Apologies to those of you who read my occasional blogs. I did promise some months ago to be more punctual in my entries. Time however has simply zipped by. Auction after auction squeezing the minutes from the hours applying pressure to have other things done instead. This June we have three auctions, as well as an art exhibition and an opening, so I’ll not have time to write anything down – other than these few words below about the Hay, our annual bus man’s holiday.

The Hay Festival in Kells, a tremendous event, is held annually. A long-weekend of talks, exhibitions, seminars, documentaries, etc., visitors galore arrive to the town, literary and otherwise. This year it’s June 23rd to 26th and Irish speakers include Paul Kimmage, Patrick McCabe, Francis Brennan, Joe Duffy, John Bruton, Myles Dungan, etc. Numerous International bestselling authors & poets will also attend and contribute.

To complement it we’re conducting a library auction – a real head wrecker. Books my nemesis; dreadfully hard to catalogue, even harder to keep in their correct bundles – viewers shuffling them like cards into lots of their preference. Totally against the rules, Serious hawk-like attention required. This auction, which is on Saturday June 25th, is preceded the evening before with the opening of an art exhibition, the works of Elizabeth Cope. A trooper and a fine painter, one of the best we have, this show marks forty years of her career as a painter. The exhibition opening, from 7:00pm onwards on Friday evening, June 25th, should any of you wish to attend. The following evening at 6:30pm is the Artist’s Talk. Here Elizabeth will be interviewed about her influences, her life and her work. The following day, Sunday June 26th, we then conduct our Antique & Collectables auction, commencing at 2:00pm. Quite a handful but hopefully we’ll manage it, all our preparations over the past two months tying together in time.

These events will all be held in the historic Duke Brothers building on Market Street in Kells. Dukes , a place of great fondness for me, is a higgledy piggledy warren of rooms, all scattered throughout a building dating from about 1810. It used to be an enormous hardware emporium run for years and years by two lovely brothers, the Dukes. Men who promised that if they didn’t have what you wanted in stock they’d find it for you. And at cost. Now that’s customer service!

Last year I spent the entire festival behind the windows of Dukes, Jacob Marley-like behind the panes, entering orders into ledgers while outside, sunlit crowds strolled from event to event. Not this year. Even though it may seem improbable, given the events we’re hosting, I fully intend to be part of those crowds. Pressure. Yes. But it’s worth it to be part of such a well received festival, and one where the whole town puts in such an enormous effort to welcome the visitors. In fact, it’s actually a privilege. Here’s to the Hay.

Damien Matthews


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