In conversation: Marian Keyes and Bob Geldof

Joe O'Connor with Bob Geldof at St Teresa's Church, Clarendon Street

CLOCK this for a line up coming in to talk, read and teach throughout UL’s Creative Writing Festival from today Thursday May 3 into Sunday 6: Kevin Barry, Martin Dyar, Sarah Moore Fitzgerald, Donal Ryan, Julian Gough, Anna Carey, Mary O’Malley, publisher Alan Hayes of Arlen House.

Yet the starry highlights will be when the university’s Creative Writing course director Joseph O’Connor is in conversation with Marian Keyes and again, Bob Geldof, at the 1000-seater concert hall.

“It has been a year in the planning,” admits a husky Joe O’Connor, somewhat frazzled in the run up. “If we are going to do it in Limerick at all, let’s do it with guns blazing rather than ticking the boxes”.

I have to laugh. Acknowledged literary light that O’Connor is, turning over best sellers and possessed of an international presence, it emerges that the likeable Dub leans as much as the rest of us on the oul’ cliché when chattin’.

Tune in for his probing talk with Marian Keyes on Friday May 4 at 7pm and the Boomtime Rat on Saturday 5 at 7pm, booking at

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With this festival seeded in New York’s Glucksman-Ireland House in  previous  years, this is Limerick’s first Creative Writing Festival and boy, is it a good one, boosted by RTE Supporting the Arts. Places in workshops and masterclass are booked out and ticket sales have soared far into the 100s for public events – weeks in advance.

How hard was it to roll in the heavy weights?

“It was hard,” he chuckles. “I have known Marian for a long time, not as a close friend but I know her as my wife AnneMarie Casey is a novelist also and they are friends. Marian is a neighbour of ours in Dublin.

“She has sold 40million books all over the world and I think that she’s are a really interesting woman who writes of important themes in the guise of these books that sell by the barrowload.”

Geldof? “Bob Geldof was my teenage hero when I was growing up in Dublin so to think I’ll be chairing a talk with him….! This is a creative writing festival so I am interested in that point of view for everyone taking part. As the songwriter of ‘Rat Trap’, how do you write a song like that and rewrite it? And I am interested in his work on Yeats.”

As holder of the Frank McCourt chair at UL Prof. O’Connor hums with humility and awe for other creatives, perhaps most of all for his students undertaking the UL Course and his fellow teacher, Donal Ryan. “I am in UL everyday during the teaching term. I love it, being around my students and the campus, it’s a dream job and I treasure it. It has been a great chance afforded to me by the University, to direct and sculpt this programme.”

UL Creative Writing Festival 2018, May 3 to 6.