Aspects at 25: A Quarter Century Celebrating the Written Word

Bangor's annual literary festival marks its silver anniversary with a milestone programme, from crime writing and comedy to poetry and prose

Whether you enjoy reading crime fiction or poetry; write, or aspire to be a writer; are passionate about songwriting and comedy, or have a bias for journalism, it’s all at Aspects Festival. Now in its 25th year, the Bangor-based event, which has been celebrating Irish writing for a quarter of a century, has a whole host of special events planned for its silver anniversary.

With guest appearances by esteemed wordsmiths including Van Morrison and poet Paul Muldoon among many more, organisers have planned a programme fit for the occasion. A word of warning though – the Van Morrison event is already sold out due to popular demand, as is a talk with Lady Dufferin and a Maeve Binchy play. However, there’s still a great range of events available to attend – including some free ones – with something for adults and kids alike.

'I think what you get with Aspects is a different perspective,' says Festival Director Patricia Hamilton. 'A lot of the events aren’t just straight readings – for example, there’s maybe an interview with a writer – so you get a more personal experience and an insight into the writers. Our venues are also really lovely and very atmospheric. For instance, we have Paul Muldoon at North Down Museum in a chamber with stained glass windows and wood panels.'

One of the much-anticipated chapters of Aspects is the Festival Yurt at Bangor Castle’s walled garden. Open from Friday, September 23 until Sunday 25, it will serve as the setting for a number of events, including a day of talks, workshops and readings to help aspiring authors, billed as 'Resource for Writers'.

Sinead Moriarty69.JPG

Sinead Moriarty

Author Sinead Moriarty will also be discussing her latest novel, The Way We Were, while poets can enjoy the ever-popular Poetry Slam on the Friday night. An insight into humorous writing will also come from Bangor author Colin Bateman and Cookstown comedian Owen O’Neill. There’ll also be a director’s talk and special screening of The Spirit of ’58, a new documentary which tells the story of the Northern Ireland's iconic first World Cup campaign.

'The Festival Yurt events over the weekend will be fantastic, with comedian Owen O’Neill, Duke Special and Ulaid, Tara West and Glenn Patterson all taking part,' Hamilton enthuses.

'It’s all about the atmosphere and Aspects is a real celebration of the written word in every form. We have everything from crime writing and journalism, to songwriting, comedy, poetry and prose, so there’s something there for everybody. We’re very supportive of up-and-coming writers, and we also have a lot of established and well-known writers. The ethos behind it is that it’s all about the talent on this island.

'Personally, I’m really excited about the Van Morrison event – but it’s all sold out. The special guest line-up is really eclectic with Kim Cattrall, Paul Muldoon, Ian Rankin… There’ll be interviews in the first half with readings of his work and the second half will be music. It’s a really special insight in a really intimate space.'

Owen O'Neill

Owen O'Neill

Young bookworms can enjoy a visit to the Book Doctor with CBI (Children’s Books Ireland), while there’s also the Mini Book Booth and a Collage Art session, among other family events.

Not only this, for the first time in the festival’s history, the team has published a title to mark the milestone, with the Bangor Book. The launch event for this takes place on Sunday, September 18 at 4pm at Clandeboye Estate, with free entry and cake to toast the festival turning 25.

'This is the first time we’ve published a book connected to the festival,' admits Hamilton. 'It’s all about Bangor writers - from 1400 to the present day – and everyone’s welcome to attend and help us celebrate.'

And – if all of that isn’t enough to whet your appetite, then there’s also the Twenty-Five Years and Counting… exhibition running at North Down Museum throughout September, which is all about Aspects. Bangor Carnegie Library is also hosting a collaborative art and poetry exhibition called Enough, and More, while Blackberry Path Art Studios has its own Now and Then themed exhibition as part of the Fourth Annual Bangor Poetry Competition.

The shortlisted poets have handwritten their compositions, which are framed and hanging in the studios alongside local artwork, all of which is for sale. The winning poem is chosen by public vote and will be announced after September 18, with the poet then given the chance to read their work at the festival.

Of course, this is all but a taster of what’s to come… such is the eclectic and jam-packed nature of the 25th Aspects Festival programme that we couldn’t possibly mention everything. Suffice it to say – if you love reading, writing, comedy, music and the like, you’re in for a treat.

'It really doesn’t feel like we’re winding down at all,' Hamilton concludes. 'We’re gearing up!'

Aspects Festival runs from September 18 to 25. For full programme details and ticket booking visit www.aspectsfestival.com.