Joanna Lumley

Yeats Day 2015 – Top 10 Things To Do

There are no strangers, only friends you have not met yet.”

The poet W.B. Yeats spent many of his childhood summer holidays in County Sligo, and so this weekend, the county plays host to many events and Yeatsian happenings to celebrate the 150th anniversary of his birthday for Yeats Day.

We asked Denise Rushe, a Cultural Marketer in Sligo, for her top ten event recommendations for the weekend ahead.

My Yeats Day 2015  

W.B. Yeats has been opened up, reimagined and reinvigorated for a whole new generation to discover through this yearlong celebration of Yeats2015, marking not only the poet but also his entire family’s legacy. This weekend however is all about the poet, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of his birthday and his extraordinary impact on Irish culture and society.

Today, Yeats’ work continues to resonate with a global audience: evocative mentions of west of Ireland place names and characters reconnect the Irish diaspora to their hometowns and villages; his love of Irish literature, legends and mythology captured so brilliantly in his verse draw tourists worldwide to explore ‘Yeats’ Country’ and the ‘Land of Heart’s Desire.’

It’s really not surprising then that the poet will be celebrated in locations both at home and worldwide this weekend; Yeatsian inspired events are set to take place here in Sligo, where he spent many of his childhood summers and which inspired much of his work, in Galway where he lived for some time at Thoor Ballylee, and in Dublin, where he was born and schooled at for a time, and heavily involved in the Irish Literary Revival, as well as internationally in London, Japan, New York and Vienna.

From dawn to dusk this Saturday, June 13th, and the days before and after, the work and life of the poet will be honoured through storytelling, recitals, island boat trips, architecture, garden design, exhibitions, food, public talks, dance, theatre, music and street performances.

My Top 10 Things To Do on Yeats Day 2015

Don’t consider this the definitive list; there is so much more happening than what could be captured in a top ten list, but if you were looking to enjoy a unique experience this Yeats Day, then the events below are for you.

The full schedule for Yeats Day 2015 can be viewed online here:

  1. Square Moon, winner of the Yeats2015 Architecture Competition, will be unveiled on Friday June 12th at 8pm in The Model arts centre, and those wishing to visit the site can book a boat trip on Yeats Day on the ‘Lake Isle of Innisfree’ at breakfast time, 12.30, 1.30, 3.30 & 5pm.

Winner - Square Moon Evening Image1920

  1. Yeats’ Secret Garden: Bloom In the Park winner Lorely Forrester scooped Gold at the recent Garden Festival, and has been busy over the last few days installing her stunning Yeats’ Secret Garden in Sligo in a site behind the The Model Arts Centre; the opening of the garden takes place on Saturday afternoon, officiated by none other than Joanna Lumley (yes, she of Patsy/ AbFab fame!)
  1. Yeats Day Street Party: Sligo’s O’Connell Street becomes a car free zone for what is now becoming the annual Yeats Day Street Party, with the official cutting of one giant cake taking place at 5pm. Expect to see street performances from the legendary Cillian Rodgers of Workhouse Studios, Luxe and Branching Out Theatre Group throughout the festive afternoon.

Yeats Day

  1. Yeats All Day at Hargadons: Staying on O’Connell Street, Hargadons Pub is host to a daily Yeats poetry recital at 1pm for the year that’s in it – and for this day on Saturday, there shall be poetry readings on the hour throughout the day, including a special reading by Yeats’ grand-daughter Catriona Yeats at 12noon.


  1. Yeats Day Poetry Train: There is really only one way to get to Sligo next Saturday and that’s aboard the Yeats Train departing Connolly Station, Dublin, at 11am. Passengers will get to hear Yeats poetry throughout the journey.
  1. Yeats Day Talks at Pollexfen House: On Friday June 12th, Irish Ambassador to the UK, Dan Mulhall, and Dr. Collette Kavanagh will discuss Yeats’ work at special talks at Pollexfen House, which was originally owned by the Pollexfen family, the largest ship owners in Sligo and Yeats’ maternal grandparents. On Saturday June 13th, Prof. Margaret Mills Harper, Dr. Keith Hopper, and Conor Brady will host talks throughout the day on key Yeatsian themes including the imagination and a sense of place.
  1. Shared Visions: The Model arts centre is home to the prestigious Niland Collection, Sligo’s municipal art collection which was established in 1959 by the then Sligo County Librarian Nora Niland. Today, the collection is on display through the vignette of the various collectors and contributors to the Collection. With a focus on the Northwest of Ireland, the Collection contains many artworks by WB’s brother Jack and father John.
  1. Yeats + Galway: Galway is another key location in the legacy of Yeats’ work and you will also find a number of happenings throughout the weekend.

Galway events include:

  • A discussion at the Galway City Museum on ‘Yeats and the Wild Swans at Coole’ with award winning poet and author Martin Dyar as he discusses Yeats and his 1919 book The Wild Swans at Coole, a collection which contains some of the poet’s most enduring evocations of the West of Ireland, along with many of his classic negotiations of the tensions between art and politics and the human cost of war.
  • Between 4 – 6pm on 13 June, the 15th century Hiberno-Norman tower Thoor Ballylee, which was the former home of the poet, will reopen its doors to the public.
  1. Yeats + Dublin: The Dalkey Book Festival takes place the same weekend and features many Yeatsian inspired talks and discussions including Fintan O’Toole talking Yeats (with Nick Dunning & Lise-Ann McLaughlin), and later on Saturday evening, Irish actor Gabriel Byrne will discuss his life and work, and why he reserves a special place for the poet.

Gabriel Byrne

  1. Yeats Day International:
  • Did you know he’s big in Japan? Indeed he is, and so there’s a myriad of Yeatsian inspired readings, talks, music, dance and recitals from Noh-inspired Plays at TheaterXCai Ryogoku (Tokyo). More about Yeats Day in Japan.
  • In Austria, the Centre for Irish Studies at the University of Vienna, along with The Embassy of Ireland in Vienna, host ‘The Poet and the Harper‘, an evening of Irish music, song and dance performed by Sligo trio Tale of the Gael.

How To Get Involved:

If you can’t join us in Sligo, Galway, Dublin, London, Tokyo or Austria to celebrate Yeats Day this weekend then join in on the celebrations online – share your own favourite Yeats poem on social media or follow tweets from across the globe using the hashtag #Yeats2015

About The Writer: Denise Rushe lives in Sligo and runs cultural marketing agency Starling ( where she works as a marketing consultant with clients across the creative and cultural sector. Between 2012- 2014, she worked with Sligo Tourism / Team Sligo on domestic marketing campaigns and spearheaded the #SligoWhoKnew social media campaign. Currently, she is undertaking an MPhil in Creative and Cultural Entrepreneurship at Trinity College Dublin and Goldsmiths, University of London.

Image Credit: Joanna Lumley via Interflora.