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Lily & Lolly: The Forgotten Yeats Sisters to air on Sky Arts this IWD

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Lily & Lolly: The Forgotten Yeats Sisters to air on Sky Arts this IWD

Lily & Lolly: The Forgotten Yeats Sisters to air on Sky Arts this IWD

Sky Original documentary, Lily & Lolly: The Forgotten Yeats Sisters, hosted by singer-songwriter and poet, Imelda May, is to air this International Women’s Day, Friday 8 March on Sky Arts, Freeview and streaming-service NOW.

The hour-long documentary tells the incredible story of two remarkable women, Susan (Lily) and Elizabeth (Lolly) Yeats who were the backbone of the Irish cultural and literary revival of the 1920s. It was produced by an all-female team and directed by RTS award-winning Maggie Breathnach of Red Shoe Productions.

Speaking about the documentary, Imelda May said:

“Lily and Lolly were the sisters of well-loved literary genius W.B. Yeats, world-renowned painter Jack Butler Yeats and daughter of celebrated artist John Butler Yeats – if known at all, they were most often only referred to as ‘the sisters of…’ even though they were hugely talented in their own right.

“I was delighted when my friend and wonderful producer Maggie Breathnach and Sky Arts agreed we should collaborate to make a documentary telling their remarkable story.”

In 1902 alongside a friend of theirs, Evelyn Gleeson, the sisters set up the Dun Emer Guild in Dundrum in Dublin to find work for Irish hands in the making of beautiful things and to promote women’s economic and cultural independence. It was the first and only guild of its kind as, uniquely, the enterprise only employed women.

Susan was across the embroidery, Elizabeth, the printing department (Dun Emer Press), while Evelyn managed the tapestries and rugs.

After a breakdown in relations, Evelyn kept the Dun Emer name and, undeterred, Lily and Lolly set about founding Cuala Industries to continue the work they had started.

Over the span of four decades, the sisters were responsible for the publishing of over 70 beautiful titles including works by many of the period’s leading Irish authors – W.B. Yeats, J.M. Synge and Lady Gregory.

Despite this gargantuan contribution to Irish culture, if not for their famous surname, would Lily and Lolly Yeats have been airbrushed out of history entirely?

The film touches on their complicated relationships with their brothers (and each other) and explores their resilience in the face of lifelong illness, financial struggles (the press succeeded artistically but struggled economically) and working as creatives.

Sky Arts Director Phil Edgar-Jones said:

“We are always on the lookout for those surprising, enlightening stories for Sky Arts and the tale of Lily and Lolly as told by the peerless Imelda May is one of those stories. We are delighted to right the wrongs of history and bring their unique talents to new audiences.”

Lily & Lolly: The Forgotten Yeats Sisters was produced by Red Shoe Productions in association with Sky Studios and Tourism Ireland.

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