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Benedict Kiely Weekend

Some of the past, present and future of Omagh writers and photographers are to be celebrated and acknowledged at the fifteenth Benedict Kiely Weekend this Friday, Saturday and Sunday, at the Strule Arts Centre Omagh.

The title for the event this year is ‘And As I Rode By Granard Moat’, the title of a book by Ben Kiely which was published in 1996 and later made into a series of radio programmes by RTE, and highlights will include an exhibition by the Omagh Photographic Club and an appearance by Thomas Kilroy, one of the great figures of the Irish literary world, who will be speaking about Ben Kiely and in particular about Kiely’s novel ‘The Captain With The Whiskers’, which is to be republished this year.

The weekend kicks off on Friday morning with a Poetry Day for local Year 13 English Literature students, where Frank Ormsby, one of Ireland’s best loved and admired poets, from Irvinestown, Fermanagh, will introduce set poems and chair a feedback session, as well as give a reading from his own work.

Friday evening will see the official launch of the exhibition by Omagh Photographic Club, for which members have produced images based on their own memories and the themes arising from ‘And as I Rode by Granard Moat’. Again in keeping with Kiely’s work, Friday evening will also address the theme of travel, with ‘Travelling On’, a panel discussion with three distinguished travel writers.

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of Alice Milligan, a political activist, human rights campaigner and writer, born in Omagh in September 1865.

On Saturday morning, Cork based novelist, Sara Baume, will read from her novel, ‘Spill, Simmer, Faulter Wither’, which was published last year and has won several literary awards and achieved wide critical acclaim.

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of Alice Milligan, a political activist, human rights campaigner and writer, born in Omagh in September 1865. When she moved to Dublin to train to be a teacher in 1891, Milligan studied her cultural upbringing and immersed herself in the history and values of ancient Ireland, and upon returning to Belfast became a prominent campaigner for woman’s rights and a notable editor of several radical newspapers. As a writer, Milligan’s work, including magazines, plays, short stories, novels and poetry, was widely read, reaching as far as Europe, South Africa, America and South America. More locally, she worked to try and bring the Irish language and culture to small communities, was part of a wide intellectual circle in Belfast, and was on first-name terms with some of the biggest names in Irish literature, including WB Yeats. Milligan’s wide spectrum of work meant she could rely on ventures as wide-ranging as teaching, writing and theatrical endeavours to make a living, and was therefore free to live as a free and radical spirit, which was reflected in her work.

Milligan’s work will be celebrated at the Benedict Kiely Weekend with a performance of the highly acclaimed one woman show on the life of Alice Milligan, ‘Alice Milliagn A Girl of Genius’, on Friday evening. A bus tour on Saturday afternoon will include a visit to Milligan’s grave where a short excerpt of her short story will be read, and a visit to Mountfield to Milligan’s former home, where Omagh novelist Martina Devlin will read from her new story about Alice Milligan on the site in which the story is located.

On Sunday morning John Quinn will give a presentation entitled ‘Ballads With Ben’ which is based on recordings of Ben Kiely which were made in preparation for the RTE series, while Little John Nee will present his brilliant show, ‘Small Halls and Potholes’, which is based on his travels to various parts of Ireland and will include songs and great hilarity.

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