Home News Crossways Festival 2021: all about connections in a superb virtual line-up

Crossways Festival 2021: all about connections in a superb virtual line-up

Paula Meehan and Kathleen Jamie

Now in its third year, Crossways, The Irish Scottish Cultural and Literary Festival, has announced its virtual programme for February.

The focus for Virtual Crossways 2021 is on Irish language and Scottish-Gaelic writing, featuring sixteen literary readings and three musical events streamed over the weekend of 12-14 February 2021. Each approximately one-hour reading will pair one writer from Ireland and one from Scotland.

Virtual Crossways 2021 follows on from the highly successful Crossways Festivals of 2018 and 2019, which were staged in Glasgow, featuring acclaimed writers and performers in Irish, Scottish Gaelic, Scots and English.

The particular aim of Crossways continues to be to foster and expand the literary links across the North Channel. It will again bring together notable Irish writers—from both North and South—with their Scottish peers, in a well-planned and well-balanced Festival underscoring the longstanding contribution of Irish people, history, language, culture and writing to both Glasgow and the Scottish nation.

In the view of Irish Pages, such a forum for Irish, Irish-Scottish and Scottish cultural and literary interaction, dialogue and debate of real distinction and diversity is long overdue. To a considerable extent, the North of Ireland (especially) and Scotland are highly separated and self-contained on many levels, but particularly in cultural and literary terms; they are divided, precisely, by Partition and so (ironically) by the United Kingdom itself, with a consequent focus on London from each of the jurisdictions, rather than on interchange across the narrow North Channel. The two literary cultures have their backs to each other to a surprising degree. The Festival will aim to lesson this contemporary cultural distance, at a new historical moment—when relations between the two islands, no less than between the parts of the United Kingdom, have already begun to change dramatically with Brexit.

Virtual Crossways 2021 is sponsored and organized by Irish Pages/Duillí Éireann. It receives financial support from the Government of Ireland Emigrant Support Programme, Foras na Gaeilge, Colmcille, and Bòrd na Gàidhlig.

Full programme details are on the website.


Paula Meehan & Kathleen Jamie

Unmatched for her performative music, Paula Meehan takes us on a journey into the sources and resources of a life in poetry, touching along the way on song, folklore, aisling, memorialization, and the ancient obligations of the poetic vocation. ~~ Amidst “the bleak midwinter” of the Pandemic, Kathleen Jamie strikes an optimistic note, reading great poems on longing and hope; midsummer light; common natural beauties; the search for the miraculous; mother-love; bright memories of parents; and the persistence of an immanent majesty in life. 

Simon Ó Faoláin & Meg Bateman

Simon Ó Faoláin considers love, death and exile in his choice of poems. ~~ Meg Bateman surveys her work from her earliest love poems to a poem composed the night before recording, linking Covid to a fifteenth-century Gaelic medical manuscript.

Cathal Ó Searcaigh & Anna Frater

Cathal Ó Searcaigh’s reading moves between the two human extremes of love and the horrors of violent conflict. ~~ Anne Frater’s reading moves between pithy political commentary and the exquisite symbolism of her poems of place and loss in her native Lewis community.


Ceaití Ní Bheildiúin

Ceaití Ní Bheildiúin reads deeply personal meditations on identity, environment and landscape.

Pádraig Mac Fhearghusa and Gillebrìghde Mac ’ill Mhaoil

Moving between the philosophical and the ironic, Pádraig Mac Fhearghusa’s poetry considers the sweet and sour aspects of youth and middle-age.~~An essential contribution from GilleBrìghde Mac ’ill Mhaoil from South Uist, in which song and poetry are one and the same, in his strongly assonantal work which is both traditional and modern. 

Aifric Mac Aodha &  Eòghan Stiùbhart

Aifric Mac Aodha examines indecision and celebrates romantic love. ~~ Fresh, sonorous poetry from Eòghan Stiùbhart, of varied metrical forms inspired by Sorley MacLean, Pink Floyd, Neruda and the Arabic qasida, among others.

Gabriel Rosenstock & Garry MacKenzie

Gabriel Rosenstock’s reading demonstrates his anarchic imagination and inimitable style, including his Irish versions of canonical early twentieth-century poems.  ~~ Proffering a “new inhabited music” across three centuries – in dialogue with Duncan Bàn Mac Intyre’s eighteenth-century Gaelic classic – Garry Mackenzie gives a powerfully ecological reading from his outstanding first book of poetry, Ben Dorain: a conversation with a mountain,  published by The Irish Pages Press in January 2021.

