critic,writer and arts activist Anthony Cronin will give a public interview with Des Lally, and music includes The Voice Squad and the Henry Girls, Jimmy McCarthy, the RTÉ Concert Orchestra and Cór Cois Cladaigh.

The experience of Kerry woman Mags Riordan, who opened a clinic in Malawi in memory of her son, Billy, is the theme of a reading by north American novelist Suzanne Strempek Shea at the Clifden festival.

Saw Doctors musicians Leo Moran and Anthony Thistlethwaite will participate in the reading with Ms Strempek Shea from her book,This is Paradise, which documents how the Billy Riordan Memorial Clinic was founded in Cape Maclear after he was drowned in Malawi in 1999.

Now ten years old, it is staffed by Irish and international medical and non-medical volunteers who become known as “the Billys”.

Ms Strempek Shea's tour starts this Saturday at the Dingle Bookshop in Co Kerry, and she will read in Howth, Co Dublin (King Sitric) next Monday, 22nd September and Galway city (Charlie Byrne's bookshop) on September 26th before appearing in Clifden on Saturday, September 27th.

Proceeds from the book sale will go towards the clinic project.

The Clifden arts festival will be opened tonight by Riverdance composer Bill Whelan.

www. clifdenartsweek.ie www.billysmalawiproject.org

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins is the former western and marine correspondent of The Irish Times