Aingeala Flannery worked for many years as a broadcast and print journalist before turning her hand to fiction in 2017 - since then, she's completed an MFA in Creative Writing at University College Dublin, her short story Visiting Hours was the winner of the 2019 Harper's Bazaar Short Story Competition and her story Kamikaze been broadcast on RTÉ Radio One as part of the Francis MacManus Short Story Competition.

Now Aingeala has published her first novel. Set in the seaside town of Tramore, County Waterford, The Amusements (Penguin) is a vivid portrait of a small-town community, following the lives of two families, the Grants and Swaines, over three decades.

A tale of roads taken and not taken, it's one of the year's more memorable Irish literary debuts.

We asked Aingeala for her choice cultural picks...

Film: An Cailín Ciúin

It's adapted from Claire Keegan’s novella Foster, one of my favourite books, and I love that it was adapted into Irish. An Cailín Ciúin isn’t a film about the Irish language and I’d encourage people to go see it the same as they’d go see a brilliant French or Italian film. It’s beautifully shot and directed, with a fantastic cast. Even though I knew what the twist was, I was still bawling my eyes out at the end of the film. Unusually, the story is as compelling on the screen as it is on the page. While Keegan didn’t write the screenplay, there’s a cinematic quality and a very strong sense of place in all her books. I hope someone adapts her latest novel Small Things Like These. As I was reading it, I couldn’t stop myself from visualizing it as a film.

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Music: Wilco – Cruel Country

I love country music, especially the old stuff: Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Gram Parsons, George Jones. Great country songs tell a story, usually a sad one. But there are revenge songs and protest songs too. Alt-Country is a label I find snobbish. For me, it’s either country music or it isn’t. I wasn’t gone on Wilco before, but Cruel Country is true Americana. I love it.

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Book: Donal Ryan – The Queen of Dirt Island

. As a writer, I’m interested in family and community dynamics, and this is Donal Ryan’s domain. He’s great at writing female characters and he’s back on his home turf of Tipperary with this story about three generations of women living on their own terms in a small town. I read the advance copy of this novel soon as it landed through my letter box. I swear, my heart was broken on the second page, then slowly pieced back together only to be broken again. He’s an incredibly skillful writer, who dances on the banks of sentimentality without falling in. Not an easy task. (Published on 18th August 2022)

Play: The Performance Corporation - Disappearing Islands

This is a show that’s happening in the tidal swimming pool in Belmullet in September. The Performance Corporation are forever pushing boundaries, you just never know what you’re going to get. The last show I saw of theirs was at Dublin Theatre Festival: a VR immersion into the world of conspiracy theorists for an audience of one person in an Oculus headset. The show before that was an opera of Joyce’s The Dead. Disappearing Islands is created by the same team that adapted The Dead: Tom Swift and Ellen Cranitch. There will be dancers, actors, opera singers, and a champion local accordion player.

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TV: Friday Night Dinner

TV has never appealed to me as much as radio. I’m always behind. But I do like a good television comedy. At least one night a week, I’ll binge watch a show with my teenage son. We watched a lot of US comedy over lockdown: Schitt’s Creek, The Good Place, Young Sheldon. I prefer absurdist British humour, so when it’s my call I’ll pick Friday Night Dinner or Black Books. At the moment, we’re watching Ted Lasso, which is appealing to him more than me, but I treasure the time we spend drinking tea and laughing on the sofa together.

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Gig: Richard Hawley. Olympia Theatre. 6th September 2022

I go see Richard Hawley whenever he’s in town. If it wasn’t weird, I’d sit in the best seats on my own and just let the music wash over me. His voice and arrangements are full of yearning and nostalgia that I find very appealing - especially the early albums Late Night Final and Lowedges. They remind me of my dad who was from the north of England. I don’t go to as many gigs as I used to, but now that venues have reopened that will change. I went to see Sparks at Vicar Street in April and it was like a prison release. I’d tickets for Sinéad O’Connor next month at the Iveagh Gardens, it was disappointing but not surprising when that was cancelled, but she will perform again and I’ll be first in line for tickets. Last weekend, I saw Lisa O’Neill and CMAT at Body and Soul. CMAT has such great stage presence and energy - I love her take on country music. It was a tonic to be surrounded by people chanting 'I Wanna Be A Cowboy, Baby!’

CMAT at Body & Soul

Art: Waterford Walls

I love art, but I’m not wild about exhibitions and galleries. I find them overwhelming. I like to look at paintings individually, to spend time thinking about them. Maybe that’s why I like Waterford Walls so much. It’s an international street art festival that allows you to ramble around the city, meeting artists as they transform grey, dilapidated gable walls into spectacular pieces of public art. I like that you come across murals in the most unexpected places. It’s such an uplifting and accessible way to enjoy art. I don’t think it's an exaggeration to say that the project has transformed Waterford. Dublin City Council take note (Runs 12-21 August 2022).

Radio/Podcast: Old-Time Radio Researchers

This is an archive of shows from the so-called Golden Age of Radio. This is very nerdy – the archive is collated and managed by volunteers, it’s a vast rabbit hole that’s too easy for me to get lost in. These shows predate television and they feature well-known radio players. My favourite is a series called The Adventures of Philip Marlowe that was broadcast on NBC and CBS in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Marlowe is such a complex and entertaining character, and Raymond Chandler is one of my favourite writers.

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Tech

I want less not more tech in my life. It annoys me that everything from ordering food to checking your bank balance has to be done via an app. The apps I use most are my Fitbit app, to see if I got as little sleep as I feel like I got and the Weather & Radar app, to check if it’ll be raining at the time I’ve arranged to play tennis. If an app isn’t something I’ll use every day, it’s clutter I can’t be bothered with.

The Next Big Thing...

A young singer from Tupelo, Mississippi called Elvis Presley.

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The Amusements by Aingeala Flannery is published by Penguin Sandycove