‘Remembering the Battle of the Somme’

'The Irish at the Somme and Ypres' Piet Chielens in conversation with Dermot Bolger 2pm Friday 13 May, National Museum of Ireland - Decorative Arts and History.

Collins Barracks was the starting point of a journey made by numerous young Irishmen who joined the British Army during World War One and marched out of its gates to be confronted by the slaughter at the Battle of the Somme or by the nightmare conditions during the long series of battles fought for control of Ypres.

Piet Chielens was born, and lived for the first fifty-three years of his life in Reningelst, in West-Flanders (Belgium), in the area of the infamous Ypres Salient, one of the major battlefields of the First World War. In his home village he grew up with the cemeteries and stories of that war. Since 1996 he has been co-director of the award winning In Flanders Fields Museum in Ypres (Ieper), where he is director of exhibitions and public programming. From 1992 to 2007 he was artistic director of Peace Concerts Passchendaele. He instigated the construction of a monument to mark the spot where the Irish poet Francis Ledwidge was killed by a shell in 1917: a monument jointly unveiled in 1998 by the poet Dermot Bolger and the poet’s nephew, Joseph Ledwidge.

This unique public conversation reunites Piet Chielens and Dermot Bolger in front of a mixed Flemish and Irish audience as they discuss the journeys of those men which started in Collins Barracks and ended at the Somme or in the mud of Ypres and how they men are remembered today, both in the land they left and in the lands where they are now buried. Part of Chielens’ work with the In Flanders Fields Museum is to try and identify the bodies of anonymous soldiers from all nationalities that are still unearthed when construction work occurs around Ieper: stark reminders of a war that continues to resonate a century on.



'The Irish Experience at the Somme and in World War One' A talk by Dermot Bolger, The National Museum of Ireland Writer in Residence.

At Le Logis du Roy, Amiens, June 8 2016, Battle of the Somme Commemorative Conference, Organised in Amiens, France by Université de Reims Champagne-Ardenne.

Dermot Bolger will join speakers from France, Germany and elsewhere to take part in this conference which commemorates the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme. Bolger’s talk in English will be prefaced by an extract from his play about the Irish experience in World War One, Walking the Road, with a special French translation by Emile Jean Dumay. It will include readings of work by Irish poets like Thomas McGreevy, who survived fighting in that battle and went on to become the director of the National Gallery of Ireland.


'Remembering Relatives Lost at the Somme' Jennifer Johnston in conversation with Dermot Bolger, 3.00pm Sunday 18 September, National Museum of Ireland - Decorative Arts and History.

Few Irish writers have written so perceptively about The First World War than Jennifer Johnston, one of the foremost Irish novelists of her or any generation.

For many years Leaving Certificate students have come to understand the complexity of the conflict through her classic 1974 novel, How Many Miles to Babylon? Losses within her own family in that war have formed the backdrop of other great works like her 2002 book, This is Not a Novel.

Johnston will read her work in memory of her great uncle, who died at the Battle of the Somme, and in memory of her mother’s brother who survived the Somme but was killed soon after, aged just twenty-two. She will then discuss with Dermot Bolger her life and her work since her first book, The Captains and the Kings, appeared in 1972.

Born in Dublin in 1930, Jennifer Johnston has won the Whitbread Prize, the Evening Standard Best First Novel Award, the Yorkshire Post Award, and Best Book of the Year on two occasions. She has also been shortlisted for the Booker Prize with Shadows on our Skin. Her many other novels include Truth or Fiction, Foolish Mortals, The Gingerbread Woman, Two Moons and, most recently, Naming the Stars, published in 2016.

Rich in dialogue – as befits someone who is also a gifted playwright – Johnston’s novels deal with political and cultural tensions in Ireland and focus on family relationships and the difficult transition from childhood to adulthood. Her father was the distinguished playwright, Denis Johnston, and her mother was the famous Abbey actress, Shelah Richards.