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The Festival which was named “On Home Ground” by the poet before his untimely death will take place in the stunning setting of Laurel Villa, Magherafelt, and surrounding locations which inspired much of Heaney’s work and will this year be called Celebrating Seamus Heaney On Home Ground 2014, in his honour.
The event, running over four days in September in the heart of the late Seamus Heaney’s homeland, will this year celebrate the life, work and legacy of Ireland's most well-known and respected poet through poetry, music and art and will bring a host of huge names from all of these worlds to Magherafelt, the district he called home.
Heaney, who was born three miles away at Mossbawn, was a patron of the On Home Ground Festival and featured heavily in last year’s very successful event at Laurel Villa. This year the Heaney family have given the festival their blessing to carry on in his name.
Organised by Laurel Villa’s husband and wife team, Eugene and Gerardine Kielt, in partnership with the Verbal Arts Centre in Derry and curated by BBC Arts Broadcaster Marie-Louise Muir, On Home Ground Festival will feature an array of literary and artistic gems on September 11-14th. Highlights of the programme include an exhibition of films made for the BBC and presented by Seamus Heaney, many of which have never been broadcast more than once.
There will be readings from some of Ireland’s finest writers and poets, children’s workshops, a poetry picnic, coach tours of ‘Heaney country’ and In Conversations with special guests – including Snow Patrol’s Gary Lightbody who will read Heaney poetry and perform songs, one of which he has dedicated to the late poet, and musicians Neil Martin, Rod McVey and actress Brid Brennan, will perform a bespoke session on Heaney. Artist Colin Davidson, whose portrait of Heaney was the last painting Heaney sat for, will be In Conversation with writer Glenn Patterson.
Marie-Louise Muir said she was honoured to be part of a fitting tribute to one of the greatest poets of our times.
“It has been a huge privilege to curate this festival. I got to know Seamus Heaney through my BBC work over a decade ago. I was, at first, a rookie reporter and fan clutching my questions. I became a trusted interviewer, and he became a touch stone for my career.
“Seamus believed in the Home Ground, his place, his people, of County Derry. Through this Festival, I am “digging” into that Home Ground.
I am thrilled so many creative and talented people have all responded with joy to be involved.”
Organisers of the festival, Eugene and Gerardine Kielt from Laurel Villa say they are greatly looking forward to the stars of the arts world converging on Laurel Villa to pay tribute to their literary hero.
“We are delighted that the Verbal Arts Centre, an educational charity devoted to the promotion of the written and spoken word, is involved in this year’s festival,” said Eugene.
“And to have Marie-Louise as guest curator is absolutely fantastic because she is such a highly respected figure in the arts world. The forthcoming festival will celebrate Seamus Heaney’s legacy in an authentic and sensitive manner and in a place he was very fond of.”
Northern Ireland Tourist Board, Event Manager, Eddie Rowan said, “NITB is delighted to support this fantastic festival of literary culture. The high quality programme of events on offer is testament to the hard work and dedication of the event organisers. Set in the most picturesque surroundings, visitors can not only be inspired by Heaney’s works, but also enjoy some of Northern Ireland’s greatest landscapes. All of this will ensure that standards of excellence are provided at every step of the visitor’s journey and contribute to the creation and sustainability of a vibrant tourism industry.”
Speaking as the festival was launched, the Verbal Arts Centre’s James Kerr explained that the strong artistic partnership between Laurel Villa and VAC was to build on the success of the Seamus Heaney endorsed inaugural festival at Laurel Villa in 2013.
“The festival will continue to celebrate the life, work and legacy of Seamus Heaney who was a ‘living legend’ and Northern Ireland's most well-known and respected poet,” he said.
“It will also emphasise the culture and creative vibrancy of the local people and countryside of "Heaney Country". There will be locally and internationally renowned writers, musicians, artists and literary organisations and publishers paying tribute to the poet and his work. Building on last year’s successful festival there will be a ‘poetry/performance tent’ in which readings by respected poets and singer songwriters will happen. Events will be themed around the work of Seamus Heaney. There will also be seminars on differing themes in his writing, especially concentrating on work relevant to where he was born, raised and lived.
“There will also be a digital exhibition exploring the themes inherent in the poet’s life. Emphasising the family and community nature of the festival there will be creative workshops for children ensuring that the festival attracts families as well as individuals.”
Most of the festival events will be held in the stunning grounds of Laurel Villa Guesthouse in Magherafelt, a designated UK Poetry Society Landmark and a major tourist attraction for Seamus Heaney devotees.