THE 2014 Dublin Writers Festival has come to a close having bombarded festival-goers with a dazzling array of readings, workshops, talks, and cross-genre events featuring household names and emerging literary stars.
Mainly resident at Dublin’s Smock Alley Theatre, this year’s festival occupied venues as diverse as the National Concert Hall and Barge 107b on the Grand Canal. A thoughtful, well-curated programme filled nine days offering audiences the opportunity to interact with some of the most championed authors and poets writing today.
Poetry was a robust feature of this year’s festival with events celebrating both surfacing and established talent.
The ‘Poetry Ireland Introduction Series’ took the form of two cabaret-style evenings featuring nine new promising voices of Irish poetry with musical accompaniment by Aidan O’Donovan and Ailbhe Nic Oireachtaigh. Music was again added to the literary mix with ‘Ceol agus Filíocht go Maidin’ a night of Irish language poetry, passion and pop which featured rap poet Séamus Barra Ó Súilleabháin.
BAFTA award-winning Simon Armitage captivated his audience with readings of work spanning the 25 years since his first collection Zoom!. In answer to the question of how it felt to have his work on the GCSE curriculum in Britain, Armitage described it “as a privilege to be able to put your work in front of children that age as they are not yet encumbered by literary criticism”.
American Tess Gallagher whose poem ‘The Hug’ features on the Leaving Certificate curriculum read to a mesmerised audience, sharing the stage with the equally enthralling Irish-born, American-based Ciaran Berry.
Children were not forgotten with this year’s festival featuring a fascinating array of workshops and activities for all ages and interests from David Roberts of ‘Dirty Bertie’ fame to the ‘What’s Your Story?’ event with Chris Judge.
The art of short story writing came under scrutiny with a captivating discussion at Smock Alley Theatre. In addition to reading from their own engaging work, Mike McCormack and Nuala Ní Chonchúir analysed the short story and its position in today’s literary world. In conversation with Stinging Fly editor Thomas Morris, McCormack challenged what he sees as an Irish allegiance to a formulaic style of story writing, asserting that Irish writers continue to write in an 18th century template featuring “linear, single-voiced stories that gather towards epiphany”. Ní Chonchúir wondered whether there is a “quality control issue” with the short stories that are readily available to audiences and the possible need to “train readers to get a different hit”.
Laura Bates, creator of The Everyday Sexism Project, took part in an emotive discussion, explaining the need for a zero tolerance approach to sexist attitudes. The pertinent issue of ‘whistle-blowing’ was also examined in conversation with author Luke Harding.
Following the success of last year’s inaugural Irish Faber Social, this year’s event kept pace with a stimulating line-up. Punk legend Viv Albertine and musician and journalist Bob Stanley were in conversation with Jim Carroll and Sinéad Gleeson. Pearse McGloughlin and Justin Grounds performed a determinedly literary set featuring work from their excellent Dostoevsky-inspired album Idiot/Songs.
A triumphant and engaging programme featuring names both familiar and novel has once again cemented the Dublin Writers Festival’s place on the Irish literary calendar.