Shadowed Women Art Exhibition

IMG-20160729-WA0001It was an honour to open talented textile artist Ciara Harrison’s Exhibition ‘Shadowed Women’ in Limerick’s Hunt Museum. Ciara’s portraits of the seven widows of the 1916 Easter Rising have an ethereal and almost ghostly quality.

Her charcoal drawings and embroidered layers in black cotton organdie, although seeming fragile, give a unique perspective to these often forgotten women. The portraits include sisters Grace and Muriel Gifford, Maud Gonne, Kathleen Clark, Agnes Mallin, Aine Ceannt, and Lily Connolly.

IMG-20160729-WA0002‘Shadowed Women’ was commissioned by The Little Museum of Dublin and is on view at The Hunt Museum until the end of August. Downstairs in The Hunt Museum, artist Robert Ballagh’s 1916 Centennial Reflection Exhibition ‘A Terrible Beauty’ is also on show until 28th August 2016.

Both exhibitions are well worth a visit over the summer in this wonderful museum!

From Limerick, I travelled down to the Ardmore Pattern Festival in Waterford, which this year is celebrating its 10th Anniversary. The sun was shining and huge crowds turned out for the week of varied events.

Saturday morning started with a big gang of young readers coming along to meet me at the school, with their books, ideas and questions.

Later on the venue was the 300 year old St Paul’s Church, which was the perfect setting to discuss and talk about history, 1916 and my book Rebel Sisters to a wonderful group of history enthusiasts and book lovers.

Robert Dunbar

Robert Dunbar photoIt was such sad news to hear of Robert’s death. The world of children’s books will certainly not be the same without him. He will be terribly missed by both writers and readers alike.

Robert Dunbar was like a bridge introducing readers to good books, his mission was to bring both writers and readers together. Wise, witty and funny, in his red duffle coat he was like a Santa Claus with his books that he loved and enthused over.

I cannot imagine a children’s book launch or summer school without him! He gave me huge support and encouragement from the beginning when Under the Hawthorn Tree was published and always encouraged my work. I valued his opinion and always loved to meet him and have a chat.

Over the years he made a special point of supporting Irish writers and their books. Children’s Literature was his lifelong passion and he never lost his enthusiasm for it. A brilliant academic and speaker, Robert always worked tirelessly to promote reading and to share his love of books with everyone.

On Stage-Under the Hawthorn Tree

20160617_164026What an emotional experience to see Under the Hawthorn Tree staged by Northern Ireland’s wonderful theatre company, Cahoots, in the Ulster American Folk Park in Omagh.  I was so excited, as I had been very impressed when I attended the rehearsals in Belfast.

An amazing cast brought the story of Eily, Michael and Peggy to life. Music, song and the haunting Uileann pipes all added to the drama of one family’s fight to survive during Ireland’s Great Famine. The play was adapted by Charles Way and directed by Paul Bosco McEneaney.

IMG_0408The Ulster American Folk Park is a great place to stage it, as I as visited it to research my books. The Park now holds Hawthorn Days in the spring.

The play opened on Tuesday 21st June and will run there until 1st July.  There are two shows a day and tickets must be booked with the Ulster American Folk Park.


Book Clubs – Rebel Sisters

Book Club IllustrationIt is great to see Rebel Sisters become such a big Book Club choice. It is a great honour to have so many book clubs all over the country reading and discussing my new novel based on the lives of the Gifford sisters. Rebel Sisters was also a Sean O’ Rourke’s RTE Radio Show Book Club choice.

There is a huge interest in the changing lives of women of the period leading up to 1916 and the complexities of Irish history which would see a family like the Giffords, loyal to the crown and empire, torn apart. As their brothers enlisted to fight in the Great War, Muriel, Grace and Nellie found themselves instead caught up in plans for the Nationalist rebellion.

Writing a book about three young women who were so deeply involved at the very heart of the 1916 Rising was certainly a very big subject to take on but I am so please at the huge interest in the book and the fact that it has encouraged so many readers to delve further into the events of 1916.

I had a lovely time speaking at a big Book Club lunch held in Elm Park Golf Club in Dublin where I had the chance to meet lovely readers from different book clubs, who had lots of questions and insights into the book.

Thank you to all my wonderful Book Club readers!

Books and Bealtaine Festival

Marita with Sarah Webb and Cormac KinsellaI am having one of these madly busy weeks. Just got back from talking down in Scoil Mhuire in Abbeyside, Waterford and headed to The Ark in Temple Bar to take part in the Bealtaine Festival at an event with Sarah Webb and Cormac Kinsella. Lots of lovely book talk!

On Tuesday night it was off to Hodges Figgis for the launch of Sam Blake aka Vanessa O’Loughlin’s new crime thriller book Little Bones. It is set in Ireland and I’m sure will be a big success. Vanessa has done so much to inspire and help other people get into print, so now it is her turn to write a best seller. Met lots of lovely ladies who just happen to be crime writers too, so be prepared – there will be lots of fictional murders heading your way!!!

Finally I am delighted to hear the very good news that my friend the illustrator PJ Lynch is the new Children’s Laureate 2016.