Rostrevor Literary Festival returns

Hungarian/British poet and translator George Szirtes
Hungarian/British poet and translator George Szirtes

THE Rostrevor Literary Festival returns tomorrow with a headline appearance by Hungarian/British poet and translator George Szirtes.

The sixth instalment of this annual event will be held at An Cuan on Shore Road between 10am and 5pm, with a programme including an appearance by Emeritus Professor Monica McWilliams, whose recent book Stand Up, Speak Out: Women's Rights, Peace and Equality in Northern Ireland and Beyond was published by Blackstaff Press.

Monica McWilliams was elected to the multi-party peace negotiations, representing the NI Women's Coalition and is a signatory to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. She was elected to the first NI Legislative Assembly and was chief commissioner of the Human Rights Commission where she drafted the advice on a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland. She currently serves on the Independent Reporting Commission overseeing measures for the ending of paramilitarism and continues to work on conflict resolution issues, including in Syria and Eastern Europe.

Ray Bassett will talk about his new book entitled The Phoenix Park Way which covers the history and nature of this famous Dublin park. Bassett was a member of the Irish government talks team, under then Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, at the multi-party talks which led to the Good Friday Agreement. He was head of the Irish Consular Service between 2005 and 2010, including relations with the Irish Diaspora. He is a former Irish Ambassador to Canada.

Also on the programme will be multi-award-winning novelist, poet, short-story writer and playwright David Butler, Rooney Prize winner Steven Sexton and Maggie Doyle, author of Mountain Notes – A Nature Diary relating to the Mourne Mountains.

In addition there will be poetry entitled Sanctuary: There Must Be Somewhere a collaboration by poets from several countries, led by Angela Graham and including Glen Wilson, Csilla Toldy and Viviana Fiorentino.

Warrenpoint man Kevin Fitzpatrick, a screenwriter who has penned his first feature-length film, The Last Rifleman, will be 'in conversation' at the festival. The film is about a Second World War veteran who escapes from his care home in Northern Ireland and returns to Normandy for the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings. This film stars Pierce Brosnan in the lead role and was shot this summer in Belfast, Dublin and northern France.

Also on stage to provide some music at the festival will be singer and musician Joanne Fox.

Festival headliner Szirtes was born in Hungary and came to England as a refugee in 1956. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and a co-winner of the 2015 International Booker Translator's Prize, his latest book Fresh Out of The Sky was published last year.

George's memoir The Photographer at Sixteen (2019) won the James Tait Black Prize in 2020. His 12th book of poems, Reel (2004) won the T S Eliot Prize, for which he has been twice shortlisted since.

"The stage is set for another diverse, cool and very exciting Literary Festival in Rostrevor, County Down on the shores of Carlingford Lough," said festival lead organiser William Graham.

"Tickets are £10 each for the day and can be purchased on our Rostrevor Literary Festival Facebook page through TicketTailor.com.

"There will also be a free open mic event, Take the Chair, at Crawford's Bar in Bridge Street at 3pm on Sunday October 30. People are invited to bring a poem or a song.''

:: More information can be found on the festival's Facebook page by searching for 'Rostrevor Literary Festival'