Monday, 25 August 2008


So we drove though torrential rain to Hilton Park in Monaghan for the Flat Lake Literary and Arts Festival, were only misled (by 20 miles) by one signpost, and didn’t even have to pitch our tent: the kindly organisers had already pitched one for us! The rain did not stop all day Saturday but the atmosphere was relaxed, the people friendly, and so we dove in and enjoyed sitting on bales of hay, being entertained in a motley of tented venues, like the Hilton Palladium and the Post-Lounge Tent of Sentimentalism, and the Butty Barn.

First stop for us was Dónal O’Kelly’s madly energetic one-hander ‘Who Am I? What Am I Doing Here?’ (with Trevor Knight on music) where O’Kelly morphs from wound-up Dublin entrepreneur, to deportee to Oz, to a Leitrim doctor trapped in a grim Africa. O’Kelly sucks you quickly into each evolving character and the piece moves from madcap to serious in a blink. Very enjoyable.

One of the biggest crowds we saw at the festival turned up for Séamus Heaney’s reading in the big-top. He was his usual gentle, humble self and he took the theme of learning for his reading. He talked about influences – something I’m very interested in because I’m not sure what I believe about ‘influence’ – citing GM Hopkins, Wordsworth and Kavanagh, but he also talked about being influenced by the ‘magical energy’ surrounding him and his contemporaries in the 1960’s: his wife Marie, Michael Longley, the Simmons et al. He read several of his translations of poems attributed to Saint Colmcille and two poems about his father: ‘Lick the Pencil’ and ‘The Harvest Bow’. Séamus said his Da rarely spoke. ‘I think,’ he said, 'he believed speech was a kind of affectation.’ He read ‘Mid-term Break’ to us, a poem that always makes me well up. It was powerful.

Paul Brady gave a fantastic performance to a very appreciative crowd later on in the Butty Barn and his songs brought back lots of good memories from my twenties. Fantastic. The roof nearly lifted when he did ‘Arthur McBride’.

Early on Sunday – after a sleepless night in a cold tent – we toddled along to hear Ailbhe Slevin and Mike McCormack in the Butty Barn. I wasn’t familiar with Ailbhe’s work – she read from an as yet unpublished novel Quickening. It has an intriguing storyline involving a mother who may or may not have lost her memory. Mike read from his novel Notes from a Coma – the part where Anthony goes to Romania to buy JJ from the orphanage. The theme of children worked well between the two readers and both of them read extraordinarily well.

More anon, otherwise no-one will be moved to read this post until the end!


BarbaraS said...

Oh you lucky thing! I would have loved to go, but was sacrificed on the altar of mammon, enabling my hub to go to Cork to shmooze for his work. Still, there's always next year *sob*, and I can read all about it on your blog :)

Tania Hershman said...

Sounds very wet yet inspirational. I am not a big tent fan myself, but for great writers, and if someone put it up for me, I might just do it!

What about your reading?? Is that coming in Part II?

Women Rule Writer said...

@B Try to get a gig next year, that way you get in free and are treated to soup and sambos in a barn!
It's all very good fun and so laid-back and relaxed. The Electric Picnic is going to seem like a frenetic nut-joint after it, I imagine.

@ T
I just suggested on your blog that you go camping to distract yourself from the waiting-to-be-published week, so that's a non runner then...

I guess I'll mention my reading in part two. It's hard to know what to say about one's own reading, though, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

It sounds (almost) entirely wonderful - Heaney and Paul Brady within the same square mile. But, like Tania, canvas under rain would have taken the edge of things a bit.

Uiscebot said...

Hmmm poetry and tents, interesting combo!