Our 2022 speakers

July 4, 2022

This year we have the following speakers & contributors at the Festival. Click here to find out more about our programme & book your tickets.

Andy Bielenberg

Andy Bielenberg is a Senior Lecturer in History at University College Cork. He has a wide ranging interests in Irish economic and social history in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Major published works include the monograph Ireland and the Industrial Revolution and the text book An economic history of Ireland since 1920. He has a particular, specialist interest in the War and revolution in Co. Cork 1914-1923, and in this sphere has been engaged in the debate on the Bandon valley massacre (see recent contribution in journal Eire Ireland). Has also made a major contribution to the debate on conflict migration and the Protestant exodus from the south of Ireland 1919-1923. He is currently working on contributions to the forthcoming Cambridge History of Ireland and the Cambridge Social history of Ireland.

Gemma Clark

Born in Manchester and educated at the University of Oxford, Dr Gemma Clark is Senior Lecturer in British and Irish History at the University of Exeter. Since her first book, Everyday Violence in the Irish Civil War (Cambridge University Press, 2014), Gemma has published on sectarianism, gender-based violence, and arson, in outlets including The Irish TimesIrish Historical StudiesAtlas of the Irish Revolution and Ireland 1922.

Melissa Fegan

Melissa Fegan is a Professor in the Department of English at the University of Chester. Her publications on the Irish Famine include her book Literature and the Irish Famine 1845-1919, and book chapters and journal articles on the works of nineteenth-century Irish writers such as William Carleton, James Clarence Mangan, and Aubrey de Vere; representations of the Famine in nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first-century literature; female philanthropy and the development of the lace industry during the Famine; the Young Irelanders; nineteenth-century travel writing about Ireland; and the moral economy of the Irish hotel from the Union to the Famine.

Bob Geldof

Bob Geldor is a musician, singer-songwriter and campaigner. He was front man of the Boomtown Rats, before a highly successful solo career. He transcended this sector through his pioneering of a new kind of activism focused on the fight against poverty in low income countries. This began in his response to the Ethiopian famine of 1984 and the Live Aid concerts which followed. His success in this began long before crowd-funding and online fundraising, but inspired it. Since then he has been a powerful voice for positive change for the world’s poor and has been fearless in his opposition to those whose actions or attitudes impede that change. He has spoken in the past about the absence that is still palpable in Ireland as a result of the Famine and we look forward to his reflections on that at Reen.

John Kelly

John Kelly was born in 1965 in Bristol, England and has lived on South Reen in West Cork, since 2003. Being born in England, growing up in Australia and with an Irish father, he has three official nationalities being English, Australian and Irish. John is a visual fine artist working across multiple mediums and exhibiting internationally.

Breandán Mac Suibhne 

Brendan Mac Suibhne is a historian of modern Ireland at NUI Galway where he directs Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge. His publications include The End of Outrage: Post-Famine Adjustment in Rural Ireland (Oxford University Press, 2017), a study of the ramifications of the Great Famine in a small community in west Donegal. With historian David Dickson, Mac Suibhne edited Hugh Dorian’s The Outer Edge of Ulster: A Memoir of Social Life in Nineteenth-Century Donegal (Lilliput, 2000; University of Notre Dame Press, 2001), the most extensive lower-class account of the Great Famine, and, with critic and novelist Seamus Deane, he was a founding editor of Field Day Review, a journal of political and literary culture, and several book series.

Charles Read

Charles Read teaches economics and history at the University of Cambridge, where he is a fellow of Corpus Christi College. His research examines the causes and consequences of famines, financial crises and pandemics in Britain, Ireland and the British Empire over the past two centuries. He has two books scheduled for publication later this year: The Great Famine in Ireland and Britain's Financial Crisis (Oct 2022) and Calming the Storms: the Carry Trade, the Banking School and British Financial Crises since 1825 (Dec 2022).

Brian Walker

Brian M. Walker is Professor Emeritus of Irish Studies at Queen's University Belfast. Previous books include 'A political history of the two Irelands: from partition to peace' (2012).  His new book, 'Irish history matters: politics, commemorations and politics', was published in June by History Press Ireland. He is a native of Belfast and a graduate of Trinity College Dublin. He is from a clerical family, his father was rector of Knockbreda parish in south Belfast.

Don Wood

Don Wood was born in West Cork to a Protestant farming family, roughly half way between Kilmichael ambush site and Bealnablath. After his family left West Cork (and farming), he made a career in IT, far from the world of History Academia. He is what he terms an amateur historian. A study of his own family history gradually expanded to the local history of West Cork and his family’s place in it and he has taken a keen interest in the Irish revolutionary period and how it played out in West Cork. In 2017, he delivered a paper on Protestant decline in Southern Ireland  between 1911 and 1926 at a history conference at Maynooth University. This has since been published by Liverpool University Press as a chapter of a book on Southern Loyalism.

Festival Concert: Jessie Kennedy & the Celestial Quartet

Our Festival concert will feature Jessie Kennedy accompanied by The Celestial Quartet, comprised of three cellists, Tess Leak, Diana Llewellyn and Francesca Flowers as well as pianist Susan McManamon.

Jessie Kennedy

Jessie is an vocalist, multi-instrumentalist and writer from West Cork. She has released four studio albums to date, including the acclaimed “The Carbery Songs”. Jessie has performed and collaborated with many artists including sixties legend Donovan, Interference, James McVinnie, Nigel Kennedy, Sacha Puttnam, Glen Hansard, Jeremy Irons, John Spillane. She has headlined venues such as The National Concert Hall, Dublin, Cork Opera House, St. Andrews in London, National Digital Week and St. Barrahanes Classical Music Festival. Her cover of Bruce Springsteen’s song “Devils and Dust" on a compilation album of female artists singing Springsteen songs, which also features Emmy Lou Harris, Patti Smith, Anna Calvi and Lucinda Williams, was released earlier this year. Jessie is a violinist and vocalist with The Vespertine Quintet. 

Tess Leak

Artist and musician Tess Leak is a graduate of the BA in Visual Arts on Sherkin island and The Curious School of Puppetry in London.As cellist with the Vespertine Quintet she has enjoyed collaborating with members of Amici Dance Theatre Company as well as poets and musicians of all kinds. 

Francesca Flowers

Having been awarded a BMus from City, University of London in 1999, Francesca Flowers continued to work in the field of music, playing cello and piano, as well as promoting new music, and commissioning composers. She was Manager of the New London Children's Choir for several years. In addition to curating visual arts exhibitions over the last decade, Francesca is Director of the Adrian Flowers Archive of Photography. In 2019 she was awarded an MA in photography from Canterbury Christ Church University.

Diana Llewellyn

Diana was born and raised in South Wales where she lived and taught music for over twenty years before making the move to West Cork. Since setting up home here she has entered fully into the musical life of the area.. teaching, conducting, performing but most of all enjoying music every day.

Susan McManamon

Susan is a pianist, choral music director and teacher based in Clonakilty, West Cork. She trained classically in piano from age 8 and completed an MA in Ethnomusicology at University College Cork in 2015. She is currently music director with Bantry and Drimoleague Community Choirs. Susan believes in the power of collaborative music making and is greatly interested in the connection between expressive voice and body. She is pianist with The Vespertine Quintet, who share a love of beautiful, sparse, minimalistic music by composers such as Arvo Pärt and Ólafur