Why do we fear milk-drinking men? Can two friends write a book together without falling out? What does it mean to be a man in Ireland today? All these questions and many more were answered at the 2018 Festival of Writing and Ideas.
From Friday, June 8th to Sunday, June 10th the town of Borris saw a host of actors, directors, comedians, playwrights and poets speak on various subjects ranging from 'Writing Beyond Gender' to 'The Cyberdogs Of War'.
We have rounded up some of our favourite takeaways from the festival.
1. Margaret Atwood is a boss
Everyone fangirled over Margaret Atwood. And we mean everybody. Max Porter, Deirdre O’Kane, Sinéad Gleeson and Roisin Ingle all tweeted their appreciation for the author but on the ground the universal admiration was palpable.
Still smiling about my daughters - who are yet to be acquainted with The Handmaid’s Tale - stalking @MargaretAtwood all weekend @Writingandideas & telling her to "keep up the good work" What’s making you happy today? Use #IrishTimesHappy and let me know .. pic.twitter.com/F1XQnfSETO— Roisin Ingle (@roisiningle) 11 June 2018
Crowds rushed to her book signings, fans queued out the door for her on-stage interviews and when she arrived down to breakfast, a surge of excitement Mexican waved its way down the buffet line.
An inspiring genius and a very, very cool person. Total joy to chat to. pic.twitter.com/Ha2CuRzbhB— Max Porter (@maxjohnporter) 10 June 2018
On Saturday, we watched Max Porter excitedly present a 'Bag of Atwood' to the Handmaid's Tale creator for her to pull printed poems, quotes and Tweets from in order to cover a range of topics including her childhood, her long-standing career and her activism.
The Canadian native was the toast of the town – some feat considering Cillian Murphy and Bob Geldof were on the line-up.
2. Literature is not to be feared
If the words ‘literature’ and ‘poetry’ give you flashbacks of the Leaving Cert, you need to get yourself to Borris. The festival was not only a celebration of the spoken word but an invitation for all to get involved.
Whether you wanted to listen to poetry, discuss your favourite books, take in a trad session, attend some top-class stand-up or have a go at glamping – the weekend had it all.
3. Milk should absolutely be feared
Comedian Neil Delamere sat down with Noble director Stephen Bradley to discuss his filmography and inspirations. We collected a number of fun facts at this particular panel so settle in.
Stephen screened various scenes from some of his favourite films including the opening of Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds where Col. Hans Landa aka The Jew Hunter (played by Christoph Waltz) questions a farmer as to the whereabouts of his Jewish neighbours. The intensity of this iconic scene is stretched to unbearable proportions and is made eerier by a humble glass of milk.
Apparently, we associate milk with childhood – a drink to nourish little ones, to leave out for Santa or to go alongside a plate of cookies. When we see a grown man drinking milk, it just feels…wrong.
Don’t believe us? Give Leon, No Country for Old Men or A Clockwork Orange a watch and get back to us.
4. Stephen Bradley had to hold Brendan Gleeson back… figuratively
While on the set of Sweety Barrett (1998), Brendan Gleeson had a tough time of things. For one particularly memorable scene, he had to drink a pint of raw eggs – and that wasn’t even the worst of it.
The actor had a falling out with cinematographer Thomas Mauch (Aguirre, Wrath of God, Fitzcarraldo) who called him Marlon Brendan - and not in a good way.
Eventually, things got so tense Stephen had to hold him back...
5. Sir George almost made his film debut
While Stephen discussed his filmography, one particular project came to light called Wayfaring Strangers.
The World War II thriller was in pre-production last Summer; the crew were in France, locations had been scouted, Cillian Murphy had his hair chopped and Sir George Martin was flying in from London... until, that is, the whole project was pulled - as does happen in the film industry.
Need more details? The director has plans to release a book called Shooting & Cutting which will discuss both his professional and personal trials and tribulations next year.
6. Two people can write one book… and remain best friends
Comedian Alison Spittle sat down with Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen - the co-authors of Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling - to find out how the work of two writers can co-exist within one book.
As it turns out, that was the easy part.
7. Our knowledge of politics is at an all-time low
While the Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling Facebook page has become backlogged with requests, Emer and Sarah are still fielding applications. To enter, you must answer this one simple question...
8. Masculinity is a tricky subject
John Lloyd (Not the Nine O’Clock News), Emmet Kirwan (Dublin Oldschool) and Philip Hensher (The Friendly Ones) took on the difficult task of discussing masculinity in Ireland today.
From the point of view of a young wordsmith, an established TV presenter and a gay novelist, the three discussed representations of masculinity in the entertainment industry, the prevalence of the male gaze in literature, recent changes in society, the wording of the constitution and how fatherhood has evolved since the previous generation.
Navigating murky water, the trio handled a vague and sometimes precarious subject with skill and consideration.
9. Cillian Murphy is just one of the lads
One of the most notable features of the festival is the lack of VIP areas. In Borris, the artists and audience intermingle as they attend signings, readings, pubs and the chipper side by side.
We saw Bob Geldof stroll around Borris House, tried not to stare as Margaret Atwood tapped away on her laptop over breakfast and absolutely stared when Cillian Murphy strolled up to the bar for his round with the lads.