On a balmy November’s evening in Dublin it was great to be able to get along to two busy book launches after such a long time of having no launches.
Ally Bunbury’s fun Christmas read ‘All Wrapped Up’ was launched in The Little Museum by Anne Doyle and then down the road to Hodges and Figgis Bookshop for the launch of my friend P.J. Lynch’s beautiful new picture book ‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening’ which is based on the famous Robert Frost poem. Eoin Colfer did the honours and it was great to meet up with so many friends. Both are perfect Christmas books
One more book I should mention is by talented young Ukrainian writer Yeva Skalietska whose wonderful book ‘You Don’t Know What War Is’ has also only been published.
Twelve year old Yeva recounts what happened when Russian forces began to bomb her home town of Kharkiv, at first they shelter but as things worsen she and her grandmother Irina have to flee, moving to another part of Ukraine. Yeva keeps a diary recording what is happening all around her and her fears and hopes. She and her grandmother make the long journey to Hungary where a journalist sees her writing it and helps them until they eventually come to Ireland. There are maps of her hometown and of the long journey she and her grandmother made I met Yeva months ago with Irina and she is already trying to make the best of things, settling into her new school and life here.
It was a real pleasure to be back in Strokestown Park House on Saturday for a very special event ‘Archive to Arts’ which marked the launch of Treasures of the Strokestown Famine Archive Virtual Exhibit.
Strokestown Park’s collection of records and documents is a real treasure trove with over 50,000 documents and items which will help provide huge information about the parallel lives of tenants of Strokestown and its landowners, the Mahon family during a turbulent and tragic time in Irish history.
As a writer I often spend a huge amount of time researching and using archives so it is great to mark the start of an exciting project which will over time make parts of the collection with its valuable letters, petitions and eviction and emigration lists available digitally to all those with an interest in Strokestown Park House and the Great Irish Famine.
It was also a great opportunity for me to see the redesigned National Famine Museum which only recently reopened after a huge upgrade and tells the Strokestown Story in a hugely immersive way. Set in a bright new airy space with a lovely café it is well worth visiting.
The day was spent discussing the varied aspects of artists using archives to inspire their work, be it in theatre and performance, literature or art or music and how using archives can not only inform us but be a catalyst for something new. Other speakers included Anne -Marie O’Sullivan of Enchanted Croi Theatre, Professor Mark McGowan, Professor Kevin Whelan and singer and writer Declan O’Rourke.
With Anne-Marie O’ Sullivan, Declan O Rourke and Carolin Callery of Strokestown Park House
It is a real treat to be invited to return to Strokestown Park House and the National Famine Museum in Roscommon and to take part in a very special event focused on Archives to Arts and Bringing the Strokestown Archive to life on Saturday 24th September.
The Museum itself has only recently reopened with a new look after having a wonderful five million euro upgrade during the necessary Covid closedown, with an international panel of Famine experts overseeing the project.
To have an archive of over 50, 000 documents available that provide an insight into the parallel lives of tenants and the landlord is a real treasure for all of us with an interest in the past. As a writer having access to archives is invaluable and plays a huge part in the creation of my work and enriches it often sparking new ideas and stories and books that I simply have to write.
Among the panelists are singer and writer Declan O’Rourke and Anne-Marie O’ Sullivan of Enchanted Croi Theatre and there will be a screening of ‘Treasures of the Strokestown Famine Archive in the National Library’ presented by Professor Mark McGowan.