Newbridge celebrates Hopkins: priest, poet and visionary of nature

Newbridge celebrates Hopkins: priest, poet and visionary of nature Gerald Manley Hopkins

The Hopkins Festival will be opened tomorrow by the British Ambassador, H.E. Robin Barnett in Newbridge College Theatre, Co. Kildare (at 7.30pm).

Directed by poet Desmond Egan, who founded it 30 years ago, it celebrates the life and work of the Jesuit poet Gerald Manley Hopkins, now recognised as one of the great literary figures of the Victorian era, who passed the last years of his too brief life in Ireland, where he taught at the Catholic University College and died in the summer of 1889.

It runs from Friday, July 21 to Thursday, July 27, and offers an event filled programme that has something for everyone, from classical recital by the distinguished Swedish pianist Hans Pålsson to activities for young people.

The focus this year is (in part) on the great Japanese interest in Hopkins, with the Hopkins Society of Japan being honoured to mark the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Ireland and Japan. Hopkins’ intense catholicity seems to present no barrier to his appreciation across the world’s cultures.

But as usual there are book launches, poetry readings, and talks on aspects of Hopkins’ life and work.  Every year too there are contributions as well on John Henry Newman, the poet’s mentor.

Alone of all the summer schools and festivals now held across the summer in Ireland, the Hopkins Festival concentrates on the relations between poetry and spirituality; but in the case of an artist  such as Hopkins that encompasses nearly everything you can think of, which gives the director great scope.

With creative flair and energy Desmond Egan has kept the festival going over the decades, though this has involved the transfer of the venue from Monasterevin with which Hopkins has a special connection, often staying there with friends,  to the larger facilities at Newbridge, provided by Newbridge College. The town provides opportunities for socialising among those attending  after hours.

The programme and full details of events and charges can be found on-line (at or by contacting the organisers (at Conference office 9am to 6pm, speak with Viv at 085 273 2568, or (045) 433 613.