Acclaimed author Joseph O'Connor writes for Culture about his latest literary endeavour, the inaugural UL Frank McCourt Creative Writing Festival, which takes place from 3rd to 6th May.
About a year ago now, I started planning a festival to take place at the University of Limerick, where I am Professor of Creative Writing.
I wanted those two latter words to set the tone and the content, a festival that would not be exclusively 'literary' but might include 'popular fiction' as well as other forms of written storytelling. As a reader, I get impatient with these labels, and I also mistrust them. A world that has room for either Beethoven or the Beatles but not both isn't for me. The question should be whether or not the story works.
So, we have wizard wordsmith Kevin Barry, who has won the IMPAC Award and the Goldsmiths Prize, and Julian Gough, whose own mantelpiece is home to a good bit of silverware. One of my absolute favorites of the new Irish poets, Martin Dyar, will be along, as will the brilliant Mary O'Malley, recent winner of the Michael Hartnett Prize.
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We'll also have Bob Geldof, whose iconic songwriting I consider a form of brilliant Irish storytelling - Rat Trap is the quintessential Irish short story of its time - and Marian Keyes, a fantastically gifted writer with a worldwide audience of millions. Thanks to the generosity of our sponsors, Shannon Airport, we've been able to keep ticket prices rock bottom low. No event costs more than a tenner. Most are five or less.
Also along with will be RTE Radio 1's Sunday Miscellany live, a programme that, minute for broadcasting minute, has brought thousands of hours of listening pleasure down the years. Its particular combination of spoken word and carefully selected music has long been a part of the Irish Sunday morning, so I am delighted to welcome the programme to UL. And, since our festival is being sponsored by RTE Supporting the Arts, the mix is apt and meaningful.
For those who would like to try their hand at writing, or would like to develop a skill already there, we have an optional programme of Creative Writing classes taught by Donal Ryan and brilliant Young-Adult author Sarah Moore Fitzgerald.
No matter the form of written creativity you like, I think we'll have something to offer.
Joseph O’Connor is McCourt Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Limerick. As part of the UL Frank McCourt Creative Writing Festival, which takes place from 3rd to 6th May, he is in public conversation with Marian Keyes (May 4th at 7pm) and with Bob Geldof (May 5th at 7pm) at the University Concert Hall - more details here. A weekend programme of writing classes is also available at the Festival - find out more here.