Howth Literary Festival

Fingal Libraries
by Fingal Libraries on July 28, 2016.

The idea to organise a literary and arts festival in Howth was developed by two friends Eleanor Griffin and Sandra D’Arcy as a unique cultural experience. The festival took place in Howth Castle for the first time in 2015. Howth Castle, the ancestral home of the St Lawrence family, was chosen as the venue. This […]

The idea to organise a literary and arts festival in Howth was developed by two friends Eleanor Griffin and Sandra D’Arcy as a unique cultural experience. The festival took place in Howth Castle for the first time in 2015.

Howth Castle, the ancestral home of the St Lawrence family, was chosen as the venue. This was just one of the many highlights of this festival. As the castle is not normally open to the public, it proved to be a great opportunity for people to see the beautiful Lutyens Library and enjoy tea and scones in the Kitchen in the Castle cookery school on the grounds.

A series of talks on the great architect Sir Edwin Lutyens launched the festival with Joycean themed talks taking place on the Friday also. There was a brilliant series of five conversation style talks throughout the weekend with internationally renowned authors, headlined by Pulitzer Prize winners Richard Ford and Michael Cunningham and Booker Prize winners John Banville, Anne Enright and Roddy Doyle. It was a huge success and there was a fantastic buzz around Howth.

We knew this was a special event and all of us in Howth Library couldn’t wait to see what would follow in 2016. We were not disappointed when we saw the fantastic programme featuring such brilliant authors as John Boyne, Claire Kilroy, Catherine Dunne and Hilary Fanin with a series of lectures on Jonathan Swift kicking off the festival this year. Dean Swift was a regular visitor to the castle and also a family friend and his portrait hangs in the castle.

I attended Joe Duffy’s moving talk on his book ‘Children of the Rising’ and got my copy signed after the talk. There really was something for everyone and the free events for children in St Mary’s Parish Hall included the CBI Book Clinic and Fighting Words creative writing workshop. I got a prescription from the CBI Book Doctor for our new Junior Book Club in Howth Library which included titles such as ‘Fortunately… the Milk’ by Neil Gaiman and ‘Fuzzy Mud’ by Louis Sachar. We especially loved ‘Fortunately… the Milk’ and the book club are reading it this month!!

The Literary Festival provided us with another great opportunity as Fingal Libraries were involved in the Two Cities, One Book Programme 2016 for the first time this year.  We decided to invite some reading groups from Libraries N.I. to Fingal as part of this event.  It was a new initiative for Fingal Libraries and began with two Fingal branches, Howth Library and Garristown Library, being twinned with Ormeau Road and Lisburn Road Libraries earlier in the year.

The reading groups involved all read this year’s selected book ‘Fallen’, a book connected to Dublin city and based around the events of 1916, by Lia Mills. Many of us from Howth Library also attended an author visit by Lia Mills in Baldoyle Library which we really enjoyed. The next step was to organise to visit each other with the Belfast groups making the first trip down on the 11th June for the Howth Literary Festival. We will return the visit in October to Central Library, Belfast and are counting down the days here!!

The groups all had a wonderful day and attended a magical talk with poet, Adam Wyeth and novelist, Nuala O’Connor. A lively exchange took place between the two writers and we could have listened to them talk all day. We followed this with a leisurely walk to the Deer Park Hotel for lunch. The view from the public golf course is simply stunning or as H.G. Wells said ‘the view of Ireland’s eye was the finest view west of Naples’. This was a great way to get to know each other and discuss some mutual interests, namely books and libraries!!

We returned to the castle in the afternoon and continued the day with an interesting lecture called 77 Lives – Commemorative Quilt. This beautiful project is normally on display in Richmond Barracks and honours the women who took part in the 1916 Easter Rising. The day, unfortunately, had to come to an end and we finished off a fantastic cultural experience by attending a series of open-air plays by Shiva Productions the last of which took place in a marquee because of the rain…we were still in Ireland after all!!

By Ciara Farrell, Howth Library