Arts Over Borders – the northern literary lands
We’re delighted to be bringing back our Happy Days Beckett Festival to Enniskillen and our Frielfest to Derry~Londonderry and Donegal. However, this year these festivals are put into a new constellation – the northern literary lands.
The northern literary lands consist of eleven border counties, each of which has a powerful landscape connection to either a giant of literature or a great literary text: Armagh (Jonathan Swift), Derry (Seamus Heaney & Brian Friel), Down (St Patrick and C. S. Lewis), Fermanagh (Samuel Beckett and Oscar Wilde), and Tyrone (Flann O’Brien & John Montague) in Northern Ireland and Cavan (Dermot Healy), Donegal (Brian Friel), Leitrim (John McGahern), Louth (the Tain), Monaghan (Patrick Kavanagh) and Sligo (W. B. Yeats) in the Republic of Ireland. The border becomes a spine that holds these counties and their literary commonality together from Ireland’s Ancient East (The Tain, St Patrick and mythical Narnia) to the north west’s Wild Atlantic Way and its landscape associations with two of our late contemporary literary giants, Brian Friel and Seamus Heaney.
The writers listed are all of the past but are in no way definitive. They are our subjective choice (though a list that includes three Nobel laureates) that we are using as a foundational layer upon which to feature many other writers, past and current, who are already being celebrated or who deserve to be. However, we shouldn’t underplay the fact that to have so many world-class writers in such a small geographical area is astonishing. The focus will always be fluid and we see it changing from year to year as different writers take centre-stage either through our own activity or the activity of others – we don’t in any way own the northern literary lands, we are merely a part of its development.
We’re also very conscious that the writers listed above are all men. This is a matter of historical circumstance rather than choice and we see this as an important issue going forward. Our belief is that the creation of the northern literary lands offers an opportunity to inform audiences and visitors about writers, both male and female, of whom they may be unaware, and we believe these writers have a much better chance of finally receiving due recognition through the collectivity of the northern literary lands rather than through occasional, isolated events.
Arts Over Borders will present year-round activity in the northern literary lands with festivals operating as its peaks. We’re very aware that there are already a number of festivals and summer schools taking place, plus the recent opening of the Seamus Heaney HomePlace in Bellaghy. So the challenge is to build on this and demonstrate to local and visitor alike a coherent vision that illuminates the border counties’ extraordinary literary associations and the beautiful landscapes that inspired many of these great writers.
With Brexit not far off, it feels even more important to celebrate the social and cultural bond between our counties. Arts Over Borders seeks to overcome borders of all kinds – cultural, educational and societal.
Sean Doran and Liam Browne
Arts Over Borders Honorary Irish Patrons
Arts Over Borders Honorary International Patrons
More to be announced…
Happy Days Enniskillen International Beckett Festival 2012
Happy Days Enniskillen International Beckett Festival 2013
Happy Days Enniskillen International Beckett Festival 2015
Lughnasa International Friel Festival 2015