Rostrevor Literary Festival returns, honours poet Michael Longley

After being cancelled last year due to Covid, the annual Rostrevor Literary Festival is set to return for 2021. David Roy takes a look at what's in store from this upcoming one-day celebration of authors, poets, journalists, musicians and photographers...

Poet Michael Longley in January 2001 shortly before winning the Poetry Book Society T S Eliot prize. Picture by Peter J Jordan
Poet Michael Longley in January 2001 shortly before winning the Poetry Book Society T S Eliot prize. Picture by Peter J Jordan

CELEBRATED poet Michael Longley will headline the fifth Rostrevor Literary Festival on November 27 as the annual event returns with another diverse programme at An Cuan on the Shore Road.

One of the north's most important literary figures, Longley's latest collection is titled The Candlelight Master. He will be presented with the first annual Rostrevor Literary Festival Writers Award, a commissioned art sculpture carved from 5,000-year-old Irish bog oak in the image of St Bronagh's Bell, representing light and literature.

"November 27 is the day that we bring together great writers and poets and journalists to experience something special in the Co Down village of Rostrevor," says festival lead organiser William Graham.

"This festival is sponsored by The National Lottery Community Fund and the Open University. Tickets are limited and have been selling quickly."

While the 2020 event unfortunately had to be cancelled because of Covid, this year's Rostrevor Literary Festival is going ahead under Northern Ireland Covid guidelines with a programme that includes a wide range of speakers from across the literary world and beyond.

Bruce Clark is a veteran international news reporter and writer who has worked for Reuters, The Times, the Financial Times and the Economist.

His latest book, Athens: City of Wisdom, is a narrative history of one of the world's oldest cities.

Denis Tuohy has been a broadcaster in news and current affairs for half a century and is a regular contributor to BBC Radio Ulster's Thought for The Day. His new book Streets and Secret Places is a collection of his Thought for The Day pieces from the past few years.

Also appearing at this year's Rostrevor Literary Festival will be Cathal McNaughton, the multi-award winning photo journalist who worked in the Irish News photographic department early in his career.

After winning the Pulitzer Prize in 2018 for his coverage of the Rohingya refugee crisis in Myanmar and Bangladesh, Cathal relocated back to Ireland where he is continuing his work documenting people and places.

Another poet on the programme is Cathal McCabe, whose poems have appeared in The New Yorker and the Times Literary Supplement. The collection Outer Space: Selected Poems was published in 2016 and he has been awarded the prestigious Gloria Artis medal by the Polish government for outstanding services to Polish culture.

Author of the curiously titled memoir Are You The F**king Doctor?: Tales From the Bleeding Edge of Medicine, writer and columnist Dr Liam Farrell from Rostrevor will be speaking about his experiences working as a family doctor in Crossmaglen for 20 years.

Also on the programme is Rostrevor's own Moire O'Sullivan, mountain runner, outdoor instructor, mother and the author of four books, while co-authors Shelagh Roberts and Pauline Coffey will be in attendance to discuss Celebrating 200 years of Saint Bronach's, Kilbroney Parish Church, Rostrevor.

There will also be live music from Co Down harpist Bróna McVittie, who has pioneered her own brand of cosmic folk. Her second album, The Man in The Mountain, was ranked 4th in The Guardian's 10 Best Folk Albums of 2020.

:: Rostrevor Literary Festival, November 27, An Cuan, 44 Shore Road. Tickets £10 via Ticket Tailor at buytickets.at/Rostrevorcommunitybookcorner or in person from Rostrevor Community Book Corner, Bridge Street, Rostrevor (open Saturdays, 11am to 1pm).