James Connolly Festival returns

The annual James Connolly Festival returns for its seventh year on 3–9 May, bringing together working-class arts, culture, and politics.

This year’s week-long virtual events, recorded at the New Theatre, will include lectures, panel discussions, round-table talks, debate, and performance, covering a wide variety of contemporary and historical topics and themes.

The line-up for 2021 features Lethal Dialect, Donal Fallon (Three Castles Burning), Senator Eileen Flynn, Emmet Kirwan, the COO of Bohemian FC, Dan Lambert, and more.

No question is more topical than privatisation within football. The festival is launched with a discussion hosted by the Bang Bang Café, Phibsborough, chaired by Daniel Lambert of Bohemian FC, on football’s further commercialisation into the hands of corporate ownership, seen most recently with the proposal of a new European “Super League.” We examine the current state of play domestically and pose the question, Can member-owned clubs prosper?

The past number of years have seen a surge in far-right politics and racism in Ireland. Most recently these groups have seized upon the disastrous handling of covid-19 by the Government, as well as a number of racist attacks by Gardaí and members of the public. We welcome speakers including Senator Eileen Flynn and Gloria Nkencho to discuss what shape these reactionary forces have taken and how we can combat them.

Similarly, the lockdown has given weight to the long-established link made between economic crises and gender-based violence. Day 3 will have a round-table discussion between activists and trade unionists, bringing a socialist-feminist analysis to the question of gender violence.

Two panel discussions will take place on the national question. In its centenary year, the historians Fearghal Mac Bhloscaidh and Liz Gillis will delve into the history of the Northern state, recounting this seminal moment in Irish history.

This will be followed by an event titled “Carson’s Crumbling Creation.” Looking at the future of the Six-County entity, Paul Stewart (political scientist) and Eugene McCartan (general secretary, Communist Party of Ireland) will discuss partition, border polls, and what shape a united Ireland could take.

Friday night will present a discussion on “Working in the Arts Post-Covid,” hosted by the Trade Union Left Forum. They will look at an arts industry on its knees, fraught with precarious work and uncertainty. This is immediately followed by a celebration of these artists with a music, spoken-word and poetry session curated by the panellist and artist Emmet Kirwan. The inimitable Dublin rapper Lethal Dialect will also take to the stage, followed by the 2FM DJ Handsome Paddy, who promises a unique set of “local artists’ music only, taking in soul, hip hop and electronic music, tipping the hat to the rich diversity present in the contemporary musical landscape of Ireland.”

Saturday has the prolific podcaster and historian Donal Fallon join the cast. The host of one of Ireland’s foremost podcasts, Three Castles Burning, Donal sits down with the general secretary of the Communist Party of Ireland, Eugene McCartan. They will look at the history of communism in Ireland through the prism of its oldest radical bookseller, Connolly Books.

The annual James Connolly Memorial Lecture will be given by the world-renowned Indian historian, lecturer and Marxist scholar Vijay Prashad. Vijay will discuss the global crisis facing us in relation to the environment and inequality, looking at the relevance of national struggles in the fight against capitalism and imperialism today.

The festival organiser, Aaron Nolan, said: “We’re delighted that the festival is back, even under different circumstances. We continue to provide a space for healthy debate, discussion, and expression. Through words, music and performance we look at where our society lies and where we want it to go.”

All events will be recorded at the New Theatre in East Essex Street (Temple Bar), Dublin, ensuring the strictest of covid-19 regulations and guidelines, and then streamed on line via the James Connolly Festival’s and Socialist Voice’s digital platforms.