Top literary talent unveiled at launch of 32nd Hewitt Summer School

Richard Burden

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Richard Burden

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richard.burden@ulstergazette.co.uk

THE John Hewitt Society has launched the programme for the 32nd John Hewitt International Summer School, which will be taking place in the Market Place Theatre, Armagh, from Monday to Saturday, July 22 to 27.

And speaking at the Armagh launch this week, Lord Mayor Mealla Campbell referred to the John Hewitt Summer School as one of the cultural highlights within the council area, and praised the ever-expanding international dimension of the programme.

This year’s summer school focuses on, ‘Difficulties of translation: translating difference into a shared conversation’, with over 30 events from more than 60 writers, artists, commentators, tutors and lecturers exploring various aspects of the theme during a stimulating week of discussion, exploration, critical and creative thinking through literature, arts and culture.

Among the high-profile speakers engaged for this year’s JHISS, are polish born Dr Thomas H Bak, an Edinburgh-based researcher on the impact of bilingualism, Diarmaid Ferriter, the Dublin-based historian, author, broadcaster and university professor, along with local journalists/writers, Susan McKay and Ivan Little.

The Commissioner for Victims and Survivors of the conflict in Northern Ireland, Judith Thompson, will deliver the opening address for the JHISS on Monday, July 22.

Highlight of this year’s exceptional Poetry Readings programme will be the Gala event with Billy Collins - ‘the most popular poet in America,’ according to the New York Times – and fellow acclaimed American poet, Kathryn Maris. Other acclaimed poets featured this year include Kerrie Hardie, Mona Ashri and Billy Ramsell.

With readings from celebrated authors Kevin Barry, Sarah Moss, Jo Baker and Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi, the top Northern Irish writers Michael Hughes, Jan Carson, Maureen Boyle will be among those who will be interviewing the visiting authors.

Crime fiction will again be well represented by some of the most popular best-selling authors, including Armagh’s own Stuart Neville, who will interview Jo Spain and Mick Herron, as well as an interview with Ann Cleeves, the highly acclaimed author of the novels upon which the murder mystery television series ‘Vera’ and ‘Shetland’ are based.

Evening musical performances include a visit by renowned singer Karan Casey & Band, well known to Armagh audiences for her stunning performances at William Kennedy Piping Festivals. Pauline Scanlon, no stranger to fans of Irish Trad Singing, joins acclaimed writer Kevin Toolis for an artistic collaboration of ‘The Wonders of the Wake’, an attractive programme of words and music celebrating the ancient rite of the Irish Wake.

Theatre audiences will have a double treat in store this year, with two highly entertaining shows from Dublin coming to Armagh’s Market Place Theatre – ‘Brendan Galileo for Europe’, a high-energy, satirical one-man show, and ‘To Hell in a Handbag’, an hilarious two-hander which explores the secret lives of two minor characters from Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’.

This year’s JHISS Art exhibition in the Gallery will be, ‘Blood Horses’, a new and exciting creative collaboration between Dublin-born artist, Paddy Lennon, and the celebrated Belfast poet, Moyra Donaldson, while writer, broadcaster and now photographer, Malachi O’Doherty, will show ‘India: Faces & Scenes’, a selection of photographs taken by him on a recent trip to India to research a new book.

Once again the Summer School provides a wealth of opportunities for new, emerging and established writers to reflect on and develop their creative thinking and writing talents, with three-days of workshops in Poetry, Prose and Memoir from Heather Richardson, Nessa O’Mahony, Kathryn Maris, Siobhán Campbell, Bernie McGill, Ferdia Mac Annam and Jan Carson, the Belfast writer whose latest novel ’The Fire Starters’, was the Irish winner of the EU Prize for Literature 2019.

Tony Kennedy, Chair of The John Hewitt Society, said: “It is a great pleasure to be back in the Market Place Theatre for what is another exciting Summer School.

“Once again we are bringing the cream of literary talent to the city and providing a programme which is both entertaining and exciting. We appreciate our continuing partnership with Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council and look forward to a great week.”

Damian Smyth, Head of Literature and Drama at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, added: “The John Hewitt Society continues to provide Northern Ireland’s premier forum for discussion of the broad range of cultural, artistic and social issues which impact upon the literary creativity of the region.

“Its energy is undiminished, the light it sheds undimmed and the very persistence of its scrutiny makes it an indispensable asset in the culture of the island as a whole. The Arts Council remains rightly delighted with its ongoing excellence as we approach the end of another decade of change.”

For more information on the Summer School programme, please visit www.johnhewittsociety.org/summerschoolTickets are on sale now from The Market Place Theatre box office on (028) 3752 1821 or online at www.visitarmagh.com/marketplacetheatre

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