Cuirt Festival | Witness Galway’s Great Literary Event

The Cúirt International Festival of Literature in Galway is set to shine a spotlight on both national and international literary talent from April 8 – 14.

Programme highlights include Nigerian writer Ben Okri, international spoken word poets Patricia Smith and Rafeef Ziadah, acclaimed American novelist Joshua Cohen, leading Irish author Joseph O’Connor, classical musician Min Kym, The Irish Times’ Sinéad Gleeson, in addition to Galway writers like Nicole Flattery, Mary O’Malley, Rita Ann Higgins, Ndrek Gjini, Aoibheann McCann, Gerry Hanberry and Nuala O’Connor.

“In our 34-year history, this is one of our most broadly international Cúirt Festivals yet, featuring renowned writers from over 15 countries, as well as the very best Irish authors,” says Programme Director Emily Cullen. “Each of these storytellers carries with them unique experiences from distant lands and cultures and Cúirt is honoured to enable the exchange of knowledge, language and ideas.”

As part of Cuirt’s central ‘literature of witness’ theme this year, the festival will be presenting two riveting, provocative voices on the international contemporary spoken word stage. Multi award-winning author Patricia Smith (Incendiary Art) will perform alongside Palestinian poet and human rights activist Rafeef Ziadah, whose works such as ‘We Teach Life, Sir’ and ‘Shades of Anger’ went viral within days of release. This event will be chaired by journalist and broadcaster Olivia O’Leary and recorded for ‘The Poetry Programme’ on RTÉ Radio One.

A reading by Nigerian-born Booker Prize winner, Ben Okri is another notable highlight this year. An acclaimed essayist, playwright, and poet, he will be in conversation with writer and broadcaster, Vincent Woods. The two will discuss freedom, the role of the artist, the inspiration behind his novels and traditions of storytelling in Nigeria and Ireland.

The Cúirt keynote, ‘Human Rights in the Age of Terrorism: Perspectives and Reflections’, will be presented by Irish academic lawyer Fionnuala Ní Aoláin (On the Frontlines: Gender, War and the Post Conflict Process). For the past two decades, democracies have made counter-terrorism efforts a foreign policy priority. However, a number of these measures have raised serious human rights concerns. This event will be chaired by Prof. Siobhán Mullally, Director of the Irish Centre for Human Rights at NUI Galway.

A unique event, ‘Transhumanism: Extending Mortality’ will explore just how far humanity can accommodate technology in the quest to extend life expectancy. Mark O’Connell will read from his provocative book, To Be a Machine, which was awarded the 2018 Wellcome Book Prize.  Meanwhile, internationally-acclaimed young novelists, Joshua Cohen (Moving Kings, Book of Numbers) and Will Eaves (Murmur), will feature in another special reading.

‘Gone: A girl, a violin, a life unstrung’ will showcase the literary and musical talents of Min Kym, author and virtuoso violinist. Cúirt, in partnership with Music for Galway, will present this unique event featuring the Korean-born, London-raised musician. She will discuss growing up as a child prodigy, providing insight into the world of a budding soloist, as well as perform some of the musical works mentioned in her bestselling memoir.

The theme of ‘witness’ resonates once again in ‘Voices from Albania: Beyond Dictatorship’ which features English PEN award-winner, Luljeta Lleshanaku and Galway-based Albanian poet, Ndrek Gjini (founder of The Galway Review). An upsurge in Albanian writing followed the collapse of Enver Hoxha’s dictatorship in 1990. Poets and writers were given complete freedom to write, almost overnight. This new work was original because the poets had experienced virtually no contact with the literature of the outside world. Join two old friends as they enlighten festival goers about the fraught and gripping history of Albania and its literature.

Cúirt will also launch its pan-European project, ‘Read Me I Am Yours’ as part of its World Literature Day on Tuesday, April 9. This day will enable the sharing of stories from a host of other cultures, with a special focus on minority languages.  Culminating in the popular ‘World Perspectives’ event – celebrating international literature in English translation – participants shall include German writer Esther Kinsky (River), France’s Sylvain Prudhomme (The Greats), Croatia’s Igor Stiks (The Judgment of Richard Richter) and Slovenian writer, Jasmin B. Frelih (In/Half)

Cúirt provides a vital platform for emerging young writers alongside established ‘household names’, Sarah Davis-Goff, Sue Rainsford, Emilie Pine, Ian Maleney, Nicole Flattery and Aoibheann McCann will share their vibrant visions. Likewise, the poetry line-up features both well-known poets like Tess Gallagher, Thomas McCarthy, Mark Granier and Moyra Donaldson alongside notable newcomers such as Ailbhe Darcy, Jessica Traynor and John Kelly.

On top of all this, the Anne Kennedy Professional Development Day for writers on the first day of the festival is back. It’s been expanded to include a diverse array of workshops for writers at all stages of their careers. It will be addressing the novel, the short story, writing for young adults, spoken word, and advanced poetry.

The festival is also offering a free masterclass on the appreciation of Irish music with Cuirt’s musician-in-residence and uilleann piper, Ronan Browne. He will be sharing the distinctive sound of the Irish pipes at various events during the festival week.

The full Cúirt Festival programme is available at, along with more details. Meanwhile, tickets are on sale via The Town Hall Theatre at

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