The John Hewitt Society

The John Hewitt Society

The John Hewitt Society
3rd Floor, The MAC, 10 Exchange Street West
United Kingdom


The John Hewitt Society offers opportunities for people from Northern Ireland and beyond to experience literature, art and political debate and to explore issues of difference and identity. It is a core principle of the Society that where possible it works in partnership with other literary and non-literary organisations.

The John Hewitt Society was established in 1987, operating first as an event only, the John Hewitt Summer School and later as a Society, when it was incorporated as charity and a company limited by guarantee in 2001. Our company number is NI 41294 and we are a registered charity (NIC102629).

What we do

Mission of The John Hewitt Society is: to promote literature, arts, and culture inspired by the ideals and ideas of the poet John Hewitt. The Society’s strategic aims are:

1. Strengthen the John Hewitt Society as Northern Ireland’s main literary organisation

2. Strengthen the John Hewitt International Summer School as NI’s main literary event

3. Develop new audiences, including developing a cohesive outreach and community development scheme to build a more diverse audience, reflective of society.

The Society’s strategic priorities for 2018-2021 include: investment in staffing resources; continuing to develop the spring festival; maintaining the successful increase in funding towards the community outreach programme Once Alien Here; increasing the bursary community ticketing scheme and enhancing the international programme at the International Summer School.

The Society encourages the use of the arts to explore sensitive issues of political and cultural identity, and offers an annual programme of activities and engagement with high-profile, high-quality artists and writers. Our creative writing workshops develop the confidence of individuals and help aid their contributions within their own communities, by exploring political and cultural issues through literature and the arts, and encouraging residents of Northern Ireland to think critically about the world around them.

International Summer School

The International Summer School is a large-scale six-day multi-arts festival of culture and creativity, consisting of 45+ events featuring 50+ high profile artists, writers, musicians, and performers & individuals, encouraging audience debate and acceptance of cultural diversity. There is no other Festival of a similar size, addressing socio-political needs & issues of reconciliation through quality arts.


Now in its 33rd year, the JHISS has developed a strong reputation across the island of Ireland, nationally & internationally, as well as a loyal local audience, evidenced by the strong demand for tickets with sales of 3600+ each year. Our bursary scheme targets participation by individuals from socio-economically challenged backgrounds who would not otherwise be able to attend, reaching new audiences & improving access to the arts and debate. The bursary scheme is oversubscribed with five applications for every three places each year, a reflection of our reputation & that the JHISS meets a need for culturally informed political engagement.


Once Alien Here

Since 2015 The Society has engaged with participants from minority groups and disadvantaged areas in NI, encouraging diverse access to literary arts and exploring issues of cultural identity. This workshop programme delivers The Society’s objective to increase participation in literature & culture across NI and achieving The Society’s aims to encourage diverse access to literary arts and exploring issues of cultural identity that are addressed through the writings of John Hewitt, continuing a successfully proven programme using creative writing as a tool to explore issues of cultural identity and to encourage creative expression. The John Hewitt Society has proven its ability to work with a wide range of community groups, including those in areas of social deprivation and with first-time participants engaging with literature and creative writing and has successfully developed an audience development plan to inspire new audiences to creatively connect to the places in which they live. The Society ring-fences bursaries to the International Summer School for participants who have successfully completed this workshop programme, offering further opportunities for personal and professional development.


Hillsborough Festival of Literature & Ideas

This is a high-quality three-day multi-arts festival, providing neutral spaces for opportunities for individuals from NI, ROI & elsewhere, from different cultural backgrounds, to explore political and cultural issues through high profile literature & arts events, professional & personal development workshops and engagement with high quality artists and writers. The festival aims to provide a major culture and arts event in the Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council area, working with local groups to ensure that community involvement is at the centre of this event, inspiring civic pride in the area and ensuring indigenous talent is fostered and supporting the Council's draft tourism strategy. The 2018 successfully engaged community support for local arts and cultural activity, provides further support for the arts and cultural sector through professional paid opportunities, and provides residents and visitors with opportunity to engage with writers & artists on an intimate level, often in non-traditional venues, in an area with few other literature or community arts activities.


NI Talks Programme

In addition to the regular annual programme of established events across NI, the Society regularly partners with organisations across NI, providing talks to community groups on cultural diversity and cultural identity, promoting John Hewitt & his legacy, reaching new audiences on the literary heritage of Hewitt to those who may not ordinarily engage in literature or arts activities. In the last year partners have included Queen’s University Belfast’s Lifelong Learning course, with 520+ attendees engaging with lectures and discussions on political and social topics including sectarianism in post-conflict NI, Brexit and north/south relations; and programming Armagh City, Banbridge & Craigavon Borough Council’s conference on migration and refugees. Other partners include Cushendun Building Preservation Trust; PEACE IV; and the Institute for Conflict Research.

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More Information

Type of Organisation


Company Number

NI 41294

NI Charity Number



  • Pat Morris
  • Aoife Maguire