Listowel Writers' Week Fringe

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Campaign for the Right to Blog Listowel Writers’ Week

June 09, 2010 By: Paul O'Mahony Category: 2010

Blogger Paul O’Mahony to launch Campaign for the right to blog at the Listowel Writers’ Week Festival, after being attacked by Committee Member on the last day of this year’s Festival.

—- Paul O’Mahony calls on bloggers across the world to support his campaign by emailing the Chairman of Listowel Writers Week – info@writersweek.ie – demanding he be allowed to continue blogging unhindered, and without violence or intimidation.

In an incident that many might have thought only happens in China or Burma, Blogger Paul O’Mahony was attacked verbally and physically as he tried to leave Listowel Writers’ Week. His crime? Doing his work as a blogger, voluntarily and unpaid, seeking to report on a writers’ festival he dearly loves. A full report follows below from a shocked and badly shaken Paul about what happened.

But the big question now is will Paul O’Mahony get an apology from the Listowel Writers Festival Committee? Even more importantly, will he be assured no further action will be taken against him, when going about the business reporting for his blog?

You can help by standing up for the right to blog and getting in touch with the Listowel Writers’ Week Festival and making your voice heard in defense of a brave and courageous member of the blogging community…….

PAUL O’MAHONY REPORT……..

I was on my way out of the Michael Hartnett memorial event at about 2.15pm on Sunday when a cross woman came up to me. She demanded “Have you recorded that session?”

“Yes”, I replied gently – but my heart was starting to beat strongly as I experienced the woman’s anger, the rage on her face.

“Who gave you permission?”

“No one.”

“You are a disgrace. You had no right to do that” – the woman was very agitated and I was nervous.

She reached over and gripped my arm. “How dare you.” Her grip felt fierce. This was in front of at least twenty people including Christopher Reid & Anthony Cronin. I had never met the woman before.

“I’m from the Writers’ Week Committee for 23 years. You are a disgrace. You are not welcome in Writers’ Week.” I felt in a difficult situation: she would not let go of my arm.

“Please let me go. I need to go to Dublin now. I don’t have time to discuss this.”
She still held me – I couldn’t get away from her – and I was expected at Dublin Writers Festival, Abbey Theatre, for the Gallery Press celebration. This was a public confrontation and I felt vulnerable, at risk of doing something stupid like pushing the woman away from me. If I used any force to free myself from her grasp, what might she do to me? It was like being taken hostage in public.

I kept repeating “Please let me go, I have to drive to Dublin.” Eventually, she let me go, and I got out from the crowd into fresh air.

I was shaken, fairly traumatised, shocked. It was the most unpleasant experience I’ve had since returning to Ireland after 30 years in UK.

It was like some sort of secret police person tried to arrest & disgrace me – in front of people who’d been to “Two Poetic Voices in Memory of Michael Hartnett“. The incident was terrible. I hope Michael wasn’t bothered by it.
The implications of all this:

I’ve been blogging Listowel Writers’ Week in an open & transparent manner throughout 2009 & 2010. I don’t know the state of Irish law on such blogging. Never have I made a cent from blogging Writers’ Week. It is an act of love as far as I’m concerned. I wish to bring Listowel to the wider world – so that people who can’t be there can share some of the experience I’ve enjoyed so much. Until now. Do I really need permission to use my iPhone to record material I’ll later use for the benefit of Writers’ Week? If I’m breaking a law, what is the penalty? What is due process for taking a case against me? I would be prepared to defend my action in court – and stand in front of the people of Ireland. Have other bloggers been charged with an offence for recording poets?

Contrast that woman’s action with the experience of Dublin Writers Festival. On Sunday evening, Sinéad Connolly, director of Dublin Writers Festival publicly thanked the bloggers, tweeters & facebookers from the stage of the Abbey Theatre – at the final event of Dublin Writers Festival. I was moved by the honour she paid to those of us who do our best to communicate the joy, excitement and creativity of festivals in Ireland. I could not help comparing the two experiences. What do other Irish festivals think of bloggers who publish and broadcast the festival?

Did the woman who said she was from the Listowel Committee represent the Committee? Is her view and behaviour representative of the values, style and policy of Writers’ Week? Today I think of her as a single individual. But I don’t know for sure. I do want an apology. I feel I’m entitled to a public apology from the whole Committee of Writers’ Week – because I want to be assured that the official view and style is completely different from what I was subjected to. I ask the Chairperson of Listowel Writers’ Week Michael Lynch to make this clear in public not for my benefit but for the sake of others in future. Bloggers, social networkers, new media people – we won’t go away. This dreadful experience may do some good for the future. I care for the reputation of Listowel Writers’ Week and the future audience for all Irish festivals.

I rest my case.

PAUL O’MAHONY

Google Alert finds Listowel Writers’ Week today

May 22, 2010 By: Paul O'Mahony Category: 2010

Bookpaths – bringing together literature & place seem to be quoting from a blurb when it says

“Since it’s inception in 1970, Listowel Writers’ Week has been recognised as the primary event in Ireland’s literary calendar.”

Surely that’s a bit OTT?

How mad is it to have the Dublin Writers’ Festival on at the same time as Listowel? That claims to be “Ireland’s premier literary event”. These sort of claims do no one a service I think. What do you think of that sort of advertising claim?

Just discovered that Dublin Writers’ Festival has a blog too. I left a comradely comment there. Why don’t you do the same- so that together the festivals support each other – spreading the news about how good Ireland is as a place for Festivals.


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