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Literature at the Cairde Sligo Arts Festival

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Inspired by the creative energy of the Northwest, Cairde Sligo Arts Festival is an 8 day cultural adventure, featuring a diverse programme of events to ignite the imagination.

New to the Festival, this year sees a powerful literary strand, featuring the first ever Irish event with genre-busting Maggie Nelson, as well as talks and workshops with acclaimed essayist Sinéad Gleeson. Vagabond Verses presents an afternoon of pop-up poetry and performance in venues throughout Sligo town featuring writers and performers including Tess Gallagher, Alice Lyons, Alice Kinsella and more.


JULY 9 @ 10:00 AM – 12:30 PM

VENUE Hawk’s Well Theatre

Tickets: €30

In collaboration with Hawk’s Well Theatre

Sinéad Gleeson is a writer, editor and freelance broadcaster. In this workshop she explores the art of the personal essay, focusing on the skills required for life-writing and first-person non-fiction. This workshop will discuss how to put ideas into practice, beginnings and structure, making the personal universal and learning how to extract the key elements of your own story.

Sinéad Gleeson’s essays have appeared in Granta, Winter Papers, Gorse, Banshee and Elsewhere Journal. Her debut essay collection, Constellations was published by Picador in spring 2019.

She is the editor of three short story anthologies, including The Long Gaze Back: an Anthology of Irish Women Writers (2015) and The Glass Shore: Short Stories by Women Writers from the North of Ireland, both of which won Best Irish Published Book at the Irish Blog Awards.

Limited availability for this event, book early.


JULY 9 @ 6:00 PM – 7:00 PM

VENUE Sligo Central Library

Free Admission

With Introduction by Una Mannion

Sinéad Gleeson reads from her critically acclaimed collection of essays, Constellations, which was published in April 2018.

Utterly magnificent. Raw, thought-provoking and galvanising – Eimear McBride

How do you tell the story of a life that is no one thing? How do you tell the story of a life in a body, as it goes through sickness, health, motherhood? How do you tell that story when you are not just a woman but a woman in Ireland?

In these powerful and daring essays, Sinéad Gleeson does that very thing. In writing that is in tradition of some of the finest life writers such as Olivia Laing, Maggie O’Farrell and Maggie Nelson, and yet still in her own spirited, warm voice, Sinéad Gleeson takes us on a journey that is both personal and yet universal in its resonance.

”Sinead Gleeson is an absolute force. If you want to know where passion and tenacity are born, read this book Anne Enright” – Anne Enright


JULY 10 @ 8:00 PM – 10:00 PM

VENUE Hawk’s Well Theatre

Tickets: €15

In collaboration with Hawk’s Well Theatre

Maggie Nelson is an award-winning poet, critic, scholar and non-fiction writer. Her work forges a new mode of nonfiction that transcends the divide between the personal and the intellectual and renders pressing issues of our time into portraits of day-to-day lived experience. Nelson’s works of non-fiction are grounded in experiences and topics with which she is struggling. She invites the reader into her process of thinking through and making sense of her unique concerns with the help of feminist and queer theory, cultural and art criticism, philosophy and psychology. She is the author of nine books, including the National Book Critics Circle Award winner and New York Times bestseller The Argonauts (2015). This is Maggie Nelson’s first ever Irish appearance.

‘Maggie Nelson is one of the most electrifying writers at work in America today, among the sharpest and most supple thinkers of her generation…’ – The Guardian


JULY 11 @ 3:00 PM – 6:00 PM

Free Admission

An afternoon of pop-up performance and poetry in venues throughout Sligo town curated by Patrick Karl Curley. Each poetry vignette will be approximately 15 – 20 minutes in duration, leaving time for audience members to make it to the next destination on our trail.

Alice Lyons, 3pm at The Model

Award winning poet Alice Lyons lives in Sligo where she is poet in residence at the Yeats Society and teaches on the BA (Hons) Writing and Literature course at IT Sligo. Her novel Oona will be published by Lilliput Press in 2020.

Owen Kilfeather, 3.30pm at Bookmart, Bridge Street

Owen Kilfeather is a composer, writer and filmmaker from County Sligo. He has been involved in the composition, production and interpretation of some twenty albums, as house composer-producer for Barcelona-based avant-music label Discordian Records and Tiamat Teatre, and as interpreter for chamber choir ARSinNOVA and Gamelan Penempaan Guntur, the first Spanish gamelan ensemble.

Tess Gallagher, 4pm at Sligo Central Library

Stephen Street Tess Gallagher is an American poet, essayist, and short story writer. Her honors include a fellowship from the Guggenheim Foundation, two National Endowment for the Arts awards, The Maxine Cushing Gray Endowed Libraries Visiting Writers Fellowship (University of Washington), and the Elliston Award for “best book of poetry published by a small press” for the collection Instructions to the Double (1976).

Jessica Bruen, 4.30pm at Sligo City Hall

Jessica Bruen is a multidisciplinary artist based in Sligo. They have just graduated from IT Sligo having studied Performing Arts. Besides being a freelance artist they have also worked with Blue Raincoat Theatre, The Abbey and co-directed the opening musical review for the Where We Are Now festival 2018. They emphasize the ethereal in the every day and finding ways to incorporate performativity into each aspect of life.

Alice Kinsella, 5.00pm at Liber, O’Connell Street

Alice Kinsella is a poet from Dublin raised in Mayo. Her poetry has appeared in Banshee, The Irish Times, Poetry Ireland Review among others. She has received residencies/bursaries from SICCDA Liberties Festival, John Hewitt International Summer School, and Cill Rialaig Artists’ Residency. Her work has been translated into Polish, Arabic, and Greek. Her pamphlet Sexy Fruit (Broken Sleep Books) was a Poetry Book Society Spring 2019 Selection.

Brian Ó Súilleabháin, 5.30pm at Yeats Building, Hyde Bridge

Brian Ó Súilleabháin grew up in Dublin but spent most of his working life in Sligo as a Veterinary Officer with the Department of Agriculture. He is now retired. He has published both prose and poetry in Comhar, Feasta, Scríobh 2004-2007, Glór Ghulbain and Scríbhnroirí Cois Teorann. His Irish translations of two of the plays of W.B.Yeats have been performed in recent years at the Yeats Summer School and at other venues. He has also published work in English on the history of Veterinary Medicine.

For more information on the full programme, including music, performance, visual arts and family events, see www.cairdefestival.com.

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