University showcases and celebrates John McGahern on screen and in photos

Paul Butler, photographer; Dr Barry Houlihan, Archivist at University of Galway Library; Manuela Moser, Director of Cúirt; and Professor Tom Inglis at the launch of an exhibition curated by Dr Houlihan as part of the Cúirt Festival of Literature, A Deep Well of Want: Photographs and Archives of McGahern Country, at University of Galway. Credit - Mike Shaughnessy.
Apr 25 2024 Posted: 11:35 IST

Special screening of feature film ‘That They May Face The Rising Sun’ ahead of cinema release 

Director Pat Collins and producer Philip King announced as Adjunct Professors  

New photographic exhibition showcases McGahern country landscapes and everyday inspirations 

University of Galway has announced a special celebration of links to revered writer John McGahern with a special screening of the feature film That They May Face The Rising Sun, a unique photographic exhibition and new adjunct professorships. 

The film screening took place at Pálás Cinema, Galway on Wednesday April 24th, ahead of the UK and Ireland cinema release. 

To coincide with the film production and its partnership with University of Galway, director Pat Collins has been announced as Adjunct Professor of Film with the Huston School of Film and Digital Media for a period of three years and producer Philip King has been named Adjunct Professor of Cultural Entrepreneurship for a period of three years. 

The exhibition – A Deep Well of Want: Photographs and Archives of McGahern Country – featuring photographs by Paul Butler and new material from the John McGahern archive at University of Galway Library is being launched on the same day as the screening as part of Cúirt Festival of Literature. 

President of University of Galway, Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, said: “Our University has a strong tradition of links to the arts, creativity and of archives – both in their preservation and in making them accessible to the public. Our work on this front is true to our values of openness, excellence, respect and sustainability and our support for the film, for the adjunct professorships for Pat Collins and Philip King and for the exhibition, demonstrates our ambition to bring John McGahern and his contribution to Ireland’s literary heritage to audiences where we can. I would like to congratulate all those involved in the feature film That They May Face The Rising Sun and also to those who delved into the archives to shine a light on the everyday inspirations for one of the finest writers this country has ever produced.”  

Dr Barry Houlihan, Archivist at University of Galway Library and curator of the exhibition, said: “Our exhibition presents a visual and documentary journey through the sites, places, words and ideas that formed a wellspring for the literary imagination of John McGahern. We are delighted to have created and host this evocative trove of imagery, alongside manuscripts and materials from the McGahern archive, as a superb addition to the Cúirt Festival of Literature. Combined with the beautifully captured and evocative photographs by Paul Butler, the exhibition is a unique opportunity to explore the visual and the written landscapes of McGahern and of Co Leitrim.”  

That They May Face The Rising Sun is the third feature from Irish director, Pat Collins (Song of Granite, Silence), and had it is Irish premiere as the closing gala for Dublin International Film Festival on March 2nd

It was produced by Tina O’Reilly and Brendan J. Byrne and Executive Produced by Philip King with backing from Fís Éireann/Screen Ireland and the support of University of Galway.  

That They May Face The Rising Sun was McGahern’s final book, published in 2002, capturing a year in the life of a rural, lakeside community in Ireland in the 1970s after Joe and Kate Ruttledge return from London to live and work among the small, close-knit community near to where Joe grew up. 

Directed by renowned director Pat Collins, the film stars Barry Ward (Jimmy’s Hall, Bad Sisters) and Anna Bederke (Soul Kitchen, Sterben) in the lead roles. Lalor Roddy (Grabbers, God’s Creatures), Sean McGinley (Michael Collins, Braveheart), Ruth McCabe (Philomena, Joy Ride) and first-time actor Phillip Dolan are part of a rich cast of supporting characters. 

Speaking on the upcoming release, Nell Roddy from Break Out Pictures said: That They May Face The Rising Sun is a beautifully observed and emotionally charged film from one of Ireland's most prolific directors. We hope audiences across the UK and Ireland will embrace the film as much as we did when we bring it to the big screen this April.” 

University of Galway is home to the John McGahern Archive, which was acquired in 2003 and runs to more than 50 boxes of literary papers, drafts, manuscripts, letters and photographs documenting his life and writing.  

The exhibition draws on Butler’s recently published photo-memoir book, A Deep Well of Want: Visualising the World of John McGahern (Peter Lang Press, 2023), as well as the archive. The images and written materials bring the viewer and the reader into a unique visualisation of the world of McGahern Country through words, photographs and manuscripts. 


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