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Wilde Festival promises fresh insights into flamboyant writer

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The Oscar Wilde Festival will host a variety of events across Galway in September

Galway’s second Oscar Wilde Festival will be held from September 5-7 in the City’s Harbour Hotel and Taibhdhearc Theatre.

Speakers from Galway, UK and the US will offer fresh insights into the work of the renowned writer who had strong Galway connections, while the Festival will also support new Irish writing.

The official launch will take place on Friday, September 5, at 6pm in the Harbour Hotel and will be followed by a talk on a remarkable Galway woman, Eva O’Flaherty, who referred to Wilde as her “cousin Oscar”.

Eva moved in circles in London, Paris, Dublin and Achill from the 1900s onwards through her involvement in millinery, literary and intellectual pursuits. Eva O’Flaherty died in 1963 and was buried in the family vault in Donaghpatrick Graveyard, Caherlistrane.

The talk on her life will be delivered by Mary J Murphy from Menlough, broadcaster, journalist and author of Eva O’Flaherty: Forgotten Island Heroine.

The festival will move to An Taibhdhearc on Saturday, September 6. The Irish-language theatre has strong connections with Wilde through the writer and performer Micheál MacLiammóir, who staged the first play at the venue in 1928.

MacLiammóir subsequently went on to perform the acclaimed one-man show, The Importance of Being Oscar, and wrote extensively about Wilde.

Saturday’s events will begin at 12 noon with a talk on Wilde Today, exploring the contemporary view of Wilde and asking if his reputation has stood the test of time.

Three speakers – Dr David Clare of NUI Galway; New York writer and historian John Cooper, the author of Oscar Wilde in America; and UK actress Patricia Leventon – will discuss this question.

At 4pm, John Cooper will deliver a talk on Wilde and Dress. Wilde was renowned as a flamboyant dresser and used clothes for theatrical maximum effect.

A letter Wilde wrote, entitled The Philosophy of Dress, was rediscovered by John Cooper in 2012 and was confirmed by Wilde’s grandson, Merlin Holland, as authentic. It offers a fascinating insight into his dress sense. John Cooper’s talk will explore the influences, trends, characters and source material that informed Wilde’s relationship with dress.

Saturday’s events will conclude with a show about one of the most important women in Wilde’s life – his mother, Jane, also known as Speranza. This will be performed by Patricia Leventon at 8pm. The Belfast Telegraph described it as “imaginative and informative” adding that it provided “great insight into Oscar’s life and the influence of his mother”.

The Festival will conclude on September 7 with new Irish writing.

Kicking Oscar’s Corpse, by Galway writer Brendan Murphy, will make its debut at the Harbour Hotel at 1pm. Based on court transcripts, Kicking Oscar’s Corpse is a docu-play based on the famous libel trial of Maud Allan in 1918.

It’s a story of judges and prejudice, MPs and dancing girls, sex, scandal and conspiracy. Tickets are available online and there will be some on the door if seats are available.

Light refreshments will be available beforehand. Festival organiser Sandra Coffey points out that ticket to this year’s Oscar Wilde Festival are reasonably priced and hopes this will help people to “come and enjoy the weekend”.

Tickets for Saturday’s shows in An Taibhdhearc are available online on www.antaibhdhearc.com, by phone at 091 563600, or in person from the box office on Middle Street. n For further information on the programme and tickets, go to www.oscarwildefestival.com

Connacht Tribune

Galway poet’s new chapter as debut novel hits the shops

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Elaine Feeney....debut novel.

“I hated school so much I thought if I could be a teacher, I could make it a bit better,” says novelist and poet Elaine Feeney about her day-job as an English and History teacher at St Jarlath’s College in Tuam.

The Athenry woman certainly has made it livelier and more relevant. Her students who were studying Hamlet for this year’s Leaving Cert departed from the text to give the troubled prince psychotherapy sessions, with different boys taking on the roles of Hamlet and the therapist as they explored the plot. Elaine laughs as she recalls how they got totally caught up in it. There’s always an entry point to good writing, she says, adding that she loves Shakespeare – in part because of the soap opera element to his drama.

“You can compare it to the latest episode of EastEnders”.

