Learning to live with Difference – the John Hewitt Summer School (27-31 July, Armagh)

  • John Hewitt Summer School logoDavid Steel (Lord Steel of Aikwood) talking about a federal United Kingdom: “The received wisdom that federal countries need uniform size among the constituent parts, or equal powers among them, is not the case. Nor would it be the case for a federal United Kingdom.”
  • A discussion with CL Dallat, Yasmin Alibhai Brown and Hannah Lowe about shifting demographics in the UK and Ireland and whether we’re stuck in a binary oppositions of 1690 and 1916, of Paisley versus the Pope.
  • Ian Knox on attempts by cartoonists to subvert the status accorded to violent actions.
  • Panel discussion with Linda Ervine, Gearóid Ó hEára and Brian Kennaway, chaired by Malachi O’Doherty asking ‘Can we live with difference?

Just four events out of the week-long John Hewitt Society International Summer School which will be held in the Market Place Theatre in Armagh between Monday 27 and Friday 31 July. While there are daily and weekly tickets (that include lunch), it’s also possible to book a ticket for individual events if you just want to pop down for a short time.

In the wake of death, the John Hewitt Society was established in 1987 to commemorate the life and work of the Northern Irish poet. Their mission is “to promote literature, arts, and culture inspired by the ideals and ideas of the poet John Hewitt”. The theme of this year’s festival is “Coming to Terms: learning to live with difference” and the organisers’ aim is to explore “politically and culturally challenging issues of religion, race, and gender within our society”.

There’s a sense that Northern Ireland’s history of sectarianism is slowly morphing to create new enemies of ‘other’. Being curious about the other is sometimes frowned upon as if dragons lurk in the dark corners of ignorance. And being enthusiastic about diversity can easily be dismissed as mere letsgetalongerism. Perhaps the only cure for Northern Ireland is for the population to embrace ‘Being Different’, creating 1.8 million eccentrics rather than trying to mop up and befriend everyone who we individually believe to fall outside the common societal cliques?

The festival programme also includes an exhibition of Rita Duffy’s The Thaw Factory, music from Colum Sands, and a chance to see Brenda Murphy’s play Two Sore Legs.

Yasmin Refusing the VeilOn Tuesday 28, Ugandan-born British journalist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown will read from her recently published book, Refusing the Veil.

In its current apathy, its denial in the face of utmost tragedy and its wimpish attempts at preserving a modicum of credibility, the European Union runs the risk of losing itself, forgetting its common history of suffering and striving for justice and equality, in its morbid fears of those it deems “different” from itself.

Prof Paulo de Medeiros (University of Warwick) will pick up Jacques Derrida’s concept of European identity on Thursday 30 and deliver a talk on Mare Mortis [Latin for Sea of Life]: The Shipwrecking of Europe on the Rocks of Difference, looking at changing attitudes towards Europe and being European.

More details on The John Hewitt Society website and tickets can be booked via the Market Place Theatre in Armagh.

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