The world pauses to pay tribute to Ireland’s ‘national poet’ William Butler Yeats for his 150th Birthday Celebrations

The 150th birthday of one of Ireland’s greatest literary figures, Nobel prize winning poet William Butler Yeats, will be celebrated globally on June 13. The momentous birthday is being marked this year with hundreds of cultural events and celebrations happening both at home and abroad culminating in a four day Yeats Festival from June 11-14 in Sligo, the inspiration for most of his poetry.

Chair Yeats2015 Senator Susan O’ Keeffe commented “Sligo will be the beating heart of the world stage as we prepare to celebrate WB Yeats birthday celebrations. We are thrilled to see such a spectacular response to Yeats2015 at home and abroad. The Yeats Day events will honour his great poetry and will offer a wonderful opportunity to enjoy Yeats’ ‘spiritual home’ the Sligo landscape,Yeats Country.”

The life and work of WB Yeats holds a particular place in the world’s imagination. More than 40 countries are marking the birthday with cultural happenings dedicated to WB Yeats taking place from June 10 – 13 in Melbourne, Vienna, Montreal, Berlin, London, New York, Chicago, Seoul, Singapore, Shanghai, Utrecht, Bratslavia, Slovakia, Paris and Madrid. Events include a range of concerts, readings, talks and screenings with a host of well know personalities taking part including Sarah Jessica Parker, Matthew Broderick, Michael Gambon, Adrian Dunbar, Joanna Lumley, Edna O’Brien, Orla Kiely, Gabriel Byrne, Olympia Dukakis, Colum McCann and many more.

Ian Brannigan, CEO & Head of Regional Development, Western Development Commission said “Yeats spoke about leaving the arts to ‘the conscience of mankind’, and in the continued growth of the Yeats2015 commemoration, which has now seeped to every corner of the world, we see his words realized and also see our western region placed in the international creative consciousness. ”


At home in Ireland, The Central Bank will be issuing a limited-edition Yeats inspired €15 coin on June 03 while An Post will issue a new commemorative stamp on June 11 to honour the poet’s 150th birthday. Iarnród Éireann is also set to partner with Yeats2015, displaying some of Yeats’ best known and some lesser known poetry on DART trains for the month of June. They will also be hosting a poetry carriage on the 11:05hrs service from Connolly to Sligo on Yeats Day, June 13.

The significant impact of Yeats’ genius has influenced and inspired artists, composers and musicians through the decades both at home and abroad. The 2015 KBC Great Music in Irish Houses Festival promises to portray Yeats’ influence on the musical world by offering audiences an array of vocal and instrumental works from the classical music tradition inspired by the poet. A distinguished line-up of musicians from Ireland has been invited to perform, with four distinctly different performances taking place in historic venues in Dublin. The Dublin Musical Saunter takes place on June 12 at Dublin City Gallery, The Hugh Lane, The National Concert Hall, Dublin Writers Museum and The Chapel Royal at Dublin Castle. The musical salute involves Deirdre and Fionnuala Moynihan, Robin Tritschler, Hugh Tinney, William Dowdall, Matthew Manning and the Vanbrugh Quartet, Paul Roe, Nuala Hayes, Lynda Lee, William Dowdall, Simon Aspell and Andreja Malirv.

On June 13, The Irish Film Institute will present Alan Gilsenan’s cinematic and avowedly experimental film-poem, A Vision: A Life of WB Yeats. This film is a response to Yeats’ vast body of work and is according to Gilsenan “an unconventional biography of sorts. Using solely the words of Yeats, we attempted to take the viewer on a cinematic journey into his extraordinary imagination.” There will also be a series of free lunchtime short film screenings across the month of June entitled Images of a Past Life: W. B. Yeats in Film.

The local residents of Sandymount Green, Dublin 4 have issued an open invitation to attend their Yeats Day party on June 13. This special event is themed around the love story of Maud Gonne and WB Yeats. The celebrations will take place at Sandymount Green around the bust of the Yeats, who was born at No. 5 Sandymount Avenue 150 years ago this year.  Festivities will include poetry, prose, song and music.  The event is being organised by Yeats’ biographer, Anthony J. Jordan.

