Toast to literary gem of west
Festival celebrates 25 years of fame
CELEBRATIONS kicked off in Galway last night to mark a quarter century of Cuirt literary festivals.
Since the first festival in 1986, Cuirt has grown to become a significant player on the international circuit and each year attracts major players in the world of poetry, prose and journalism.
An exhibition marking the 25 years is proving extremely popular at the home of Galway Arts, No 47 Dominick Street.
Seasoned photographer Joe O'Shaughnessy's work over the 25 years has captured the faces of household names, among them Pulitzer and Booker Prize winners, all of whom have graced the compact venue and others in the City of the Tribes with their words.
Ireland's literary notables, Roddy Doyle and Anne Enright, did the honours at the opening of Festival 2010 at the Galway City Museum, next to the Spanish Arch, last night.
They were due to be joined by an array of international writers, but the travel restrictions resulting from the unprecedented ash plume had kept many away from Galway, with others stranded somewhere between their point of departure and the West of Ireland.
Many, however, arrived in Galway by a variety of extraordinary routes. Irish writer Claire Keegan battled her way across Europe, past a French train strike, and landed in Galway in time to read this evening with fellow short story specialist, Pakistani author Danniyal Mueenuddin.
Likewise UK novelist Rupert Thompson, who travelled from his home by road and ferry to make it to the festival.
Among the other Irish writers who will give readings at the festival are Kevin Barry, Joseph O'Connor, Michael Longley, Jennifer Johnston, Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill, Ciaran Carson, Thomas Kilroy, Rita Ann Higgins, Moya Cannon and Marina Carr.
Opening the festival last night Roddy Doyle said festivals like Cuirt were "important as they work on lots of levels, especially because they ignite excitement in reading beyond their own parish.
"They also add a certain glamour to a place. I was in a little place, Laugharne in south Wales recently, which is no more than a one-street town, but as it has a festival it becomes important.
"Writers also get a chance to meet each other, but more importantly, readers get a chance to meet writers," he said.
Roddy Doyle was bridging a 15-year gap since he last attended Cuirt and was quick to explain that his presence was also due to the fact that he had no children doing exams this year.
Currently putting the finishing touches to a children's book, he expects to have the as-yet-untitled project completed by the end of the summer.