Northern Ireland news

Vive la difference at John Hewitt summer festival

Brian Campbell

Irish News cartoonist Ian Knox

A TALK by politician David Steel - Lord Steel of Aikwood - will open the 28th John Hewitt International Summer School today.

The literary festival in Armagh City will also see names including Paul Muldoon, Paul Brady, Tess Gallagher, Dermot Bolger, Mary Costello, Pat McCabe and Irish News cartoonist Ian Knox take part in readings and events between today and Friday.

The programme includes a mixture of talks, music, theatre, workshops, art and discussions and is organised by the John Hewitt Society, which was set up in 1987 to commemorate the life and work of the late Belfast poet.

Lord Steel was a member of the Liberal Party and then the Liberal Democrats and an MP from 1965 until 1997, when he entered the House of Lords.

Tonight will see the launch of Northman, a biography of John Hewitt by WJ McCormack.

Acclaimed political cartoonist Ian Knox will give a talk on Wednesday, journalist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown's discussion tomorrow will take in recent racist attacks in Northern Ireland, while on Thursday poet and essayist Tess Gallagher will read from her most recent work and reflect on her years spent with her late husband, American writer Raymond Carver.

This year's summer school has the theme 'Coming to Terms: learning to live with difference'.

"Daily news reports highlight our need to come to terms with difference," said Tony Kennedy of the John Hewitt Society.

"This year has seen the continued rise of right-wing political parties, clashes between religious fundamentalism and an increasingly secular society, and attacks on freedom of speech. We want to ask if writers only speak up for their 'own sort'? Or can art help to see another side, to come to terms with difference?"

Noirin McKinney of the Arts Council NI said John Hewitt's work in poetry and prose was "aimed at finding ways in which the various communities in the north of Ireland could co-exist, interact and exchange with respect and dignity".

Other names on the bill include Christine Dwyer Hickey, Anne-Marie Fyfe, Ian Sansom, Daragh Carville, Pat McCabe, Colum Sands and Rita Duffy.

Words and music will be combined on Thursday when Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Paul Muldoon joins a band on stage featuring Paddy Goodwin's Holy Ghosts, Horslips and Paul Brady.

All the events take place in the Market Place Theatre in Armagh.

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