Carlow Arts Festival 2016

The Carlow Arts Festival used to be in the town only. Then, it moved and stretched out to the wonderful Festival of Writing and Ideas in Borris House and the stretched further to the River Barrow and the Barges on the Barrow Festival.

I still see them as three separate and brilliant festivals and I got to attend two out of three this year! You have read my post on Borris so here is the lowdown on the Big Weekender in Festival HQ in Carlow town for the Carlow Arts Festival.

Big Weekender?

Festival HQ?


Yep, the Carlow Arts Festival or Eigse as everyone really calls it was christened with two new titles this time around- The Big Weekender was jam-packed with big names like Hothouse Flowers, Lisa Lambe, Le Galaxie DJs and Foils, Arm and Hog comedians among many more. There was the usual exhibitions from local artists like Lily O’ Rourke, Blue Print(Bob Frazier) and Carlow Photographic Society and a fringe event from our writing group, the Carlow Writers who brought an Open Mic and a Poetry Slam to the Teach Dolmain, home of the writers’ group.

This year the festival and its HQ and its Big Weekender took over the beautiful grounds of Visual Centre and Saint Patrick’s College. This is the central spot of the town and actually the perfect and only location for an arts HQ so well done to whoever thought of that. There was lots of ale/beet tents, food tents, sweetie tents and a huge, retro playground area for kids and toddlers. M-boy, the babba boy had a great tumble and toddle around the place and would have stayed all day only we had to go home to sleep and cramp his style.

The HQ also hosted outdoor cinema, fireworks, foot magicians up in the air(acrobats) and a human library alongside the energetic Dublin Ukulele Band. I cannot mention everything I saw or hoped to see but the Big Weekender might stretch itself quite nicely into a Big Week next time! Small things like more signs, allowing small trickle of the Big Weekender onto Tullow and Dublin Street and more,more,more local talent for next year are to be suggested right now by me!

As usual, it makes me sad to say another Carlow Arts/Eigse Festival is over. Goodbye, see you soon. See you in 2017.

Festival of Writing and Ideas 2016-Borris

The Festival of Writing and Ideas is in its 5th year and we have attended all five. We live about twenty minutes away by car so I really have no excuse. We also brought M-boy(the now 22-month old beauty boy) with us last year and this too. He was such a good boy although he did not attend any of the talks!


I went into the chapel to hear Danielle McLaughlin, Claire Kilroy and Ayelet Waldman(a writer I had never heard of) speaking about real life, having babies and how literature does not really show the whole having babies things well. It shows sex instead. The hour-long discussion was really good. All three read from their books. Danielle read the opening story from her debut story collection, Claire read an essay she wrote for the Winter Pages(the first she wrote after having a baby) and Ayelet read from her book, Bad Mum. They had a really cool talk about being a parent, being a hero, the toughness and brilliance of parenthood. Ayelet was very funny and handled audience questions or comments(Why do audience members feel the need to make a comment which usually involves the words I write myself when addressing a writer on a stage) and Danielle spoke eloquently and in her usual down to earth way about her stories and where the ideas come from and who does all the housework in her house. Everyone was very envious of her husband.

Claire was completely honest about the challenges of writing and being a mother but I think this is not just about women who write who are Mums. Any father who is properly involved and caring would have the same issues as a writer. So, it all depends who you are paired up with was the conclusion. The hour flew and I was released onto the lawn of Borris House with the sun shining and my two lovely boys waiting.


We sat and ate home fries and drank cider while the sun shone. M-boy slept. A bee went into his cover. I freaked out. I ate pulled pork on home fries. Kevin Barry and John Creedon were the top celebs to gaze at. I forced everyone I could to go see Beowulf, the one-man, emotional show by Brian Burroughs. Emrys scribbled circles on the Borris programme. I had a second glass of cider, got some book autographs and said goodbye to Borris till tomorrow.

Other great stuff that happened:

Simon got a speaker pass! I’m getting one tomorrow though I am only a lowly speaker’s wife. Kevin Barry had a cuddle with M-boy for 5 seconds. John Creedon had a pic with my friend who just loves him. The bee did not sting M-boy. Bumped into June Caldwell who I’ve never seen in Carlow. We get to go back tomorrow!


Festival of Writing and Ideas in Borris 2016: Best talks to go to on the Sunday

Festival of Writing and Ideas in Borris 2016: Best talks to go to on the Sunday

From the 10-12th June, the amazingly lovely and pretty Festival of Writing and Ideas will be launched on the very pretty town of Borris in Co. Carlow.

I’ve been to many, many lit festivals and Borris is absolutely in the top two to visit in Ireland. (Bantry is the runner-up this year, IMO) The FOWI (Festival of Writing and Ideas) 2016 is in its 5th year. We have been to every single one, the first was small but so nice and this year it is big but absolutely keeping its edge and uniqueness. It is spreading into the town/village this year with some events taking part in pubs and the Step House Hotel. Brilliant move.Borris House

I am going to name-check a few events that you really should make an effort to go see if you are in the area of Carlow on the Sunday, 12th of June 2016. I have also a small article on what to see on the Saturday on the blog.

Early start at 11 with the Granta New Irish Writing editors along with Sara Baume, Lucy Caldwell and Donal Ryan in the chapel. I am really enjoying this magazine at the moment so this talk should be good.

