Goldsmith Festival 2023 speakers Bernie Comaskey, Uruemu Adejinmi, Claire Kenny and Donal O’Brien pictured at the launch in Shamrock Lodge Hotel, Athlone

Emigrants and immigrants to be explored at Goldsmith Festival

Historian Professor Diarmaid Ferriter is set to be one of the star attractions at the Oliver Goldsmith Literary Festival in the midlands next month, it has been revealed.

Organisers also unveiled that this year’s festival theme is ‘Citizens of the World’: Ireland’s Emigrants and Immigrants, at a well-attended launch ceremony in Athlone on Thursday evening.

The esteemed academic of Modern Irish History at University College Dublin – whose recent works include Between Two Hells: The Irish Civil War (2021) and The Border: The Legacy of a Century of Anglo-Irish Politics (2019) – will provide a keynote address titled “There are People Dreaming”: Emigration and Modern Irish History, at the opening night in The Rustic Inn, Abbeyshrule, Co Longford.

In addition to Prof Ferriter, the Ambassador of Poland to Ireland, Anna Sochańska, will officially inaugurate the 39th annual event celebrating the iconic local novelist and playwright, with proceedings to be chaired by former RTÉ midlands correspondent Ciarán Mullooly.

The three-day event – running June 2-4 at venues in Abbeyshrule, Ballymahon and Tang – will also include other foremost thinkers whose work resonates with this year’s theme such as Dr Liam Chambers, Head of the Department of History at Mary Immaculate College, Limerick, who will talk on ‘The Irish in Europe in the Age of Goldsmith’, while Liam O’Dwyer of the Irish Red Cross will present a session titled ‘Migration, the Future Shrouded in a Crisis’.

Much-anticipated contributions will be made too by Kensika Monshengwo of the Immigration Council of Ireland who will talk about 'Intercultural Competency', while Longford Fianna Fáil councillor Uruemu Adejinmi, who became the first black female African mayor to be elected in Ireland, will speak on 'My Nigerian Irish Heritage'.

Former Labour TD for Longford-Westmeath Willie Penrose and the world’s top Oliver Goldsmith Scholar Professor Michael Griffin of the University of Limerick will also contribute to proceedings over the June Bank Holiday weekend.

Furthermore, acclaimed Irish actor Michael J Ford of Dead Still and RTÉ legal drama Striking Out will make a welcomed return to the 2023 programme to deliver a dramatic composition called ‘Goldsmith The Glory Years’ in Skelly’s Courtyard, while award-winning poets Mary Melvin Geoghegan and Gerard Smyth, Poetry Editor at The Irish Times, will again adjudicate the Goldsmith Poetry Competition at Pallas.

The popular Sunday Miscellany event in Goldsmith Library will feature Bernie Comaskey, Donal O’Brien, Dr Don Duncan, Paul Timoney, and Claire Kenny, while music will be performed throughout the festival by the Innyside singers, Simply Strings, Darya Ostapenko, Slawomir Debski, and Tony Dunne and friends.

Arthur Conlon, chairman of the Goldsmith Festival, said: “Our festival is about promoting interest in the life and works of Oliver Goldsmith, and we do this by looking at contemporary topics through the eyes of Goldsmith’s writings. We certainly have a very topical theme for 2023, emigration and immigration being an issue which has been at the fore of our news recently.

“Festivals like ours are not possible without support and I would like to commend our local county councils, arts offices and libraries who, since the Covid pandemic, have recognised the benefits of investment in social cohesion. We are also very grateful to Nally Bros, Ballymahon for sponsoring our poetry competition.”