Dromineer Literary Festival Sept 29 – Oct 2 2011

On Wednesday night, September 28, I listened to Paul Muldoon read from his latest poetry collection; he was a guest on the RTE Radio 1 show Arena.  Immediately following his reading, the commentator gave a line-up of festivals taking place over the weekend and gave the Dromineer Literary Festival top billing, citing the great writers of high quality that would be attending.

The annual Dromineer Literary Festival, now in its eighth year, has grown up.  From its fledgling beginnings, (and I still have the ideas of our first meeting in The Whiskey Still jotted down on a bar mat), we have become a festival of National and International renown, but without ever losing sight of our objective; to maintain the intimate, accessible and friendly nature of the festival with which we first set out, and to continue our reputation for quality and for fun.

Dermot Healy, Kerry Hardie and Catherine Phil McCarthy make poems that poetry lovers love to hear and poets aspire to write.  Their readings on Thursday September 29 filled the space with mesmerising pictures of each poet’s interior and exterior worlds.  After the readings the poets mingled with the audience, took questions and did book signings.

At the launch of the festival on Friday September 30, Nenagh Player’s actors Niamh Hogan and Stuart Andrew read the winning entries in the adult short story and poetry competitions.  The measure of the success and impact of their delivery was the way in which the authors themselves listened, enraptured, and in their comments afterwards, that it was like hearing their work anew.  These readings are of themselves a performance by the Nenagh Players and, so eagerly awaited, they provide an essential element to the launch of the festival.

The festival exhibition this year ‘Craft to Art’, featured exhibits from the museums and archives of Michael Fitzpatrick Printers and Book Binders, Tipperary Town and from John Hanly’s Woollen Mills, Ballyartella, the work of Reggie Goodbody, Luthier and boatbuilder, Gerardine Wisdom, award winning photographer and rush work artist, of local quiltmakers and of sculptures by Dick Gough.  I imagine Dick has never been referred to as a midwife before, but that is exactly what he is.  For thousands of years the forms locked inside his bog oak and yew sculptures have waited for Dick to deliver them.

Central to the activities of the Dromineer Literary Festival is its goal to provide a platform for emerging artists.  On Saturday afternoon, October 1, two new talents were showcased; young film maker George Hooker and rising stars in the world of music, Raffiki.  George Hooker’s short film and the two acoustic pieces played by Raffiki following the screening, were warmly received by a full house.  Larry Richardson, on sound, managed to carry every nuance of the spoken and played word into the light and dark of the fabric of the building.
Also on Saturday afternnon, David Shaw-Smith gave a talk on his acclaimed documentary Hands, which was followed by a screening of Shannon One Design.  The event was introduced by the Commodore of Lough Derg Yacht Club, Lucy Sanders and was attended by our special guests Jimmy Furey, on whom the programme centred, and Reene Gleeson and her family, whose husband Donal Gleeson also featured in the documentary and for whom the Shannon One Design was made.

At the Meet the Authors event on Saturday night, John MacKenna and Jennifer Johnston read from their latest works.  In the words of John MacKenna, our festival chairman Pat Kelly managed a ‘fluid and humourous chairing of the reading and discussion’.  It gave enormous pleasure to listen to these two authors discuss their work in a frank and often hilarious manner.  It was with a groan of disappointment that we had to concede an end to the event.  However, we were cheered by the Poetry Divas, (Barbara Smith, Maeve O’Sullivan and Kate Dempsey) who performed poetry reverently, irreverently in The Whiskey Still, to much laughter and applause.

The event afloat on the passenger vessel The Spirit of Killaloe entitled The Living Lake.  Scientists Rick Boelens and Dan Minchen managed to entertain, whilst informing and educating, a very pleasing combination for all of the passengers.
The festival is delighted to have a continued association with The Nenagh Players.  The final event of the programme was a performance by Ronan Dodd of his adaptation for stage, of ‘A Grief Observed’ by CS Lewis.  Dodd’s performance was so utterly convincing that Ronan, the person we know, disappeared and CS Lewis emerged full bodied on stage, aching with the sorrow, rage, elation and confusion of a bereaved person, a Tour de Force enactment.

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