John Steinbeck Festival returns to Limavady for a second year of celebration

Nobel Prize-winning US author John Steinbeck, whose grandfather hailed from Ballykelly, Co Derry

THE second annual John Steinbeck Festival of Literature, Music and Film will take place in Limavady from February 27 to 29, with speakers including Sam McBride, Sorcha Pollak and Malachi O'Doherty.

Nobel Prize-winning US author Steinbeck's grandfather Samuel Hamilton was born in the neighbouring village of Ballykelly in 1840. He was to be idolised by Steinbeck and is mentioned several times in his works. Steinbeck visited the area in August 1952 prior to the publication of his epic novel East of Eden.

This year, the festival has grown into a three-day event. It now invites over 400 pupils from secondary schools to its Steinbeck Connections programme (Thursday February 27 and Friday 28, 9.30am to 1pm), which features a talk by festival founder Douglas Bartlett on the important connection Steinbeck had with the local area and an analysis of the film verison of Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men by Dr Willa Murphy.

There will be a screening of the film itself for the pupils followed by a live performance and explanation of 'dust bowl' era music by local singer Allan Nicholl.

For the general public, the festival will kick off on Thursday February 27 with journalist Sam McBride giving a talk on his bestselling account of the RHI debacle, Burned, in the Alexander Arms Hotel at 5pm.

There will be a free screening of East of Eden in the Arts Centre on Friday February 28 at 7pm, with an introduction by Douglas Bartlett and Dr Willa Murphy (bar facilities available), while Saturday February 29 brings a guided minibus tour highlighting significant Steinbeck sites (11am) and a talk by Sorcha Pollak on 'Immigrants in Ireland' with music by Paddy Nash (4pm).

From 8pm, Saturday evening's programme will feature Malachi O'Doherty talking on 'A Steinbeck Theme' with music by Allan Nicholl, Franck Leduq from Limavady's twin town Vigneux sur Seine talking on 'the French view of Steinbeck' and readings from Steinbeck'.

The festival's first annual Dust Bowl Writing Award writing competition is now open to any resident of Ireland, with the winning essay to be announced at the end of Saturday evening's events. Those wishing to enter the competition can contact for guidance notes.

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