The historic precursor to modern day Hallowe’en born of the Boyne Valley, Samhain marked not only the time of harvest but also a time of transition, and in 2020 Samhain Festival is transitioning itself digitally, streaming live and free via Facebook Live on Sunday 8th November, 12pm – 4pm following this year’s tagline of ‘Recovery Through Food’.
Curated and co-directed by ourselves with Olivia Duff (Headfort Arms, Maperath Farm, Irish Food Champions), Virtual Samhain will continue the key conversations around food and literature whilst stoking important discussion and dialogue on food’s role, present, past and future. The annual festival – which had a stellar debut in 2019 – will get its sophomore outing at a time when we all find ourselves locked down and staying home, so rather than taking place in the fine setting of Kells, Co. Meath again, 2020 will see the festival come alive in the very homes of its audience.
The digital production will draw on the experience of esteemed speakers such as Darina Allen, JP McMahon, Jordan Bailey, John and Sally McKenna, Domini Kemp, Padraic Óg Gallagher, and more. Run under the banner of the annual Hinterland Festival of Literature & Arts, in conjunction with Boyne Valley Flavours (with support from Discover Boyne Valley Tourism) Samhain was also prestigiously remarked by John and Sally McKenna as the best new Irish festival last year, and declared Olivia “The Myrtle of Meath” –– we couldn’t agree more.
Free to all who wish to be part of the audience for Samhain 2020, key talks include:
John and Sally McKenna, in conversation with author and columnist Aoife Carrigy, will present ‘Milk’, their newest book detailing and celebrates Ireland’s pedigree as the finest dairy producer on earth, through a unique collection of recipe, history and culture.
1PM: THE GREAT RESTAURANT PIVOT 2020
2020 could arguably go down in the annals as ‘The Great Pivot’, where industry has had to fight, diversify and unexpectedly evolve in order to survive –– few others in a more precarious position and pivoting like those in hospitality. We will lead chef-restaurateurs Jordan Bailey (Aimsir**) Padraic Óg Gallagher (The Boxty House) and Seáneen Sullivan (L. Mulligan Grocer) in a discussion delving into present day operations within a pandemic and chewing the fat about grit, survival and enterprising to stay in business.
2PM: PANDEMICS, PLAGUES, POTATO BLIGHT & PONDERINGS
Darina Allen (Ballymaloe Cookery School), Regina Sexton (University College Cork)and Caroline Hennessy (Bibliocook writer; Secretary Irish Food Writers Guild) will delve into the past and present of food, pondering ‘Plagues, Pandemics and Potato Blights’ –– we’ve endured landscape-shifting hardship before as a people, and come through wiser, though leaner, and more informed of how to approach a future of food. What can we learn from our past in paddling through this unprecedented pandemic?
2:40PM: THE SMOKIN’ BUTCHER & RORY O’CONNELL: NATIONAL BLACK PUDDING DAY DEMO
Rory O’Connell (Ballymaloe Cookery School) will host a Smoked Black Pudding cooking demonstration in celebration of the second annual National Black Pudding Day using The Smokin’ Butcher Hugh Maguire’s Smoked Black Pudding –– Great Taste Awards 2017 Supreme Champion product!
3PM: FOOD FOR RECOVERY
Chef-restaurateur and author Domini Kemp will discuss the pivotal role food plays in the wider healthcare industry with Paula Mee (Consultant Dietician, author) and Joyce Timmins (Marymount Care Centre, former Exec. Chef Rotunda Hospital *image credit: Paul Sherwood).
4PM: RECOVERY THROUGH FOOD –– THE FUTURE
Finally, Olivia Duff will lead a panel discussion on the day’s theme and tagline ‘Recovery Through Food’ with an esteemed panel including JP McMahon (ANIAR, Food on the Edge), Jacinta Dalton (GMIT, Irish Food Champions) and Mark McGowan (President, Restaurants Association of Ireland, Scholar’s Townhouse Hotel).
The producers of the Boyne Valley and beyond will be showcased throughout the day in self-shot snippets, including Hugh Maguire (The Smokin’ Butcher, celebrating the second annual National Black Pudding Day), Kevin Sheridan of Sheridan’s Cheese, Maria Flynn of Ballymakenny Farm, Eoin Sharkey of Maperath Farm, Michael Finnegan of Boyne Valley Farmhouse Cheese, John McDonnell of Shalvanstown Biodynamic Farm, Keith Coleman and Aisling McHugh of Rock Farm Slane/Slane Castle, Ruairi Browne and Laura McMenamy of Great Northern Larder and more…