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Dalkey Book Festival now twice as big but retains its intimacy

In this downturn, one of the most reassuring aspects of Irish life is the enormous community spirit that exists and, when tapped, its power can be staggering. The Dalkey Book Festival is one such example.

Last year, in response to discussions with local traders about the fall-off in trade in the town, my wife Sian Smyth and I decided we should set up a book festival in Dalkey to bring people into the town and to celebrate the pretty impressive local literary pedigree.

I called Maeve Binchy to see what she thought of the idea and once Maeve responded with her characteristic "that's a wonderful idea, we should have done it years ago", the first festival was born. Last year, we had no idea so many would turn up, but they did and the weekend was a roaring success.

Next weekend, we are delighted to host the second Dalkey Book Festival. We have a wonderfully eclectic array of local writers, comedians, directors, actors and playwrights, as well as the odd commentator or two. We'll have all sorts of discussions, readings, theatre, cinema, stand-up plus debate.

The second festival may be bigger, with twice as many events, but we'll be keeping the same intimate atmosphere with small and charming venues, from the cake shop and the secondhand clothes shop to the Masonic Hall.

Though we are continuing with the theme of local communities fighting back in the recession, coming together to do things for ourselves, we are delighted to pay a unique tribute, in his centenary year, to the genius of Flann O'Brien, which is, after all, the least we can do given that he wrote a book about the place.

Who could miss Tommy Tiernan exploring the comic genius of the man, or Eamon Morrissey -- the Brother himself -- taking you around the streets on the Dalkey Archive trail? Or what about a quick jaunt down to Deco's Cave, where, according to yer man, St Augustine appeared? If the stage is your thing, pop into Hugh Leonard's brilliant Flann adaptation Saints Go Cycling In.

Come to chat with local writers such as Binchy, Paul Murray, Declan Hughes, John Waters and Brian Keenan. Or maybe you'd like to have a word with the likes of Jim Sheridan, Ryan Tubridy, Mark Little and Vincent Browne?

We've converted the old tramyard into Dalkey's first festival cinema, where we will showcase the extraordinary cinematic talent of local residents Neil Jordan, Sheridan, Ian Fitzgibbon and Conor McPherson.

Why not drop in for Leonard's charming Da? Dalkey never looked better on the big screen.

We have loads of events for children, with storytelling and art workshops, plus readings for children from three to 14 years, and a special children's double-header of Roddy Doyle and John Boyne.

Experience the festival's theatre with Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray and Midnight Poe in the graveyard, as well as Dalkey's "poet laureate" Gary Jermyn performing My Life as a Chat Show Host and his hilarious, charity book-quiz.

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And there's debate chaired by Pat Kenny and Olivia O'Leary. Get stuck into the issues of the day from this year's Arab revolutions to the State of the Nation, or how a local community can stand up for itself and thrive.

I hope to see you in Dalkey next weekend.

This year's festival runs from Friday to June 19. For more details and to book, see www.dalkeybookfestival.org

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