Top events to check out at Aspects Irish Literature Festival

Heather McGarrigle does her best to narrow down ten highlights from this year's huge programme, not just for book lovers, from September 20 - October 6 in Bangor

Aspects Festival, the annual celebration of Irish writing returns to Bangor with an absolutely packed programme that spans poetry, crime writing, journalism, scriptwriting and short stories, with talks, workshops, exhibitions, book launches, children’s events and loads more.

It all kicks off officially on Thursday September 26, however there are two days of children’s events first with Young Aspects on Friday September 20 and Saturday September 21. The Writers in the Frame exhibition has already launched and is open in North Down Museum during opening hours until the festival closes on Sunday October 6.

After a lot of deliberation, I finally picked a top 10 but as you can see, I had to throw a few honourable mentions in there too! Make sure to keep reading to find the full programme at the end of the article.

Illustration by Barry Falls from The World is Magic

Illustration by Barry Falls from The World is Magic

The World is Magic

Bangor Carnegie Library

Tuesday September 10 – Saturday October 5

Free during library opening hours

This beautiful exhibition is a celebration of the work of illustrator and artist Barry Falls, who hails from Tyrone.

Using a variety of pen, pencil, paint and found material, Barry produces work for editorial, design, advertising and publishing. Texture and vibrant colours are keystones of his work, which he composes in digital layers, using original drawings.

His compelling visual creations have graced the pages of The Lancet, The New York Times and The New Yorker.

If you like this, you’ll also like:

Aesop’s Fables

Illustration workshop with Barry Falls

Michael Longley

Michael Longley – Aspects Launch Event

Bangor Castle, 8pm 

Thursday September 26, 8pm


Long-time friend of the festival and award-winning Belfast-born poet Michael Longley returns to open this year’s festival with this unmissable event in Bangor Castle on Thursday. 

Fans will be hoping for a taste of the work from his latest publication, A Stream’s Tattle (2019) a pamphlet of new poems which celebrate his 80th year, or perhaps something from Angel Hill, his most recent collection published just over two years ago. 

If you like this, you’ll also like:

Poetry, New Collections

An Evening With Poets and Poetry

Fabrications: Unravelling Facts from Folklore

Seacourt Print Workshop 

Monday September 2  – Friday September 27

10am – 4pm 


A fascinating exhibition for any crafty word nerds out there! Fabrications examines the links between facts, fiction and folklore, presenting works in a variety of media, including screen-printing, stitch, knitting and crochet to highlight connections between the material world and our thoughts and words.

Susan Robinson’s ingenious use of textile art explores our understanding of the brain and memory, asking questions like “What does ‘woolly thinking’ mean? How does someone’s mind ‘completely unravel’? How do we put a ‘twist in the tale’?”

If you like this, you’ll also like:

Gathering Silence

Writers in the Frame

Colin Bateman Stephen Walker

Colin Bateman and Stephen Walker in Conversation

Bangor Castle

Saturday September 28, 3pm


As well as a shared history in journalism, these two very different writers have plenty to talk about, including football, Hollywood and of course, the love for and creation of books.

Colin Bateman began his career as a reporter at the County Down Spectator and is best known as a prolific crime novelist, children’s author, screenwriter and dramatist. He began his much-loved Dan Starkey series nearly 25 years ago with the publication of Divorcing Jack, and the eleventh title is due out soon.

Stephen Walker is an award-winning broadcast journalist and author, who many of us will know from our screens as a BBC Northern Ireland news reporter. He has worked for the BBC since 1989 as a TV and radio journalist, documentary maker and political correspondent and is also the author of three books.

If you like this, you’ll also like:

Malachi O’Doherty

Poetry Slam

Poetry Slam


Saturday September 28, 7pm


Calling all budding poets – the North Down heat of the All-Ireland Poetry Slam is coming to the Aspects Festival! Register at the beginning of the night for a chance to be chosen at random to perform your original work and go head to head with your peers.

Judges choose who goes through to the next round, with the outright winner crowned ‘Aspects Poetry Slam Champion’. The top two poets on the night will go through to the all-Ulster final alongside winners of the other regional heat to compete for the title of All Ireland Poetry Slam Champion.

If you like this, you’ll also like:

The Bangor Literary Journal Launch

Women Aloud NI

Sharon Dempsey

Crime author Sharon Dempsey

Female Crime

North Down Museum

Wednesday October 2, 6pm


A fascinating exploration of female crime, hosted by three hugely respected writers in the field. Catriona King, author of the Craig Crime series of novels (set in Northern Ireland, where she now lives) is a doctor, manager and writer whose novels are informed by many years working in forensic crime in Central London.

Sharon Dempsey is a writer and tutor whose novels span the genres of crime, thriller and romance, and she has also contributed to a number of publications including The Irish Times. She teaches creative writing at Queen’s University and her debut crime novel was published in 2017.

Kelly Creighton is a Newtownards-based writer whose writing includes the award-winning The Bones of It and short story collection Bank Holiday Hurricane. She is currently writing a series of detective novels based in East Belfast, with the first instalment expected next year.

If you liked this, you’ll also like:

The Rise of the Short Story

1,000 Books to Read Before You Die

Malachi O Doherty

Writing to the Image with Malachi O’Doherty

North Down Museum

Monday September 30, 6 – 9pm


Author, journalist, photographer and political commentator Malachi O’Doherty is a respected and trusted voice on the Northern Ireland conflict. As well as two books on religion, he has written two books on the IRA and an unauthorised biography of Gerry Adams. 

In this workshop for writers and photographers, Malachi will show how images and text are naturally symbiotic and how each can be enhanced by the other. In the age of social media, blogging and cross platform journalism, this is a highly relevant workshop taught by a master of his crafts.

If you liked this, you’ll like:

As Good As It Gets with Moyra Donaldson

Mad Hatters Tea Party

Mad Hatter’s Tea Party 

Clandeboye Courtyard

Saturday October 5, 3 – 5pm


Don your best hat and join Lady Dufferin and Friends for what is set to be a highlight of the festival in the beautiful surroundings of the Clandeboye Courtyard.

This is a Food For Thought event, part of the Clandeboye Reading Party which will introduce you to both historic and contemporary food delights. One for the bookworms and the foodies out there!

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The Woodland Chew and Yarn

Shane Connolly Discusses Flowers, Food and Drink

Polly Devlin

Polly Devlin

Bangor Castle

Sunday September 29, 6pm


Polly Devlin is a broadcaster, author, filmmaker, art critic and professor, but is possibly best known for her time as Features Editor for Vogue in the 1960s, during which she interviewed luminaries of the time including Bob Dylan, John Lennon and Janis Joplin. 

She has captured some of the stories and anecdotes from her remarkable life in her latest book, entitled Writing Home.

If you liked this, you’ll like:

Gerald Dawe

The Writing of Olivia Manning

Darkling Air

Festival Finale - The Darkling Air Album Launch

Clandeboye Courtyard



This event heralds the first performance of the duo’s new album, Ancestor. The Darkling Air are vocalist and songwriter Rachel McCarthy (formerly of The Farriers) and producer Michael Keeney (who has worked with Foy Vance and Duke Special).

Their unique sound is described as “ambient soundscapes and haunting vocals underpinned by guitar, piano and strings”. For the album launch and festival finale they are joined by long-time collaborators, The Arco String Quartet for what is sure to be an atmospheric and evocative night of music.