It has been 20 years since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement so we are taking the opportunity to celebrate Northern Ireland's women writers. Inspired by New Island's 2017 publication of Female Lines: New Writing by Women from Northern Ireland
, we have invited writers Susan McKay (chair), Medbh McGuckian and Margaret Ward with poet Elaine Gaston and singer songwriter Hannah Peel to delight and enthral audiences at Mountains to Sea International Women's Day 2018. We will consider how much has changed or stayed the same for women in Northern Irish society in recent times.
In 1985, The Female Line: Northern Irish Women Writers was published. A pioneering anthology at the time, it gave many Northern Irish women writers their firrst opportunity for publication. Now, over thirty years later, Female Lines: New Writing by Women from Northern Ireland — a stunning mosaic of work by some of the best contemporary women writers from Northern Ireland — acts as both a new staging post and a sequel
to its vibrant feminist predecessor.
Susan McKay is an award winning writer, journalist, broadcaster and documentary maker. From Derry, she worked as Northern Editor of the Sunday Tribune and more recently for The Irish Times. She is Author of 6 books: Sophia’s Story, Northern Protestants – An Unsettled People, Without Fear, Silent People and Other Stories, Bear in Mind These Dead, and From Belfast to Basra. Her work has been widely anthologized including in Irish Times Book of the Year, Penguin Book of Great Irish Reportage, British Council “Lives Entwined” series and Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing.
Medbh McGuckian was born in 1950 into a Catholic family in Belfast, Northern Ireland. She went on to attend Queen’s University, Belfast in 1968 where she met and took classes from Seamus Heaney, and received her B.A. in 1972. McGuckian continued her education and did post-graduate work in the English department of Queen’s University until 1974 when she received an M.A. During that time, she began to write for local papers and magazines. One of her poems was first published in 1975. After graduation, she went back to her secondary-school to teach English. She also taught at St. Patrick’s Boys’ College in East Belfast.
Dr Margaret Ward is a feminist historian whose highly acclaimed book Unmanageable Revolutionaries: Women and Irish Nationalism, first published in 1983, has become a classic text. She has also written biographies of Maud Gonne and Hanna Sheehy Skeffington and edited works on the role of women in nationalist and suffrage movements in Ireland. She is currently Visiting Fellow in History at Queen's University of Belfast.
Elaine Gaston is from the north coast of Ireland. She received an ACE Award from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland 2014-15. She was awarded the No Alibi’s Prize at Queen’s University, Belfast, where she completed an M.A. in 2010. She won a Commendation in the National Poetry Competition, 2013, a Special Commendation in the Patrick Kavanagh Award in both 2013 and 2014 and was short-listed for the Bridport Prize in 2014. Her work was selected for Poetry Ireland Introductions, 2006.
Hannah Peel is a Northern Irish singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, composer and arranger now based in London, England. Peel has released records as a solo artist, as a member of The Magnetic North and with many other collaborators including the electronic group John Foxx and the Maths and Beyond the Wizards Sleeve. She performed in July 2017 as part of the Hull Capital of culture and at the Southbank Centre in London. A live album was recorded during this time.