The Festivals Project: Beckett, Ireland and the Biographical Festival

deadline for submissions: 
May 15, 2017
full name / name of organization: 
Ulster University/University of Birmingham
contact email: 

The MAC Belfast

21-22 June, 2017


Confirmed keynote Speaker:  Professor David Pattie (University of Chester) 'We'll have to celebrate this'; Reflections on Beckett, Festivals, and Celebrations


A signature Irish production of Waiting for Godot emerged from the Gate Theatre’s 1991 Beckett Festival. In broad terms, this festival helped to mark out the Irishness of the author’s work and was part of the reclamation of Beckett as an Irish author, even as the festival reach went beyond the island’s boundaries and saw links emerge with Europe, the UK, and the US. Proof, if further were needed, of the success of Beckett in festival form lies in the recently created Happy Days International Beckett Festival, a by now semi-annual event in Fermanagh, Northern Ireland.

Brian Singleton has remarked that the ‘festivalisation’ of an author in an Irish context often signals the absorption of that author into the Irish canon. And that absorption has become intrinsic to the island's literary tourism. As Beckett follows in a long line of writers from Ireland (both North and South) who have been 'festivalised' in various ways, the Festivals Project emerges out of what we see as a growing need to critically appraise the relationship between creative production and the economy as these meet and intersect in the festival form. We aim to find common ground and discourse to allow major festival stakeholders, producers, artists, funding bodies, and communities, to speak with each other in order that joined up planning may take place, particularly in the ever squeezed arts economies of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Beckett’s work and its festival incarnations provide an important prompt for discussion but the event is open to broader topics also, such as:

  • Who/what are festivals for?
  • Who benefits from festivals?
  • What does an economically and ecologically-responsible festival look like?
  • How do festivals relate to their local communities?
  • What are the demands of economic, artistic and ecological sustainability on festivals?
  • What impact do festivals have on other cultural activities in their locales?
  • How do we measure the economic and cultural impact of festivals?
  • What are the politics of ‘festivalising’ a specific author?
  • In what ways can we map or trace the history of the festivalisation of culture and authors within an Irish / Northern Irish context?
  • By what routes, textual and otherwise, do biographical festivals or ‘biofestivals’ forge links between art and place?

We welcome speakers from across disciplines and contexts and those with various interests in festival culture to give short presentations or become involved in open panel discussions.

For more information and to propose a paper / short presentation / panel, please contact Trish McTighe (University of Birmingham) or Kathryn White (Ulster University)

Please send proposals by 15th May 2017 (Please note that there is no charge for attendance)