The inaugural Dublin Ghost Story Festival is taking place this weekend, at Freemason Hall on Molesworth Street, featuring a fantastic line-up of authors, including David Mitchell, Adam Nevill and Sarah Pinborough.
Brian J Showers, publisher of Swan River Press, in Dublin, which specialises in the genre, explains how it came about. "A couple of years back I bumped into the crimewriter John Connolly on Dame Street. We'd both just come out of the IFI, where we had seen Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley's Island of Dr Moreau, one of the great genre films that never was – a documentary about a film-mmaker with a grand vision, and how it turned into an epic catastrophe. I'd obviously not taken the hint, because when I saw John there at the crosswalk I blurted out, 'What do you think about doing a ghost- story festival here in Dublin?' "
Fast-forward to this week: the festival opens tonight with a performance of Casting the Runes, starring Robert Lloyd Parry as MR James. Saturday's highlights include John Connolly in conversation with David Mitchell, numerous panel discussions and a dealers' room. Sunday's events include a dramatic reading by Lloyd Parry of Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu's The Familiar.
"The literary ghost story in all its guises has deep roots in Ireland," says Showers, "from the domestic hauntings of Mrs Riddell's Weird Stories to the spectral disturbances of Le Fanu's In a Glass Darkly; from Elizabeth Bowen's urbane Demon Lover to Bram Stoker's blood-drenched and monolithic contribution to literature, Dracula.
"Le Fanu, an author whose technique was much admired by MR James, wrote his tales of vampires and sinister monkeys from his home on Merrion Square. Dorothy Macardle wrote the ghost stories in her first collection, Earth-Bound, while imprisoned in Kilmainham Gaol. Head over to York Street, where Charles Maturin wrote his novel of satanic longevity, Melmoth the Wanderer – a favourite of Oscar Wilde, himself no stranger to supernatural musings. On Leeson Street you'll find the childhood home of Lafcadio Hearn, where he suffered nightmares that would later inform his writings . And on Herbert Place, overlooking the Grand Canal, you'll find a plaque denoting the birthplace of Elizabeth Bowen, a writer who fully recognised that ghost stories are 'oblique and subtle, perfectly calculated to get the modern person under their skin'." Details at swanriverpress.ie
The Ulysses Centre, at Newman House on St Stephen’s Green, is on course to open in summer 2018 after Dublin City Council this week granted planning permission to University College Dublin.
This partnership between UCD and the National Library of Ireland has the aim of celebrating Ireland’s literary heritage and being a landmark destination for scholarly engagement as well as a tourist attraction. “We have produced a stream of wonderful writers whose work reaches audiences throughout the world,” Margaret Kelleher, professor of Anglo-Irish literature, says. “The Ulysses Centre brings together the cultural resources of Ireland’s largest university and Ireland’s national library, in a unique location which has shaped the writings of Joyce, Newman, Hopkins and generations of UCD students.”
With significant funding from the philanthropists Carmel and Martin Naughton, Fáilte Ireland and UCD, the €10 million centre will include the university’s original Aula Maxima and some of the rooms where James Joyce attended classes and debates.
The library, which holds the first copy of Ulysses as part of its remarkable archives, has partnered with UCD to provide greater access to its collections.
“The National Library is delighted to partner with UCD on this new venture, which builds on a rich shared history between our two institutions,” said Dr Sandra Collins, Director of the NLI. “James Joyce’s footsteps crossed between our beautiful reading room on Kildare Street and Newman House, and now we are delighted a new generation of visitors will enjoy our literary treasures in the Ulysses Centre.”