You will have about half an hour to breathe, drink coffee, eat sweet things and then saunter over to the Book Tent where Tom Morris has a curated reading hour with Claire-Louise Bennett, Gavin Corbett, Lisa Mc Inerney, Deborah Levy and Rivka Gachen. Lisa has just won the Bailey Prize and Deborah Levy just rocks along with Tom’s wonderful short story collection, this is going to be most excellent. Get in there and buy some books after!

Don’t leave the Book tent though as there is a @Two poets@ event with Simon Lewis reading from his just launched poetry collection, Jewtown and American poet, Rachael Mennes will respond. Should be interesting. Both of these events are free.

Borris House

At 1:50, in the Bookshop there is a reading from the guys at the Long Gaze Back anthology with Sinead Gleason.

Throughout the day, you will have lots of book signings in the Book Tent so it is the place to gaze at authors from afar trying not to look like a stalker!

At 3:30, Donal Ryan will talk to Vincent Woods about his craft and the boundaries between traveller and mainstream society. I’ve read a short piece of Donal’s upcoming novel and it is going to be great.

These are my tips for the Sunday. You can choose to ignore me and just sit in the grass and frolic and saunter around Borris House. I’m easy like that.



Carlow Arts Festival-“Have your say” forum

The general public was invited into the Carlow Arts Festival Offices yesterday for a chat, tea, food etc. There were lots of people with lots of things to say!

Cornelia Mc Carthy, the Chair of the Board of the Festival facilitated a lively and encouraging debate on where the Festival needs to improve. As with all open forums, things can get bogged down in what needs to improve and I hope the Board can remember the positive things that were said as well.

I am very much looking forward to helping, discussing and attending the 2016 Carlow Arts Festival. You should too.


The mission statement of the festival is that:

 aspires to foster culture in all its forms and to promote the growth of visual art, drama, entertainment, literature, music and dance and to advance education in the arts; to reimagine a Carlow which appeals to domestic and international cultural visitors, to offer a diverse range of artistic experiences and activities in both town and county, and to produce work that is not replicated elsewhere.

I am focussing on the words culture in all forms, advance education in the arts, reimagine Carlow, domestic and international cultural visitors, diverse range of experiences& activities in the town and the country and without replication elsewhere.

These are HUGE aims! We need to keep these in mind so much so that they should be printed out at the front of the office and left there as a reminder for all of what the festival aspires to.

Festival of Writing and Ideas-new books by Ann Enright and Belinda McKeon

I will post about my day down in the gorgeous Borris House later this week but first, let me tell you about my new beauties.


Tender by Belinda Mc Keon and The Green Road by Ann Enright.

I usually read short stories, as you know but these books have made me sit up and buy!

I had no intention of buying the Belinda Mc Keon one as it is as big as a bible so it would be much more handbag/baby bag friendly if I waited for the smaller version. But, the side of the pages caught my eye yesterday in the Eason Book Tent. They are dyed a striking purple and we all know that purple pages are the new white.

I will let you know how the read goes but already, I am thinking about bed and my date with “Tender”.

Dubliners 100 out on 7th June

I am ultra excited, man.

I love Dubliners. We all do. Studied in uni and loved ever since. Tramp Press and Commissioning Editor, Thomas Morris(he is Stinging Fly’s new fiction editor) are publishing a reinterpretation of James Joyce’s short story collection on the 5th June at the bargain price of €15.



They have also got some pretty funky and cool writers on board. So far, on that list are Donal Ryan, John Boyne, Eimear Mc Bride and Paul Murray. To make things even more brilliant, these writers will be in conversation with Thomas Morris down at my(I am claiming this festival as I practically live next door to Borris House. Almost) Festival of Writing and Ideas in Borris House on Sunday, 15th June. The Festival runs on 14th and the 15th of June and so far, the lineup is kicking the other two “biggest and bestest” literary festivals in Ireland.

I am saying no more other than buy the book and go to Borris.

Eveline, Donal Ryan’s clever reversal of Joyce’s original tale, will be published in The Irish Times on Saturday, June 7th.

Dubliners 100 will be published by Tramp Press on June 5th, priced €15.

Carlow Co-operative on The Write Show, KCLR FM and Carlow Arts Festival 2014

The Write Show will be performed live from Carlow Central Library, and broadcast on KCLR on Monday June 9th at 6pm. Tickets are free.

After releasing its first anthology in 2013, What Champagne Was Like, The Carlow Writers’ Co-operative have turned their attention to writing for broadcast.

Working for six months with one of Ireland leading radio writer-producers, John McKenna (whose credits while at RTE include numerous contributions to Sunday Miscellany and his award-winning documentary series on Leonard Cohen), this ambitious collective have assembled an eclectic programme of material for performance in front of a live audience (you) for broadcast by KCLR a few days later.

Contributors include Phelim Kavanagh, Bev Carbery, Rozz Lewis, Simon Lewis, Pauric Brennan, Derek Coyle, Maressa Sheehan, Clifton Redmond, Jonathan O’Brien, Brigid Johnson, Betty Ryan O’Gorman.

Expect drama, storytelling, music and poetry from a beguiling and hugely talented group, the occasional stumbled line, and some performances of chaotic humour and engrossing pertinence.

This initiative is funded by Carlow Arts Office in partnership with Carlow County Library Service, KCLR and Carlow Arts Festival.