NORTHERN Ireland has a world-renowned reputation for poetry and prose and this year the Northern Ireland Tourist Board (NITB) is calling upon all literary fans to make sure they don’t miss the fantastic programme of summer schools and literature festivals taking place over the coming months.

From readings to recitals and performances to prose, the summer will be a celebration of home-grown writers including Belfast born poet John Hewitt, Tyrone’s William Carleton, Nobel Prize winner Samuel Beckett who was educated in Portora Royal School in Enniskillen and fellow Nobel Laureate poet Seamus Heaney

NITB’s Destination PR Officer Pauline Gormley says the festivals offer the chance to learn more about our literary giants.

“Northern Ireland has made a huge impact on the world of literature and still continues to do so with many writers being inspired by the beautiful landscape all round us,” said Pauline.

“The festivals highlight this talent and celebrate the life and works of some of our greatest writers, through an exciting programme of events that you won’t want to miss,” she added.

Summer schools

If you want to learn something new, have fun or meet new people then Northern Ireland’s summer schools are a great way to spend your days this year;
The John Hewitt International Summer School is held in honour of Northern Irish poet John Hewitt and will be taking place in Armagh’s Marketplace Theatre from July 22 – 26 under the theme of ‘Living Among Strangers’. Each year the event attracts people from all over Ireland, Britain, Europe and the United States with a week-long feast of readings, talks, debate, drama, music and exhibitions. This year’s contributors include Shirley Williams, Anne Enright, Salley Vickers, Patrick McCabe, Simon Armitage and winner of the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year Award Gavin Corbett.

Since 1992, the William Carleton Summer School has celebrated the life and works of the famous 19th century novelist and this year’s festival will be running from August 5 – 8 in the Clogher Valley district of Co. Tyrone. It is a must for literature lovers and the popular annual programme, described as one of Ireland’s most significant literary festivals, will see talks and debates with Carleton scholars, a literary symposium and a coach tour of Carleton country led by a historian.

Dromore (Co. Tyrone) born Benedict Kiely was a much celebrated journalist, novelist and short story writer and the 12th Benedict Kiely festival ‘All The Way To Bantry Bay… And Other Journeys’ will celebrate verbal arts and Benedict’s legacy at the Strule Arts Centre in Omagh, Co. Tyrone. Taking place from September 13 – 15, there will be lectures and readings and confirmed speakers include Manchan Magan, Carol Drinkwater, Paul Clements, Afric McGlinchey, Mary Russell and Professor Kevin Whelan.

Literary festivals

If you want to sample some of Northern Ireland’s rich cultural heritage there are some wonderful festivals taking place;

The world’s biggest celebration of Nobel Prize writer Samuel Beckett will be taking place in Fermanagh this year from August 22 – 26. The Happy Days International Beckett Festival will see events taking place on both land and sea, and even in the skies and underground, with an amazing line-up of international theatre, music, dance, art installations, exhibitions and comedy. With 100 performances of 50 shows in 30 different venues this festival will educate, provoke, amuse and inspire audiences from all over Ireland and beyond.

The On Home Ground Poetry Festival will be taking place in the heart of South Derry in Laurel Villa, Magherafelt from September 20 – 22 and will be a joyous celebration of poets and poetry. The festival will pay tribute to the people and places of Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney with exhibitions, music, workshops and readings by Pat Loughrey and William Crawley. Another highlight of the festival is a coach tour of ‘Heaney Country’ on Sunday September 22 with Laurel Villa owner and professional guide Eugene Kielt, visiting places associated with the life and works of poet Seamus Heaney, the district’s most famous son.

Deemed as one of Northern Ireland’s premier literature festivals, the Aspects Literary Festival is set to return this September from 25 – 29 in various venues around Bangor with an eclectic mix of poetry and prose. During the festival you can also discover North Down’s fascinating landscape, heritage and history on the ‘off-the-beaten-track’ programme of walks and tours. Charlotte Bingham, Lord Dufferin, Colin Bateman, Frederick Forsythe, Derek Mahon and Michael Longley are among the famous names whose work is celebrated during this walking tour of Bangor.

To find out more about summer schools and literary festivals in Northern Ireland click on www.discovernorthernireland.com or visit your local tourist information centre.