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Éigse Festival Brings In The Crowds

he organisers of the Éigse Michael Hartnett 2010, which took place in Newcastle West at the weekend, have described this year’s event as ‘a resounding success’.

The annual festival is regarded as one of Ireland’s largest annual gatherings of contemporary poets and writers.

Michael Hartnett, who wrote both English and Irish poems, was born in Croom, County Limerick, in 1941 and died in Dublin in 1999.  He is regarded as one of the most significant voices in late 20th century Irish writing.

According to Limerick County Arts Officer Joan Mac Kernan: “This year’s festival featured the standard bearers in poetry, writing and critical thinking in Ireland and people responded with large gatherings at every single event”.

Despite some interruption to the programme caused by the Icelandic volcano, Ms. Mac Kernan stated: “This year’s festival was the best ever, particularly in terms of the breadth of the programme and the level of audience engagement. We had lots of new people attending, who all said they would be back next year, and that is heartening”.

The opening night in the library on Thursday saw a capacity audience for the keynote address by Abbot Patrick Hederman. Local Librarian Aileen Dillane commented: “We knew from the number of enquiries all week that Abbot Hederman was going to be a big draw.”

The evening opened with a singing prelude by the County Limerick Youth Choir, followed by the official opening of Éigse 2010 by the Cathaoirleach of the County Council, Cllr David Naughton.

According to Councillor Naughton: “In these straitened times festival of this prestige are very welcome in the county they not only bring business into the county but also lift our spirits.”

Abbot Patrick Hederman, described by arts officer Joan Mac Kernan in her introduction as an ‘original thinker’, went on to explore in a fascinating address that in destitute times we look to artists  to guide us in our pursuit of truth.

John F. Deane, one of the most senior names in Irish literature generously stepped in to take the place of the American poet Fanny Howe. Again with a full house on the Friday evening, we had a magical night of song and poetry with the voice of Roisin Elsafty and the stunning poetry of Eileen Sheehan and John F Deane.

Friday night’s events climaxed with the dramatisation of Synge’s ‘The Aran Islands’ in Desmond Castle movingly portrayed by Sean Coyne and Tegolin Knowland of Tegtale Theatre Company.

Saturday morning had people arriving early in Newcastle West for the Hartnett Memorial Lecture which was given by Fintan O’Toole. In a knowledgeable and erudite exploration of Michael Hartnett, his influences and inclinations, O’Toole made a similar argument to Abbot Hederman that artists will provide us with a guide out of the very difficult times we are in.

On Saturday afternoon, Newcastle West man and piper Seamus Hunt in full piping regalia piped a gathering of poets, bards and haiku masters through the streets of Newcastle West for the first ever Hartnett Viva Voce Competition. There were large entries in both the open competition for the best original poem and in the Hartnett category for the best read Hartnett poem. After a spell binding afternoon, Mike Gallagher was crowned with a necklet of wrens in the open competition and Louis Mulcahy, the potter from Kerry, was crowned in the Hartnett category.

The final reading of Éigse Michael Hartnett featured poets Gearóid Mac Lochlainn and Rita Ann Higgins with Dorota Konczewska providing lovely and unusual harmonies with a mix of her singing voice and electronic media. ‘Kick up your Heels’ the final event of Éigse Michael Hartnett 2010 was a toe tapping high energy event with sean nós dancer Seosamh O Neachtain reviving everyone for the last hurrah.

A major focus of this year’s Éigse was children. Author Michael Smith spoke to over 600 children on the Thursday and Friday. Call Back Theatre Company and Tegtale Children’s Theatre performed a series of puppet shows in the library to hundreds of enthralled children.

Meanwhile, the County Limerick Youth Theatre took to the streets performing street and circus acts. A number of musical acts also entertained on the Friday and Saturday including the sartorially tuxedo attired street singer Peter Walls and the blue/jazz band High Society.’

Permalink - Posted: April 26, 2010 at 12:32 pm