Goldsmith Festival Committee members and local actors Katie Farrell, Michael Conlon, Arthur Conlon, and Donal Mac an Bheatha, discover the ‘Hidden Heartlands’ of Longford/Westmeath. Photo: Claire McCormack

Goldsmith Festival goes back to its roots – with a lively twist

The Oliver Goldsmith Festival 2022 is going back to its roots, and its pre-pandemic self, with an innovative twist this June bank holiday weekend.

After two successful years of all-virtual programming due to the Covid-19 pandemic, organisers have prepared a fun in-person event to celebrate the life and works of the iconic Longford-born, Westmeath-raised, novelist, playwright, and poet.

In the context of this year’s theme – ‘Goldsmith, The Philosophical Vagabond’: Tourism – Uncovering the ‘Hidden Heartlands’ – the event will include a renewed and intimate focus on the literature of the 18th century writer, while also placing a firm spotlight on rural tourism, and live theatrical entertainment.

Esteemed speakers lined up for the June 3-5 festival include: Daragh Feighery, village director of Center Parcs Longford Forest; travel writer, commentator and broadcaster Eoghan Corry; Dr David Fleming of the Department of History at the University of Limerick (UL); Moyra Haslett, professor in 18th Century Literature at Queen’s University Belfast; Dr David Clare, lecturer in Drama and Theatre Studies at Mary Immaculate College UL; and Oliver Goldsmith scholar (and committee member) Professor Michael Griffin of the UL School of English.

The event, taking place at a variety of venues in the Abbeyshrule, Ballymahon, Tang region, will also feature contributions by Damien McWeeney, who is leading the tourism masterplan for the River Shannon, and Fiona Dunne, manager of Fáilte Ireland’s ‘Hidden Heartlands’ region.

Actor Michael James Ford, whose screen credits include Harry Wild, Dead Still, and RTÉ legal drama Striking Out, will also participate in a series of special outdoor, family-style, dramatic and musical performances at Skelly’s Courtyard in Ballymahon – a new addition to the festival programme.

The Sunday Miscellany session will include unique contributions by Seamus O’Brien, Matt Farrell, Irena Cvetkovic, Adrian Elliott, and Fiona Egan; while, throughout the festival, guests will also be serenading by the melodic talents of the Innyside Singers and other local musicians including a String Trio Recital.

A variety of compositions will also be heard at the festival’s signature Poetry at Pallas event, where the winning entrants of the Goldsmith Adult and Schools Poetry Competitions will be announced and adjudicated by leading Irish poets Vona Groarke and Mary Melvin Geoghegan.

Speaking at the launch of Goldsmith Festival last night, chairman, Arthur Conlon, said: “It’s wonderful to be back live again after three years. Although we have organised two successful online events, with many virtual attendees, I have always felt – and the last two years have proved it – that our type of festival can only thrive with a live audience, with people, with the social, cultural, and literary interaction that is at the core of our festival.

“Our theme for 2022, is I believe, especially relevant, given the devastation suffered by the tourism and hospitality sector since 2020. As it attempts to rebuild and prosper again, we hope to look at the challenges that will pose, with a particular focus on our own area, the ‘Hidden Heartlands’.

“For the 2022 Festival, as well as examining comprehensively our central theme, another priority was to ensure that we also have a strong programme for those with an interest in Goldsmith’s literature. We have achieved this, I feel, with four interesting Goldsmith experts speaking on Saturday morning.

“I believe it is vital for us to broaden our appeal, to create a festival with something for everyone, and our new ‘Goldsmith Live and Local Family Day’ on Saturday afternoon is an innovation featuring a new play, music, food, and other attractions for all the family.

“Of course, none of this would be possible without the help and support of our partners in Longford and Westmeath, the county councils and Creative Ireland in both counties. Our successful poetry competition would also not be possible with the support of Nally Bros, Ballymahon.”

For more on The Goldsmith Festival 2022 programme and to register for tickets please visit: