Listowel Writers' Week Fringe

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Archive for the ‘2009’

Campaign for the rights of bloggers wins

June 16, 2010 By: Paul O'Mahony Category: 2009, 2010, 2011, blogs, fringe, journalism, organisers, participants

The email from Michael Lynch, Chairman of Writers’ Week Listowel, Kerry, is more than welcome. It is generous. It is also a total vindication of all points raised in the blogpost which launched the campaign for the right to blog at Listowel Writers’ Week Festival.

I am delighted with Michael Lynch’s email. It must have been incredibly difficult for the Committee of Writers’ Week to agree. In the circumstances, it is a noble & extraordinary victory for common sense – and future reputation of Writers’ Week.

I’d like to explain why I’m so pleased with the Chairman’s response.
It’s important to remember that Michael Lynch wrote the email after the Committee meeting. Since 9 June, the Committee received many representations from people in Kerry, Ireland & abroad – emails, letters, Joe Duffy Liveline RTE national radio show (a listenership of 414,ooo), and, most of all, via Twitter (#LWW10). There have probably been many face-to-face conversations too.

The Committee considered the issues while under considerable pressure from ‘outsiders’. They had to deal with a situation where someone ‘assaulted’ me, and announced, in the name of the Committee, I wouldn’t be welcome again at Writers’ Week. It’s no easy matter for a local committee to deal with such an unprecedented situation.

The internet, all its off- shoots & platforms (digital cameras & recorders, blogging, Facebook, Flickr, Twitter for example) challenge all of us. The Committee of Writers’ Week was not in its comfort zone.

It would surprise no one if many Committee members deeply resented being put in such a storm – by someone from outside.

The Committee’s Response:

Michael Lynch begins with “Thank you…” That’s such a difficult thing for anyone under pressure to say. To be thanked for my email, which demanded a public apology, simply amazes me. It shows a spirit of big-heartedness. I feel greatly relieved – it would have been so much easier to have said something else. I did not expect gratitude.

The Chairman continues “You have raised an important issue …” Think about it, I raised the issue of being attacked, ‘assaulted’ in public, by a committee member. Michael Lynch now responds by saying I have raised an important issue. Of course he’s right, but a lesser committee might have denied, or tried to sweep the issue under the carpet. Instead Michael says “… which Writers’ Week is formally addressing.”

What did I expect? Did I expect the woman to be ostracised in public? No self-respecting local community would do that to anyone. No committee could do that without losing the confidence of its home base. The committee will deal with the matter in a formal manner – behind closed doors. This is exactly what a business does when one of its staff has behaved badly: its internal disciplinary process goes to work without ever informing the outside world what has happened. It is enough that I am assured the commitee will deal with the issue in its own way. The behaviour will never be repeated, I trust. It seems clear to me that the lesson has been learned.

I take this as the equivalent of a public apology. I am satisfied on this issue now. There is no reason for me, or anyone else, to be bothered that they might be attacked by a Committee member at Writers’ Week again.

Recording at Writers’ Week:

The good news is that the Committee is committed to a clear policy which we can all understand. Michael Lynch says

Our policy has always been that only authorised recordings are permissible and we will in future be informing our audiences to this effect.”

It is entirely appropriate that “authorised” recordings may be made at the Festival. There are circumstances in which it would be unfair, even dangerous, if recordings were made. If speakers come from certain countries and speak their minds freely, it may put others in danger – if their words are recorded & broadcast. I fully support the right of speakers to speak publicly without their words being transmitted – provided that there’s a good reason.

My view is that the sensible policy for Writers’ Week to have is this: a default position that everything can be recorded – except when a speaker has an important reason for not being recorded. It should be easy to make this clear to everyone – whenever such a situation arises.

The important matter has been sorted: there will be a publicly available policy – and it will be understandable to us all.

All event organisers have struggled with the advance of technology – unobtrusive recording devices increasingly link to the internet.

But there’s also another shift in society: more and more people want to find out what’s going on. More and more of us want to share our experiences with others via the internet. We’ve already moved into a more connected & transparent world. This revolution is profound & challenging. It’s also something I love. It is great to see the Writers’ Week Committee committed to a public policy – rather than leaving it to individuals to take the law into their own hands.

Authorised recording” – bloggers can all be authorised recorders, on the same basis as mainstream journalists, I trust. This is a major step forward.

Bloggers are welcome at Writers’ Week in 2011:

After what happened – and all the fuss which Twitterers, Facebookers & Bloggers have created – some committee members must have been keen to ban bloggers for ever. That’s a human reaction. Of course, wiser counsel prevailed. I always knew that if it was put up Michael Lynch & the Committee, the answer would be clear.

Please pay attention to the wording : “we are looking forward to welcoming you and all bloggers to our future festivals…

This is the first time Writers’ Week Listowel has said, publicly or privately, that it is looking forward to welcoming bloggers. This is a huge shift.

In 2009, bloggers from our Fringe Blog were allowed in. We paid our way. We were tolerated, treated civilly, as we published a stream of articles about the Festival. In 2010, with a bigger team, we returned to the task of blogging this Festival. We were similarly tolerated – apart from the single disgraceful incident. But were we “welcome”?

