From Melbourne to Paris to Listowel & Amsterdam – My Week Volunteering at Listowel Writers’ Week – Anna-Rose Shack


I was initially put in touch with Máire Logue (Listowel Writers’ Week Festival Manager) with regards to a 1916 project I was working on and a few months later, on a whim, I asked her if she would consider having me to volunteer at the upcoming 2017 Listowel Writers’ Week.

My proposal was warmly accepted and, somewhat to my bemusement, I wound up in the heart of Kerry a few months later.

I’m English born with Australian-Irish parents and had been working in Paris after finishing my Bachelor’s Degree in Melbourne. Despite having spent my whole life visiting Belfast and various other places in the geographic north of the country, it was my first time in Kerry or indeed in the West!

As I collected my luggage and proceeded through immigration, the lady behind the desk looked at my passport (the Irish one) and remarked “Ach, that’s grand.” I still to this day have no idea what was particularly pleasing about my passport but that very first encounter was to set the tone for the next week.

The fabulous team that brings together Listowel Writers’ Week every year could not have been more welcoming or kind. I was a complete stranger, a ‘nobody’, while they truly belonged to a community that had been working exceptionally hard for many months to bring the Festival Programme to fruition. Yet despite this, I was welcomed with open arms, without reserve or caution. I was absorbed into the joyful hustle and bustle two days before the opening ceremony, and you couldn’t wipe the smile off my face!

Once the festival started I was seated at Box Office in the Listowel Arms Hotel and had the pleasure of meeting so many festival devotees who visit year on year, as well as those who were, like me, discovering it for the first time. Despite the fast pace of Box Office I also had many opportunities to enjoy aspects of the festival as a spectator.

Highlights included the theatre production The Successful TD (based on John B. Keane’s Letters of a Successful T.D.), which was staged in St. John’s Theatre (a renovated church in the town square), as well as Alan Cumming with his Machiavellian wit and assurance that Crocs are indeed footwear one should wear with pride…

The morning walks, complete with Bryan MacMahon’s poetry (led by his son Owen McMahon), as well as pub theatrics and music with Billy Keane (John B. Keane’s son), were vibrant reminders of the rich literary heritage of North Kerry.

A particularly happy moment was wondering out one morning to discover a market and managing to acquire a gloriously large slab of carrot cake as the sun broke loose and cast cheerful rays across the town.

The whole town is involved in bringing Listowel Writers’ Week together and all travellers, strangers, and passers by are treated like part of the family… of course with the indescribable North Kerry wit and charm.

Listowel Writers’ Week is without a doubt one of the most delightful and stimulating literary festivals and I would highly recommend it to all book lovers everywhere.

Thank-you to the beautiful people of Listowel and here’s to a fabulous Listowel Writers’ Week 2018!

Anna-Rose Shack
Literary Studies research Master’s at the University of Amsterdam!

Anna-Rose’ Blog