The Handmaid’s Tale by contemporary Canadian novelist Margaret Atwood is also on the curriculum. Her novel might seem more relevant to the boys, especially given its global success since being adapted for television. When Elaine learned that Atwood would be visiting Galway in early March this year for a Galway 2020 event, she asked the organisers if it would be possible for the class to meet her and discuss her work. That’s what happened and 25 young men in their school blazers spent three hours discussing the novel with Atwood.

Elaine lectures in Creative Writing at NUIG and has been involved in the university’s project archiving the stories of the survivors of Tuam’s Mother and Baby home. So, watching her students engage with a woman whose books deal with the misuse of power and oppression of women was a great moment.

It’s an example of how far she’ll go to give the students the best preparation for exams and for life. Elaine has a great relationship with them, something she’ll miss next year as she takes a career break to promote her own novel, As You Were, published by UK company Harvill Secker.

Read the full interview with Elaine Feeney in this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Arts Festival is still giving it socks!

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Galway International Arts Festival Chief Executive John Crumlish and Artistic Director Paul Fahy, sporting their Irish Socksciety GIAF socks outside the Festival Gallery at William Street as details were announced of the Festival’s Autumn Edition. Photo: Joe O’Shaughnessy.

“This is not a July festival as people know it, moved forward. It’s a different creature” says Artistic Director of Galway Arts Festival Paul Fahy about the organisation’s ‘Autumn Edition’ which is being held in reality and virtually in September and October following the cancellation of the July 2020 Festival due to Covid-19.

The aim is to bring live audiences into performances in a safe way, “to re-ignite that spark between live art and audience”, while also using digital platforms to reach those who might not be able to attend live events due to Covid-19.

He’s understandably excited about Mirror Pavilion, a major installation by artist John Gerrard commissioned by the Festival for Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture.

It will launch in Galway City’s Claddagh Quay on September 3, and will also be in Derrigimlagh Bog in North Connemara for October.

Gerrard is known for spectacular, large scale outdoor works such as Western Flag in California’s Coachella Desert and this work will be one of the largest outdoor installations ever in Ireland.

It will consist of three walls and a roof made of reflective glass while the fourth wall is an LED screen.

Two new artworks will be presented in the Pavilion; Corn Work at Claddagh Quay and Leaf Work at Derrigimlagh.

These connect with their specific setting, with Corn Work reflecting the power of the River Corrib and the many mills and industries it powered in bygone days.

Leaf Work, in the vast spaces of Derrigimlagh is a lament for the environmental damage that’s been caused to the world in the past century.

See full line-up and story in this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

‘Home’ is theme of diverse Clifden Arts Festival

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‘Home’ is the theme of year’s annual Clifden Arts Festival, which runs from September 12-23.
The event will explore the concept of home, as well as showcasing Ireland’s diverse arts community with a wide variety of shows and performances,
“The physical place of birth holds a special place within us, while for others it isn’t physical but rather the feelings, the emotion, the character, the people and the culture, that shape it and make it,” explains Festival Director Brendan Flynn of the decision to focus on home. “We hope to capture that feeling and explore a sense of home and how it is unique for each of us.”
The strong line-up at this year’s Festival includes headline names, some familiar and others new to Clifden.
The RTÉ Concert Orchestra and RTÉs ConTempo Quartet will both make the journey West, as will other big names in Irish music including Aslan, Máirtín O’Connor, Maighread Ní Dhomhnaill, Martin Hayes, Bill Whelan, Lisa Hannigan, Declan Nerney, Frankie Gavin and Fiachra O’Regan, Seán Keane, Charlie McGettigan, Andy Irvine, Donal Lunny and Paddy Glackin.
Poets and Aosdána members, Paul Durcan and Rita Ann Higgins will also take part, while Mayo novelist, EM Reapy, whose novel Red Dirt, set in Australia, which won the 2017 Rooney Prize for Irish Literature, will read with Sligo-born Galway-based poet, Michael Gorman.
There’s a one-man play, Padraig Potts, by Séamus O’Rourke and a drama about Constance Markievicz, written by journalist Mary Kenny and performed by Jeananne Crowley.
On the comedy front, award-winning Danny O’Brien will bring brings his Lock In show fresh from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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