Books: Ireland comes to Cheltenham

Irish writing makes up one glittering strand of this year's Cheltenham Festival of Literature, in association with The Independent, which runs from 10 to 19 October. Exactly 100 years after W B Yeats and Lady Gregory launched an Irish National Theatre (and after Oscar Wilde left Reading jail), the literature of Ireland flourishes in new forms that reflect a young, culture as well as the country's rich heritage.

Cheltenham's Irish Weekend, supported by Ireland's Sunday Independent, takes place on 11 and 12 October and will bring together a galaxy of Irish talent. Novelist Edna O'Brien (left) - whose work has charted the shift from tradition to modernity - will be talking about her fiction with Festival director, John Walsh. Oxford's first professor of Irish history, Roy Foster, will discuss his epic biography of Yeats. Meanwhile, another great figure from the Anglo-Irish past - Richard Brinsley Sheridan - will be unmasked by his biographer, Linda Kelly.

Present-day Ireland's hopes and fears will be discussed by a panel that includes the novelists Colm Tobn and Clare Boylan, and the columnist and author Mary Kenny. From the North, Ciaran Carson, Maurice Leitch and Robert McLiam Wilson explain the inspiration of Belfast and beyond. Irish music will feature in a late-night session of verse and song involving poets Rita Ann Higgins and Michael Longley, with the Celtic fusion of the Deirdre Cunningham Band. Among a host of Irish novelists, Dermot Bolger, Hugo Hamilton and Aidan Higgins will speak about their work. And John Wyse Jackson will remember the extraordinary John Stanislaus Joyce: rogue, lover, raconteur - and the father of James.

An "Irish Rover" ticket to the Weekend costs pounds 55 (pounds 50 concessions) and gives entry to 14 separate events. For details of this, and the Festival as a whole, ring the Brochure Hotline on 01242 237377. To book tickets, call the box office on 01242 227979.

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