Readings and writings and books, oh my!

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If you’re a writer or a reader (or, for that matter, a listener) and you’re in or around Northern Ireland in the next few weeks, you’re in for a bit of a treat. A veritable cornucopia of literary riches awaits you. Let me tell you about some of it.

First up, the Flowerfield Say the Word extravaganza is taking place at Flowerfield Arts Centre, Portstewart on Thursday 7th June. This is an (almost) annual gathering of up-and-coming local writers who assemble to share their work with writers from groups across the country. Everyone’s welcome. Kick-off at 7.30pm. Admission is free. If you can contribute something to cover the cost of refreshments (there’ll be a glass or two of wine, possibly a bowl of pistachios...) that would be great. If our weekly Flowerfield Writers meetings are anything to go by (and they are), prepare to laugh out loud, to choke back a tear, to cheer, to stare dolefully into the distance or to effect a look of general bewilderment. Let me know if you’d like to come along to read, sing, play an instrument, impersonate a clown, do an interpretive dance…? Musical accompaniment on the evening will be provided by our in-house band. So far, we have a ukulele and a guitar, maybe a harmonica, at least two tentative offers to play the spoons. None of us have heard them play. We don’t know quite what to expect. It’s going to be electric!

And as if that wasn’t enough to get you going, I am personally very excited about the number of excellent short story writers who are visiting The North in June and July of this year. Claire Keegan and Kevin Barry will read from their work at the John Hewitt International Summer School in the Market Place Theatre and Arts Centre in Armagh on 26th July. They are joined in the programme for the week (starting Monday 23rd July) by novelists Belinda McKeon, John Banville, Bernard MacLaverty, Aifric Campbell and Glenn Patterson and by poets Roger McGough, Frieda Hughes, Gillian Clarke, Adam O’Riordan, John F Deane, Catherine Phil MacCarthy, Thomas McCarthy and Leanne O’Sullivan. There are writing workshops, talks and performances and Stephen Rea returns with his reading from Flann O’Brien’s The Third Policeman. (An event worth experiencing. I wrote a short piece on his performance at the Black Box in Belfast in January of this year. You can read it here.) The full programme for the John Hewitt International Summer School is here, including details of how to apply for a bursary to cover accommodation, some meals and all events for the week. Sure what’s stopping you?

In other short story news, Belfast Book Festival (11th-18th June) this year features readings from Richard Beard and Keith Ridgeway (Wednesday 13th June, 8.30pm, Crescent Arts Centre), Christine Dwyer Hickey and Éilís Ní Dhuibhne (Sunday 17th June, 4.30pm, Crescent Arts Centre) as well as readings from Colm Toíbín, Gerald Dawe, Brian McGilloway and Malachi O’Doherty. There are events for children and young adults with Liz Weir, Derek Kielty, Garrett Carr, Niamh Sharkey and Sheena Wilkinson as well as workshops, poetry, book talks and spectacle. The excellent LitNet NI are running a ‘Write to be published’ Masterclass with Nicola Morgan on Wednesday 13th June (7pm, the Crescent Arts Centre) and introducing three first-time writers Donal McLaughlin, Lynne Edgar and Darran McCann at First Writes on Thursday 14th June, 6.30pm, also at the Crescent. There’s a free Writers’ Day at the Linen Hall Library on Saturday 16th June, hosted by Publishing NI, Literature Forum for Northern Ireland and Northern Ireland Publications Resource with a host of information on getting published. I am delighted to be doing a lunchtime reading with Moyra Donaldson at the Crescent Arts Centre on Thursday 14th June at 1pm. We’re billed in the At a Glance section as McGill and Donaldson. We’re not, as this might suggest, a firm of solicitors (or undertakers) but a poetry/fiction mash-up. It’s madness, I know. We’re not even in the same genre for goodness’ sake. But hey, it works. Full programme available here. It's all good. Come out to something. Or I’ll send round the evil ukulele-toting clown to get you.


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