West Cork Literary Festival readings to be dedicated to Denise Hall

The late Denise Hall, who wrote for the Irish Examiner.

A programme of readings, a feature of the West Cork Literary Festival since it began in the mid-90s, is to be dedicated to the memory of former Irish Examiner columnist Denise Hall.

The daily lunchtime and 5pm readings at Bantry Library which are free to enjoy have been a central part of the internationally renowned festival.

The festival begins in the harbour town of Bantry on Sunday next and features authors like Zadie Smith, Gloria Steinem, John Banville and Darren Shan.

This year the schedule of readings at Bantry Library includes novelists Mary Morrissey and Marion Coutts, as well as poets Paddy Bushe and Matthew Sweeney.

Executive librarian Noel O’Mahony said it had been decided that the library’s selection of daily readings for 2016 would be dedicated to the memory of the late Ms Hall, who was instrumental in helping to grow it into what it is today.

A columnist with the Irish Examiner for 30 years, Ms Hall passed away last autumn.

“The festival started off as a series of lunchtime readings in Bantry Library in 1996 and 1997 during the West Cork Chamber Music Festival,” he explained.

However, he said, in 1998, when Denise Hall became writer-in-residence with Cork County Council, the readings became a larger festival ‘fringe’ event under her guidance.

“At that time, it was still not a literary festival in its own right, but was simply an adjunct to the Chamber Music Festival,” Mr O’Mahony said.

Ms Hall and Clem Cairns of Fish Publishing, were instrumental both in getting the literary element of the festival better established and in bringing it to “another level,” he recalled.

“They brought people like Seamus Heaney and Pat McCabe to Bantry to give readings in Bantry Library,” he recalls.

At the same time, the pair also strongly encouraged the expansion of what was still a literary “adjunct” to the Chamber Music Festival.

“Gradually the festival started to build with the support of Denise and Clem, and of Cork County Library which was the main funder at the time.

“Over the years, Denise and Clem attracted more and more writers to the festival and also started to grow it into other venues.”

In 2003, the term ‘fringe’ was dropped and the literary element became a festival in its own right.

“Denise was a key figure in the evolution of the festival into the huge event that it has now become.”

*Visit www.westcorkmusic.ie for more information on the West Cork Literary Festival, which this year runs from Sunday until July 23.


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