Hay Festival – Kells 2016

Hay Festival Kells.

I’m betting you’ve heard of the book of Kells housed in Trinity College Dublin. A mecca for tourists for decades, but I wonder how many have ever made the pilgrimage to the County Meath town of Kells itself?

Well can I recommend wholeheartedly that you visit Kells during its annual June festival for all things literary, The Hay Festival.

The four day programme has over eighty events (closer to one hundred I’m guessing) spread over half a dozen venues around the town. Empty shops are turned into rare book emporiums and you get the distinct impression that there are book deals being done over scones and pots of Barry’s tea in the numerous independently run coffee shops.

Be warned, this is not a ‘Temple Bar’ type booze fest, this gathering, according to the brochure, throws its doors open to ‘writers, readers, to thinkers and dreamers, to the open minded and big hearted lovers of stories and ideas‘.

Kells Hay Festival

International best selling author, Zlata Filipović signing copies of her book with renowned American playwright, Matthew Spangler in the background on Saturday 25th June 2016. Image ©JulieCorcoran.

Kells Hay Festival

Michael Carroll, author of the Young Heroes series and successful scriptwriter for comics and graphic novels photographed before his talk on Saturday 25th June 2016. Image ©JulieCorcoran.


Paul Bolger

Kells Hay Festival

Paul Bolger has worked on classic animated films in the past. His current project Hound co-written with Barry Devlin involves a trilogy of graphic novels with plans for a film. Photographed at his talk on Saturday 25th June, image ©JulieCorcoran.

If you have ever been, or if you ever go to the Hay Festival in Kells you will undoubtedly have your eyes opened to something new (with such a varied programme of events it is inevitable).  Mixed in with American playwrights and award winning novelists you’ll find young adult writers, animators, illustrators and graphic novel scriptwriters.

Enter Paul Bolger and Barry Devlin with their graphic novel trilogy, Hound.

With decades of experience behind them and similar ambitions to bring the story of Cú Chulainn to a mass audience, Paul and Barry struck up a creative partnership that has grown into the team behind Hound.

Paul explained that initially Kickstarter was used to fund the first book in the series. He shared a video made for the project’s investors which very aptly listed all the things Hound is not; it is not about castles, dragons or leprechauns…definitely not leprechauns, which met with laughter from the audience. He then went on to describe what Hound is; Apocalypto meets Last of the Mohicans, meets House of Flying Daggers.

Kells Hay Festival

Barry Devlin. Image ©JulieCorcoran.

One element of this project that really struck me as refreshing was Paul’s attention to detail when it came creating the world of the Ulster Cycle. All his designs for objects like drinking vessels, jewellery and weaponry for the characters are based on real museum pieces from around 2,000 years ago (think Newgrange era).

So the big question is, will Paul, Barry and the team succeed where others have failed?

or will the Irish Film Board’s shelf labelled dog boy finally collapse under the weight of another parked Cú Chulainn project?

I sincerely hope not. To see the story of Cú Chulainn on the big screen would vindicate every small production company here in Ireland that dared to dream big.

In conclusion

For me, the Hay Festival Kells is a must attend event. I can’t put it any clearer than that.

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