Day One got off to a great start with the first of our renowned Morning Walks, ‘Listowel & it’s People’, led by local historian Vincent Carmody. A hugely popular event, the crowd was entertained along the way with live singing as Vincent regaled with stories of Listowel’s famous writers, publicans, weavers and blacksmiths.
Meanwhile, over in St John’s Theatre and Arts Centre, artist Syra Larkin’s exhibition ‘As I see it…!’ was getting underway. Syra studied at Hammersmith College of Art and her work has been exhibited at both solo and group exhibitions in Ireland, America, Spain, Italy, France and England. Her exhibits at St John’s are mostly oil and acrylic on linen and start at a very reasonable €250. Syra says, “I feel my work is a genuine response to my own personal existence, waking in the morning and painting whatever the day might bring.” The exhibit will remain at St John’s for the duration of the festival.
Our teen-focused festival, Operation Education, kicked off in Listowel Community Centre and was launched by gutsy Joanne O’Riordan, who is one of only seven people in the world with the rare disability known as Total Amelia. Joanne is currently studying criminology in UCC and recently featured in an inspirational documentary, No Limbs, No Limits. Rapper, Elayne Harrington, aka Temper-Mental MissElayneous, wowed the teenagers with a mixture of hip-hop and spoken word poetry.
Thursday also saw the launch of The National Children’s Literary Festival at the Community Centre, with workshops and readings from Sheena Dempsey, Andrew Cope & Spy Dog, Philip Ardagh and Sarah Webb. Listowel Park was transformed with a fabulous Alice in Wonderland installation from Buí Bolg, in time for a Mad Hatters Tea Party at 1.30pm on Saturday. This event is FREE and suitable for all ages.
It was standing room only in the ballroom of The Arms Hotel, where Anne Enright and Colm Tóibín were interviewed by Niall MacMonagle. Anne drew much laughter as she read three short extracts from her recent novel, The Green Road. Colm Tóibín admitted he had a hard act to follow as he then took to the podium to read from his recent novel Nora Webster. He needn’t have worried however, as the audience reacted very favourably, with much laughter and appreciation.
Niall remarked that there was a remarkable similarity between the two books – two widows, two mothers, four children, both exploring the difficulty of letting go, the need of letting, the necessity of letting go, and asked Colm if, perhaps, the book represented Mother Ireland in some way. Colm answered that it didn’t, and that for him, the novel represents unrecoverable memory, things unresolved, very personal things. He added that it might end up meaning something to someone else reading it, but for him, Nora Webster doesn’t represent an exploration of the country of Ireland and if it did, he would probably tear it up.
Niall then asked Anne if The Green Road is as intensely personal to her as Nora Webster is to Colm, drawing on the reservoir of family life and memory to make her narrative. She answered that it wasn’t, and that she doesn’t resist whatever added or subtracted layers of meaning can be playfully taken from her story. The mother figure, Rosaleen, in The Green Road was, she said, an archetypal character. She also noted that one of the reasons she writes is in order to be surprised at what she discovers.
Paul Durcan drew an equally large audience at The Arms Hotel when he read from his latest collection The Days of Surprise. As usual, the crowd was enraptured and there was much laughter and recognition as he read such playful poems as ‘The WB Yeats Shopping Centre’, a humorous, but nonetheless scathing depiction of consumerism gone mad.
Evening Theatre at St John’s Arts Centre was a powerful production by John MacKenna called ‘Lucinda Sly’, presented by the Mend & Makedo Theatre Company in conjunction with VISUAL Carlow. Based on the true story of the eponymous Lucinda Sly, who was publically hanged on a Carlow street in March 1835, the play drew gasps from the audience as a rape scene was depicted on stage.