Highlights of the 43rd Listowel Writers’ Week Opening Ceremony

Eimear McBride & Denis Buckley, Kerry Group Chairman
Eimear McBride & Denis Buckley, Kerry Group Chairman

And we’re off! The sun was shining and music from the Misty Jazz Band filled the evening air, as novelists, poets, playwrights, winners and readers assembled once again to celebrate the literary culture of Ireland at the 43rd Opening Ceremony of Listowel Writers’ Week last night. We were delighted that Paul Durcan, one of Ireland’s foremost poets, officiated at the Ceremony.As always, the high point of the evening was the announcement of the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year Award 2014, which was won by Eimear McBride for A Girl Is A Half-formed Thing. Hailed as a ‘genius,’ Eimear’s exceptional debut novel, narrated in an experimental voice comparable to Joyce, tells the story of a troubled young woman and her relationship with her family. A cheque for €15,000 was presented to Eimear by Denis Buckley, Chairman of The Kerry Group.

Donal Ryan, Eimear McBride, Frank McGuinness & Colm Tóibin
Donal Ryan, Eimear McBride, Frank McGuinness & Colm Tóibin

The other four shortlisted authors were, Deirdre Madden for Time Present & Time Past, Colum McCann for TransAtlantic, Frank McGuinness for Arimathea and Donal Ryan for The Thing About December.

An exciting addition this year is the Pigott Poetry Prize. The Award, for the best book of poetry by an Irish Poet, and worth €5,000, is generously sponsored by Mark Pigott, KBE, Chairman and Chief Executive of PACCAR Inc. Mark’s family originated from Listowel and emigrated to the US in the late 1890s. We are really pleased that Mark and his wife Cindy were able to travel to Listowel from Seattle for the inaugural presentation. Mark Pigott presented the Award to Matthew Sweeney for his anthology, Horse Music. An emotional Matthew dedicated his prize to recently deceased poet, John Hartley Williams, whom he said supported him throughout his life as a writer.

Paul Durcan, in his opening speech, read his poem, A Vision of Africa on the Coast of Kerry, and then said, “I want to thank you, the audience, who for 43 years have come to Listowel to listen to us writers, musicians and storytellers, and to make us feel appreciated. Without you, the audience, we are nothing. A work of art, be it a book, a novel, a volume of poems, a biography or a painting; it does not exist until it is perceived and experienced by you, the audience. And remember… we are all members of the audience.” He also thanked the Arts Council for their continued and crucial support of Listowel Writers’ Week.

Maire Logue, Donal Ryan and his wife Anne-Marie
Maire Logue, Donal Ryan and his wife Anne-Marie

Next to speak was Listowel Writers’ Week President, Colm Tóibín, who said, “Writers in Listowel gave names to things which had no name. J B Keane made Sive from silence, from time spent alone, from slow work, from his imagination. Bryan MacMahon made his stories from that same unnameable source, the place of mystery. In all of us there is an emotional landscape which cannot be easily named, which can, in solitude, be summoned up; made flesh through images, through rhythms, through inspired words. This is what happens all year round in Listowel, as the committee and the tireless organisers of Listowel Writers Week meet to create magic.”

Madeleine O'Sullivan and Bernard Farrell
Madeleine O’Sullivan and Bernard Farrell

Playwright Bernard Farrell was this year’s recipient of the John B. Keane Lifetime Achievement Award in association with Mercier Press. The Award recognises individuals who have made a significant contribution to Irish cultural life. Bernard has written extensively for the Abbey Theatre, as well as for RTE and BBC television and radio. A member of Aosdána, he was Writer-In-Association at the Abbey and also served on the Board of the Abbey Theatre.The winners of our full range of Literary Competitions were also announced and are as follows:

The Bryan MacMahon Short Story Phil Kearney Byrne

Duais Foras na Gaeilge Simon O’Faolain

Eamon Keane Full Length Play Fiona Doyle

Single Poem Jack Ciddihy

Poetry Collection Jane Clarke

Writers’ Week Originals Short Poem Shirley McClure

Writers’ Week Originals Humorous Essay Joseph Sweeney

Writers’ Week Originals Short Story Maxine Backus

Irish Post Short Story Michael Martin

Nilsson Heritage Award John Fitzgerald

Con Houlihan Young Journalist Award Leona McMahon

Kerry County Council Creative Writing Under 9 Ciara Hogan

Kerry County Council Creative Writing Under 12 Sarah McKenna

Kerry County Council Creative Writing Under 14 Anna Cockrell

Kerry County Council Creative Writing Under 16 Sahra Hassan

Kerry County Council Creative Writing Under 18 Niamh MacSweeney

Kerry County Council Creative Writing Limerick Evan McMahon

Special Category Award 14 and Under Jordan O’Grady

Special Category Award 18 and Under Emily Kehoe

National Children’s Festival Brochure Cover Artist Jennifer Kelly

Details of the Dan Keane Memorial Poetry Awards were also announced, and which will take place on Sunday 1st June at 3.30pm at Listowel Community Centre.

Eliza Buckley held the audience spellbound with her heavenly rendition of La Vie en Rose and Summertime, accompanied by Audrey Carroll.

Eliza Buckley
Eliza Buckley

We have a full and diverse range of events over the coming days, including a great Fringe Programme, so we do hope to see you there.Listowel Writers’ Week will be celebrating poetry in a special way on Friday 30th May, with Belfast’s inaugural Poet Laureate Sineád Morrissey in conversation with acclaimed novelist Anne Enright. There will also be a tribute to Seamus Heaney, when gifted young students from the Poetry Aloud competition will read from his poetry. Poetry Aloud is jointly delivered by Poetry Ireland and the National Library of Ireland. It was established 21 years ago by Niall MacMonagle, who will host the event.

Later in the evening, Gallery Press, Ireland’s pre-eminent literary publisher, comes to Listowel with three of its longstanding poets – each a vital contributor to Ireland’s cultural life: Gerald Dawe, Peter Fallon and Vona Groarke.

We also have a fabulous line-up of international, award-winning authors including Tishani Doshi, Dinaw Mengetsu, Gerband Bakker, Jim Crace, Douglas Kennedy and Aminatta Forna.

For a full listing, including our extensive and varied Fringe Programme, you can download our full programme here