Discover Lifelines: letters from famous people about their favourite poems

An exhibition marking the 25th anniversary of the Lifelines project.

The exhibition was displayed in the National Library of Ireland during 2010, and is now available for loan as a travelling exhibition.

The exhibition celebrates the Lifelines project which began in 1985 when English teacher Niall MacMonagle suggested to his Fifth Year class in Wesley College, Dublin that they do something to help those suffering in Africa. They wrote to famous people and asked them to name a favourite poem and give a reason why. The replies were duplicated on the school’s Gestetner machine, stapled together in a simple booklet and sold out in two days. Further booklets, also compiled by Wesley College pupils, were published in 1988, 1990 and 1992.

Lifelines Lifelines

The success of the booklets resulted in the publication of the Lifelines book in 1992, with a foreword by Seamus Heaney. Lifelines 2 appeared in 1994 and Lifelines 3 in 1997. A selection from Lifelines was published by Penguin in 1993, and a further volume, a New and Collected edition, published by Townhouse in 2006. Royalties earned on the various editions had, by 2006, raised over €100,000 for Concern to fund the organisation’s work in the developing world.

The National Library of Ireland purchased the original letters that were included in the first Lifelines publication and the money was donated to Concern. Subsequently Wesley College donated all correspondence, photographs and other related archival material to the Library.

Content and format

The exhibition comprises 12 display stands. The stands are lightweight and portable. 

Title Stand

Come See What I Say: Lifelines publications

Contributor's letters

When poems are the thing

Lifelines: an Irish success story

The ones that got away

The Simplest Idea: The teams and the school

The Wall of Fame

Quotes and contributors

Extracts from Contributors letters x 3

The Lifelines exhibition is available for loan. To find out more information and book an exhibition contact the Learning and Outreach department by email or telephone 01 6030259

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