The West Cork History Festival – what is it and why do we do it?

The West Cork History Festival is eight years old in 2024. In it, we try to bring people who research and write about history together with a public audience of informed and interested people. The Festival is still young and we run on a shoestring budget, but we aim to make a contribution to the local cultural programme in West Cork and to wider conversations about important historical subjects. We do this at a time when open, frank, and respectful conversations about our past seem to have become rarer: in Ireland, between Ireland and Britain, and more widely. We try to make a small contribution by hosting some.

We take our inspiration from the richness of the history of West Cork itself, but, like the people of West Cork, we are outward looking. Each year, we seek to broaden the range of the Festival programme to include national and international themes. This is a work in progress, as we gradually build both our network and the resource base we will be even more inclusive.

We are running a Festival, not an academic conference or symposium, so each year we have a selection of subjects which are loosely connected, rather than following a single defining research theme. We hope that by bringing leading academics together with non-academics, and non-historians, we provide an intelligent general audience with food for thought.

The Government’s Expert Advisory Group on Centenary Commemorations has as one of its tenets that the aim of commemoration should be “to broaden sympathies without having to abandon loyalties”. We believe that is very good advice. We think that including a range of contributors, some with unconventional or unpopular analyses, is necessary to arrive at a generous and truly informed view of our histories.

We do not believe anyone ever has the final word in historical debates and our aim is always to have a plurality of opinions. This means we have sometimes had controversial speakers and some people find that a challenge, even offensive. We include people with different interpretations of our pasts. We do not suggest that any programme of ours offers a definitive view. We do hope people who attend will come away challenged and inspired by our speakers to think and read more, whether they agree with what they have heard or not. This all sounds a bit worthy, and it is intended to be worthy. Being at the Festival is also supposed to be fun. Buying books from our pop-up bookshops, listening to music, eating and drinking are a big part of the experience. Indeed, some of the best history conversations happen by the coffee truck or in the bar.

The bulk of previous years' Festival programmes are free to view on our website, to maximise accessibility - find out more here.


Since 2017 we have been very grateful for the support of:

Cork County Council

Failte Ireland

The Department for Foreign Affairs (Reconciliation Fund)


The Harold Barry Trust

as well as the Festival's Patrons, Donors, and Friends.

The Festival Committee

Founders: Simon Kingston & Victoria Kingston

Danielle O'Donovan, David Clarke, Di Pitcher, Jessie Kennedy, Dr Richard Butler, Finola Finlay

Honorary President: Professor Roy Foster

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