Listowel Writers' Week Fringe

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Mary Keane & Bert Griffin in J B Keane’s pub

August 01, 2009 By: Paul O'Mahony Category: participants, photographs

They were both good enough to let me take this photograph.

- two people who figured strongly in my enjoyment of Listowel Writers’ Week 2009

The first time I went into J B Keane’s pub in Listowel in 2009

June 06, 2009 By: Paul O'Mahony Category: connections, localinfo, novels, participants, preparations, storytelling

I wasn’t looking for drink, I was looking for company.

The woman from the Vodafone shop was sorting out a dongle for me. I had to wait, pass the time somewhere, and J B’s is only across the road.

This was mid afternoon on Wednesday 27 May.

Alone I went in, wondering what would be going on. From previous experience, I suspected there would be something up. I might even interrupt Billy Keane in song or story.

Pushing open the door, I looked round the pub, hardly anyone there. First thought was where to put myself so that I could watch & overhear conversations?

The man in the corner caught my eye. He wouldn’t let go of it. Insisted I sit down with his friends, Sean Devine & Paula Tormey. I know their names because I took out my book, said I’d outsourced my memory to it, and took notes.

[I did this all through Writers' Week.]

Bert Griffin pointed me to his friend Tony Guerin, who wasn’t in the pub. On the wall was a poster advertising a play written by him. He said Tony’s novel, Tomorrow is a lovely day, would be launched on Saturday @1300.

You’ll not meet a more engaging man this week…” (Bert’s words on Tony, I scribbled).

I can’t remember what I drank, so I guess it wasn’t a pint of Guinness.

They were good to me, those three. I found out the J B Keane anniversary mass was @ 1030 on Saturday. I thought of going to pay my respects, and because I’m a bit of an anthropologist.

For the first time, I met Mary Keane, John B’s widow, from Castleisland, came to Listowel 54 years ago, 1955. Took this photograph of Mary & Bert.

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I met a couple who’d driven from Greystones, near Dublin, to be at a performance of Sive, and said it was worth every mile.

I found out Brendan Kennelly and Matt Munroe had both been London bus conductors, like me.

And then Bert invited me to his house for steak…

Amazing, astonishing, bloodyfantastic, hypermarvellous, superphenomenal, eh.

I had a short vigorous time with them in Bert’s house. I left Grace’s [my 3.9 year old treasure] car seat there when I drove them all back into Listowel in time for the opening ceremony. Grace’s seat is still there.

If there’s anyone driving from Listowel to Cork soon, please contact me, so I can ask you a small favour…

That’s meant to be a flavour of the life to be had in Listowel during Writers’ Week.

Imagining the conversation between Brian McMahon & J B Keane …

June 02, 2009 By: Paul O'Mahony Category: historical, Imagining, organisers, preparations, storytelling, theatrical plays

[In the bar of J B Keane’s pub, Listowel, Kerry, Ireland, winter 1969)

Brian: John?

J B : Yes Brian. Will you take one for the road?

Brian: Go on, hit me. I’ve been thinking John…

J B : I’m sorry for your trouble Brian. Is that head of your’s throbbing again?

Brian: John, we have no Hell’s Angels in Listowel, no Black Panthers either.

J B : Tis drawing Brian. I like to let it sit until the dark has settled in.

Brian: You pull a great pint for such a young man John, as we all know. But what are we putting back?

J B : Into the youth? Is it the futute of the young people or the ancients that you’re thinking of?

Brian: Tis time we put down a foundation John. We’ll not be here for long. As they say in Paris, the youth deserve the earth left to them cleansed with the best their writers can deliver from tombstones.

J B : No wonder your head’s aglow. I see light in those eyes.

Brian: Let’s see if we can gather a fair crowd John. A fair crowd in Listowel. And get them all talking, all exciting, all doing their own thing. Let’s see if we can show them the Kerry way to revolution. Words John, imagination from the soul, for the soul. with the soul. I have a dream John, that one day there’ll be a fair in Listowel, and twon’t be cattle starring and drovers selling. It’ll be girls and fellas driving their writing into new places. I have a dream John that’ll go out from this parish, watered by the streams of the hinterland. I dream John, therefore I am, in Listowel on a damp dark night.

J B : I’m with you. If you’re going on the long road, and putting in writers to this pub, so that we can listen, and fill the town with the music of stories, I’ll walk the road with you. We’ll have one for the road together.

Mary Keane: Yee better hurry up boys.

Brian: You’re right Mary, we better hurry up. John, I hear the twittering of birds, a face-book of voices, your tube of toothpaste refilled, even the inter-netting of artist’s from Listowel with the wanderers from abroad this parish.

J B : Jaysus, that’s virtually a feast.

Brian: Yes John, a feast for sore eyes. They’ll be up fierce late in Listowel that week. Let’s make a “writers’ week”, and make a meal of it.

J B : Be Jaysus Brian, you’re some dreamer for a teacher.

Mary Keane: Good night Brian, safe home.

Brian: Good night to you both.

J B : Tis indeed Brian.


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