Alumni engagement and philanthropy


26 August 2019

Award-winning writer and double Queen’s graduate Kelly McCaughrain has accepted the post as the new Children’s Writing Fellow for Northern Ireland at the Seamus Heaney Centre, at the University.

The Fellowship was created as part of Queen’s University and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland's (ACNI) joint ten-year Seamus Heaney Legacy project supported by the Atlantic Philanthropies.

Kelly follows inaugural Children’s Writing Fellow Myra Zepf, who held the post for the last two years. Kelly will be based at the Seamus Heaney Centre at Queen’s for two years, working with students and engaged in outreach activities.

Speaking about the appointment Kelly, who graduated with a BSc in Psychology (2000) and a BA in Creative Writing (2016), said: "I feel so honoured to have been invited to be the next Children’s Writing Fellow for Northern Ireland. It’s a wonderful role and I applaud The Seamus Heaney Centre and the Arts Council for creating it.

“Reading offers so many benefits to children’s development, and therefore to our whole society. Children’s literature is something that should be valued and promoted, and I’m thrilled to see that happening in Northern Ireland.

“We have some truly inspiring organisations, teachers, librarians and writers already working hard to promote children’s literacy and reading for pleasure and I’m really looking forward to working with them and learning from them and I hope that I can use my fellowship to support them.

“This is an opportunity to do something really special and I think it’s going to be an adventure!"

From Belfast, Kelly McCaughrain mentors young writers at Fighting Words. Her first novel, Flying Tips for Flightless Birds, published by Walker Books, was nominated for the Carnegie Medal and, in May this year, won a remarkable trio of Children's Books Ireland (CBI) awards – the Eilís Dillon Award for a first children’s book, the Children's Choice Award and CBI Book of the Year Award – in addition to the Northern Ireland Book Award 2019.

Catherine Heaney, daughter of Seamus Heaney, commented: “As the first Children’s Writing Fellow at the Seamus Heaney Centre, Myra Zepf brought incredible energy and enthusiasm to the role, and set the bar in fostering a love of reading and writing among children and teenagers across Northern Ireland.

“I am delighted with the appointment of Kelly McCaughrain as her successor, and look forward to watching Kelly carry on that vital work over the coming two years.”

Professor Glenn Patterson, Director of the Seamus Heaney Centre at Queen’s, said: “We look forward to welcoming local writer, Kelly McCaughrain, to the Seamus Heaney Centre at Queen’s and working with her over the next two years as the next Children’s Writing Fellow for Northern Ireland.

“Kelly is a wonderful writer and I know she will inspire many children and young people to take an interest in creative writing and reading more books.”

Damian Smyth, Head of Literature and Drama at the Arts Council for Northern Ireland, commented: “We are delighted to announce Kelly’s appointment today as the new Children’s Writing Fellow for Northern Ireland.

“Working with primary and secondary schools, she will promote reading for pleasure, encouraging children of all ages to discover the joy of books, as well as embarking on their own story-telling adventures. 

“We’d like to thank Myra for the incredible work she has done over the last two years, sharing her infectious love of books with hundreds of children across Northern Ireland, through interactive workshops, readings and school visits.”

For more information on the Fellowship and the Fellows’ public programme, please visit:

Media enquiries to Zara McBrearty at Queen’s Communications Office on +44 (0)28 9097 3259 and Sarah Coburn, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, telephone: +44 (0)28 9262 3506.

Photo credit: Headline image by free stock photos from from Pixabay

Caption (L-R): Glenn Patterson, Damian Smyth, Myra Zepf and Kelly McCaughrain

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