Happy Birthday to Us:
Last weekend Enniscorthy hosted its 5th Annual Wexford Literary Festival and what an amazing birthday celebration was had, with acclaimed authors from all over Ireland and the UK converging on the town for a fantastic feast of fabulous prose, poetry, art, film and drama, making our Festival one of the most popular and most visited in the country.
The feedback from visiting writers, readers and potential writers has been phenomenal, complimenting both the Festival, the town, and the welcome they received here and pledging to return again for next year`s event.
The Festival opened with a flourish on Friday 2nd November with the introduction of a new and innovative collaboration between local authors and artists with Artists, Nadia Corrigan, Lar O`Duinn, Oonagh Latchford and Kate Tyrrell creating beautiful pieces of art in response to 4 pieces of prose by Festival Committee authors Carmel Harrington, Caroline Busher, Sheila Forsey and Shane Dunphy and the results were stunning and on display at the Presentation Art Centre.
Opening Night continued with dramatic readings by Enniscorthy Drama and Wayside Players of the final 4 plays in the Billy Roche International Short Play Award, with Wexford`s Declan Dempsey`s excellent play A Sergeant and A Gentleman being chosen as the winner by an astute panel of judges – Elizabeth Whyte, Carol Long and Andy Doyle. Declan was presented with his cheque and trophy by the man himself Billy Roche who also did the honour of officially opening the Festival.
Chairman of Enniscorthy & District Council Willie Kavanagh complimented the Festival Committee on an excellent line up of both events and distinguished authors saying that the Festival has been such an asset to the town and so beneficial to existing and aspiring authors and he wished it every success going forward.
Saturday at the Riverside Park Hotel was an oasis of literary talent with panel discussions chaired by South East Radio`s Karen Tomkins, beginning with The Short Story: Life at a Slant delivered very eloquently and most definitely at a slant by slightly left off centre and extremely authors Sinead Gleeson and June Caldwell, Horror & Science Fiction Masterclass with Dr. Sarah Cleary who has a PhD in Horror ( who knew anything like that even existed!), our own adorable if scary Caroline Busher and the remarkable Andrew Cartmel Script writer for Dr. Who joining us all the way from the UK.
And if we weren`t scarred enough by horror fiction the next discussion – Cracking Crime with acclaimed crime journalist Paul Williams, (whom I might add was the most charming and entertaining lunch guest) the lovely Jane Casey looking who proclaimed to be a feminist `in the gentlest non scary way` and our own Inspector Wexford – Shane Dunphy, who likes to end each novel on a cliff hanger, proved yet again that real life is often stranger, more scary and definitely more horrific.
We invited in Adele Parks from the UK who has written 18 novels in 18 years to talk to us not just about her latest novel I Invited Her In but to discuss her writing life and share her journey with us from the beginning to being published in 26 different languages.
This was Adele`s Irish debut and this blubbly, friendly, warm hearted and extraordinarily honest lady was an immediate hit with her first ever Irish audience and is already planning her return trip next year with her husband and family.
New Voices another innovative addition to our Readers & Writers Day produced some wonderfully performed and exquisitely written pieces from Sheila Forsey, Tina O`Callaghan, Mary Cotter, Stephanie Hanley Baird, \Karen McDonnell and Derek Flynn.
The inspirational trio of Wexford Literary Festival Chair and Best Selling author Carmel Harrington, Historical Fiction Best Selling author Hazel Gaynor and Best Seller and Co- Founder of the Inspiration Project Catherine Ryan Howard provided us with invaluable insights on How to write a Bestselling Novel, from beginning, middle to end.
Saturday concluded with a magical, candlelit evening at Enniscorthy Castle where the soft spoken, gentle and positively frank Liz Nugent was interviewed or should that be ginterviewed by the probing Carmel Harrington with questions on life, childhood, writing, books, and finally one from the beyond `when you arrive at the pearly gates and God is there to met you what would you like him to say?` `The Cocktail cabinet is to your right` was Liz`s quick retort. A woman after me own heart!
Sunday the iconic Athenaeum was the venue for our Awards Ceremony with Jupiter Jones from the UK claiming first prize in the Colm Toibin International Short Story Award for her entry Moth. A Joseph Black from Antrim came in 2nd Place for his entry The Price of Everything and Michael Harnett in 3rd place for his very moving tale Tell Me.
Prizes were presented by Chairman of Wexford County Council Mr. Keith Doyle, who was lavish in his praise of the Committee and the Award winners saying that the Festival has truly gone international and is most professionally organised.
Judge June Caldwell applauded the winners and the standard of writing of the entries saying that she thoroughly enjoyed reading the beautiful stories presented and commending the winner as truly outstanding.
Poetry prizes were presented by Anne Haverty the wife of the late Anthony Cronin who said Anthony would have been delighted to have his name added to the prestigious competition. Judges John Kelly and Denis Collins appraised the entries saying that the quality of the writing was top quality.
Joan Morrissey from Tipperary took first prize in the Anthony Cronin International Poetry Award for her poem Wash Day, with James Leader of the UK and Luxembourg coming in second with his entry Europe 1945 and Margaret Galvin originally from Tipperary now living in Wexford took 3rd prize for her piece Flying Pigs.
An extremely full and inspiring weekend of writing including a wonderful Children`s Book Trailer Competition at the Presentation on Saturday morning with Best Selling childrens authors E.R. Murray and Caroline Busher enthralling the young minds and hopefully instilling a love of books and reading in them.
There was certainly something for everyone at the 5th Wexford Literary Festival and most definitely cause for celebration of a very successful five years, an ever popular and growing Festival and another major attraction to the town of Enniscorthy.
So here`s to the next five!