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Thursday 30 November 2023 Dublin: 3°C
Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland
hay festival

The 'Woodstock of the mind' is visiting Ireland next week

And Marian Keyes will be there.

KELLS WILL BE awash with literary heroes this coming week when the third Hay Festival Kells rolls into town.

Marian Keyes, Roddy Doyle and Lynda La Plante will be among the authors making their way there, while Brian Eno will be one of the musical stars taking part.

The original Hay Festival – called the Woodstock of the mind by Bill Clinton – began in Wales 27 years ago, and has grown to encompass events across the world, from Wales to Mexico, Bangladesh to Colombia.

It’s all about getting great minds together to discuss books, film, music, the environment and more.

This year, it will visit Kells in Co Meath from 25 to 28 June.


RTÉ broadcaster Myles Dungan is involved with programming for Hay Festival Kells.

“People say ‘why Kells?’ I say ‘why not Kells’,” he told

Why does everything have to be in Dublin? It was very successful in the first year and second year, and this year is the third. There’s a good infrastructure in terms of the right people who are able to bring certain skills to the table that ensures the festival works.

“Any time anybody mentions Kells, the first thing people think of is the Book of Kells, so the bookish association is there,” added Dungan. “It’s also a small town, which means that the facilities are within easy walking distance of each other.”

The draw of the prestigious Hay history means that Kells can get big names on board, such as La Plante and Eno, in addition to the substantial list of Irish talents.

“While we bake the cake here in Kells, they put the icing and the nice writing and the dancing figures on top of it in terms of their access to really, really big names,” said Dungan.

They can call in favours and bring people over and entice people over that we would never be able to get. Most festivals in Ireland would find it difficult to get people like Jeremy Paxman or Brian Eno – but Hay can get them.

Indeed, former visitors to Kells include Germaine Greer and Jeanette Winterson.

“Personally I was very excited at Roddy Doyle agreeing to come down, and getting Anne Enright and Paul Durcan,” said Dungan. He was also able to get former classmate Michael Harding, and former pupil Tom Dunne, to visit.

One big part of Hay in Kells will be the historical aspect, which as many will know is Dungan’s particular area of interest. As part of the festival, there will be a look at the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War, which will include a range of talks by historians.

Events will also include ceramic sculpture, a talk on Irish demesne landscapes, a rare book auction, a type trail around the town, an eco walk, a talk on the story of cheese, a talk on nutrition by Rosanna Davison, public interviews with Paul Murray and Marian Keyes, and a talk on film by Darragh Byrne, Lenny Abrahamson and Malcom Campbell.

To see the full line-up, visit the Hay Festival Kells website.

Read: What’s it like letting people run a massive festival in your back garden?>

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