At what has become known as ‘Slane for the Brain’, novelists, poets, playwrights, short story writers, essayists, friends and sponsors gathered once again to celebrate the literary culture of Ireland at the 44th Opening Night of Listowel Writers’ Week at the historic Arms Hotel last night. We were delighted that Ireland’s first Fiction Laureate Anne Enright officially opened the Festival.
Colm Tóibín, in his opening address said: “It is part of the mission of Listowel Writers’ Week to celebrate writers and writing. Since writers live in the shadows and work in silence, we have invited them into the light for a moment so that we can share in the tongue that matters to us most as readers, and perhaps matters now more than ever, and that is the literary tongue itself, a tongue that is both fearful and unafraid, both self-conscious and mysterious, both whispering and ready to call out to high heaven, both modest in its aims and ready to insist that we have a duty to change the world.”
Anne Enright then took to the podium and issued a warning to both the writers and future writers in the room: “If you should fall out of bed after a late night in the Listowel Arms Hotel in a slightly dishevelled state, and you think ‘I’ll just nip down to breakfast and meet no-one’, this is not going to happen. You will nip down to breakfast and the person you will meet is someone you have only previously encountered in your dreams.” She went on to fondly recount the time she visited in 2008 when Seamus Heaney opened the festival and the night that Glen Hansard sang until 3 o’clock in the morning because he liked the people in the room.
As always, the high point of the Listowel Writers’ Week Opening Night was the announcement of the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year Award 2015, which was won by Eoin McNamee for Blue Is The Night. A cheque for €15,000 was presented to Eoin by Jim Lee of The Kerry Group.
Gerald Dawe, who adjudicated along with Eileen Battersby, said “the five shortlisted novels displayed a fascinating range of style, subject matter, ambition and flair. I enjoyed reading so much fine fiction from so many different parts of the Irish heartland, both at home and abroad. It’s simply amazing to me, as a humble poet, that there continues to be such a compelling desire to write fiction, to make stories, to shape our language into imagined lives and landscapes, into conversations and dreams.”
The Other four shortlisted authors were: David Butler for City of Dis, Patrick O’Keeffe for The Visitors, Nuala Ní Chonchúir for The Closet of Savage Mementos and Eibhear Walshe for The Diary of Mary Travers.
The Pigott Poetry Prize, now in its second year, is generously sponsored by Mark Pigott, KBE, Chairman and Chief Executive of PACCAR Inc. Mark’s family originated from Listowel and emigrated to the United States in the late 1890s. This year’s winner was Paul Muldoon for One Thousand Things Worth Knowing.
The John B Keane Lifetime Achievement Award in association with Mercier Press went to the ebullient Joe Murphy, (aka ‘The Vicar’) Artistic Director of St John’s Theatre and Arts Centre. The Award recognises individuals who have made a significant contribution to Irish cultural life. Joe has been involved in theatre for almost 40 years and took over the artistic directorship of St John’s in 1990.
The winners of our full range of Literary Competitions were also announced and are as follows:
The Bryan MacMahon Short Story Award Joseph Sweeney
Duais Foras na Gaeilge Ceaití Ní Bheildiúin
Eamon Keane Full Length Play Sadhbh Moriarty
Single Poem Jerm Curtin
Poetry Collection Mark Baker
Writers’ Week Originals Short Poem Judy Kane
Writers’ Week Originals Humorous Essay Ronan Colgan
Writers’ Week Originals Short Story Michele Coyne
Irish Post Short Story Julie Nugent
Nilsson Heritage Award Robert Tangney
Con Houlihan Young Journalist Award Seán Geoghegan
The National Children’s Festival Cover Design Sean Treyrand
Kerry County Council Creative Writing Under 9 Ella Marie Fallon
Kerry County Council Creative Writing Under 12 Éabha Murphy
Kerry County Council Creative Writing Under 14 Hannah Rudden
Kerry County Council Creative Writing Under 16 Ross Flaherty
Kerry County Council Creative Writing Under 18 Fergus Dunne
Kerry County Council Creative Writing Limerick Darragh McMahon
Special Category Award 14 and Under Michael McCarthy
Special Category Award 18 and Under Tamara Gleeson
National Children’s Festival Brochure Cover Sean Treyvaud