Re-enacting 'She Stoops to Conquer' for a previous festival.

Virtual Goldsmith Festival set to tackle future of Irish agriculture

In the spirit of the show must go on, organisers of The Oliver Goldsmith International Literary Festival have decided to go fully virtual to celebrate its 37th year.

This June bank holiday weekend (June 4-6), the festival, founded in 1984, will salute the iconic Longford Westmeath novelist, playwright and poet with a special focus on his literary connection to farming and rural life.

The three-day event – themed ‘The Deserted Village as Rural virtues leave the land: The Environmental, Economic and Social Sustainability of Irish Agriculture’ – will feature a line-up of distinguished contributors and a host of presentations, discussions, readings, dramatic performances and musical medleys for all ages.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue, TD, will open the longest-running literary festival in Leinster – and third oldest in the country – to be followed by a range of leading individuals who will outline their thoughts on the three pillars of agricultural sustainability.

Among those taking part is Professor James Kinsella of UCD’s School of Agriculture, who will talk about ‘learning from the past to strike the best balance for sustainable agriculture in the future’.

Leading economist, Professor John Fitzgerald, will discuss ‘making agriculture climate neutral’, while Dr Monica Gorman also of UCD’s School of Agriculture will discuss ‘women in agriculture – powerful but often invisible’.

Award-winning writer, director and actor from Leitrim, Seamus O’Rourke, will also participate in the festival; as will fellow award-winning author, journalist and producer, John Connell, who will talk about ‘the broken harvest – an investigation into migrant farm workers from the frontlines of change in rural America’.

Preeminent Oliver Goldsmith scholar Dr Michael Griffin of UL’s School of English will honour the 250th anniversary of the 18th century writer’s greatest poem ‘The Deserted Village’; while independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice will talk about ‘the reality on the ground’ for farm families nationwide.

Dr Eamon Haughey of the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology will focus on ‘the solution’ to the climate change and agriculture conundrum; while Dr Padraig Wims of UCD will pose the question: ‘Has Covid-19 brought a social revolution to rural Ireland?’.

Longford IFA chair and dairy farmer Andrew McHugh will further address the role of farming in sustaining rural communities, while veterinary surgeon Niall Nally will present his contribution entitled ‘mistakes of a morning’.

Festival chairman Arthur Conlon said: “The pandemic has been a huge challenge for all festivals that encompass a huge social dimension – however, we have adapted, and I feel we have arranged a varied and interesting programme.

“Although our agriculture-based theme will be a key focus of the event – which we hope will help enrich discussion and debate on the sector in the midlands region – there will also be lots of other exciting speakers for everyone to enjoy, such as Seamus O’Rourke, fresh from his recent appearance on The Late Late Show.

“We have all become familiar in recent times with online communication and this is something I feel will be a legacy of the pandemic – future festivals, like ours, will adopt a blended mode of presentation, encompassing both live and online engagement and this should make all our events more accessible,” he said.

The chairman also thanked the festival sponsors, Creative Ireland and Longford and Westmeath County Councils: “The efforts of various statutory bodies to continue to support cultural events throughout the pandemic have been commendable and will ensure their continued viability”.

To find out more about the festival programme and how to register for the event visit: https://olivergoldsmithfestival.com/.

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