Derry arts guru behind cross-border ‘bio fests’

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A Derry man is the brains behind an innovative trilogy of literary festivals taking place on both sides of the Irish border this summer.

Sean Doran is one of the main movers of the Arts Over Borders project which celebrates the life, works and, perhaps, unusually, sense of place associated with Irish writers - Samuel Beckett, Oscar Wilde and Brian Friel.

The first of the events - the ‘Happy Days: Enniskillen International Beckett Festival’ - is currently underway while the Wilde and Friel bio-fests take place next month.

Derry-born Doran was formerly the artistic director and CEO of English National Opera, having also run the Belfast Festival in the late 1990s and enjoyed a stint as director of the Perth International Arts Festival in Australia.

The ‘Across the Borders’ festivals, created by Sean Doran and his co-curator Liam Browne, will extend across four counties from Fermanagh to Donegal, Tyrone to Derry with events taking place on beaches, at Derry’s Guildhall, village halls, cafes, arts centres, schools and, even, a secret garden across the border region.

The border itself, says Sean Doran, looms large in the festivals.

“It is fitting in this turning point year of Brexit that we begin our Arts Over Borders festivals with Irish historian Diarmaid Ferriter discussing his book, ‘The Border’ in the hallowed surrounds of the old Portora Royal School, Enniskillen, which was founded by King James in 1618 and became alma mater to Samuel Beckett and Oscar Wilde.”

He believes the importance of an international arts festival taking place on both sides of the Irish and UK border in these times cannot be underestimated.

‘A Wilde Weekend’ takes place on August 2-5 while the “Lughnasa FrielFest” will take place on August 9-18.