Chris Agee and Kapka Kassabova

Two transnational writers – with work rooted in the Balkans, Ireland and Scotland – appear together for the first time. Chris Agee reads from his fourth collection, Blue Sandbar Moon, “a micro-epic” that explores with delicate precision the emotional and spiritual landscape of a life sustained in the“aftermath of aftermath”. ~~ Kapka Kassabova reads the final chapter of her most recent non-fiction book, To the Lake, evoking Lake Ohrid (North Macedonia) and the icon-like “ghosts” of our own lives, in a prose of utmost mythological, psychological and verbal beauty.

Peter Sirr & Robert Alan Jamieson

With work of rich metaphorical and writerly reach, Peter Sirr offers rare and multifarious insights across a variety of contexts: a hymn to bookshops and reading;  a whale’s afterlife; atmospherics of a Covid summer; the impossibility of fitting language’s endless promise to perception’s unfolding inclusivity; the importance of invisible things; beautiful details of departed family life – amongst many others. ~~ Shetlander Robert Alan Jamieson reads from his latest book, Plague Clothes, written as he recovered from Covid-19, an unforgettable record of the physical illness itself – as well as a revelatory, profound, and subtly moving series of existential reflections prompted by the first Lockdown.

Jessica Traynor & Andrew O’Hagan

Jessica Traynor moves seamlessly through a series of poems registering both the local and global: Dublin rivers, histories of the Irish State, and family life; ecological calamity and the migrant crisis; national nostalgia and corrupt privilege; the demands of feminism and the experience of new motherhood. ~~ In a dramatic reading full of Glaswegian humour, Andrew O’Hagan reads a passage from his latest novel, Mayflies,  about an Eighties schoolboy striking out from a council estate and dysfunctional family  for the hopeful promise of higher education; an extract from a short-story about a son, a mother and an unexpected Covid death; and the opening of an essay on “the unstable boundaries” between fiction and non-fiction in the digital age.    


Ailbhe Ní Ghearbhuigh & Catrìona Lexy Campbell

Ailbhe Ní Ghearbhuigh considers the impact of motherhood and aspects of language. ~~ The novelist, Catrìona Lexy Campbell, reads from Samhraidhean Dìomhair (Secret Summers) and Cluicheadairean (Players), which handle inter-personal themes new to Gaelic prose.

Philip Cummings & Pàdraig MacAoidh

Philip Cummings shares his biting insight and world-weary wit in a memorable reading. ~~Pàdraig MacAoidh’s impressionistic, allusive poetry works out the hurts and contradictions of broken-down bilingualism for “It was lovely to hear the Gaelic”. 

Áine Uí Fhoghlú & Iain Mac a’ Phearsain

Áine Uí Fhoghlú reads poems skewering social injustices, as well as taking a humourous look the dangers of speaking Irish to our monolingual civil service. ~~ Short, highly original, elegiac poems from Iain Mac a’ Phearsain, a Canadian with a Scottish Gaelic background, who roams three continents with understated imagery. 

Nuala Ní Dhómhnaill & Aonghas Dubh MacNeacail

Nuala Ní Dhómhnaill takes us on a whistle-stop tour of her internationally acclaimed poetic career, reading some of her most celebrated works. ~~A gentle, fully bilingual, reading from sixty years of poetry-making (cf. butter-churning), by Aonghas Dubh MacNeacail, reflecting on the Skye of his childhood and a life in the arts.  

Biddy Jenkinson & Maoilios Campbell

Biddy Jenkinson’s reading shows her at her best, with her typical brilliance, irreverence and joi de vivre. ~~ Gently questioning, the Skye poet, Maoilios Campbell, makes bold juxtapositions between the nostalgic, the scientific and the faithful.

Alan Titley & David Kinloch

Alan Titley gives a deeply-considered, powerful reading on a range of socially-engaged issues.~~ David Kinloch ranges across Paris, Scots, loneliness, gay difference, female sensibility, doubt and painting – in a richly allusive style plumbing the “Old Alliance” of things and words – before ending with a suite of Lockdown poems, recording the strange irony of its “touching gifts”, “simple pleasure” and “heartwood”, whereby  “we learn our meanings from the words we have already used.”

For further information on all events and on Crossways Festival, please see their website.