Paul Muldoon, Frances Tomelty and Ian McElhinney lead The Queen’s Reading Room’s debut poetry performance in Northern Ireland

22nd March, 2024

  • The Queen’s Reading Room, the literary charity set up by Her Majesty The Queen, held a special poetry performance today at Hillsborough Castle in partnership with the Arts Council of Northern Ireland
  • Her Majesty was treated to a magical programme of performance-poetry celebrating the most important works of some of Northern Ireland’s most illustrious poets
  • The performance was curated by Pulitzer & T.S. Eliot prize winning poet Paul Muldoon and featured performances from the likes of actors Frances Tomelty and Ian McElhinney
Poets are pictured with Her Majesty the Queen
Caption: Her Majesty the Queen is pictured with poets and guest speakers, Sinéad Morrissey Raquel McKee, Frances Tomelty, Michael Longley, Ian McElhinney and Paul Muldoon

The Queen’s Reading Room staged its Northern Ireland debut yesterday (Thursday 22nd March), with a very special poetry performance in partnership with the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

Set in the stunning surroundings of the magical Hillsborough Castle, Northern Ireland: Poets and their Place celebrated culturally important works of some of Northern Ireland’s most famed poets in front of an audience that included Her Majesty The Queen

Northern Ireland’s own T.S. Elliot and Pulitzer prize-winning poet Paul Muldoon curated an exhilarating programme of historic and contemporary poetry for Her Majesty and guests to enjoy - and provided his own rendition of Seamus Dull Mac Cuarta’s ‘The Drowned Blackbird’, which he performed both in Irish and in English.

Acclaimed actors Frances Tomelty and Ian McElhinney also took to the stage to perform James Orr’s ‘To the Potatoe’, W.F.Marhsall’s ‘Me An ‘Me Da’, Cecil Alexander’s ‘There is a Green Hill’ and Seamus Heaney’s ‘Bogland’, amongst others.

The programme also included performances from contemporary poets Raquel McKee, Michael Longley and T.S Eliot prize winner Sinead Morrissey who performed a series of their own works.

Guests were also treated to musical performances from Harpist Katie Patience and singer-songwriter Anthony Toner, as well as a reading of fairytale piece, ‘Bedtime story’ by Northern Irish performance poet Alice McCullough.

The Queen’s Reading Room CEO Vicki Perrin said:

‘Since The Queen’s Reading Room launched on Instagram in January 2021, we have been committed to helping people connect with content that enriches their lives. Today’s event at Hillsborough Castle gave us the opportunity to celebrate the best of local poetry in a truly magical setting and to inspire our guests to fall in love with spoken word. We really hope that this is the first of many events in Northern Ireland and are immensely grateful to Arts Council Northern Ireland for partnering with us on such an important cultural event.’

Liam Hannaway, Chair, Arts Council of Northern Ireland said:

‘It has been a pleasure to join with Her Majesty today for the first Northern Ireland event under the Queen’s Reading Room initiative. This powerful programme promotes the many benefits of reading, which can enrich our lives and help connect us to other people, places and cultures. Today’s event brought a welcome opportunity to reflect, pay tribute to and celebrate not only the heritage of great writing and poetry which we have produced here, but also the ongoing brilliance of new writing and the huge impact it has on readers of all ages and backgrounds.’

The Queen’s Reading Room charity works to provide opportunities for the appreciation of literature among adults and children in the UK and around the world, seeking to close the gap between writers and readers through accessible, educational and free literary content available year-round.

Full Programme:

  • Pre-event performances from Katie Patience (harpist), songwriter
  • Anthony Toner & performance-poet Alice Mccullough who performed ‘Bedtime Story’
  • Séamas Dall Mac Cuarta (1650-1733): An Lon Dubh Báite – ‘The Drowned Blackbird translated and read by Paul Muldoon
  • James Orr (1770-1816): To the Potatoe read by Ian McElhinney
  • Cecil Frances Alexander (1818-1895): There is a Green Hill read by Frances Tomelty
  • W. F. Marshall, (1888-1959) Me An’ Me Da, read by Ian McElhinney
  • Louis MacNeice (1907-1963): Carrickfergus, read by Ian McElhinney
  • John Hewitt (1907-1987): Ulster Names, read by Frances Tomelty
  • Seamus Heaney (1939-2013): Bogland, read by Frances Tomelty
  • Michael Longley: Ceasefire
  • Sinéad Morrissey: The Millihelen
  • Raquel McKee: New World View


Notes to Editors

For media inquiries relating to The Queen’s Reading Room, contact Kirstie Logan-Townshend, Director of MarComms, e: | t: 07706 787180

The Queen’s Reading Room is a charity and literary hub on a mission to help readers and non-readers alike find and connect with books they will love. Through exclusive author interviews and behind-the- scenes content, The Queen’s Reading Room seeks to advance education by providing opportunities for the appreciation of literature among adults and children, introducing and celebrating books from around the world and the extraordinary people who create them. Its purpose is to help more people find and connect with books – chosen for their educative, literary or historic merit - which enrich their lives and turn them into lifelong readers.

The former Duchess of Cornwall launched ‘The Reading Room’ on Instagram in January 2021 with Charlie Mackesy and his wonderfully illustrated ‘The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse’. Since then, there have been fourteen complete seasons with four widely different but equally compelling books featuring in each. The project was relaunched as the charity ‘The Queen’s Reading Room’ in February 2023 by Her Majesty The Queen.

  • Her Majesty the Queen applauding at a reading performance
  • Her Majesty the Queen introduced to the Chair and CEO of the Arts Council NI

Pictured Left: Sir Nicholas Coleridge, Chairman of Historic Royal Palaces; Liam Hannaway, Chair of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland; Her Majesty the Queen; Vicki Perrin, CEO Queen's Reading Room.

Pictured Right: Liam Hannaway, Chair of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland; Roisin McDonough, CEO of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland; Her Majesty the Queen; Vicki Perrin, CEO Queen's Reading Room.