Literary festival aims to foster Celtic links

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The links between Scotland and Ireland stretch back to time immemorial, but while many cultural links in many spheres have been formalised, those whose passion lies in the literary world may sometimes have felt that the interactions between the two literatures have lagged behind.

That is now set to change with Glasgow’s new major literary festival, Crossways (The Irish Scottish Cultural and Literary Festival), taking place Monday to Sunday, April 9-14, 2018 in the Merchant City district.

The sponsor and organiser of the festival is Irish Pages, Ireland’s premier literary journal (www.irishpages.org), with major funding provided by the Republic’s Department of Foreign affairs, Foras na Gaeilge and the University of Strathclyde, as well as Irish Pages itself.

The six-day festival—featuring 24 events in Scots, Irish and Scottish Gaelic as well as English—will focus not only on Irish and Scottish literature, but also especially on the writing of the Irish diaspora in Scotland. Festival-goers will have the opportunity to enjoy a reading each afternoon, followed by another in Irish and Scottish Gaelic in the early evening, before a daily mid-evening event and a concluding late Saturday night Festival Party and Cabaret, featuring readings and music, including the celebrated Irish-language band Imlé.

There will also be screenings of four major Irish films in the early afternoon. The main festival venues will be the City Halls, the Tron Theatre and the famed public house, Babbity Bowster. An opening reception at 4pm on Monday in the Candleriggs Bar, City Halls, will kick off the proceedings with words of welcome from Mike Russell MSP on behalf of the Scottish Government, and Máirtín Ó Muilleoir Mla, former Minster of Finance in the Stormont Executive—this ministerial presence an important recognition of the evolving shared culture of the two nations.

The opening reception will then be followed by a concert by the Friel Sisters from east Kilbride and a reading by the leading Irish novelists David Park and Bernard MacLaverty—the first from the North, the second now residing in Glasgow.

The next day (Tuesday, April 10) marks the 20th anniversary of the Belfast agreement, and two major festival events will reflect this Irish milestone: A Belfast Reading in the late afternoon, and a panel discussion entitled On Brexit and the Belfast Agreement, with leading writers and journalists from Ireland and Scotland.

In between, The Scottish Universities Reading will feature two of Scotland’s foremost poets, David Kinloch and Kathleen Jamie. Amongst the participants across the rest of the week are many other outstanding poets, fiction-writers and translators from Ireland and Scotland. with the two Irish editors of Irish Pages—Chris Agee and Cathal Ó Searcaigh—also participating in this landmark festival, the commitment of the journal to showcasing Irish and Scottish writing in all four tongues is underscored by the recent addition of two new Scottish editors to Irish Pages team, Kathleen Jamie and Meg Bateman.

Speaking of these new Irish-Scottish literary relations, the Irish Pages editors outlined their thinking behind the festival: “The particular aim of Crossways is to foster and expand the rather weak literary links between Ireland and Scotland across the North Channel,” they explain. “It will bring together notable Irish writers, musicians, filmmakers and cultural figures—from both North and south—together with their Scottish peers, in a well-planned and well-balanced festival focusing on the long-standing contribution of Irish people, history, language, culture and writing to both Glasgow and the Scottish nation. The overall balance will be about one-third Irish, one-third Diaspora Irish-Scottish, and one-third Scottish.

“The two cultures and literatures have their backs to each other to a surprising degree. The festival will aim at lessening this contemporary cultural distance, and at a new historical moment—where relations between the two islands, no less than between the several parts of the United Kingdom, may change dramatically with Brexit.”

Most events are free across the three venues, but it is recommended that advance booking be made from March 23 for those at City Halls (here) and the Tron Theatre (here). Brochures will be distributed widely through the Merchant City and Glasgow, and can be requested at sales@irishpages.org

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