Writer's Week scoops top national festival prize

Máire Logue, Liz Dunn and Eilísh Wren back at base with the fantastic gong for the nation’s best festival from the Irish Hospitality Awards
Máire Logue, Liz Dunn and Eilísh Wren back at base with the fantastic gong for the nation’s best festival from the Irish Hospitality Awards

Dónal Nolan

It couldn't have been more timely. Just four weeks out from the 47th annual celebration of the written word that is Listowel Writers' Week and the festival was named as the nation's best in the Irish Hospitality Awards.

As recognition goes, it doesn't get much better, sparking even greater excitement than is usually felt at this time of year in Writers' Week HQ.

Not least due to the competition the festival was up against - also in the running for the prize were leading lights like the Galway International Arts Festival, the Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival, the Cork Midsummer Festival and Donegal's Earagail Arts Festival to name just a few.

"We are absolutely delighted! It's fantastic recognition for everything we do in Listowel. It's fantastic to hear such good feedback from guests and agencies like Fáilte Ireland always but to actually have a physical trophy every member of the committee can see, look at and think 'I was a part of that' is priceless," Writers' Week chairperson Elizabeth Dunn told The Kerryman.

This is the last of Elizabeth's three years at the helm of an event which she has, clearly, come to help hone into one finely-tuned machine.

Elizabeth is a native of the UK, who made something of a reverse North Kerry pilgrimage in moving permanently from Cheltenham to these parts nearly ten years ago (now living in Athea) after falling in love with Ireland on a rain-soaked visit.

With a lifelong passion for literature and no little experience of the famous English literary festival experience, she is well placed to deliver a comparative appreciation of the Listowel product: "You really don't get it anywhere else. Whenever we're at other festivals there is always a real appreciation of the special magic Listowel has and it is down to the friendliness of the entire town.

"People will stop guests to help them with directions, the Tidy Towns are out ensuring Listowel is looking its very best and really, this prize, is a reflection on the work of everyone.

"I've been to many festivals in the UK over the years and the Listowel experience is quite different. We are not a 'hard-sell' festival driven by big publishing. Many of the UK festivals are all about the hard sell, very often with celebrity writers of different genres not necessarily literary.

"You don't get to meet the authors either at these events. But in Listowel you can find yourself sitting next to Colm Tóibín or anyone and striking up conversation. The authors love it too and Listowel gets them in the mood for meeting people like few other places. In fact we get many authors coming back annually. 'Look I know I'm not on the list, but I'd really love to come back to Listowel. Of all the festivals I've been to it is the friendliest,' they frequently tell us!"

Wednesday May 30 - Sunday June 3