Polar Adventurer Sara Wheeler will feature at the Immrama Festival of Travel Writing in Lismore

Sara Wheeler

Sara Wheeler is not your stereotypical polar explorer and world traveller. The glamorous mother of two, who has spent a career of some twenty five years as traveller, journalist and broadcaster, will host an audience at The Courthouse Theatre in Lismore, Co Waterford on Friday June 10, at the ninth annual Immrama Lismore Festival of Travel Writing, which will take place from June 9 to 12.

Sara Wheeler’s travels in the Arctic and Antarctic focus, not on her own personal endurances, but on the lives of the people and the landscapes contained within those two remote regions. As The Independent put it, Sara presents the Arctic ‘as a home, not a playground. …. Wheeler’s interest lies in the communities which make their lives there.’ She writes vividly of the people, of spending the night in Captain Scott’s hut, or reliving the adventures of Shackleton and Nansen. Worried that having her children would end her roaming, she took her two boys with her to the Arctic, when one was just an un-weaned baby. Ever the adventurer, Sara’s many talents include learning to belly-dance, to strip, and to walk on the wing of a biplane at 3000 feet.

In a series of remarkable books – Travels in a Thin Country, Terra Incognita, Cherry: A Life of Apsley Cherry-Garrard, Too Close to the Sun and The Magnetic North – Sara Wheeler has shown that she is not only one of the finest travel writers of her generation but a very fine biographer too. Her most recent book, ‘Access all Areas’ was published to coincide with her fiftieth birthday. It gathers together a selection of her shorter pieces, both journalism and introductions to other books. The Indpendent described it as ‘One of the greatest travel books of our times – poignant, funny, a delight to read’.

At Immrama, Sara will offer her audience an insight into the early journeys and literary heroes that have influenced and inspired this intrepid and talented writer. Indeed, one of her heroes, Jan Morris, was a guest of the 2010 Immrama Festival.

Sara Wheeler will feature alongside the talented Theo Dorgan. Poet, prose-writer, editor and translator, he has also written scripts for film documentaries and worked as a presenter of literature programmes on radio and television for over 25 years. In addition to his literary and broadcasting credentials, he is also an accomplished sailor.  In 2001, in a book entitled Sailing For Home, Theo recounted his sea voyage from Antigua to Kinsale. Another book, Time on the Ocean is an inspired description of how Dorgan, in 2006, flew to southern Chile and joined the crew of Pelagic Australis, a 70-foot single mast yacht, for the voyage to Cape Town. Dorgan’s great-grandmother died in childbirth off Cape Horn and was buried at sea, so the adventure had special significance for him.

A former Director of Poetry Ireland/Éigse Éireann, Theo has worked extensively as a broadcaster of literary programmes on both radio and television. His Jason and The Argonauts, to music by Howard Goodall, was commissioned by, and premiered in the Royal Albert Hall in 2004. He was the scriptwriter for the acclaimed TV documentary series Hidden Treasures, and a series of texts commissioned from him features in the dance musical Riverdance. His songs have been recorded by a number of musicians, including Alan Stivell, Jimmy Crowley and Cormac Breathnach. He was presenter of Poetry Now on RTÉ Radio 1, and later presented RTÉ’s TV books programme, Imprint.

Among his many awards are the Listowel Prize for Poetry, 1992 and the O’Shaughnessy Prize for Irish Poetry 2010.

Sara Wheeler and Theo Dorgan will be in conversation with travel writer Pól Ó Conghaile, who writes for the Irish Independent, Cara magazine and is a regular contributor RTÉ Radio 1’s Pat Kenny Show and Today FM’s The Last Word.

Also joining Sara Wheeler and Theo Dorgan on this year’s Immrama programme are international and award winning authors Conor O’Clery, Rolf Potts and Alex von Tunzelmann. Acclaimed travel writers Anthony Sattin and William Blacker also feature on the diverse programme.

The 2011 festival also sees a brand new addition to the programme, a ‘Blogger’s Forum’, facilitated by Manchán Magan, with special guests Rolf Potts, Áine Goggins of the TG4 Couchsurfing programme “Ó Tholg go Tolg”, and Darragh Doyle of boards.ie.

A variety of fringe events will also take place over the weekend, including an International visual arts exhibition at Lismore Castle Arts, exhibition and events at Lismore Library, the launch of a number of new books, creative writing workshops, book readings and much more.

The Immrama Festival of Travel Writing will be held in Lismore from June 9 to 12, 2011 and is generously supported by Fáilte Ireland, Waterford County Council, Eason Dungarvan, Waterford Airport and the Arts Council. Tickets and further information can be found on www.lismoreimmrama.com or by contacting 058-53803.

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