I never felt truly welcome until now. That’s my personal feeling. I have no idea what the committee of Writers’ Week intended in the past. Perhaps they were welcoming but never expressed it.

Patrick Stack & I – with the help of Jeremy Gould – set up Listowel Writers’ Week Fringe Blog. As we wrote before the 2009 Festival

It is on the fringe, meaning that we alone are responsible for its content, its cock-ups, mistakes and whateverelse we get wrong.

But we’re not here to speak for LWW. They can do that for themselves.”

There is an advantage in being independent of the Festival – independent enough to say exactly what we think of any aspect of the Festival.

It would be posssible for Writers’ Week to set up an official blog. I would welcome that – but that is a matter for those who’s job it is to think about the long-term future of the Festival. We, bloggers from the fringe, have loved Writers’ Week in our own individual ways.

The important news for all bloggers is that we are all welcome – that means that bloggers can take different angles on the festival, and still be welcome. There is no equivocation in the welcome Michael Lynch has expressed.

There are different types of bloggers: bloggers who write, photo bloggers, podcasting bloggers, video bloggers and even cartooning bloggers. Writers’ Week is now on record as welcoming all bloggers. I think this is a huge step forward.

This is important because it means people who can’t make it to Listowel will be better served than before in 2011. Our bogging effort has always about opening up the Festival to the wider world in a responsible way.

I’m on record saying to Joe Duffy that I think every Festival that gets pubic money should be open via the internet. The citizens who pay via the Arts Council, & customers who pay for corporate sponsorship, are entitled to share in the experience.

The internet experience is different from the live one. What you get via the internet from Listowel – in Dublin, New York or Tokyo – is very different from what you get in the town – in Listowel Arms Hotel, John B Keane’s, The Kingdom Bar, Wolfe’s Bookshop or Lynch’s Bakery. Nothing is quite like conversations struck up with strangers around Listowel, and its hinterland, during the Week.

The Writers’ Week Festival was begun 40 years ago by Brian McMahon, J B Keane and others. It was seen by them as a campaign for a better Ireland. We owe it to their memory to move with the generations, the technology and the zestful spirit of the founders. They were gritty. They have inspired us all.

I would like to publicly thank Michael Lynch, and the whole Committee of Writers’ Week, for the brave and generous way they have responded to this challenging experience.

With this understanding & spirit, I ask you all to give your on-going support to Writers’ Week in 2011. Put aside all negative thoughts and impressions.

I believe there will be much good from this. I thank you all for the wonderful support you have expressed for this cause, and for me personally. I thank those of you who have not agreed with my position. We need all voices. There are many festivals, thank goodness.

Listowel Writers’ Week will need all your support for the future.

RECAP of Listowel Writers’ Week 2009

June 03, 2010 By: Laura Category: 2009, creative writing, events, historical, journalism, memoir, novels, painters & paintings, participants, photographs, poem, poems, poet, poetry, poets, Reflections, short story, songwriting, Speaker, storytelling, theatrical plays

RECAP of Listowel Writers’ Week 2009

“Poet’s Life” by Laura Jean Zito (Photos and text) laurajeanzito@gmail.com

“Where’s your husband?” yelled the man exiting the theatre, St. John’s Church, in the main square in Listowel, Ireland.

“Do I care, if Gabriel Byrne’s about?” retorted a woman as I passed her.

Gabriel Byrne himself had expressed surprise as to just what an object of female adoration he was regarded here in Listowel, where he opened the 39th Annual Writers Week Wednesday, May 27th, 2009. Inside the theatre he had been reciting a poem he penned for the “Sunday Miscellany” program that is aired on RTE radio every Sunday morning. His oratory the night before for the opening night ceremonies made less reference to writing and more to film, as he recounted an amusing anecdote about a cab driver in Dublin who, upon recognizing him, pitched his own script about a cocaine dealer that he insisted Gabriel would be perfect for, along with fellow “gang” members Pierce Brosnan, Liam Neeson, Colin Farrell. “And what about Stephen Rea?” he asked. You can see this speech on You Tube.

Gabriel talked about how the only reference to 39 that came to mind was the film and recent play from John Buchan’s novel, “The 39 Steps,” about the archetypal “man who knew too much” that had launched Hitchcock’s career in 1935 and spawned several remakes, including a 2008 BBC television production.

Gabriel delighted the crowd by reminding them of the warm welcome he never forgot when he had first come to Listowel many years ago, cast as the lead in “Dev,” by GP Gallivan and directed by Peter Sheridan of the Projects Theatre in Dublin. Later I heard Gabriel elaborate on an RTE radio interview that his love affair with Listowel was deepened by an actual “romantic liaison,” as he put it, set in the town here. He went on to say how honored he felt to be asked to return to open the world-renowned literary festival on this eve when the winners of so many important literary competitions would be announced.

