National Trust’s Mount Stewart site is opening its doors for a weekend festival of debate, ideas, storytelling, art, music and food in September. Mount Stewart Conversations will take place on Saturday 17 and Sunday 18 and its curated programme of talks and discussion, along with musical and artistic performances and a smorgasbord of fine food will focus on Europe.
The verbal line up already includes prizewinning author Anne Applebaum, commentators David Aaronovitch and Fintan O’Toole; journalist Sarah Helm; historians John Bew, Robert Gerwarth, Margaret MacMillan, Adrian Tinniswood and Diane Urquhart; chief executive of Volunteer Now Wendy Osborne; and former British government negotiator Jonathan Powell. More names will be announced over the coming weeks.
Complementing the debate and discussion with the audience will be a programme of intercultural arts (including acts from the roster of local charity Beyond Skin): local songster Iain Archer, Eurovision entrant Molly Sterling, Orchestre des Refugies et Amis, Anglo-Colombian duo Bitch’n’Monk, dangerous harpist Ursula Burns, a Ukulele and Charango workshop, the acrobatic Lords of Strut, your chance to join in some Ugandan dance, and the Campervan of Dreams.
The festival will show off the recently restored neo-classical house and its diverse planted gardens. In July, three miles of new walking trails through the demesne were opened, the first phase in a project that should open up 20 miles of paths.
Explaining the background to the event, Jon Kerr (National Trust manager at Mount Stewart) said:
“Mount Stewart is no ordinary country estate. For hundreds of years, this has been Ireland’s secret retreat for royals, leaders of state, influencers and aristocracy. For generations this has been a powerhouse of great thinking, art, music, talks and deliberation, and this energy lives on today.
“The idea is that we will bring an eclectic range of people together for conversations on a central topic. This year we have chosen to focus on Europe, so there will certainly be plenty of topical debates. We are also keen that visitors get really involved in those conversations, so that will be central to the ethos of the weekend.
“This is a truly unique festival weekend that brings Mount Stewart’s history to life in a completely new way. We will have a huge menu of debates, stories, music and arts to select from as well as great local food and drink. On each night we will also have a headline musical performance to finish the day off in style.”
Mount Stewart Conversations runs from 11am until 9pm on Saturday 17 and Sunday 18 September. Day passes (£30) and weekend passes (£50) can be booked online. There are also volunteering opportunities if you’d like to join the team helping at the event.