Literature In The Face Of Recession: A Profile Of The Dalkey Book Festival
As one of Ireland’s foremost economists, it is no surprise David McWilliams is conjuring up ways of tackling the recession. What may be surprising, however, is his current method of choice.
McWilliams is a resident of Dalkey, the sleepy village in south county Dublin, which may be best known for its rich and famous inhabitants, but boasts an equally rich literary history.
When confronted with the effects recession was having upon the village, McWilliams and his colleagues in the Dalkey Business Group decided their best course of action would be to capitalise on that literary history.
An open brainstorming session through McWilliams’ column in the Irish Independent led to a solution in the form of the Dalkey Book Festival.
As it transpires, being famous does not preclude one from civic responsibility, and the astounding sense of community displayed in the short time since the festival’s inception has resulted in a programme of events guaranteed to pique the interests of even the most casual literary enthusiast.
From the 18 to 20 June, some of Ireland’s finest writers will deliver readings, talks and more in Dalkey.
Clearly designed with an eye on keeping everyone happy, the events range from the innocent to the macabre; and the high brow to the comic.
While Ireland as a whole is well represented on the bill, the organisers are keenly aware of the town’s own literary heritage – with tributes being paid to many of Dalkey’s famous residents past and present. Playwright Bernard Farrell will celebrate the life of the late Hugh Leonard, while Maeve Binchy and Gordon Snell will also be present to give readings.
Not one to hand over all of the spotlight, the town itself has its own degree of celebrity- having provided the backdrop for a prophesising St Augustine, and a crime-fighting James Joyce in Flann O’Brien’s Dalkey Archive. This great work of philosophical absurdity will be explored, both literally and figuratively, in a walk through the novel’s locations, curated by Eamon Morrissey.
Sparing no opportunity to take advantage of their surroundings, the organisers will indulge their gothic side, with a midnight performance of Edgar Allen Poe’s Cask of Amontillado in the ruins of St Begnet’s Church. In contrast, the Vico nightclub will provide a suitable stage for the infamous Ross O’Carroll-Kelly, as he recalls his exploits and escapades from his time as DJ at the club.
With the season that is in it, the festival will dutifully acknowledge that the world is currently football mad. Eamon Dunphy and Des Cahill will stop by to discuss the twentieth anniversary of Ireland’s famous World Cup ’90 campaign.
Younger readers will also be kept busy, with frequent readings in the local libray and a production of Oscar Wilde’s The Happy Prince at the Town Hall. Other highlights of the weekend include talks from Joseph O’Connor, John Connolly, John Waters and Conor McPherson.
The Dalkey Book Festival is a manifestation of a community’s response to challenging times and as events draw to a close on Sunday evening the festival will hold a talk, chaired by McWilliams on the concept of local communities fighting back.
If their own example is anything to go by, there certainly seems to be enough fighting spirit to go round; and if they can’t inspire you, at the very least they will keep you entertained.
You can explore the full programme of events for the Dalkey Book Festival here.
About Robert Maguire
Robert Maguire is a musician and freelance journalist. A self-professed jack of all trades, he has studied film and psychology; worked in bookselling, and been involved in music for several years.
As a musician he performs with the Irish based alternative-rock band Clockwork Noise.
You can contact Robert at maguire.robert[at]gmail.com