Literary festivals are in business once again and the good news is they’re bigger and better than before
This year’s crop of literary festivals is more ambitious in scale than ever, if the recent literary village at Merrion Square Park, set up by the International Literature Festival Dublin, and Listowel Writers’ Week, which concludes today, are anything to go by.
But if you couldn’t make it to the capital or Kerry, never fear, as there is loads more happening across Ireland and beyond.
Borris, Co Carlow; June 10-12
This year’s line-up is international in flavour, with conflict journalism at its forefront, featuring Mary Fitzgerald and Patrick Radden Keefe.
Hugo Jellett, co-director and founder, says: “Since we started together in 2012, we have followed an aspiration of inviting writers not just of books, music, film and theatre, but also environmental reportage, political policy or frontline conflict journalism.
“To go off-piste for a few days in an idyllic rural hinterland instead of a conference room, and spend time swapping concerns and solutions with each other and with an inquisitive public – and not too many of them.”
Dalkey, Co Dublin; June 16-19
Founded by husband and wife Sian Smyth and David McWilliams, this year’s four-day festival is political in outlook, with appearances scheduled from Sally Rooney, Simon Schama, Fintan O’Toole and US National Security Council adviser and Russia specialist Fiona Hill.
The Dalkey Literary Awards, with a prize fund of €30,000, will be presented by Zurich on June 18. Keep your eyes peeled for a special guest – last year’s was the actor Matt Damon.
“Even literature doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Not all writers are interested in politics and the world, but most are,” says Sian Smyth.
Bantry, West Cork; July 8-15
Big names have been announced for this year’s festival, including Laureate for Irish Fiction Colm Tóibín, Laureate na nÓg Áine Ní Ghlinn, Zadie Smith, and Sara Baume.
“There’s no VIP section, so whether you are a famous writer, a first-time writer or a member of the audience, we’re all here together,” says festival director Eimear O’Herlihy.
Skerries Mill, Co Dublin; September 15-18
Fingal Poetry Festival aims to showcase Irish poets, featuring children’s poems, published authors, the winners of its ongoing Fingal Poetry Prize and An Fiach Dubh writing competitions, as well as local performers.
“Our programme this year features a broad range of poets from Ireland and elsewhere, including Leontia Flynn, Michael O’Loughlin, Aifric Mac Aodha, Kate Miller, and many more,” says artistic director Enda Coyle-Green.
DLR LexIcon, Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin; October 7-9
This year’s headliners include Lucy Worsley discussing her new book about Agatha Christie, as well as novelists Mick Herron, Ann Cleeves and Lisa Jewell, and plenty of Irish talent. Expect online appearances too from Laura Lippman and Jean Hanff Korelitz.
“Murder One will be a hybrid festival this year with the majority of events live streamed to make them accessible to all,” says founder and director Sam Blake.
Libraries around Ireland; October 1-31
Almost a thousand events are planned both in library branches around the country, and online for young readers.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity for children to meet their favourite author or illustrator, take part in workshops on creative writing, drama, music, or follow outdoor story trails, enter competitions and become immersed in the world of books and stories,” says head of Libraries Development Stuart Hamilton.
Venues across South County Dublin; October 13-16
Organised by South Dublin Libraries, Red Line has traditionally been a celebration of all things literary, while this year the programme is being expanded to include comedy, sport, music and theatre.
“With over 35 events, the Red Line Festival taps into the area’s wealth of home-grown talent, as well as presenting a selection of national and international speakers,” says curator Geraldine O’Meara.
Smock Alley Theatre, Dublin; November 9-13
This festival has Irish publishing as its focus, with the full programme scheduled for release in September.
“We are extra excited about this year’s festival as we will be returning to full live capacity with events for families and readers of all ages – including walking tours, boat tours, musical performances and, of course, great conversations with our many authors,” says director Julianne Mooney Siron.
With overseas travel back on the agenda, crime aficionados will also love two UK gatherings, Lyme Crime in sunny Lyme Regis (June 23- 25; lymecrime.co.uk) and the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in picturesque Harrogate (July 21 to 24; harrogateinternationalfestivals.com/crime-writing-festival/).
Intrepid travellers should check out Iceland Noir (November 16 to 19; icelandnoir.weebly.com); and literature fans of all ages shouldn’t miss the renowned Edinburgh International Book Festival (August 13 to 29; edbookfest.co.uk).