Friel will return to spiritual home for tribute

Nobel prize winner Seamus Heaney will be among the guests speaking at this year's MacGill Summer School which is dedicated to one of Ireland's great playwrights, Brian Friel.

The week long summer school, tilted 'A Feast of Friel', will honour the Inishowen based playwright to mark his 80th birthday next January. The focus on Friel's work will include readings and performances of his plays as well as a wide range of lectures on Friel and his writing.

Glenties is of course as apt a place as any to host such a tribute to Friel as the playwright has such close ties to the town which is the inspiration for his fictional Donegal town Ballybeg which features in two of his best-known plays, Dancing at Lughnasa and Philadelphia, Here I Come! Friel's mother was from Glenties where he spent his summer holidays and he has said it has permanently shaped his imagination.

Guests at the 28th summer school include some of the most renowned names in Irish theatre including novelist and playwright Tom Kilroy, playwright Conor McPhearson as well as directors Garry Hynes, Joe Dowling and Patrick Mason.

Tnaiste Mary Coughlan will open the school and other prominent guests include columnist and critic Fintan O'Toole, Dr. Martin Mansergh, Prof. Anthony Roche, journalist and writer Eamonn McCann, and columnist and broadcaster Tom McGurk.

Omagh-born Friel, who lives in Greencastle, attends the opening of the school every year and will be present throughout the week of tributes to him.

Director the MacGill Summer School Joe Mulholland said the school's tribute to Friel was a major event for Glenties, Donegal and for Ireland as a whole.

"Friel is one of our greatest playwrights of the 20th and 21st centuries and we have a very big programme to celebrate his achievements," he said.

The summer school previously honoured Friel in 1991 and also paid tribute to writer Peadar O'Donnell just six months before he died. "I believe in paying tribute to people while they are alive," Mr. Mullholland said.

"Friel and Glenties go back to his childhood and of course it's there that, as everyone now knows from Dancing at Lughnasa, that his aunts lived and his mother was from Glenties. He goes back there and he has written on Glenties in the early period of his writing and he is very attached to Glenties. In our programme every year we use remarks of his about Glenties and it is obvious that Glenties had a huge influence on him."

Mr. Mulholland said he was pleased with the programme for the school. "People in the UK are saying to me that they cannot believe that such a programme would be put on in such a small place."

Performances of some of Friel's great plays will be held including, Making History, Translations, Philadelphia, Here I Come! and Faith Healer.

For further details of the MacGill Summer School programme go to: