Listowel Writers’ Week, Ireland’s greatest literary and arts festival. Writers, artists and poets gather in the beautiful Kerry heritage town of Listowel, Co Kerry
Founded in 1970, the dream of Listowel Writers’ Week was a simple but daring one: transform a beautiful Kerry heritage town into a centre of the literary universe. Make it somewhere writers and book-lovers from all corners can gravitate to for a celebration of literature and imagination.
Every year, we make this dream a reality – the dream of the original founding members, writers, artists and champions like John B Keane, Bryan MacMahon & Brendan Kennelly.
Each June bank holiday, some of the most distinguished names in contemporary literature, join travelling storytellers, experimental poets, local songwriters, cutting-edge novelists, and readers from all corners of the globe, to create a literary mecca in the heart of the Irish countryside.
Listowel Writers’ Week is the literary festival to beat all literary festivals, continuing to lure the leading lights of contemporary literature to the beautiful Irish countryside for five days of talks, walks, panels, performance, visual arts, theatre, masterclasses and much more.
JM Coetzee, Edna O’Brien, Seamus Heaney, Kazuo Ishiguro, Anne Enright, Graham Norton, Alan Cumming, Germaine Greer, John McGahern & Robert Fisk are some of the fantastic writers we have welcomed over the years. We look forward each year to adding to this renowned list and welcoming many more.
Today, the Festival programmes over 120 events across the five days, which are enjoyed by people of all ages.
Listowel Writers’ Week was founded to foster new and exciting talent, give aspiring writers wings, and we haven’t forgotten this! The Bryan MacMahon Short Story Award, one of Ireland’s oldest and most prestigious, is there to recognise and acknowledge a new talent. In addition, we offer awards for poetry collections, single poems, humorous essay, full-length original play, as well as competitions tailored for children, people with disabilities, and prisoners. They are all open doors, invitations to aspiring poets, novelists and playwrights, from all backgrounds, to come in and show us what you can write.
Listowel’s creative writing workshops were the first to be introduced in Ireland by Bryan MacMahon. They cater for all experience levels, from eager beginners to seasoned masters, and covering virtually every literary genre and craft.
Douglas Kennedy, Vona Groarke, Michael Harding, Christine Dwyer Hickey & Gerald Dawe are just a few of the master-craftspeople that have delivered creative writing workshops in Listowel. If you are an aspiring young writer, quietly mastering your art, don’t do it alone, we are here to help!
Running alongside the general programme is the The National Children’s Literary Festival @ Listowel Writers’ Week is one the biggest of its kind and a leading showcase for children’s writers and illustrators in Ireland. This exciting festival attracts children and families from all over the country and beyond.
There are treasure hunts, writing workshops, quizzes, face-painting, pantomimes, street performers, as well as readings from some of the luminaries of children’s literature. It is a fantastic family occasion, with events full of wonder, imagination and the written word. The festival is becoming astoundingly popular, so book well in advance to avoid disappointment.
Listowel Writers’ Week 2019 will be our 49th festival taking place from the 29th May to 2nd June 2019, but we don’t shy away from new ideas, new exciting ventures and projects to commence – we welcome them!
In 2016 we launched “Hope”, a limited edition Portfolio (100 copies), with original written contributions from 5 distinguished writers Colm Tóibín, Jennifer Johnston, Anne Enright, Eavan Boland and Brendan Kennelly and emblazoned with original artwork from acclaimed Irish artist Donald Teskey.
A fresh and exciting new venture is our Young Adult BookFest exclusively for teenagers. This one day festival is for book-mad teenagers, shy teenagers who are curious about the written word and teenagers who may dislike reading but are open to changing their mind. In return we give these Young Adults the opportunity to inspire and dazzle them with wordsmiths, poets and inspirational speakers.
The Young Adult Bookfest is held annually in November, and goes from strength to strength. Writer/director Stefanie Preissner, writer and holocaust survivor Tomi Reichental, and journalist/campaigner Joanna O’Riordan are just some of the inspirational writers and voices who have engaged young adults in Listowel.
The dream of the original founders of Listowel Writers’ Week was to combine the local and the global, transform Listowel into a place where internationally renowned literary figures could mingle and share ideas with local artists and poets, where writers and readers could celebrate the written word together. We have been successfully doing this now for 48 years and always look forward to the future.
To make that dream a reality, we need you, the reading and festival-going public. We need you to give us feedback and tell us what you think, we need your continued kind patronage and support, and, most importantly, we need you to share this experience with us, to attend the festival every June bank holiday, so we can celebrate great writing together; because it is mainly thanks to you, the reading and festival-going public, that the dream of Listowel Writers’ Week is realised.
The current Chairperson of the Festival is Liz Dunn, who was appointed in 2015.