Dublin Festival of History set to kick off next month

Padraig Conlon 24 Aug 2021
The festival, an initiative of Dublin City Council, was officially launched inside the famous footbridge connecting Dublinia and Christchurch Cathedral in the heart of medieval Dublin by the Lord Mayor Alison Gilliland (right), Brendan Teeling (left), Deputy City Librarian, Iseult Byrne, CEO of Dublin City Council Culture Company, and tour guide David Kennedy. PHOTO: Mark Stedman

What does the recent Mother and Baby Homes Report tell us about gender history in Ireland today?

Why is Ireland, as a nation, obsessed with death? Why was a statue of Winston Churchill daubed with the word ‘racist’ in London last year?

These questions, and many more, will be explored and discussed at this year’s Dublin Festival of History, set to take place in-person and online from Monday September 20 to Sunday October 10.

The free festival, an initiative of Dublin City Council, was officially launched inside the famous footbridge connecting Dublinia and Christchurch Cathedral in the heart of medieval Dublin by the Lord Mayor of Dublin Alison Gilliland.

The festival, organised by Dublin City Libraries in partnership with Dublin City Council Culture Company and now in its ninth year, will be a mix of in-person and online events, and it will play host to a European, UK and domestic line-up of speakers and panels.

Topics covered will be as broad as ever and will include Irish and European historical themes.

Local history will be the focus of a series of library events hosted by Dublin City Libraries branches, with a number featuring the Dublin City Council Historians in Residence.

The festival is supported by a number of partners who will run events as part of the programme, including Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, the Irish Film Institute, EPIC the Irish Emigration Museum, GAA Museum, Chester Beatty, 14 Henrietta Street, Richmond Barracks and more.

The festival will shine a light and fresh perspectives on topics such as women in history, the journey to Irish independence, Germany and the World Wars, Northern Ireland, as well as medieval Dublin.

The festival climax ‘The Big Weekend’ is happening from Friday the 8th until Sunday the 10th of October at The Printworks at Dublin Castle (subject to public health guidelines).

Some of the highlights from the 2021 programme include:

  • Neil Jordan in conversation with Stella Tillyard

Multi-award-winning author and film director Neil Jordan will be discussing his new novel, The Ballad of Lord Edward and Citizen Small, in an online talk with distinguished historian Stella Tillyard. Based on real events, the novel is related by Lord Edward Fitzgerald’s manservant Tony Small, an enslaved person who rescued Lord Edward after the Battle of Eutaw Springs during the American War of Independence.

  • Women’s History Association of Ireland presents a discussion on the Mother & Baby Homes Report

A reflection on the writing and researching of histories, telling narratives and gender history in Ireland today.

  • Fallen Idols: Twelve Statues That Made History

In 2020, statues across the world were pulled down in an extraordinary wave of global iconoclasm in Black Lives Matter protests. British historian, screenwriter and author Alex von Tunzelmann will discuss the subject of her book Fallen Idols, which looks at twelve statues in modern history and why they came down.

  • Diarmaid Ferriter, author of Between Two Hells: The Irish Civil War

An in-person conversation in which Ireland’s leading historian discusses his latest book which draws on completely new sources to show how important this tragic war was for understanding Ireland now.

  • A conversation with Susan McKay, author of Northern Protestants: On Shifting Ground

In this in-person event, the acclaimed journalist and author talks about her latest book which tackles controversial issues, such as Brexit, the border, the legacy of the Troubles, same-sex marriage and abortion, the possibility of a United Ireland, and explores social justice issues, particularly the campaign for LGBTQ+ rights.

  • Myles Dungan, author of Four Killings – Land, Hunger, Murder & Family

An in-person event in which Myles Dungan discusses his latest book with Caitriona Crowe, which relates how his family was involved in four violent deaths between 1915 and 1922, offering an original perspective on this still controversial period: a prism through which the moral and personal costs of violence, and the elemental conflict over land, come alive.

  • Basara: David Bowie’s Kabuki Spirit

An online event at the Chester Beatty Library exploring Bowie’s relationship with Japanese culture, focusing on kabuki, and how he embodied the aesthetic of basara transgressive extravagance, with Josephine Rout, Curator of Japanese Art, Victoria and Albert Museum.

A new addition to the programme this year is a number of children’s and family events, including:

  • Dublinia

Families have a chance to have a guided tour of Dublinia with a costumed living historian. Booking for this free event is essential by emailing bookings@dublinia.ie.

  • The Big History Quiz

Join Dublin’s Historian-in-Residence for Children Dervilia Roche and tour guide Justine Murphy for this free, interactive Zoom quiz for children.

  • Illustrating History with John Farrelly

Join Dublin’s Historian-in-Residence for Children Dervilia Roche and illustrator, cartoonist, and author of the Deadly Irish History children’s book series John Farrelly in this free, interactive Zoom workshop for children.

  • Making Maps with Drumcondra Library and Donaghmede Library

Children aged 9-12 can join Dublin’s Historian-in-Residence for Children at in-person workshops exploring Dublin’s past through historical maps, tracing the changes in the city and in the local area, before creating their very own history-inspired maps.

 Speaking at the festival launch, Lord Mayor of Dublin Alison Gilliland, said “I’m delighted to officially launch this year’s Dublin Festival of History. As we’re all aware, we’re living in a time of great political, social and cultural change, influenced in no small way by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“However, the festival is an annual opportunity for us to explore and learn more about other significant periods of change in our history at both a national and international level, and the influence they have had on the world we live in today. I’m particularly excited to launch a number of events for children and families, fostering an interest in history and the world around us in our young people.”

Also commenting was Dublin City Librarian Mairead Owens, who said, “Last year’s festival was a significant one in its own history, moving online for the first time, which allowed us to open up the festival to wider audiences. This is something we want to build on this year, with a mix of both in-person and online events. This year’s festival is wide-ranging and topical, exploring women’s history, the significant milestones of the decade of centenaries, the American War of Independence, and more.

“As well as that, libraries throughout Dublin will be bringing the local history of our capital city to life, and we have a host of events taking place in partnership with cultural institutions throughout Dublin.”

Iseult Byrne, CEO of Dublin City Council Culture Company, commented, “We are delighted to be able to partner with Dublin City Libraries to bring this exciting festival to people across the city and beyond. It’s a fantastic opportunity to create more ways to connect with the culture, stories and histories of their city.

“It’s a key aim for the Culture Company to find more ways for people to engage with the cultural places and spaces in their own neighbourhoods, and Dublin Festival of History provides so many opportunities for this. Whether you are a history novice, a storyteller, an enthusiast, or are just looking for something fun to do, we invite you all to get involved at this year’s festival.”

The full programme of events is available online from at www.dublinfestivalofhistory.ie.

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