I am just back from a trip to Kerry to the famous Listowel Writer’s Festival. It is one of Ireland’s most popular arts festivals and it is held in the home town of the renowned writer, playwright and raconteur John B Keane, with the Keane Family still involved.
The sun was shining and The Listowel Arm’s Hotel was packed to the gills for the busy opening night celebrations and awards ceremony with writer Edna O’Brien receiving a life time achievement award for her work, and Paul Lynch winning the Kerry Group Fiction book of the year award for his novel ‘Grace’.
This year’s Children’s Programme had a sea theme inspired by the art work of Steve McCarthy, and Listowel Park and Community Centre were transformed by the work of local artists groups.
I talked to a big group of local schools and later that day took part in a very interesting ‘Bold Girls’ event chatting with authors Sarah Webb and Sheena Wilkinson about the women and girls in history and books and all around us that inspire and encourage us to be bold , brave and strong…
It was great to be invited to lead a very special tour of ‘Coming Home – Art and The Great Hunger Exhibition at Dublin Castle, as this very special art collection has such a connection with my own writing and books. I love art and sculpture so it was exciting and something very different for me to be given the opportunity to select my favourite pieces which relate to ‘Under the Hawthorn Tree’ and ‘Wildflower Girl’. A wonderful group joined me for this very special art tour.
Later I talked to a larger group about ‘The World of ‘Under the Hawthorn Tree’ using some of the wonderful images from this exhibition, which is part of the Art collection from Quinnipiac University’s Great Hunger Museum in America which is on display here until the end of June, before moving to the Uillinn West Cork Art’s Centre in Skibbereen.
I also got along to help to launch ‘The Hunger Times- A short children’s film about the Great Irish Famine which was commissioned by Quinnipiac’s Great Hunger Museum. It was great to meet the cast and crew and director. The first viewers of this time travel Famine adventure were kids from Marlborough Central School.
It was such a busy few days as I was part of a panel for a brilliant ‘Bold Girls –Brave and Bold’ event about inspirational women who changed history with Anna Carey, Siobhan Parkinson and Dr Norah Patten held at Smock Alley Theatre.
The International Literature Festival Dublin certainly had a huge varied and interesting programme for all ages and it was an absolute pleasure as a writer to be involved.
Dingle Feile na Bealtaine
I spent a wonderful few days down in Dingle in Co. Kerry at the Dingle Feile na Bealtaine Festival, which involves the whole town and local community in a celebration of writing music, art and literature for all ages and interests.
Dingle is such a special town. It is one of the most stunning places to visit in Ireland as the landscape and ocean and sea and sky and cliffs and fields and golden beaches and mountains all combine to take your breath away.
I visited two great schools one overlooking the ocean in Clochan and then on to the wonderful Bunscoil Bricluin, in Annascaul.
Bookshop owner Camilla Dinkel organised a wonderful event in her lovely Dingle Bookshop, where I got to meet and talk with so many lovely readers both young and old.
Later I was in the Dingle Courthouse for a packed court session with Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen, the two very talented authors of the bestselling novel ‘Oh My God What a Complete Aisling.’
I loved the book and was delighted to act as interviewer with the three of us adjourning from the judge’s bench to conduct the proceedings.
The fact that Aisling happens to admit in the book that she is a big fan of my books and takes comfort from reading them is great. Emer and Sarah are so good to give me such a lovely mention in their novel. Like everyone else I can’t wait to see Aisling up on the big screen.
Saturday night was a real treat getting to a concert in the famous St. James’ Church where the wonderful singer Cat Dowling performed. Then Kerry poet Brendan Kennelly who was in the audience, gave us a few of his poems, before singer Camille O’Sullivan took to the stage and blew us away with an amazing performance. Thanks to Rachel Ni Fhionnáin, for organizing such a lovely visit.