In a grand celebration of Irish culture, WFU hosts 7th Annual Irish Festival

By Pam Barrett
February 26, 2004

Vona Groarke

Conor O'Callaghan

Richard Murphy

Wake Forest University Press, the premier publisher of Irish poetry in North America, invites the Triad community to celebrate Irish culture at the 7th Annual Wake Forest Irish Festival March 13 -19 at Wake Forest University.

All festival events are free and open to the public.

Candide Jones, assistant director of Wake Forest University Press, said the festival has been a way for the community to celebrate Irish culture, but it is also a way to increase awareness of the work of Wake Forest Press.

This year’s Irish Festival will kick off March 13 with the highly popular Community Day from 12 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Davis Field on Wake Forest’s campus. The event, which has drawn crowds of 3,700 people in the past, offers a wide variety of Irish cultural activities, including music by the Morris Family, dancing by Rince Na h’Eireann (The Triad Irish Dancers), storytelling by Andrew Leslie, and arts and craft activities for young and old.

Arts and crafts, books and Celtic instruments as well as Irish food, such as scones, smoked salmon and capers, pub ham sandwiches and beverages, will be for sale.

Although past Irish Festival Community Days have been held at Reynolda House, Museum of American Art, due to construction at Reynolda House, the event has been moved to the Wake Forest campus.

“We’re so excited about the community coming to the campus,” said Jones. “Our campus is really an ideal location for the festival. Davis Field is a perfect spot for the events, and it’s excellently situated in case of bad weather, since we can move right into the lobby of Scales Fine Arts Center. Also, Community Day falls during the university’s Spring Break, so there will be ample parking right next to Davis Field.”

On March 16, the festival will continue at Celtic Café, located in the Towers Shopping Center on South Stratford Road, with an Irish Music Open Session from 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Area musicians will play Celtic and Celtic-inspired music.

In celebration of St. Patrick’s Day on March 17, the festival will feature live music and dancing at Shorty’s in Wake Forest’s Benson University Center at 7 p.m. The Morris Family will perform, and Irish dancers will provide demonstrations and free dancing lessons. During band breaks, the audience is encouraged to recite poetry.

The Morris Family, a five-member act including Wake Forest senior Jacob Morris, specializes in linking Celtic and immigrant American music and often juxtaposes traditional Irish tunes with their Appalachian translations.

On March 18, the festival will hold its annual Irish Poetry Recitation Contest in Shorty’s from 11 a.m. to noon. The public is encouraged to come listen to or recite poetry.

“Last year we had a great turnout for the contest,” said Jones. “We had students, professors, townspeople and some great children who were even dressed in Irish outfits.” All those who recite receive free pizza, and prizes will be awarded.

Reynolda House, Museum of American Art will host the festival’s Irish Poetry Reading at 7 p.m. March 18. Three of Ireland’s finest poets, Vona Groarke, Richard Murphy and Conor O’Callaghan, will read from their work. A reception and booksigning will follow the reading.

Groarke is an award-winning poet from Athlone, Ireland, who studied at Trinity College in Dublin and University College in Cork. She is the author of four books, including her newest, “Flight and Earlier Poems,” which will be released by Wake Forest University Press during the festival.

Murphy is originally from County Mayo, Ireland, and studied under writer C.S. Lewis while at Oxford University. He now divides his time between Dublin and Durban, South Africa. This prolific writer has earned several literary awards, including the British Arts Council Award, the Marten Toonder Award and the American Irish Foundation Literary Award.

Poet and author O’Callaghan was born in County Down, Ireland, and is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Patrick Kavanagh Award and The Times Education Fellowship. In addition, to criticism and poetry, O’Callaghan has written and recorded extensively on sports, particularly soccer and cricket. He was recently commissioned to extend “One-One,” his personal memoir of the soccer World Cup of 2002, into a book.

The festival will conclude at Wake Forest on March 19 with an Irish Symposium from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at DeTamble Auditorium in Tribble Hall. This roundtable discussion with Irish scholars and professors Terence Brown and Declan Kibred of Dublin, Ireland, will focus on literature and politics in Ireland.

Brown, a professor of Anglo-Irish literature at Trinity College, is an author and lecturer on Irish literature and cultural history. At the symposium, he will discuss “Commemoration and the Peace Process.”

Kibred, whose lecture is titled, “Masking Modernity: Change in Ireland,” is professor of Anglo-Irish literature and drama at University College. His most recent book, “Irish Classics,” won the Truman Capote Prize and The Robert Rhodes Prize for Books on Literature from the American Conference of Irish Studies.

Raffle tickets for an authentic Celtic harp and a Celtic bagpipe will be sold at all festival events. Winners will be chosen March 19 at 6 p.m. after the symposium and do not need to be present to win. Val Apple, a Winston-Salem resident and owner of, has donated instruments for the raffle for the past three years as a way to help the festival and thank the organizers for their efforts.

The festival is sponsored by Wake Forest University Press. The poetry reading and symposium are part of Wake Forest’s theme year, “Fostering Dialogue: Civil Discourse in an Academic Community,” which is dedicated to exploring how free people with passionate interests and beliefs can communicate openly without turning dialogue into discord.

For additional information about the festival, call the Wake Forest University Press at 336-758-5448 or visit

Irish Festival Calendar of Events

March 13
Irish Festival Community Day. Davis Field, Wake Forest University. 12 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. (Rain location: Scales Fine Arts Center.) Free.

March 16
Irish Music Open Session. Celtic Café, Towers Shopping Center, 205 South Stratford Road. 5 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. Free.

March 17
St. Patrick’s Day Celebration. Live Irish music and dancing with the Morris Family musicians. Dancing demos and lessons. 7 p.m. – 10:30 p.m. Shorty’s, Benson University Center. Free.

March 18
Annual Irish Poetry Recitation Contest. 11 a.m. – 12. p.m. Shorty’s, Benson University Center. Free.

Irish Poetry Reading. “Dialogue Through Poetry” with three of Ireland’s finest poets, Vona Groarke, Richard Murphy and Conor O’Callaghan. 7 p.m. Reynolda House, Museum of American Art. Reception and booksigning. Free.

March 19
Irish Symposium. “Opposing Views and Common Ground: Literature and Politics in Ireland.” 4 p.m. – 6 p.m. DeTamble Auditorium, Tribble Hall. Free.

NOTE TO THE EDITOR: Please note that the Irish Festival Community Day, which traditionally has been held at Reynolda House, will be held at Davis Field on the campus of Wake Forest University.

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