Tuesday 27 September 2016

A fantastic festival of words and music for families

November is simply the best time for book-lovers as it's Dublin Book Festival. Our books editor gives us a sneaky peak into what's hot this year

Madeline Keane

Published 02/11/2015 | 02:30

Graduates of UCD's MA in Creative Writing Andrea Carter, Colin Barrett, Paula McGrath, Susan Stairs and Henrietta McKervey. The latter three will talk about life after the MA with its director, James Ryan, at the Dublin Books Festival on Sunday November 15. Photo: Jason Clarke.
Graduates of UCD's MA in Creative Writing Andrea Carter, Colin Barrett, Paula McGrath, Susan Stairs and Henrietta McKervey. The latter three will talk about life after the MA with its director, James Ryan, at the Dublin Books Festival on Sunday November 15. Photo: Jason Clarke.

November's sky is chill and drear/November's leaf is red and sear' declared Walter Scott in his epic poem Marmion, while TS Eliot called it "sombre November".

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Post-golden harvest days of October, this month starts in remembrance of loss, 30 long, dark days (coincidentally when a lot of Irish people make it worse by forswearing alcohol) before the gaiety and glitter of December descends.

All things considered (with the exception of that inspirational American holiday - Thanksgiving), you could not describe November as an especially joyous month. Even its star sign is sad - anyone for scorpions?

But for all those us who live and work in the wonderfully rewarding world of books, it's a fantastically rich time. Tomorrow, for example, this lucky literary editor is having dinner with Michael Morpurgo - distinguished author of the adored War Horse and much more besides - who's in town for a flying visit; on Thursday the shortlists for the Bord Gais Energy Irish Book Awards 2015 will be launched, kick-starting a month-long celebration of the best in Irish writing. (Watch these pages over the next few weeks for extensive coverage and stunning prizes.)

And mid-month, from the 12th to the 15th, the brilliant Dublin Book Festival takes place. Founded nine years ago, it's now a significant ­highlight in the capital's ­cultural calendar. I'm not particularly fond of that overused phrase 'there's something for everyone in the audience' but in this case, the cliche says it all.

So many genres - literary fiction, poetry, politics, history, crime and business - are covered and there's a dazzling array of novelists, publishers, editors, poets and academics delivering readings, conducting workshops, having debates, and doing public interviews.

There's a vibrant children's programme - I love the sound of 'Yoga Storytime': beloved characters from the likes of The Gruffalo and We're Going on a Bear Hunt are turned into yoga poses - for three-year-olds upwards.

Families can also avail of the Winter Garden - a free drop-in centre at the Festival's main hub, the Smock Alley Theatre on Wellington Quay - where you and your little ones can take part in a storytelling session, join in a workshop, or simply purchase a hot chocolate and dive into a book.

The Festival is partnered by Dublin City Libraries so there's a strong emphasis on education with a school's ­programme including a ­session with the popular Judi Curtin, a talk on poetry and bullying with Dave Lordan, whose poem 'Because I'm Human' is used globally as an anti-bullying resource, and an historical fiction-writing workshop.

There's only space to skim the surface of the main programme here. But I'm greatly looking forward to 'Mastering the Deal' which takes place in the elegant surrounds of the City Assembly House.

James Ryan, novelist and director of the hugely successful Creative Writing MA at UCD, which has produced several exciting writers since its foundation in 2006 - Colin Barrett, Jamie O'Connell, Alan Timmons among others - will talk to authors Henrietta McKervey, Paula McGrath and Susan Stairs about making the leap from graduate to published writer.

Sean Rocks from RTÉ ­Radio 1's Arena will ­celebrate the launch of a new arts ­anthology, Winter Pages, with Kevin Barry, Claire Kilroy and Peter Murphy, and I will be in conversation with our ­inaugural Laureate for ­Fiction Anne Enright, Christine ­Dwyer Hickey, Lisa McInerney and Sinead Gleeson about the latter's widely praised ­anthology of Irish women's writing The Long Gaze Back.

If all that's not enough to whet the appetite of the most voracious bibliophile, there are literary walking tours, several 1916-themed events, book launches, poetry readings, and a variety of musical gigs.

And I've kept the really good news till last - which is that a lot of the events are free. Do book in advance if you can though, this exciting festival deserves to and probably will be thronged.

See you all there!

For more information and full details visit ­ www.dublinbookfestival.com

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