In Galway, Coole Park will host a special fancy dress family day celebrating Yeats at Coole with Coole Harmonies Choir and uilleann piper Eugene Lamb. Coole Park was the home of Lady Gregory dramatist and folklorist in the early 20th century and it was the centre of the Irish Literary Revival. William Butler Yeats, George Bernard Shaw, John Millington Synge and Sean O’ Casey all came to experience its magic. Yeats described it as the most beautiful place on earth and many of his great poems were written at or about Coole. On Sunday June 7 and 14 guided walks will be offered at 3pm through the magical landscape that Yeats loved so well and celebrated in his poetry.


From an early morning boat trip to Lough Gill, magical music at dusk in Sligo Abbey and a candle lit salon at The Model, over 50 multi- disciplinary events will take place in Sligo from Thursday June 11 to Sunday June 14.

The winner of Yeats 2015 Architectural Competition run by IT Sligo, the Model and Hazelwood Demesne will be unveiled during the Yeats Day festivities. The winning design, Square Moon by Shindesignworks, an architecture design team based in London and Daegu, South Korea will be temporarily installed along the jetty area of Isle of Innisfree on Lough Gill for Yeats Day, June 13 as a realisation of Yeats’ vision – a gift on his 150th birthday. This temporary installation will also coincide with a series of special events at the Model in Sligo. The structure will then be moved to its permanent home – on the campus of IT Sligo.

Key events include:

  • The celebratory Nobel Dinner, a literary and musical experience to savour, at The Radisson Blu Hotel will launch the Sligo Yeats Day festivities on June 11 with special guest Edna O’Brien in attendance.
  • Irish designer Orla Kiely will open the LilyLolly Craftfest on June 12 at 5.00pm  in the Yeats Memorial Building.
  • The Poet Laureate & National Poets event at IT Sligo’s Knocknarea Arena on Saturday June 13. This event features Chair of Irish Poetry, Paula Meehan; Poet Laureate of England, Carol Ann Duffy; National Poet of Wales, Gillian Clarke; National Poet of Scotland, Liz Lochhead; London Laureate, Aisling Fahey and Northern Irish Poet, Sinead Morrissey in the presence of        president Michael D. Higgins, Patron of Yeats 2015.
  • Lissadell House will host a multiplicity of birthday activities including poetry recitations, talks, music recitals on June 13.
  • On the occasion of the 150th anniversary of WB Yeats, The Model programme for Yeats2015 will present an array of events for every Yeats enthusiast. The exhibition Psychic Lighthouse explores his interest in the practice of magic and the quest for enlightenment. The show features the work of a number of Irish and international contemporary artists, who investigate ritual, spiritualism and occult practices – to question the boundary between the metaphysical and material worlds.
  • The Lake Isle of Innisfree Garden is a Yeats2015 initiative, based around Yeats’s famous poem of the same name. The garden is part of Bord Bia’s Bloom in the Park Garden Festival held in Dublin from May 28 to June 1.  The Lake Isle of Innisfree garden will be brought back to Sligo to its new home next to the Model, in the heart of Sligo City. It will be officially opened by      Joanna Lumley on June 13.
  • Sligo’s O’Connell Street will come to life on Saturday June 13 with specially devised street performances by Workhouse Studios and Luxe performance company, live music, a giant birthday cake and celebrations for all the family.
  • Your Yeats: The Yeats 2015 creative team has also designed a unique participative project Your Yeats inviting people to record their own version of a Yeats poem in an attempt to create the
    world’s largest audio archive of his work. President Michael D. Higgins has contributed a reading of A Prayer for My Daughter, the family of Seamus Heaney have given permission for his
    recording of What Then? to be used, and the former President of Ireland Mary Robinson is reading The Song of Wandering Aengus.

For further details visit or follow #yeats2015 for updates.

Yeats2015 has been funded by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht as part of the national decade of commemorations initiative. 

The Western Development Commission (WDC) has been appointed as secretariat by the Department to deliver the programme on their behalf.

Media information please contact:

Kate Bowe                                                  Kathy Scott
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