Over four days and nights, the town that was home to and helped shape the late poet Michael Hartnett, will play host to a wide range of talented poets, writers, musicians, singers and artists in a packed programme of exciting and engaging events.
And it will be bookended by two lively public events bringing the festival and its work onto the streets of Newcastle West.
Launching the programme for the festival, at a reception in Newcastle West, Mayor Francis Foley said it contained “very interesting events that will surely spark lively debate and conversation”.
He commended the organisers for taking “the brave and bold step of adding a fourth day to the festival, which will be family and community oriented”.
Mayor Foley also congratulated Eleanor Hooker, the winner of this year’s Michael Hartnett Poetry Award. Ms Hooker, who lives in Tipperary, will accept the award on the opening night of the festival.
The festival will open in spectacular style on Thursday, October 6 at 7pm in the Square, where renowned street act The Hit Machine Drummers will perform before leading a Lantern Parade through the town to the opening ceremony in the council buildings, Áras William Smith O’Brien.
There the guest speaker will be playwright, author and satirist, Gerry Stembridge and the winner of this year’s Michael Hartnett Poetry Award, Eleanor Hooker.
The programme continues on Friday with a reading over coffee by Eleanor Hooker and a lunchtime reading by Glenstal monk and author Mark Patrick Hederman.
The evening events include readings by award-winning poets Kerry Hardie and Peter Sirr as well as a screening of the box-office hit film, An Cailín Ciúin. Further attractions include an exhibition of walking sticks by wood artist Seanie Barron and a film based on his craft as well as a launch by local author Keith McCoy and Dance Film, based on integrated dance performances choreographed by Mary Hartney.
Saturday morning will see archivist, historian and social commentator, Catriona Crowe give the Michael Hartnett Memorial Lecture on the theme: How did Ireland do in its decade of centenaries? Saturday will also hear master piper and RTÉ broadcaster Peter Browne’s anecdotes, recordings and musings about a memorable tour of Scotland in the company of Michael Hartnett, with a few tunes added to the mix. The afternoon’s offering will continue with a bus tour of Hartnett country, with stories, poems and music.
Author Mary Costello will go under the spotlight on Saturday evening when she can be heard in conversation and reading from her work after which Limerick-born man of music, Mick Hanly will take to the stage for what promises to be a heartfelt concert.
Salad Sunday is a new addition to the Éigse programme, a nod to one of Hartnett’s humorous ballads celebrating a local event/non-event and is intended as a community-focused day of family fun and entertainment. Kicking off at 1pm, there will be live music involving local musicians, street food and market stalls in and around the Square. The work of local young people who took part in poetry workshops will go public through Spoken Word and posters. There will also be a launch by local writer Tom Moloney and a reading by poet Gabriel Fitzmaurice.
Many of the events over the four-day festival are free, or cost a budget-friendly €10 or €15.