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Let There Be Enlightenment!

The inaugural Linen Hall Library Enlightenment Festival is to launch on February 1st to 5th in a special creative collaboration with two of the world’s most highly acclaimed artistic producers in international multi-arts festivals and events, Seán Doran and Liam Browne.

The packed programme, announced today will bathe the library, founded in Belfast as a direct result of the Enlightenment, in a new literal and metaphorical light, as a past, present and future centre of excellence for learning, literature, innovation, arts and the sharing of information.

DoranBrowne Arts Programming & Consultancy has brought together the very best local, national and international talent from film, politics, academia, visual arts and music to give a uniquely modern twist to themes from the Enlightenment.

The special series of talks, debates, readings, recordings and recitals planned for the library and in other atmospheric venues across Belfast will catapult abstract centuries old (17th-18th) ideology straight into 2022.

Through a contemporaneous Enlightenment lens, the festival will give rise to conversations on issues such as feminism and anti-racism. It will explore the benefits of new social contracts and coffee shop culture; the impact of populism on politics, the rights of individuals to choose versus state, innovation in science, the pursuit of knowledge etc.

Due to Covid however, this is a tale of two festivals; the first part running in the first week of February with two specially commissioned artistic illuminations inside and outside the Linen Hall Library.

BrainWaves will illuminate the exterior of the Linen Hall Library with a Festival Young Artist Commission, inviting Belfast artist Susan Hughes (pictured) to create an abstract moving image, inspired by a quote from contemporary Norwegian writer Karl Ove Knausgaard, acclaimed for his six autobiographical novels My Struggle, when he viewed a living brain under a microscope.

Susan Hughes

While internationally acclaimed Dublin based lighting designer, Conleth White will take audiences on individual journeys through the Linen Hall Library at night through a bespoke light installation Linen Into Light – An illuminated promenade through the Ulster Soul.

Highlights of the February festival also includes a filmed reading ‘I will Yes’ by 22 Belfast women celebrating the 100th anniversary of the publication of James Joyce’s Ulysses, of which the library is a custodian of one of the few original copies. The word Yes, being an unremitting soliloquy to optimism.

In on-line events Siri Hustvedt will discuss the mixed legacy the Enlightenment has left in conversation with David Dwan, Professor of English Literature and Intellectual History at Hertford College, Oxford. While political speechwriter Ben Rhodes, former aide and confidant to President Barrack Obama talks to Carlo Gébler about his new book After the Fall: Being American in the World We’ve Made about the threat to democracy in the US and beyond.

And in a Belfast Community Event, over 100 citizens will take part in Coffee House Conversations, in the Linen Hall’s Café and in venues around Donegall Square in groups of six people, with aspiration for new thinking from individuals in an informal setting to explore what really matters to the people of Belfast. The project and research will be made publicly available in the Linen Hall post-festival.

Julie Andrews, Director of the Linen Hall Library said: “This idea has come about because I wanted to cast a new light on the Linen Hall Library and to focus people’s attention on its rich past and heritage. It was founded as a direct result of the Enlightenment when men and women from the burgeoning business classes got together to share information and ideas. The festival reminds us of where the library came from but also the need to revisit and review the environment in which we currently reside with a new light of understanding.”

Seán Doran said: “We are excited to be shining a light on the ideas of the Enlightenment, exploring how seemingly distant ideas could not be more relevant or powerful in our world today, shaping us all for good or ill.”

Roisin McDonough, Chief Executive of the Arts Council, said: “This festival gives us a fascinating opportunity to look again at the legacy of the Enlightenment values and ideas that were at the heart of institutions such as the Linen Hall Library and which transformed the development of arts and culture, through the lens of the modern-day, 21st century Belfast. The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is delighted to support such an innovative and thought-provoking festival, through our National Lottery funds.”

To ensure maximum Covid safety during the Omicron surge, the second half of the Linen Hall Enlightenment Festival is being rescheduled for later in the Spring. In-person events to include a special recital celebrating the life and work of two European Enlightenment geniuses Mozart and Burns, and a performed reading of Jean Rhys’ novel Wide Sargasso Sea; a post-colonial and feminist prequel to Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. It will also include a discussion amongst young people from NI and Scotland on the role and importance of education.

Updates will follow. The Enlightenment Festival is funded by the Arts Council of NI National Lottery Funding; Ulster-Scots Agency, Department for Communities, Belfast City Council, Arthur J, Gallagher td, Building Automation Controls Ltd and McConnell Property Ltd.

For further information please contact, Una Carlin on una@carlincreative.co.uk or on (07764) 354917

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DORANBROWNE Arts Programming consultancy is led by Seán Doran (www.seandoran.co.uk), a former Artistic Director & Chief Executive of the English National Opera (also former Artistic Director of the 1997 & 1998 Belfast International Arts Festival) and Liam Browne, a former Programme Director of the International Writers Festival Dublin and literature at the South Bank and Brighton Festival. In 2017, DoranBrowne was commissioned by Liverpool City Council to curate the Beatles’ Sgt Pepper at 50 Festival and by Mid Ulster Council to programme the Opening Year artistic programme 12 Months 12 Books for the new Seamus Heaney HomePlace. In 2012 they co-founded the Happy Days Enniskillen International Beckett Festival for Arts Over Borders. In April 2022 following the inaugural Linen Hall Enlightenment Festival, DoranBrowne will produce fragments: The Waste Land Centenary Festival in the City of London commissioned by the T S Eliot Estate.


Carlin Comms


Enlightenment funders