MORE THAN 900 Students from across Kerry and Limerick poured into Listowel Community Centre yesterday, Thursday November 14th for the annual Young Adult BookFest @Listowel Writers’ Week. The one day arts festival is an opportunity for fourth and fifth year secondary school students to take a break from the Leaving Cert curriculum and hear from a host of speakers all of whom are forging their own in different fields.

Catherine Moylan, Chairperson of Listowel Writers’ Week kicked-off proceedings was mesmerised by the festival, “The Young Adult BookFest is always such an inspirational and uplifting day, and this year was no different. Our committee under the guidance of Joanna Keane O’Flynn, created a very special and motivating day. We had speakers across all ages and walks of life, each of whom gave our students a different perspective on what happiness and success looks like; and the differing paths we all take to get there. It really was a special day”, said Moylan.

Speakers on the day were:

  • Bernard Casey comedian who entertained the students with his raft of comedic sketches while also challenging their Irish aural preparation, among other subjects!
  • Stephanie Rainey singer songwriter who discussed her journey from secondary school to follow her dreams and studying music in Coláiste Stíofán Naofa before spending 10 years working on her career. Her big break came with ‘Please Don’t Go’; the self-published song that ranked up 1M views in its first 24 hours on YouTube, expelling Stephanie onto the music scene and culminating in her first record deal with Warner music.
  • A wonderfully inspiring panel with MC Elaine Kinsella; gaelgóir and spoken word poet Ciara Ní É and folk singer Emma Langford, encouraged the students not to get hung up on titles, ranks and pressure of being young people in today’s society. Emma Langford in particular reminded the attendees that with college and CAO decision ahead of them, the decision made today doesn’t necessarily have to rule what you do tomorrow.
  • Shane Casey aka Billy Murphy from The Young Offenders held an inspiring workshop with the students on creativity and resilience and shared his own story in an effort to inspire the attendees. Having never completed this Leaving Cert Shane shared his story of resilience and determination to succeed. A wonderfully positive influence on the attendees, he encouraged each and every one of them never to be afraid to ask for help and support when it’s needed; a message that was reiterated throughout the day.
  • Acclaimed Young Adult Writers Dave Rudden and Brian Conaghan gave a creative writing seminar with the students with tips and advice from their own experiences. The aim of this seminar was to help students in a light-hearted way with their approach to Creative Writing for Paper 1.
  • Motivational Speaker Declan Coyle, encouraged the students to be mindful of their own happiness, value, creativity and worth. Declan’s mantra is to ensure we all operate on ‘The Green Platform’ where we are armed with the tools and contentment to be able to handle what life brings our way, rather than perhaps living on the more anxious and stressful ‘Red Platform’ where we can be consumed by life’s ups and downs.
  • Riobard Pierse, Listowel local and now infamous ‘Dad from Ireland’s Fittest Family’ shared his own family’s experience of team work, mental and physical endurance and resilience from their time on Ireland’s Fittest Family in 2018. Riobard shared behind the scenes photos which showed the enormous effort their whole family made in coming together to take on the challenge.

The emerging theme of the day, reiterated by all speakers to the students who are preparing for their senior cycle and Leaving Cert programmes was quite simply to: mind yourself, be kind to yourself, ask for help and support when you need it and realise that there are many different paths ahead to choose from; as demonstrated by the wide range of speakers at the Young Adult BookFest 2019.