The first thing I’ve noticed about Writers Week is how accessible everyone is and how friendly. I’ve received an extremely warm welcome which has been commented on by everyone I’ve spoken to up to now – and believe me, even though I only got here a few hours ago, that’s been plenty.
My first event of the day was the recording of Sunday Miscellany. An Irish institution for many decades now, the session featured a host of musical and literary talent – The Brock McGuire Band Band, Eoghan Kelly on Trombone, Catherine Dunne, Colette Olney, Pat Boran, Gabriel Fitzmaurice, Blake Morrison, Cyril Kelly.
As you would imagine, there was a packed crowd and a notably celebratory air, dedicated to the joys of music and the written word.
As I was finding my seat, I heard the passing comment “ahh, but this isn’t your usual literary festival, this is Listowel.” I have no idea what the context was but as the event unfolded, it certainly seemed prophetic.
From start to finish, the musicians and speakers brought us through a variety of magical, emotive and comedic worlds, with the audience clapping along, laughing until tears were shed and giving huge rounds of applause. Music, poetry, prose – what a delicious start to the day.
From Colette Olney’s “prehistoric lotions and potions, unguents and solutions” of Cleopatra, and 1910 beauty guide which tells you how to “tackle a too-thin face”, to the fabulously funny mistress in Blake Morrison’s “Straying” who is shocked that her lover is cheating on her with his wife – the audience was thoroughly captivated.
That’s before Gabriel Fitzmorris wooed with his love sonnets (‘On becoming a Grandfather’, ‘My Girlfriends Now are Other People’s Mammies’ and “the one that gets me brownie points” ‘Just to be Beside You is Enough”) or Pat Boran could give his comical yet poignant Advice to Writers. Or before the trombone broke into Bach or Dave Heggarty and Mick Dooley performed Shaun Davey’s The Brendan Voyage.
In this particular instance, the most captivated member of the audience was a little boy sat right in front of me who was celebrating his fifth birthday.
Catherine Dunne contributed a lovely piece about her first experience of Listowel, on a short story workshop, which helped her to “set sail on that luminous place where all writing lives.” She described Listowel in fond and familiar terms, saying it’s “the launching pad” from which “many writers and readers have set sail.” True enough, there were at least two members of the audience that approached Catherine afterwards, who were on the same workshop.
This recording of Sunday Miscellany will air on Sunday, June 5th at 9.10am on RTE Radio 1.