9th annual Wake Forest Irish Festival features new 'Jam Session,' more children's events

By Pam Barrett
February 16, 2006

With traditional Irish flair, Wake Forest University will celebrate everything Irish at the 9th annual Wake Forest Irish Festival March 11-17. The festival, which is organized by Wake Forest University Press, the premier publisher of Irish poetry in North America, includes four days of public events plus a St. Patrick's Day Party specifically for the campus community.


The festival will kick off with the popular Irish Festival Community Day from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 11 on Davis Field on the campus of Wake Forest. (Rain location: Scales Fine Arts Center). In the past, Community Day has drawn thousands of attendees to take part in a variety of Irish cultural activities, including live music, dancing, storytelling, hurling and children's activities. Admission is free.

This year, Community Day will feature a new event, the "Traditional Music Jam Tent." Musicians of any age and level are invited to bring their instruments and play music together during one-hour jam sessions offered at noon and 2 p.m. A pre-festival, slow-speed "tune workshop" led by seasoned musicians will be held for beginner and intermediate level musicians from 11 a.m. to noon.

Festival organizers have also expanded the children's activities this year to include Celtic coloring and crafts, soccer and Irish books and poetry. Other events will include musical performances by Gaelwynd and Fire in the Kitchen, Irish dancing by Rince Na h'Eireann (Triad Irish Dancers) and "Stories from the Emerald Isle" by storyteller Andrew Leslie. Festival vendors will have arts and crafts, Celtic instruments, books, garden accessories, soaps, jewelry and Irish food for sale.

The festival will continue on March 15 at 7:30 p.m. with a free poetry reading by Ciaran Carson, one of Ireland's most prestigious poets. The reading, which coincides with the North American publication of Carson's newest book, "The Midnight Court," will be held in the Charlotte & Philip Hanes Art Gallery in Scales Fine Arts Center. Also a traditional Irish musician, Carson will perform during the reading with his wife, acclaimed Irish fiddler Deirdre Shannon. A reception and booksigning will follow the reading.

The famous Dolmen Press Archive will be the highlight of the festival's events on March 16. "Portals of Culture: An Exhibition and Discussion of the Dolmen Press Archive and Wake Forest University Press," will be held from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the Z. Smith Reynolds Library, C.L. Smith Reading Room. Admission is free.

The event marks the formal introduction of the Dolmen Press Archive as well as the 30th anniversary of Wake Forest Press. The Dolmen Press Archive includes manuscripts, papers, correspondence and artwork that track the history of the Dolmen Press and reflect the lives of famous poets such as William Butler Yeats, John Montague and Thomas Kinsella.

Fire in the Kitchen

At the event, Irish scholars and historical experts will hold a panel discussion highlighting the importance of the Dolmen Press and its archives and their historical connection to Wake Forest University and Wake Forest Press. Panelists will present specific items from the exhibit, including letters, manuscripts and printing blocks, to support their discussion.

The discussion panelists will be Dillon Johnston, renowned Irish scholar, founder of Wake Forest University Press and professor at Washington University; T.D. Redshaw, professor of English at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn.; and Derval Tubridy, a lecturer at Goldsmiths College at the University of London. Johnston was instrumental in Wake Forest's acquisition of the Dolmen Archive.

An exhibit of selected items from the Dolmen Archive will be on display in the C.L. Smith Reading Room and other areas throughout the library through Aug. 1. The Dolmen Archive is a permanent library collection and is available for use during regular rare books department hours, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Appointments are encouraged. To schedule an appointment, call 336-758-5755.

In celebration of St. Patrick's Day on March 17, the Irish Festival will present "Irish Tales and Other Blarney," an evening of Irish storytelling at 7:30 p.m. at Blessings Gallery located at 823 Reynolda Road in Winston-Salem. Admission is $5, and refreshments will be available. Stories will be told by members of the Forsyth Storytelling Guild.

Also that evening, the campus community will conclude the four-day celebration with a St. Patrick's Day party and Irish-punk rock concert. This event is closed to the public.

For additional information about the festival, call the Wake Forest University Press at 336-758-5448 or visit: www.wfu.edu/wfupress/festival/

To arrange coverage, contact Pam Barrett at 336-758-5237.