Cill Rialaig – Allowing the Creative Spirit to Rejuvenate and be Inspired

Listowel Writers’ Week is honoured and delighted to announce its first year in working partnership with Cill Rialaig Artists Retreat.  Situated in the wild and remote landscape of Bolus Head, at the very tip of the Iveragh Peninsula in South Kerry, Cill Rialaig has been attracting thousands of writers, artists, poets and composers from Ireland and around the world for more than 20 years. In February of this year Listowel Writers’ Week sent seven privileged writers to this remote retreat for ten days, where they were afforded the opportunity to focus entirely on their creative writing without interruption from the outside world.

CottagesNestled into a steep cliff side overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, sit seven small stone cottages, each of which housed the writers, and an eighth cottage – Tigh na Comhrá (Gaelic for ‘House of Conversation’) or Meeting House, where they could gather together to converse or simply to read from its rich library of books.

 Cill Rialaig came about thanks to the visionary thinking of Noelle Campbell Sharpe, who saved this small pre-famine village from demolition in the early 1990s. ‘My dream was to see the village reborn as an artists’ retreat, a non-commercial sanctuary with a free cottage studio where artists could think, reflect, absorb and be inspired, whilst having every technical facility to help create works of art.’ 

 Below is a selection of observations from our writers about their ten day retreat at Cill Rialaig:

 ‘Cill Rialaig was such a hauntingly beautiful and ancient place; it was like escaping the world to perch on its edge.  I wrote there in a way that I could never do anywhere else.’ Niamh Boyce

 ‘Once you’ve placed yourself on the edge at Cill Rialaig, the sea and sky come to know you a bit… and you find yourselfLandscape soaring or galloping, sweeping or running bright like a horse or a strike of wind…  Sounds of tides, warm cottage fires, the smell of turf, rhythms your body makes while walking the hills and roads all become part of your mountain, sky and sea palette and then you write or paint in ways truer and surer than before.  At Cill Rialaig something enters you, and it has to soar and gallop through until you see it there in your work.’ Waylon Gary White Deer

‘I arrived at Cill Rialaig with the rough draft of a novel that I’d been writing for some time.  Thanks to the collaboration between Listowel Writers’ Week and the Cill Rialaig Artists’ Retreat, my ten-day residency proved to be extremely productive.  I loved the solitude of the retreat, the awareness that I was surrounded by other writers, equally intent on progressing their own work.  I’d like to express my gratitude to Listowel Writers’ Week and the Cill Rialaig Artists’ Retreat for their invitation and for the opportunity to work in such an unusual and inspirational atmosphere.’ June Considene

 ‘My time in Cill Rialaig was more like a refuge than a retreat. With the wild weather howling around and between the cottages and the incredible view, I felt at times as if I were in a boat.  I began several pieces whilst I was there.  The fact that one was called Safe House will probably tell you my feelings on my small cottage… More though than anything practical, the opportunity I was given as a relatively new writer to go and spend time in Cill Rialaig with other people also engaged in writing, reassured me about the validity of what can seem a self-indulgent act: giving time to writing.  I loved it, the solitude, the chats and the tranquillity, and most of all the soul-tonic it was to spend time in such an elemental and timeless sea and landscape.’ Sarah Clancy

‘Thank you for the opportunity to stay at Cill Rialaig, it was a very positive experience.  For me, being so isolated really helped me work.  It wasn’t only being out of the routine of normal living or avoiding those distractions that come with day-to-day life, it was being in an environment where writing was seen as a respected and fruitful way to spend your time.  Writing is a very isolating activity and to maintain motivation is one of the hardest things. I think this was the first time I have been consciously aware of my work being pooled into something larger than myself.  All the rest goes with saying – the beauty of the place, the historical wealth, the humbling feeling of privilege when you realise how hard life must have been.’  Marian O’Neill

 ‘The initiative to provide writers with a quiet place to work for ten days was an excellent and fruitful idea.  There was an atmosphere of dedication throughout the day, and during the relaxed evenings, we had time to meet and talk about writing and our various experiences with our peers.  I got a lot of writing done, met some great people, and am very grateful to Listowel Writers’ Week and to Cill Rialaig for this retreat.’ Helena Mulkern

 Con Houlihan Young Sports Journalist Award

Hurry, hurry, hurry! Only one week left week to enter our Con Houlihan Young Sports Journalist Award. The competition, in honour of the late sports journalist and Kerry legend, is open to writers aged 20 or younger.  Entries should be 500 words max and may be in the form of a report or feature piece on a sports topic or sports personality of your choice. ENTRY IS FREE.

The closing date is Friday 29th March 2013. Please send your entries to Listowel Writers’ Week, 24, The Square, Listowel, Co. Kerry.

 Julian Gough, (below) Director of our Writing a Play for Radio workshop, offers some words of wisdom.

Please click Workshops for full details of all our Workshops.  Remember, you can book online now, or if you prefer, you can still phone the Listowel Writers’ Week office on 068 21074.

Julian-GoughQ.        Tell us a little about writing a play for radio, and also, adapting stories for radio plays, which is quite a different thing and something I know you did for one of your plays for the BBC.

A.        Well, I’ve had short stories broadcast on BBC Radio 4. I have also adapted a short story of mine into a play for them. And I have written an original radio drama for them. You’re right, all three are very different things, and I would hope to talk about all three processes in the workshop.

The important, the essential thing is, radio likes stories; telling a story is a perfect fit with what radio does best. And some stories are best told straight; just get the right actor to read out the story. Some work is best dramatised, with a full cast and sound effects. That’s something I hope to discuss. You might do this workshop and decide not to write a radio drama at all, but instead write a story that is suited to radio, that uses the intimacy of radio. That’s fine too.

If anyone is considering doing this workshop, but hasn’t written radio drama (or any drama) before, I’d urge them to bring along the stories of theirs that they think might work well adapted to radio.

I think we’ll move between stories, adaptations, and original drama, but I’m very open to what the people on the course want to concentrate on. I’ll try to give each person help with whatever it is they want to achieve. Radio is a lovely, flexible medium, so we’ll play around with it.

And if you have a local radio station, maybe have a chat with them before you do this workshop. Ask them if there’s any room for stories by local writers on the local station. Get local actors to read them. I think that’s an opportunity that hasn’t been seized yet. Even a five minute slot every week, on a few local radio stations, could create a whole new radio writing culture in Ireland. And there is funding for original radio drama available, so it could be easily done.