NEWCASTLE West will become a hub of poetry, song and dance this weekend when all the strands of Eigse Michael Hartnett meld together into a creative and a community-based celebration.
And it is certain to lift hearts and spirits in the town, which is now decked out and ready to welcome all who want to savour all that the packed programme offers and to enjoy the fun.
Eigse kicks off this Thursday evening Cathaoirleach when this year’s joint winners of the Michael Hartnett Poetry Award, Limerickwoman Jo Slade and Mark Roper, will read from their winning collections and will be awarded with their prize.
Renowned portrait photographer John Minihan will deliver the keynote address at the opening which takes place in the library and which is free, like many of the events of the three-day festival.
Other headline acts will be readings by poet Martina Evans and novelist Sheila O’Flanagan on Friday evening and by poet Theo Dorgan and author Claire Kilroy on Saturday evening when they will be joined by Grammy award-winning singer Susan McKeown.
But large crowds are expected too for The Wheelchair on my Face, the part-theatre, part stand-up comedy show from Sonya Kelly which is on Friday night.
And excitement is building in advance of the Michael Hartnett Memorial Lecture on Saturday morning where historian Diarmaid Ferriter will speak on “Scrambling for the bones of the patriot dead”, a look at the decade of revolution in Ireland 1913-1923.
But local schools will also get a look in with workshops with poets Eileen Sheehan and John W Sexton and visits from the winning poets and adventurer Mark Quinn.
Students from local secondary schools will also take part, along with residents of Rathfredagh Cheshire Home, in Gravity, Rush and Braking Bad, an integrated dance performance choreographed by Mary Hartney.
This takes place on Friday morning while Spoken Dance, Limerick’s integrated dance company, will also perform in the Red Door Gallery in the afternoon. It will be followed by Body Talk, a mixture of dance and storytelling by Micheál Rowsome. All these performances are free.
One of Eigse’s most popular events, the Open Mic competition, the poetry slam is offering a lucrative prize of €300 for the best original poem while there is also a prize for the best-read Hartnett poem. This event begins, as tradition dictates, in Ned Lynch’s bar where Ned will recite The Ballad of Salad Sunday.
Eigse Michael Hartnett is now in its 15th year and was established to honour the memory of one of Ireland’s foremost poets, Michael Hartnett who was born and reared in Newcastle West.