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Family fun

26th Sep 2022

Dublin Festival of History kicks off today with a programme of over 130 free events

Melissa Carton

Something for all the family

Dublin Festival of History kicks off today and will run for three weeks until Sunday, 16th October, with a jam-packed programme of more than 130 free events —mostly in-person, with many hybrid and some online events, too — across 71 venues taking place.

The festival will explore a vast breadth of topics, from the sceptical history of the Celts, as well as trailblazing women, including the role of women in the Irish Civil War alongside Dublin’s first female councillor and Lord Mayor.

The festival’s Big Weekend is happening on Saturday the 1st and Sunday the 2nd of October, at the Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute, Trinity College Dublin, 152-60 Pearse Street, Dublin 2. The Big Weekend line-up includes in-person talks and seminars featuring high-profile Irish and international writer-historians that will also be livestreamed, allowing people everywhere to tune in.

Some of the highlights of The Big Weekend include:

  • The Van Gogh Sisters — Willem-Jan Verlinden, 1st October, 11:00am-12:00pm, in-person and online:

Dutch-born art historian and writer Willem-Jan Verlinden will be discussing his historical biography that brings Vincent Van Gogh’s three sisters out from their brother’s shadow, poignantly portraying their dreams, disappointments and grief. He will uncover the previously neglected voices of his sisters Anna, Lies and Willemien, with whom Vincent had intimate and sometimes turbulent relationships.

  • The Wrath to Come: Gone with the Wind and the Myth of the Lost — Sarah Churchwell, 2nd October, 7:00pm-8:00pm, in-person and online:

American professor and author Sarah Churchwell will be discussing her razor-sharp examination of Margaret’s Mitchell’s 1936 epic novel Gone with the Wind. Churchwell traces the novel and film’s relationship to the myth of ‘the Lost Cause’ and how they foreshadow the controversies in America today, from race riots to Trump.

  • Sister Against Sister: Women and the Irish Civil War, 1st October, 5:00pm-6:00pm, in-person and online:

Why did Cumann na mBan reject the Treaty and what role did women play in a war where their contribution led to over 500 women being imprisoned by their former comrades? Why were women denounced as ‘furies’, with measures enacted by the Free State to force their return to the home? Leading historians Dr Leeann Lane (DCU), Dr Mary McAuliffe (UCD), Dr Margaret Ward (Queens University Belfast) and Dr Fionnuala Walsh (UCD) will reflect on events leading to the Irish Civil War and the contribution made by women to the war — from both sides of the divide.

  • The Extraordinary Life of Rose Dugdale — Sean O’Driscoll, 2nd October, 5:00pm-6:00pm, in-person and online:

Irish journalist and author Sean O’Driscoll will talk about the English heiress Rose Dugdale, who devoted her life to the IRA and who is the subject of his latest book. Presented to the Queen as a debutante in 1958, trained at Oxford as an economist, where she had a love affair with a female professor, in 1972 Dugdale travelled to Ireland and joined the IRA.

  • The Celts: A Sceptical History — Simon Jenkins, 1st October, 7:00pm-8:00pm, in-person and online:

British writer Simon Jenkins will be discussing how theories of Celticism continue to fuel many of the prejudices and misconceptions that divide the peoples of the British Isles to this day. In his latest book, he sets out that the history of the Celts is the history of a misnomer, pointing out how the word “keltoi” first appears in Greek and applied generally to aliens or barbarians.

  • Warrior Queens & Quiet Revolutionaries: How Women (Also) Built the World — Kate Mosse, 1st October, 3:00pm-4:00pm, in-person and online:

Award-winning British novelist and writer Kate Mosse will talk about her alternative feminist history of the world and personal memoir about the nature of women’s struggles to be heard, about how history is made and by whom. Her latest book tells the stories of female inventors and scientists, philanthropists and conservationists, authors and campaigners, such as Sophie Scholl, Mary Seacole, Cornelia Sorabji, Helen Suzman, Shirley Chisholm, and Violette Szabo, as well as passages about the life of her great-grandmother, Lily Watson.

Elsewhere across the three-week Festival programme, further highlights include:


  • Ali at Croke Park, 6th October, 7:00pm-9:00pm, GAA Museum at Croke Park, in-person only:

To mark the 50th anniversary of Muhammad Ali’s fight at Croke Park, the GAA Museum will present an evening of conversation and talks about this memorable sporting occasion, with guest speakers Dublin Historian-in-Residence James Curry and journalist and lecturer Dave Hannigan. Attendees will also have a chance to see Ali’s shorts and glove which are on display in the museum alongside a ticket from the fight.

  • Dublin in Poetry — Stephen James Smith, 26th September, 7:00pm-8:00pm, Richmond Barracks, St Michael’s Estate, Inchicore, Dublin 8, in-person only:

Celebrated poet Stephen James Smith will discuss poems from Dublin’s past, as well as reading some of his own work inspired by the city and its journey.

  • Kathleen Clarke: Dublin’s First Female Lord Mayor, 3rd October, 1:00pm-2:00pm, Dublin Council Chamber, City Hall, Dublin 2, in-person only:

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the passing of Kathleen Clarke, who was the first female Lord Mayor of Dublin, a leading figure in Cumann na mBan, a member of the Executive of Sinn Féin during the War of Independence, and the widow of 1916 signatory Thomas J. Clarke. Helen Litton, editor of Kathleen Clarke’s unique first-hand account of the revolutionary period, will examine her life and work.

  • Sarah Cecilia Harrison, Dublin’s First Female Councillor, 28th September, 6:00pm-7:00pm, Dublin City Library and Archive, 144 Pearse St, Dublin 2, in-person only: 

As well as being an accomplished artist, Sarah Cecilia Harrison (1863-1941) was Dublin’s first female Councillor, elected in 1912. The Old Dublin Society will present a talk exploring how her championing of the poor and downtrodden in the city raised the hackles of vested interests, who conspired that her representation on Dublin Corporation was limited to one term.


All Dublin Festival of History events are free, but booking is required. The full programme details, along with information about how to book is available online