In his Intro, Michael Lynch had already pointed out that 2009 marked the 100th anniversary of the birth of Bryan MacMahon, Writers’ Week founder, along with John B. Keane. John B’s play

“Sive” was enjoying via the Listowel Players the 50th anniversary of its first staging in 1959, a year before it won the All Ireland finals. 2009 also marks the 30th anniversary of the last taping of an episode of the Reardons, in which Gabriel Byrne got his start as a sheep farmer before appearing on Bracken, and the morrow would bring with it the performance of “Sive” in St. John’s Theatre on the seventh anniversary to the day of John B.’s death.

Another writer died this year, beloved by many, David Marcus, an Irish Jewish writer and editor of fiction and poetry who hailed from Cork. The ee cummings poem he loved the most that Niall MacMonagle read at his funeral, “what if a much of a which of a wind” was shared with the audience by Colm Toibin, President of the Festival.

The Euro 15,000.00 Kerry Group Irish Fiction Award was taken by Joseph O’Neill for “Netherland,” a book that Barak Obama himself was quoted in the NY Times to have said was, “wonderful,” (without specifically pinpointing what appealed to him.) Seamus Heaney’s wife even made a copy of “Netherland,” her 09 anniversary gift to her husband, adding to its aura.

Thursday morning O’Neill read from his tome, followed by others.

David Park, although a Protestant from Belfast, by developing the Sinn Fein character in his novel, “The Truth Commissioner”, noted that he developed sympathies he didn’t know he had. To paraphrase, he said something like ‘Truth is relative to whoever is considering it.’ When you seek out truth some of it is probably going to be damaging to one’s own political point of view. When his teenage daughter asked him “Are the troubles coming back in?” he said “No,” as the groundswell against the atrocities had grown so big that it was hard to conceive such a notion. He failed to mention the most recent atrocities, those of the night previous, in which an innocent Catholic man was beaten to death by eight Protestants, who then targeted the dead man’s son.

The themes of love and death seemed to carry all through the festival, right up to the reading of Colm Toibin from his recent novel, “Brooklyn.” He drew inspiration for the novel’s main character, a female emigrant to Brooklyn from Wexford in the fifties, from a woman who came to visit at his house after his father died when Colm was 12. She spoke about her one daughter who had also died, and another who had emigrated to Brooklyn, a word that then took on mythical proportion.

After was heard a witty interview by Billy Keane of George Kimball,


American sports writer for the Boston Herald, who now writes the “America At Large” column for the Irish Times. He read excerpts from his best-seller 2008 boxing classic, “Four Kings: Leonard, Hagler, Hearns, Duran and the Last Great Era of Boxing.”

Rebecca Miller, the daughter of playwright Arthur Miller and photographer Inge Morath, read from her first novel, “The Private Lives of Pippa Lee,” published in 2008, currently being filmed. She won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance for a screenplay adaptation of her own short story collection “Personal Velocity.” She also directed Daniel Day Lewis, her husband, in her film “The Ballad of Jack & Rose.” The film is screened in the Festival’s film club in its nightly screenings at the Classic Cinema.

“All About Eve” was performed by the Classic Revival Theatre fromDublin in a remake of Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s classic directed by Pegeen Coleman.

After a spectacular recitation of Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick” byConor Lovett of the Gare St. Lazare Players, I was filled with admiration for the actor’s talent at interpreting the text as well as expressing it. This performance is not to be missed.

Other theatre pieces in the nightly lineup of plays included a treatise on incest that is bounding continents, “On Raftery’s Hill” written byMarina Carr and performed by the Allen Little Theatre from County Kildare.

Also noteworthy, I found Ballinrobe’s Benny McDonnell’s

“Bondi Beach Boy Blue,” about attaining goals in the sports world, and other worlds, as two hurling teens hurl themselves Australia to represent Kilkenny.

After a wonderful art exhibition opening reception at the St. John’sTheatre of splendidly painted landscapes by ,

Joanna Keane O’Flynn, the daughter of Ireland’s most celebrated playwright,

John B. Keane, introduced John Montague, who announced it was his birthday. The audience received the presents of many of his poems read aloud by himself, and then his books readily signed thereafter.

Dermot Bolger, famous for his plays, poetry volumes and nine novels, as well as his associations with Trinity College and the Abbey Theatre, rounded things out on Sunday, the final day of the Festival.

The last word was had by Carol Drinkwater, known as Helen Herriot in the BBC’s “All Creatures Great and Small.” She wrote a best-selling award-winning children’s novel, “The Haunted School.” She is filming a documentary series around the Mediterranean Basin with UNESCO about the history and culture of the Olive Tree, based on her series of memoirs.

Most everyone could be found after at the “Healing Party” in John B’s Pub, anannual tradition to top off the oratory on the last day of Writers’ Week. The last

night was filled till the wee hours with memorable melodies, several by James Sheehan of the Dubliners,

sung and strummed by the Listowel Arms Hotel stayers and savourers of every last crumb of culture of the 2009 festival.

Certainly this all bodes well for the life of the Listowel Writers’ Week and for the celebrations of its 2010 40th Annual.

All inquiries can be directed to info@writersweek.ie or by calling 011 353 68 21074

“Poet’s Life” Copyright 2009 Laura Jean Zito All Rights Reserved For use of any photos and/or text contact laurajeanzito@gmail.com



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