Literary talks, workshops, and exhibitions for Achill’s Böll celebrations

Achill is preparing to once again celebrate its links with the Nobel Prize winning German writer Heinrich Böll during the first weekend in May.

The island will host the 12th annual Heinrich Böll Memorial Weekend from Friday to Sunday, May 1 to 3.

Heinrich Böll was one of Germany’s foremost post World War II writers and won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1972.

He spent a lot of time on Achill Island in the 1950s and 60s, living in a cottage in Dugort, and wrote about his travels and experiences in a work called Irish Journal, which has achieved cult status popularity in Germany, selling two million copies.

A host of leading literary figures and artists are included in the programme of workshops, talks, and exhibitions for this year’s Heinrich Böll Memorial Weekend, which is organised by the Heinrich Böll Association and the Goethe-Institut Irland.

One of the talks over the weekend will be delivered by Scottish BAFTA winning filmmaker, playwright, and writer Kevin Toolis, whose parents hail from Achill.

Toolis will speak about one of the most interesting chapters in Achill’s history when Reverend Edward Nangle, the evangelical Protestant missionary established a colony on the famine hit island in the 1800s. The presence of the colony sparked a fierce religious battle between the Catholic Church and Reverend Nangle for the hearts of the poor on Achill Island during that time.


Ireland’s permanent representative in the European Union, Ambassador Declan Kelleher, will officially open the weekend at 7.30pm on Friday May 1 in the Cyril Gray Memorial Hall, Dugort.

Prior to his appointment to Brussels, Ambassador Kelleher was the Ambassador of Ireland to the People's Republic of China, where he served from 2004 to 2013, and was instrumental in opening up trade and cultural links between Ireland and China.

His opening address will focus on the theme ‘Culture, Diplomacy, and Mutual Understanding’.

Heinrich Böll’s painter son René is also exhibiting his work during the festival. The exhibition, The Cilliní of Achill and Currane, explores the history of the area’s cilliní, which were small burial plots for unbaptised children.

Böll’s own research points to 25 such sites on Achill and Currane.

The plots were traditionally used because unbaptised children were not permitted to be buried in consecrated ground.

Böll explores the troubling and painful history of these burial grounds in his exhibition at Achill Sound Hall.

The weekend will also include a live recording of the popular RTÉ Radio One show Sunday Miscellany, which will feature guest writers and musicians from Achill Island.

To see the full programme of events with dates and times, visit the website


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