Mountains to Sea dlr Book Festival 2019: Speaking with strangers and gifted storytellers

Festival director Liz Kelly highlights key events in next month’s literary festival

Age of Anger author  Pankaj Mishra has written a spellbinding history of the present and traces our current state of play back to the 19th century Photograph: aslu/ullstein bild via Getty Images

Age of Anger author Pankaj Mishra has written a spellbinding history of the present and traces our current state of play back to the 19th century Photograph: aslu/ullstein bild via Getty Images

 

Mountains to Sea dlr Book Festival is back from March 28th to 31st and this year, the festival theme will be Speaking with Strangers. I’m really looking forward to welcoming some truly gifted storytellers to share with us their worlds of poetry, fiction and nonfiction. In 2019, the festival will celebrate strangers in literature, place poetry and music centre stage and ask if the future will look like the past.

And what a strange year it has been in the world of politics and current affairs, with borders hardening and dramas being played out in the UK, US and indeed closer to home. 30 years ago while still a student I watched the news rapt and delighted as the Berlin Wall came down. My generation knows that it seemed to mark, as Francis Fukuyama famously put it, the “end of history”.

Last year David Runciman wrote “we curiously find ourselves in a world where there’s a new found enthusiasm for building walls, where we are witnessing democracy’s ‘mid- life crisis’”.

When I chose to invite David Runciman to the festival I also had to include Age of Anger author and New York Times regular Pankaj Mishra, who has written a spellbinding history of the present and traces our current state of play back to the 19th century.

Closer to home, problems with our own Border are looming with the risk of a hard Brexit. Diarmaid Ferriter with film maker Nuala O’Connor and novelist Eoin McNamee will discuss life on either side of the Border, and its very uncertain future. Grace Wells joins the legendary travel writer and commentator Dervla Murphy, whose A Place Apart seems as relevant now as it ever was when she wrote her account of her journey through Northern Ireland in 1979.

Irish Times journalist Lara Marlowe and Ahdaf Soueif take a moment to consider their writing lives and re-affirm, in the words of Edward Said, “the power of culture over the culture of power.”

To celebrate storytelling, I invited novelist Margaret Drabble and her husband, literary biographer Michael Holroyd, to discuss their lives in writing.

It’s an amazing time for Irish writing and Sally Rooney, Sebastian Barry, John Boyne, Emlie Pine, Brian Dillon and Sinead Gleeson will represent the very best in Irish fiction & non-fiction. I was haunted by Stephen Rea and Neil Martin’s version of Seamus Heaney’s Aeneid VI when I saw it at Kilkenny Arts Festival so I’m delighted to have them perform this beautiful piece about fate, humanity and suffering in Dún Laoghaire.

Singer and songwriter Tracey Thorn has long held pride of place in my musical life so to hear her talk about her new memoir will be a personal highlight of the week.

Poetry once again takes centre stage. Poetry Now judges Bernard O Donoghue and Moya Cannon feature in The Blank Page in association with the National Library of Ireland. Diverse voices will be welcomed in the words of Shine Strong winner Rachael Hegarty, Stephen James Smith and others. Damian Gorman with Prof Rosemary Hollis will discuss the role of poetry and writing in conflict. John Kelly will read from his wonderful debut collection Notions accompanied by Caoimhin O Raghaillaigh. Encapsulating the festival’s name, singer and instrumentalist Inni K will perform with Aoife McElwain and Ruth Fitzmaurice for Slow at Sea, celebrating sea swimmers.

Our 2019 children’s programme welcomes Sara Keating on board as associate writer. Sara has been working with schools on our Adopt an Author programme. Schoolchildren will get the chance to meet the authors whose writing they’ve read and enjoyed, at our schools events on March 28th and 29th. On Saturday 30th, we introduce, as part of our Festival Big Day Out, a day of events that are creative, family friendly and open to everyone. We’ve lined up quizzes, nature trails, readings, draw-alongs and a very special live performances of Roald Dahl’s wonderful Little Red Riding Hood as well as a reading of The Secret Garden.

Unique opportunities are available to workshop with Damien Gorman, Mary O Donnell and Sarah Davis Goff. Limited places are still available for these events but the closing date for application is 5pm on March 15th. See mountainstosea.ie/workshops-and-masterclasses

Conscious of making full use of the different spaces at the dlr Lexion Library, the exhibitions programme this year include:and the tide was way out, an exhibition of works by Paul Hallahan and Lee Welch that look to Utopia and the end of perceived history. It is an exhibition of painted works that fully encompasses the gallery space, working with the architecture of the building to pose questions of how we as artists see the world with a combination of fable based paintings and abstracted landscape paintings.

Also this year two local exhibitions run alongside the festival. There will be an exhibition of photos and images from the collection of FM O’Flanagan, a Dalkey resident and founding member of many local clubs and associations including the Dalkey Literary, Historical and Debating Society. Also at dlr Lexicon will be an exhibition of Emerald City Production images. In the late 1980s, American company Emerald City Productions was set up from scratch in Dún Laoghaire under Canadian directors Al Guest and Jean Mathieson. In five years, 10 50-minute feature-length television films based on classic books, were produced. They included Oliver Twist, Phantom of the Opera, Ghost Stories from the Pickwick Papers, Ben-Hur, A Tale of Two Cities and Brer Rabbit Tales.

The festival will take place across Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County from March 28th to 31st with more than 50 events, in Dún Laoghaire, Dundrum and in local schools in the run up to the festival.
 

Tickets for all events are on sale now on mountainstosea.ie or through Pavilion the box office on 01-231 2929.

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