Hay Festival Brings Excitement and Surprises to Kells in County Meath


Words By Geri Schear


The international Hay Festival will be returning to Kells, in County Meath for a third year this June 25 to 28th. The first day of the festival will be entirely given over to lectures and musical events related to the American Civil War, marking the 150th anniversary of the end of that conflict. On June 25th, Hay Festival Kells will mark this sesquicentennial with a day of lectures from experts in the field, including talks by Damien Sheils and professor Thomas Barlett and a musical presentation called Green, Blue and Gray: Ireland and the American Civil War involving Matthew Gilsenan of The Celtic Tenors. RTÉ Presenters Sean Rocks of Arena and Sinead Gleeson of The Book Show will be on hand over the weekend of the Festival to conduct interviews with the artists. The extensive program will feature everything from literature and journalism in discussion to cookery and food with various events for children and adults alike. There will be art on view, film, shops and performances, leaving something for everyone.

The heritage town in Kells is located in the heart of the beautiful Boyne Valley region. Kells is an ancient market town in County Meath, forty miles north of Dublin. It is renowned worldwide as the spiritual home of the 9th century text the Book of Kells, which now housed in Trinity College in Dublin. Kells is situated on the Blackwater River and neighbored by a UNESCO World Heritage site, Headfort House. It is also home to the Spire of Lloyd, a mysterious inland lighthouse built in the late 18th century by the 1st Earl of Bective. With its rich history and site-seeing offerings, Kells is one of the most most picturesque and historic villages in Ireland. In addition to its monastic legacy, Kells offers an exciting arts and crafts scene, with many artists working and exhibiting in the local area. The town boasts a vibrant community and its people really throw themselves in to the spirit of Hay Kells, with colorful window displays, bunting, performances, pop-up shops and art galleries all becoming part of the fabric of the festival weekend.

Some of the delights you can expect at this year’s Hay Festival in Kells. The range is broad, including topics as diverse as W.B. Yeats, the American Civil War, Frank Sinatra, and the search for Madeleine McCann. Guests range from authors and poets to musicians and investigative journalists. Some of the highlights include the English musician, record producer, and visual artist Brian Eno, who will participate in two events. A selection of Man Booker Prize winners will attend, including Roddy Doyle, author of The Commitments and Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha will be speaking on his new book, Dead Man Talking. Irish Fiction Laureate, Anne Enright will read from her new book, The Green Road. International authors will also be present; Nigerian poet and novelist, Ben Okri, considered one of the foremost African authors, plans to attend. (His novels include The Famished Road and Starbook.) 

There will be available a variety of interactive presentations as well. One of Ireland’s most beloved poets Paul Durcan, author of such books as A Snail in my Prime, and Praise in Which I Live, will read from his award-winning work. The biographer of W.B. Yeats, Irish historian Roy Foster, will speak about the Nobel Laureate on the 150th Anniversary of his birth and discuss his own recent acclaimed work, Vivid Faces.  Children’s writer Erika McGann, author of the ‘Grace’ series (The Demon Notebook) will conduct a workshop for 8-10 year old readers. Leading author and journalist Fintan O’Toole examine the future of Irish Catholicism, if it has one, lies in a history of heresy. In film selections, Cartoon Saloon will recall the success of their recent Oscar-nominated short film, Song of the Sea.

Further program announcements are to follow, with full details and tickets available here. Early bird tickets are on sale now, and full ticketing will begin in June. Tickets will also be available locally in Kells by visiting or from a variety of businesses, listed on the festival’s website.

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