Summer in Ireland — when you’re not side-stepping tourists or wondering if the weather forecast mentioning ‘good drying‘ is meant to be taken seriously — is Festival Time. There are so many cultural gatherings that you’d be forgiven for thinking that the Irish have nothing better to do in the summer months than gather under a marquee to listen to blues music or celebrate that great Irish contribution to world cuisine, the bag of chips. One literary festival not to be missed is the Hinterland Festival in Kells (formerly the Hay Festival.) I attended last year, and among many highlights was a morning escorting Hanif Kureishi around town. It was an odd day. The two of us were rather numb — me from a hangover, him from the previous day’s Brexit result — but we still nodded sagely when the tour guide enthusiastically told us that pole-vaulting was invented in Kells.
Running from June 22 to 25, this year’s festival will include readings, discussion, debates, music, and workshops, and among others will feature novelist Sebastian Barry, film-maker Stephen Frears, playwright Matthew Spangler, journalist Peter Godwin, and adventurer Matt Dickinson. As well as all that, there will also be a ‘festival within the festival’ when Hinterland, in partnership with Litquake in San Francisco, presents the literary pop-up event Lit Crawl. Litquake’s Jamie Real will be in attendance in Kells as the rather fabulous sounding ‘plenipotentiary extraordinary.’ Real comments “I felt right at home during my first visit to Kells. It’s a town with a rich literary history full of impassioned and enthusiastic book lovers and fans of the written word, who, I know, will make the very first Irish Lit Crawl a success.” For more information about the Hinterland Festival, visit their website.