A Fanatic Heart: Geldof On Yeats

A Fanatic Heart : Geldof on Yeats

“One hundred years ago, a handful of Irishmen and women rose up against the British Empire. A six-day rebellion that ended in their execution and elevation to near-sainthood. But are they Ireland’s greatest heroes? Is the GPO Ireland’s most sacred place?  To me, it represents the birth of a pious, bitter and narrow-minded version of Ireland I couldn’t wait to escape.

But there was another version of Ireland, dreamt up by a poet… His vision was mythical, romantic, truly heroic and beautiful. That was the Ireland I could never leave behind.”

In this two-part documentary – commissioned by RTÉ as part of a season of documentaries marking the role that artists played in reinventing Ireland in the decades before the Rising – Bob Geldof traces how W.B. Yeats led the way in imagining a new, proud, strong Ireland into being after the Famine – and how, after centuries of colonial oppression, he gave the people of Ireland back a story they could believe in and fight for.

“As Gogarty said, ‘there is no Free State without Yeats. By which he meant that Ireland doesn’t exist without the poet.’”

Geldof traces W.B. Yeats’ life, from his earliest family trips to Rosses’ Point in Sligo – which awakened a lifelong love of fairy tales and folklore – via international fame as the poet laureate of an emerging Ireland, to his Nobel Prize and role as Senator in the new Free State.

Controversially, he contends that Yeats deserves a place ahead of the martyrs of 1916 – because, he argues, rather than sacrifice his life for Ireland, Yeats stayed alive to fight for a secular, just and truly inclusive Ireland.

Through performances of some of Yeats’ most iconic poems by leading Irish and British cultural figures, Geldof reveals how Yeats and others built the scaffolding of a new independent Ireland decades before the Rising – but how Yeats’ vision for a modern, pluralist, inclusive Ireland was pushed aside by the narrow-minded Catholic élite of the new Free State: the “Banana Republic” that Geldof in turn rebelled against half a century later.

A Fanatic Heart is a captivating tale of mythology, nation-building, insurgency and disillusion – and how one man dreamed an entire country out of the ravages of famine and into a new dawn.

With performances of Yeats’ poems by Sting, Noel Gallagher, Edna O’Brien, Bono, Van Morrison, Olivia O’Leary, Liam Neeson, Stephen Fry, Dominic West, Richard E. Grant, Bill Nighy, Anne Enright, Colin Farrell, Ardal O’Hanlon, Shane MacGowan and more.

Available on RTÉ Player now

 


MANY THANKS TO EACH AND EVERY CONTRIBUTOR, OUR AMBASSADORS AND TOUR GUIDES

Abbey Theatre, An Garda Siochana, Association of Professional Genealogists Ireland, Band of An Garda Siochana, Buswells Hotel, Capuchin Friary, Century Ireland, Cobblestone, Conradh na Gaeilge, Dubray Books Grafton Street, Dublin Fire Brigade Pipe Band, Dublin Institute of Technology, Eason’s O’Connell Street, Gallery of Photography. Garda Historical Society, Generator Hostel, Glasnevin Trust, Grafton Barbers, Hodges Figgis Dawson Street, Irish Film Archive, Irish Veteran & Vintage Car Club. John Shevlin Millinery, Little Museum of Dublin, Louis Copeland & Sons, Manning's Bakery, Massey Funeral Directors, Maynooth University, Merrion Square Artists Association, National College of Art and Design, National Library of Ireland, National Museum at Collins Barracks, National Transport Museum of Ireland, NUI Galway, Poetry Ireland, Queen's University Belfast, Royal College of Physicians in Ireland, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Royal Dublin Fusiliers Association, Royal Hibernian Academy, St Michan's Church of Ireland Parish, St Michan's Roman Catholic Parish, St Vincent de Paul, SIPTU, The Four Courts, Trinity College Dublin, University College Cork, University College Dublin, University of Limerick, University of Ulster, Whyte’s Irish Art & Collectables, National Print Museum, Irish Guild of Weavers Spinners & Dyers, ICA, Feltmakers Ireland, Irish Woodturners Guild, Doran Barber Shop The Pram Doctor, The Merrion Square Artists Association, The Dice Bar, Third Space, The Family Resource Centre St. Michael’s Estate, Brown Bag Films, The Stoneybatter and Smithfield People’s History Project, The Revenue Museum, www.irishmusik.com

RTÉ would like to gratefully acknowledge the support and participation of the individual speakers who were kind enough to share their research and private collections with the public as part of the RTÉ Reflecting the Rising project. A big thanks also to the many volunteers and actors who gave their time so generously to help make RTÉ Reflecting the Rising a memorable and successful day.

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