Kinsale life brought to book in new anthology

As part of the upcoming Words by Water literary festival, Alannah Hopkin has edited a collection of poems, stories and memories from the Co Cork town, writes Marjorie Brennan.

Kinsale life brought to book in new anthology

As part of the upcoming Words by Water literary festival, Alannah Hopkin has edited a collection of poems, stories and memories from the Co Cork town, writes Marjorie Brennan.

Writer Alannah Hopkin had spent many childhood summers holidaying at her grandmother’s home in Summercove near the Co Cork town of Kinsale before she moved there permanently in 1982.

However, Hopkin, who was raised in England, recalls how she really only became a true ‘Kinsalite’ when she later moved to Cork St in the town. There was one moment in particular that made her feel she was truly at home.

“I got to know the lads who passed the time of day outside the Temperance Hall by name, and they in turn gave me the great honour of a town nickname — Cher — presumably because I had long dark hair,” she writes in My Kinsale: An Anthology, a collection of stories, poems, photographs and memories of residents and those with a special connection to the town.

The project is an initiative of Words By Water, Kinsale’s literary festival, and is available in print and as an electronic book, so it can be enjoyed by the diaspora. There will also be an ongoing archive of contributions online.

Hopkins, who has edited the anthology, says the most important aspect of the project is the community involvement.

“It’s great because it’s a community project rather than a literary or journalistic project. It has been an absolute delight. Words By Water put out a call for contributions online and some people from Kinsale College went out into the community to older people who may not have been able to write anything but who would share their memories.”

Kinsale has always been a town that has been seen as welcoming to ‘blow-ins’ and one section of the anthology, called ‘Chasing the Dream’ is devoted to some of the many people who have chosen to put down roots there. What is it about the area that makes it so attractive?

“The people are nice and welcoming,” says Hopkin.

Also, a lot of people choose Kinsale because it’s near the airport and Cork city, so if you’re working at home and you have to travel it’s very handy. And of course, it’s beautiful and by the sea, so you feel as if you’re on holiday. The people you meet on the street may be on holiday, so they’re smiling and eating ice cream, it’s a very nice vibe

While Kinsale has a reputation far and wide for its culinary attractions, with a large side order of sailing, Hopkin says the anthology demonstrates that there is much more to the town.

“Yes, there is that view that we all have yachts and drive BMWs,” she laughs. “I have a dual viewpoint because I initially only knew Summercove, where my mother was from, and then I moved into Kinsale and it was a major culture shock, a completely different place. If you trot up the Stoney Steps in the middle of the town, you are suddenly in a quiet residential area. The whole town is like that — you go around a corner and it’s like you’re in a different village, it’s very varied, and there are even different accents. There are three I can identify, depending on where you come from.

“It’s a lovely, very textured town, there’s a lot going on apart from gourmet food, sailing, and holidays. Kinsale College has also brought a lot of interesting people to the area.”

Hopkin believes the anthology, which has been aided by the town’s Chamber of Tourism, Cork County Council, and funding from Creative Ireland, could be a model for other towns and will also be of interest to people beyond the town’s environs.

“It’s a brilliantly simple idea and it brings the community together. I really think it could have quite an impact. I think anyone who has any human curiosity will be interested in it because it’s about other people’s lives.”

The Kinsale Anthology will be launched on Thursday at the Mill Building at 7.30pm, as part of the Words by Water festival

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