Mountains to Sea 2018: something for everyone
Ali Smith, James Kelman, Robert Pinsky, Alice McDermott and Angela Davis top bill at this month’s Mountains to Sea Book Festival
Eimear McBride: taking part with Jacqueline Rose and Susan McKay in a discussion of Women in Dark Times, which considers feminism as a work in progress
“Mountains to Sea, now in its tenth year, brings together a wide-ranging community who are curious about and fascinated by authors and their books,” says Liz Kelly, the festival’s new director. “This year sees us raise some challenging ideas and questions about contemporary society and we celebrate all that is bold in writing for children and younger readers.”
The festival has been designed to have universal appeal, with an array of author events, discussions, masterclasses and exhibitions. It will take place across a number of venues in Dún Laoghaire and Rathdown County from March 21st to 25th with more than 50 events, divided into the themes of Cities & Stories, Present Tense, The Lyric Note and Be Bold.
For the Cities and Stories theme, writers will explore how they have been shaped by the cities where they live and the journeys that they make. Critically acclaimed author of novels Autumn and Winter, Ali Smith, Booker Prize winner James Kelman and Costa Award-winning Gail Honeyman will all make an appearance. Baileys winner Lisa McInerney joins novelist Elizabeth Day for a lively discussion of class in their novels. Jon McGregor presents an intriguing solo event on his prize-winning novel Reservoir 13 and newly-published The Reservoir Tapes, and one of the US’s most highly regarded novelists Alice McDermott holds a mirror up to Irish America in the company of poet Siobhan Campbell.
Jennifer Johnston, once described by Roddy Doyle as Ireland’s finest writer, joins him to discuss their respective writing lives. Others appearing are John Banville; Donal Ryan, whose new novel A Low and Quiet Sea is out on March 21st; Sarah Winman, Jamie O’Neill, Gwendoline Riley and Selina Guinness. In a new addition to the programme, June Caldwell discusses her story collection Room Little Darker (The Irish Times Book Club’s March choice) with Martin Doyle.
The Poetry strand has always been an integral part of the festival and this year they are melding their poetry with the mainstream by intermingling the 18 guest poets throughout the strands. Forward winners Sinéad Morrissey and Michael Symmons Roberts read and speak about their work with Mia Gallagher while American three-time laureate Robert Pinsky talks about the value of everyday poetry with Olivia O’Leary. Blake Morrison crosses the poetry/fiction divide in his new novel The Executor and shares stories of his writing life with Niall McMonagle. Poet Siobhan Campbell visits again and in The Outward Eye explores poetry and politics in the company of poets Nessa O’Mahony and another Forward winner Sandeep Parmar. Scottish Makar, the always inspirational Jackie Kay, joins Paula Meehan for a reading hosted by Doireann Ní Bhriain. Two poetry awards – The Irish Times Poetry Now and Shine Strong – recognise the best collection of 2017 and the best first anthology. Readings by shortlisted and awardwinning poets take place at both free events over Saturday and Sunday, March 24th and 25th.
The Present Tense strand of the festival considers whether democracy should ever be taken for granted in a discussion that will include Prof Danny Dorling on inequality, Prof Liam Kennedy on Trumpism, novelist Elizabeth Day on the state of Britain and Senator Ivana Bacik on democracy close to home.
Acclaimed public intellectual Prof Jacqueline Rose whose new book Mother will come out in April, is joined by Susan McKay and novelist Eimear McBride for a discussion of Women in Dark Times, which considers feminism as a work in progress.
The topic of hospitality and its meaning is explored by novelist Ali Smith and artist Sarah Wood, against a backdrop of millions of people migrating across the globe. In a related topic, Pritsker-shortlisted Syrian architect Marwa Al Sabouni is joined by economist Dan O’Brien and architect/writer Darran Anderson along with theologian Prof Siobhan Garrigan for a discussion of the meaning of home. A highlight of the Present Tense strand is the visit by legendary human rights activist and author Dr Angela Davis on Sunday, March 25th.
In a new strand, the Lyric Note, the connection between writing and music is celebrated in a number of events between March 21st and 24th, opening with The Full Convention where poets Tom McCarthy, Mary O’Malley and Leanne O’Sullivan are joined by master piper David Power. In O iochtar Mara, Louis de Paor and Doireann Ni Ghriofa are joined by performance artist and sean nós singer Ceara Conway with Caoimhin O Raghaille in a bilingual event. Bestselling author Joseph O’Connor reflects on the past, present and future along with Philip King and the legendary Scullion. Actor Adrian Dunbar pays a visit to the Festival in his role as Director of the TS Eliot-funded The Waste Land whose cast includes Stanley Townsend, Anna Nygh, Orla Charlton and Frank McCusker with a live score composed and performed by Nick Roth.
Children are not neglected with a series of empowering events for younger readers under the Be Bold banner featuring writers and artists Yazmeen Ismail, Sophy Henn, Michael Emberly and Marie Louise Fitzpatrick. Vivien French, the recent recipient of an outstanding lifetime achievement award from the Scottish Book Trust, shares her knights and Cherry Pie Princess stories while Nicola Davies takes young readers on a journey under the sea. In Political Animals, Anna Carey and Sheena Wilkinson explore stories of women’s suffrage and ask how the personal becomes political. Scientist and author Barry Fitzgerald shares the secrets of Superhero Science while Dave Rudden pays a welcome return visit with his new book The Endless King.
On her first visit to Ireland, Nigerian-born Atinuke Akinyeme reads from her much loved Anna Hibiscus and Detective series. Lucinda Jacob shares the stage with illustrator Lauren O Neill and musician Enda Reilly, as they bring to life her Hopscotch in the Sky. Much anticipated events include the creation of a mural onsite by Laureate na nOg PJ Lynch and Eithne Ni Chathain (Inni K)’s lullaby session with parents and babies based on her newly commissioned piece Suntraí. Eoin Colfer reads from Illegal, the story of young boy’s treacherous journey across the Mediterranean Sea to seek out a new life in Europe.
Unique opportunities are available to workshop with Alice McDermott and Robert Pinsky who host masterclasses on novel and poetry writing respectively and there’s a workshop on getting published, by Vanessa O’Loughlin. Limited places still available for these events but the closing date for application is 5pm on Monday, March 12th. See mountainstosea.ie/workshops-and-masterclasses
The exhibitions programme this year includes Double Vision, a first exhibition together by sisters Diana and Shirley Copperwhite including a collection of paintings and wall installations. Humans of Dublin by Peter Varga is a series of photo works created as he began to walk the streets of Dublin interviewing and photographing those he met along the way. Also on show is 12 Worlds: an exhibition of contemporary Czech children’s book illustrations; and marking the centenary of women’s suffrage, Mothers of the Nation: Erin and Victoria – conflicting loyalties as seen in Irish and British illustrated newspapers 1870-1901. All exhibitions are taking place at dlr Lexicon.
Tickets for all events are on sale now on mountainstosea.ie or through Pavilion box office 01 231 2929.