Festival Launch Gala: Frances Browne Literary Festival 2023

Festival Launch Gala: Frances Browne Literary Festival 2023

€10 - €15
Fast becoming a highlight of the Donegal cultural calendar, the Frances Browne Literary Festival warmly invites you to a unique evening of poetry, drama and song, in celebration of the life and work of Donegal Women writers past and present.

Following its hugely enjoyable and moving Rehearsed Reading at last year’s Festival, 'Strangers to our Own' receives a full production thanks to the International Fund for Ireland and An Grianán Theatre

When: Thursday 12th October, 7.30pm
Location: Letterkenny
Venue: An Grianan Theatre, Port Rd, Gortlee, Letterkenny, Co. Donegal, F92 RV1F
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Hear Annemarie Ní Churreáin, acclaimed Donegal poet’s key-note speech as she opens the third Frances Bowne Literary Festival.  

Be enchanted by local children from the Alice Gildea school of music, singing “Snowflower”, specially composed by Philippa Collings and inspired by the hero of Browne’s Granny’s Wonderful Chair. The Frances Bowne Singers will perform among others, Browne’s famous Songs of our Land as they did so memorably at our inaugural festival. 

Be moved to both tears and laughter by Strangers to our Own, a play based on real-life events of 19th century Donegal Ulster-Scots weaver poetess, Sarah Leech. This must-see premiere, by Ballybofey native Pauline Holland showcases the rich sounds of Ulster. 

About: Annemarie Ní Churreáin

Donegal poet Annemarie Ní Churreáin is a recipient of the Arts Council of Ireland Next Generation Award and a co-recipient of The Markievicz Award. A native of North West Donegal Gaeltacht. Her recently published third collection of poetry, The Poison Glen, centres on the story of the lost or missing child.

About: Strangers to Our Own - A Premiere. Written by Pauline Holland. 

The action centres around Sarah and Richard Ramsey, who was Leech’s publisher, Trinity graduate, and gentleman poet from nearby Letterkenny. Leech’s poetry has reached his ears and he comes to Raphoe in search of her, determined to make her a literary star. A unique world awaits him, where three very different Donegal characters show us how the three languages of Ulster can merge, diverge, repel and delight, and how words and meanings can be lost when disparate tongues collide, leading to tragic and comic events.  It is the first play ever written about an Ulster-Scots weaver poet, and it features two real-life historical figures from Donegal.  Following its hugely enjoyable and moving  Rehearsed Reading at last year’s Festival, Strangers to our Own receives a full production thanks to the International Fund for Ireland and An Grianan. Produced by Patricia McBride.

About Sarah Leech (1809–1830)

‘Poems on Various Subjects’ was published in 1821, when Sarah was just 19. Her poetry explores a wide range of themes, including religion, nature and politics, but she is best known for the vividness and dexterity of her depictions of Irish society in the 19th centre, which are like a portal transporting the reader back in time. Born in 1809, she endured a harsh life of poverty, earning her living through long hours of spinning, which greatly damaged her health, leading to disability and chronic ill health. Largely self-educated, she began to write poetry, and it was one of these, ‘Elegy of a Loquacious Old Woman’, which so impressed publisher Richard Ramsey. The biographical account that he published with Leech’s poetry infuriated and humiliated her, but the public and withering riposte it drew from the ‘peasant orphan’ is perhaps one of the finest put-downs of saccharine Victorian sexism ever written. Sarah died in 1930, of an unspecified illness, at the age of just 21. 

About Dr Pauline Holland

Dr Pauline Holland is the author of Treasure Each Voice, a 400-page anthology of English, Irish and Ulster Scots literature spanning the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. It is the first of its kind to provide a comprehensive anthology of the literature of the unique pluralist society of Ballybofey/Stranorlar and its hinterland. A native of Ballybofey, Dr Holland was awarded her PhD, which featured ground-breaking research establishing Cavan poet Charlotte Brooke as the foundress of Anglo-Irish literature, from the University of Ulster; it has since been published by the British Library. She co-edited Sarah Leech: The Ulster-Scots Poetess of Raphoe, Co. Donegal, and has appeared on BBC’s TV series Languages of Ulster as a leading authority on Leech’s poetry. Her debut play Strangers to Our Own is based on Leech’s life and work.

Find: An Grianan Theatre   Directions here