I was lucky to attend the tenth year of the West Cork Literary Festival. Springing up from bold and passionate publishing company Fish, it began as a series of readings in a library, and it has grown to become the full-blown literary event of the summer. Set in the happening town of Bantry, the festival is the youngest literary festival in the pond --Listowel hosts a 37-year-old festival, and Galway host a 25-year-old one. The West Cork Literary Festival is unique in that it celebrates universal literary formats with events that are inclusive of all ages. Based around the Bantry Library, set on a slope with its huge watermill outside and skylights inside, it truly brings the community together from far and wide.
I hit the festival the first day, when things were just getting rolling. The reading by Clair Willis, author of That Neutral Land, historical nonfiction about Irish neutrality during the Second World War, was fascinating. Through her extensive research of public records, diaries, and letters, Willis was able to write a book that "gives us a sense of experience of experience." For any student of history, this is a very challenging to do - how to recreate the pieces of the past to tell the story. She talked about the social landscape of Ireland during that time and the ambivalence of the population toward the political stance, especially when faced with the horrors of war at home. During the Q&A afterwards, a person in the audience recalled their childhood memories of butter rationing during the war, revealing more pieces of the ever-growing story.
Afterwards, I lingered for a glass of wine and chatted with people. Part of the fun of a festival is the public aspect to it. Mulling over poems, reacting to stories, speaking about memories triggered by an author's work - personal responses to words and talking about them with others generates new levels of understanding. I met Angela Long, the very gracious PR Director of the festival. And I chatted with the very personable and mellow festival director Clem Cairns, who is a big supporter of authors and poets.
That evening I attending a sensational talk by Frank Delaney titled "Writing for a Living." How timely to hear this, given I'm working as a travel writer for the summer. Delaney is an experienced broadcaster and best-selling author. The talk was set in St. Brendan's Church with Delaney on the pulpit and beautiful stained-glass windows behind him. Dressed smartly in a white-collared yellow shirt and gray suit, he was a funny and energetic speaker. The talk was aimed at aspiring writers; it was about how to get paid doing what one feels they must for their soul's work.
I liked hearing the anecdotes Delaney told about various famous writers and what special needs they had for writing - such as writing with a special pen or writing inside an absolutely silent house. In order to save money, many writers work from home. For my job, I've learned how to work on the go -- even typing on my laptop with in a moving vehicle to really capture the essence of certain travel experiences as they are happening. This is something I never imagined I would do! I'd always thought the best setting for me to write was at a huge, wooden table in front of a window, completely alone. I think it is good for a writer to adapt their working style in new ways that challenge them.
The West Cork Literary Festival is an environment to energize writers and lovers-of-literature alike and to get them thinking in new ways. I highly recommend this festival.
How to get there
From Kenmare, take N71 south to Bantry.
From Cork, take N22 west to outside Crookstown. From Crookstown, take R585 southwest to Kealkill to main N71 highway. Take N71 south to Bantry.
See www.buseireann.ie website for all current travel details and restrictions.
A week of public readings, seminars, writing workshops, art exhibitions, children's workshops, and a poetry slam.
West Cork Literary Festival
13 Glengarriff Road
Tel: +353 (0)27 61157