Some festival picks…

The Listowel Writers Week festival programme is so packed and diverse that it may be difficult to choose what to attend. Also, you can’t be expected to know every single writer on the programme, but it would be a shame to walk away having missed something that you would have loved – I know, it’s happened to me in the past.

Personally, I’ll be seeing as much as I can – from poetry to plays, music to big-top children’s events, concerts to exhibitions – but of course, there are some events that really stand out, that I’m bursting to attend.

So, over the next few weeks, I’ll be posting about some of my own personal picks to give you some ideas. Perhaps you’ll notice something on the programme that you hadn’t spotted before or maybe you’ll be inspired to go see someone new…

Kevin Barry & Gerry Stembridge

A writer whose short stories I love and that I’ve heard lots about, but who I keep missing is Kevin Barry, so I’m delighted to see him on the Listowel Writers Week programme. Kevin is a master of all trades; his list of achievements includes screenplays, short films and puppet shows as well as short stories and a novel. I’ve heard that his readings are fabulously entertaining – and this recommendation came from one of my most discerning literary friends. If you scroll down a bit on this page you can hear Kevin Barry read from There Are Little Kingdoms.

Kevin will be joined by Gerry Stembridge – also known for novels, film and television. If you can’t quite put your finger on where you’ve heard the name, think Nora, a film about James Joyce and his wife Nora Barnacle, starring Ewan McGregor and Susan Lynch. That’s just one of his many accolades. His latest novel, Unspoken is published in June 2011, but for a taster of what Gerry has to offer, you can listen to him reading his work in progress last September at the On the Nail reading. There are some good snippets of advice on novel writing at the beginning too…

Kevin Barry and Gerry Stembridge will read on Thursday, June 2nd at 5pm in The Plaza Centre. You can book tickets here.

John Boyne

John Boyne
John Boyne

My next pick is John Boyne who is making a double appearance. Rightfully listed under the children’s events as suitable for people aged five to adult, The Boy in Striped Pyjamas and Noah Barleywater Runs Away are two amazingly brilliant books. Both are beautifully written, evocative and full of imagination, so what better place to host this event than inside Fossett’s Big Top – a place of daring and excitement enjoyed which inspires children and adults alike? You can see an interview with John Boyne about the film Boy in Striped Pyjamas here. John will also be reading from his latest book The Absolutist which Colm Toibin described as “a wonderful, sad, tender book that is going to have an enormous impact on everyone who reads it.”

John Boyne will read for children on Saturday, June 4th at 12.15pm in The Big Top (Market Place) and for adults on Sunday June 5th at 3.30pm in The Arms Hotel Ballroom. You can book tickets here.

Jackie Kay

Jackie Kay
Jackie Kay

My final pick today is poet, novelist, short story writer and MBE recipient, Jackie Kay, who will be reading on Sunday June 5th at 12 noon. The last time I came across Jackie was at the Cambridge Wordfest several years ago when I was drawn to her charismatic stage presence and her chuckle. Of course, her poetry and short stories are brilliant, laced with a keen eye for observation, dark humour and lyrical beauty. It’s well known that over time, we evolve – just ask anyone involved in Listowel since the early days – and seeing as it’s a long time since our paths crossed, I’m really looking forward to seeing what Jackie will bring to the stage. You can see a clip of Jackie reading her poem “In My Country” here.

Jackie Kay will read on Saturday, June 4th at 12.00 noon in the St Johns Theatre & Arts Centre. You can book tickets here.

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