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Poets Reach Out Across the Sea for a New Cultural Alliance

17 Sep 2019

A trio of Scottish poets will join their Derry counterparts for a reading at the Nerve Centre on Wednesday October 16 as part of a new cultural alliance across the Irish Sea.

Magi Gibson, Hugh McMillan and Neil Young promise 'verbal fireworks and lyrical shenanigans' as part of their ‘Big Wee Ireland Tour’.

They will share the stage with poets Mícheál McCann, Julieann Campbell, and Paul Laughlin from Derry and Joanne McLaughlin from Donegal.

The event is part of a tour that aims to create a grassroots alliance of poets from Ireland and Scotland to enable ongoing exchange visits and readings.

The Scottish poets, who are editors of The Poets' Republic magazine, will host a return visit next summer by poets from across Ireland alongside publication of a shared anthology of poems.

Neil, who is originally from Belfast, explained: 'The first thing we hope to do is give people a memorable night of entertaining poetry, of course. It’s a superb line-up of poets, and there’ll be excellent music too, so we’re hoping for a lively turnout.'

Neil praised the Nerve Centre and Derry organiser Paul Laughlin for hosting the event. 'They were fast to recognise that this was an idea that had legs. We’re creating something that is both new and overdue. The Poets' Republic was founded on the principle of creating a radical alternative to the status quo, so it's democratising, it's not high-brow, and this project builds on that.

'There are such deep social, cultural, linguistic and historical ties between Scotland and Ireland, so we hope this link-up is just the beginning.

 He added: 'The beauty of this alliance is that everyone is keen to make it work and pool their local contacts and knowledge. It’s all very well sitting on the other side of the sea thinking I'd love to do a reading in Ireland, or in Scotland, and maybe even sell some books in the process, but who do you go to? How do you find out? And how can you afford it? 

'We’ve now got support from groups in Dublin, Sligo, Derry to Belfast and beyond and the interest keeps on growing.'

Paul Laughlin welcomed the visit, saying: 'There are long-established social and cultural links between this part of Ireland and Scotland with an equally long-established tradition of cultural exchange. Writers including James Kelman and the late Tom Leonard have visited Derry and given generously of their time in supporting literary events here over the years. It’s great to be able to return the support and I look forward to welcoming The Poets’ Republic to a city which strongly values poetry and literature. The intention is that this will be the starting point for a continuing relationship which leads to further events in the future.'

The Derry event will be followed by a reading at the American Bar, Belfast, on Thursday October 17th as part of the Belfast International Arts Festival. This will be followed the next day by an ‘Open Forum’ at which poets are invited to discuss ideas for the new exchange.

Find more details about the Nerve Centre event here.