We’re delighted to welcome Liz Dunn to the position of Chairperson at Listowel Writers’ Week, taking over from Seán Lyons who did a superb job over the past four years and who stepped aside in October. Liz has been involved with the Festival since 2009 and chaired The National Children’s Literary Festival at Listowel Writers’ Week since 2013. That position has now passed to Mairead Costelloe, who works with the North Kerry mobile library.
Liz admits she’s finding it difficult to put the children’s festival to one side but is confident she’s leaving it in capable hands. “Mairead knows exactly what children are reading and is up-to-date on the latest trends in children’s literature, so there’s no better woman,” she says.
Originally from Cheltenham, Liz and her artist husband Jim retired to Athea, Co. Limerick six years ago, having spent many years working as teachers in residence at various independent boarding schools in the UK. They enjoyed what Liz describes as a Downton Abbey life in many beautiful locations with gardeners, cooks, cleaners, matrons and assistant staff, but as retirement loomed they yearned for a permanent home.
The couple initially decided to house hunt in France but friends encouraged them to consider Ireland first. Finding themselves in Athea on a wet, blustery February afternoon, they fell in love with a cottage, put an offer in, and three months later were in possession of what Liz calls their “forever home”.
“Going from a very busy life in England to the quiet of the Irish countryside was marvellous for both of us but with our two daughters by then living in Switzerland, it wasn’t long before I needed an outlet. When I was invited to join The Team at Listowel Writers’ Week I jumped at the opportunity.”
Fast forward to November 2015 and Liz is buzzing with ideas for #ListowelWW16 and beyond. “If I have an overriding vision it would be that we try to be as inclusive as possible. I’d like to see more crossover between literary, the children’s festival and art for example. Art tends to be a little bit standalone and one of the things I’m encouraging the art committee to do this year is to look at inviting illustrators.
“We’re a literary festival, so we could include an illustrator exhibition, bringing on board things that will cross over from children’s and the main festival. For example if we invited an illustrator, they could present an art exhibition, a sketching workshop and an event for children, so it’s that type of crossover I’m interested in.”
“We’re also looking at going out into the community and getting more business people involved. From speaking with local businesses I know they are interested, but they can’t do anything during the four days of the festival as it’s their busiest time of the year. So we’re looking at the possibility of one or two events outside of the Festival dates.
“And then there’s the whole area of popular fiction. Last year we had the hugely successful Graham Norton event, which attracted an audience that wouldn’t normally come to Listowel Writers’ Week and those same people will look to see what we’re offering this year.”
From all The Team at Listowel Writers’ Week, we wish Liz a very happy, productive and successful term and we look forward to working alongside her.
Roll on #ListowelWW16!