There's a treat in store for lovers of the works of Jane Austen at this year's Cathedral Quarter Literary Festival in Letterkenny, when one of the foremost experts on the author, Dr. Sophia Hillan, launches the weekend event.
Dr. Hillan, author of 'May, Lou & Cass: Jane Austen's Nieces in Ireland' (Belfast; Blackstaff Press, 2011) will officially launch the second Cathedral Quarter Literary Festival on Friday, October 20th at the Donegal County Museum in Letterkenny. The launch gets under way at 7:30pm.
The festival promises real treats for lovers of classic literature. While only in its second year the inaugural event in 2016 was such a success that the Secretary of the Cathedral Quarter, Donnan Harvey, has high hopes that it will become a highlight of the Irish literary year. And from the response for this year's offering, it would certainly seem to be on the right track.
Jane Austen is one of the outstanding figures in the world of words, creator of such unforgettable characters as Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet. To this day, more than 200 years after her death, her novels are still widely read and television dramatisations of her work still draw huge audiences.
What is not particularly well known is that she has strong links with Letterkenny.
Austen's niece Cassandra Knight is buried alongside her husband, Lord George Hill, in the graveyard of Conwal Parish Church at the top of the Church Lane, and she has other connections with other parts of the country as well. Dr Hillan will be exploring those links during her wide-ranging lecture.
The literary festival is delighted to have someone of Dr. Hillan's stature open this year's event. She has had a distinguished academic career, and was a friend and colleague of Nobel prize-winning poet Seamus Heaney. A regular speaker at American and British universities, she has published widely on 19th and 20th century Irish Literature as well as writing a number of well received books of fiction.
Her talk kicks off what promises to be an exciting weekend, both informative and fun. Everyone who comes along is invited to actively participate - a lively innovation for this year's literary festival is a Speakers Corner on the Main Street, where open-air public speaking, performing, debate and discussion are welcome.
On Saturday, October 21st, there will be a tour of local sites associated with the novelist, including visits to places of interest in both Ramelton and Letterkenny. Then it's off to Florence Cafe for the launch of 'Wednesday Words' - poems, essays, etc by local writers' group, the Diamond Writers.
A little known aspect of Jane Austen's life was her interest in music, and a concert featuring her works by the international duo of Lauretta Bloomer and Elisabeth Goell will be held in Conwal Parish Church at 7.30pm on Saturday evening. Elisabeth Goell is an internationally known soprano, who moves effortlessly between the worlds of baroque, classic, modern and folk. She is joined by Lauretta Bloomer. As soloist, chamber musician, and vocal accompanist, Laurettta has played concerts throughout Europe, toured the United States and more recently performed in Asia and Australia.
On Sunday, there will be a visit to the Conwal Graveyard at Church Lane at 3.30pm.
The full timetable of events is as follows:
Friday, 20th October, 7.30pm - Venue: Donegal County Museum, launch by Dr Sophia Hillan.
Saturday, 21st October 11am - Venue: Dillons Hotel (Meet-up), bus tour of sites associated with Jane Austen's nieces in Ramelton and Letterkenny, including visits to the graves of May, Lou & Cassandra Knight, led by Dr. Sophia Hillan.
3pm to 5pm - Venue: Florence Food Company, Raphoe Diamond Writers Launch, 10th Anniversary anthology called 'Wednesday Words', bringing together their 10th anniversary collection of poems, essays, memory pieces & short stories with an open mic following the book launch.
5.30pm - 'They shoot Poets Don't They', by local man Paul McCollum. Venue: Universal Books
7.30pm - The Music of Jane Austen by pianist Lauretta Bloomer and soprano Elisabeth Goell in Conwal Parish Church
Sunday 1.30pm - Venue: Dillon's Hotel - John Ruddy, actor, author and You Tuber, on the evolution of weapons throughout history. Using his character Manny Man, John makes history easy and digestible for all. John Ruddy is the author and illustrator behind, "Manny Man Does the History of Ireland" (The Collins Press).
3.30pm - Conwal Graveyard, Church Lane, Jane Austen visits niece Cassandra Knight's grave, a performance by Maura Logue.
For more details, visit the Letterkenny Cathedral Quarter Facebook Page.