Efforts to resolve a row overshadowing Listowel Writers’ Week have failed and the voluntary committee is disengaging completely from this year’s festival, they confiormed.
It is the veteran committee’s first statement in the row which erupted at Ireland’s oldest literary festival in September when the long-serving volunteers were dismissed on foot of a consultant’s report recommending restructuring, including the appointment of a professional curator.
The committee had been ‘unceremoniously’ disbanded without explanation, they have now said.
They too would have supported the appointment of a professional curator — but with whom they could share their long knowledge and experience. However, the board, under its chairwoman Catherine Moylan, had not ‘actively’ engaged with them, they claimed.
The bitter row with the board of the 52-year-old Writers Week has already seen the resignation in November of long-standing President Colm Tóibín.
Mr Tóibín said Writers week depended on a literary community in Listowel "who read deeply and widely" and this meant that the festival had "genuine roots in the town".
A professional curator, Stephen Connolly, was appointed in December.
In early March, the festival put out an appeal for volunteers to help sell tickets and distribute information. However, the comments section on the social media site was shut down after an angry backlash lamenting the treatment of the committee and its volunteers.
A move by a third party in recent weeks to secure input from the veteran volunteers of the committee into this year’s festival ( May 31- June 4) have failed.
The 18 names on the signed statement include Joanna O’Flynn, the daughter of founder member John B Keane, and one of those fired by the board last year.
They claimed to have sought since September to meaningfully engage with the board on the implementation of the report "but to no avail".
"It is with regret that we have to disengage from Listowel Writers’ Week under the current board of directors, resulting in no involvement by the community-based committee in Listowel Writers’ Week for 2023. While this is a heartbreaking decision for us, we wish the very best in 2023 for the festival we have nurtured over the decades," they said.
They had engaged with the consultant, Dermot McLaughlin during the consultation process but their concerns were not reflected, they also said.
Meanwhile, former arts minister Jimmy Deenihan has rejoined the board of Writers' Week. He was seeking to scale down his activity on a number of boards, he said in early March.
He sais he received dozens of calls from people concerned about the future of Writers Week when news of his resignation broke, and had agreed to stay on until after this year’s festival.
"I have agreed to stay on the board until then but I will remain as a volunteer of WW for as long as I am in a position to make a contribution," the former arts minister and Listowel native said.
Writers Week has been asked for comment.
A previous statement from the board said the curator would steer key events next May and June to strengthen the quality of our artistic programming, to broaden and deepen the reach of our festival, and to make sure that our programming reflects the rich diversity and challenging complexity of the world we live in..
Chairwoman Catherine Moylan said governance, artistic policy, and programming had become “a matter of concern” requiring attention.
"Dealing with these has created discomfort for some people, and that is not unusual. Our position is that we are fully committed to good governance to protect the festival’s interests, to safeguard the public, private, and other funding that we receive annually, and to ensure that staff and volunteers work in a safe environment,” she said.