What lies ahead for Limerick Literary Festival

Naomi Nolan of host venue The Hunt Museum with festival PRO, theatre maker Ella Daly Photos: Cian Reinhardt

THERE was a happy hum to O’Mahony’s Booksellers on January 10 as lovers of literature gathered for the low-down on Limerick Literary Festival, February 21 to February 24. It’s all good. Richard Ford is coming to town along with Philippe Claudel, David Park, Louise O’Neill, essayist Emile Pine, Liz Nugent and Lyndal Gordon.

Between committee principal Eileen O’Connor, festival invitees Bill Whelan (composer), Ann Blake (‘The Morning After the Life Before’ will stage in Dolan’s), playwright Mike Finn and RTE lyric FM’s Liz Nolan, towers of books to do with February’s gig made for an eloquent welcome.

Bookmarks Bookclub members Janet Moody, Margaret Jackson, Finola and Sean Thompson showed up as did venue representatives, and Kate Fleming of Alliance Francaise Limerick whose interest is the poet and film director Philippe Claudel.

Long serving committee member Eileen O’Connor with playwright/ actor Mike Finn and singer/ theatre maker Ann Blake

It was Liz who launched the soirée with an overview of the four days and the shortlist for the 4th Kate O’Brien Award. This award is open to candidates who are female novelists working in Ireland and their debut novel – see last line.

“O’Mahony’s is what myself and my son regard as a home from home and for so many it is a centre for the arts in Limerick,” Liz told us as her 10 year-old curled up with a book, well out of sight of grown ups and their agenda.

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On to highs in the programme for many: Richard Ford in conversation with Niall Mac Monagle on Sunday 24; novelist Liz Nugent in conversation with Bill Whelan on Sunday; the recitation of poetry by Jo Sade and Ciarán O’Driscoll in The Granary Friday 22.

Combining music and opera, The Hunt Museum is venue for the formal opening on Friday at 7pm following international journalist Lara Marlowe’s address.

“Also a literary partnership has come to the fore for a musical interlude   combining opera and poetry. The Irish National Opera has stormed on to the scene and for ‘As Music and Splendour’ – a nod to Kate O’Brien – we have some of Ireland’s great vocal talents coming here.” Music and reading from the festival’s muse’s works.

Mike Finn and Ann Blake, whose Dolan’s performance will be followed by Q&A, speak to camera on this year’s festival

The late Irish Times critic Eileen Battersby was ever an outstanding support to this Limerick exploration and was close to the sorority. Liz Nolan made the point that “it is with tremendous sadness we bid goodbye to Eileen Battersby who was a great literary friend to this festival. Her daughter Nadia Whiston Battersby will come and speak at the festival which will be a real occasion.”

Nadia will co-present the annual Desert Island Books with David Park.

Eileen’s book ‘Teethmarks on my Tongue’ is shortlisted for the Kate O’Brien Award and “her wry sense of humour, her eye for detail and observation” were defined qualities that made her the fine writer and critic she was.

Programme and ticket bookings at www.limerickliteraryfestival.com