Abigail Tuite reports from the Festival of Writing and Ideas, which returned to Borris House in Carlow for its tenth edition with a formidable line-up of literary heavy-hitters – and the odd cultural icon.


On my first trip to Borris Festival of Writing and Ideas in 2017, I loved it so much I vowed I’d attend the event every year. The festival is now in it’s tenth year, the hay fever is bad and I’m suffering, but oh, so happy to be here again.

Jeremy Irons and Sinead Cusack read from T.S. Eliot’s The Wasteland

“Borris is delightful”, but you’d never believe there’s a town called Borris…” Jeremy Irons is talking and it’s a sunny morning at the Roundhouse tent at the foot of the Blackstairs Mountains. The Sunday Assembly for Ukraine features music and words from Misha Glenny, Giles Duley, Ed Vulliamy, Luke Harding, Sinead Cusack and Ruth Wilson.

Sombre and humorous anecdotes are told, there’s meditations on the current situation and first-hand accounts. The Ukrainians want us to know they are funny people, but there’s nobody laughing in an awed tent when Dire Straits’ guitarist John Illsey sings Brothers in Arms, accompanied by Fiachna Ó Braonáin on guitar. It’s a profound and unifying gathering, with a solemn message.

John Illsley and Fiachna O Braoinain in Borris

With 70 talks, 6 stages and events running over 3 days there’s so much to take in, and yet so much will be forgotten, but it’s these perfect moments of insight and empathy that will stay with you. The difficulty is choosing those you must miss.

Max Porter in talking to Elizabeth Boyle notes how lucky they are to be speaking at a literary festival, in other countries it’s not safe to do so, but also that in our privileged

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