Mother Tongues Festival - EFFE Laureate

Simon Mundy - 16 Jul 2019

Get more insight on Mother Tongues Festival. Read Simon Mundy's interview with Festival Producer Francesca la Morgia.

In Ireland language is a deeply political subject. The centuries-old battle between Irish and the English of the governing classes is still a live subject of debate. There is a newer reality, though, which is the gap between locals and the increasing number of residents who have come to work and live in the country since Ireland joined the EU and its economy became global.


Ireland is now a country where many languages are spoken but most in the privacy of homes, not in public. The Mother Tongues Festival tackles that monolingual public space by offering a high quality artistic programme. 'Maybe we are saying these are not foreign languages – it's the way Ireland is now,' says Festival Producer Francesca la Morgia, 'More and more families live in bilingual or trilingual households.'

Mother Tongues has only been held twice but is already proving to be a fascinating window into local people's lives. 'We try to showcase as much as possible – whatever feels like home.' So the origami workshop was in Japanese, there were children's illustration sessions in Portuguese and Polish, theatre in Irish and other events in Bulgarian, Spanish and Arabic, among many others.

'For the children they suddenly see the relevance to the outside world of the language they speak only at home,' Francesca says. 'For adults it's so important because they are often disconnected, having to engage through their children's better English with the society around them. The festival is a good opportunity to end that isolation and have a conversation. I heard from one mum who was crying with happiness to see her daughter enjoying herself in her own language outside the home. And the Japanese artist who had never spoken it in a public talk before.'

Not everyone joining the festival comes from another country and, while some events are immersive in an unfamiliar tongue there are many that are bilingual. 'Music, of course, is universal and people are used to listening to other languages sung. We found in the hip-hop workshop that rap works in anything.'

Francesca points out that lack of language can have devastating effects in terms of isolation and social wellbeing. 'Race and colour divisions are based on concepts and attitudes but language division is real and unbiased. This arts festival is helping us have a discussion about who we really are.'

Note from the EFFE International Jury

Contemporary Ireland has many immigrants who work hard in the community. This festival embraces their cultures and experiences based on epics, fairy tales and stories in their mother tongues. For those who work in factories and on farms this is an important way of showing their own traditions to the majority Irish population.

Mother Tongues Festival

22 Feb 2020 - 23 Feb 2020