‘House of Cards’ author to address Cork history festival

Willingness of Michael Dobbs to speak indicates potential of new event, says organiser

The willingness of Michael Dobbs, author of the absorbing political novel House of Cards, to give an address at the first ever West Cork History Festival later this month indicates the potential of the event and how it may develop over the coming years, according to one of the organisers.

Dr Simon Kingston said that the festival committee was delighted to secure Dobbs who will close the three-day event in Skibbereen on Sunday, July 30th, with his talk entitled "Life, Lust and Liquor: How House of Cards Wrote Itself" – a tale of a manipulative and Machiavellian politician.

"We were delighted to secure Michael given his busy schedule and I expect his talk will prove very attractive given the success of both the British version of House of Cards with Ian Richardson as Francis Urquhart and the more recent American version with Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood, " he said.

"Michael's decision to come is very much down to David Puttnam – they are old friends and David is a kind of born-again Corkman. I suspect their politics are quite distinct – Michael was a former adviser to Margaret Thatcher whereas David sits on the Labour benches in the House of Lords.


Historical basis

"David came to offer some advice when we came up with the idea of a history festival and he asked would it help if we had Michael Dobbs come and talk about some of the historical basis of some of what he had written in House of Cards in both TV series and that's how we secured him."

According to Dr Kingston, Dobbs, who once served as deputy chairman of the Conservative Party, has no links with west Cork other than he has visited Mr Puttnam at his home outside Skibbereen and found the area, as many visitors from abroad do, to be a fascinating place.

“I would say Michael is an extremely generous man with his time – he’s flying over from the west coast of the US to London on the Thursday night and then he comes over to us on the Saturday and he will speak at our finale on the Sunday so it’s incredibly good of him.

"It's a sort of tribute to west Cork and that's part of the point here – ultimately if this year's event works and it gets momentum, we would see west Cork as an interesting place to discuss not just the history of Cork and Ireland but the histories of all sorts of parts of the world and all periods.

"We would hope that the West Cork History Festival would become like the history festivals that happen parts of the world on the basis that it's just an interesting and congenial place to get thinkers and writers to talk about what they are working on at the moment."

Dr Kingston said he expects the opening lecture by historian Prof Roy Foster of Oxford on Friday, July 28th, to be another highlight of the festival when the Trinity College Dublin-educated historian will deliver a lecture entitled "A Fair People – Antagonism and Conflict in Irish History".

Scholarly figures

"We have several speakers talking about very specific subjects particularly from the revolutionary period but we are also fortunate to have a couple of major scholarly figures like Roy Foster and Marianne Elliot who have chosen to speak to talk about much wider meta-themes in Irish history.

"Both of them can do so being specialists in 20th century material – Roy most famously and more recently for his Vivid Faces: The Revolutionary Generation in Ireland 1890-1923 and Marianne best known for her work on Tone and Emmet but also writing much more broadly.

“And Marianne was involved in the Opsahl commission in the North and she is very good moving from the 18th century origins of Irish republicanism to its contemporary applications so I expect there will be strong interest in her lecture on sectarianism and its impact on the peace process,” Dr Kingston said.

For a full programme of events for the festival, which takes place in Skibbereen from July 28th July 30th, visit www.westcorkhistoryfestival.org

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times