Unlocking books on Tertulia TV


BOOK SHOWN Tertulia’s weekly YouTube show is being beamed into book lover’s homes throughout Mayo, the west and beyond

Áine Ryan

The Covid crisis has brought community creativity to a whole new level. Here Áine Ryan chats to  Bríd Conroy, who hosts Tertulia TV with her husband, Neil Paul, from their renovated old schoolhouse in Accony, Louisburgh. The couple owns Tertulia – A Bookshop Like No Other at Westport Quay.

AR Where did the idea for Tertulia TV come from?
BC Louisburgh Community TV was launched at the beginning of the Covid Crisis as a means of keeping people connected and they asked us to do a video. This then developed into a format that we felt could be replicated weekly and was a way to connect to our customers also.

AR Tell me a little more about the genesis of  Louisburgh Community TV and the various programmes it is hosting?
BC Local man Des Grealis is the brainchild and was developing the idea of community television showcasing all things Louisburgh before the pandemic struck. Then Covid happened and it was the perfect stage. Des very quickly gathered enthusiastic responses from many people within the community, and it was a lovely distraction from the madness of the first few weeks of lockdown. There have been Tia’s cooking lessons; ‘Informed Information’ from John Staunton, our local chemist; as well as craft and gardening videos.

AR How many episodes have there been of Tertulia TV and what is the format?
BC We have just posted our ninth programme. We usually introduce at least two authors to our viewers for each programme. We have hosted children’s authors, biographers as well as poetry and fiction writers.
They usually talk for circa seven minutes about their inspiration and their latest books. Some read from their books and others, for example, novelist Eithne Shortall gave us a tour of her writing space at home and told us about her favourite books. We also review books we have read.
With our big Harry Potter interest we dedicated a show and a competition on International Harry Potter Day. We’ve interviewed a couple of philosophers too, asking them to explain why philosophy matters, among other things.

AR Expand on who you have you interviewed and why you chose these writers
BC Well, Eithne Shortall has local connections and is a big fan of our bookshop. She is The Sunday Times Culture Editor and author of three novels, ‘Love In Row 27’, ‘Grace After Henry’ and ‘Three Little Truths’.  
Then there is Jane Suiter, who is Associate Professor in the School of Communications, DCU. Jane talked about her work helping to set up the Citizen’s Assembly and her book ‘Reimagining Democracy’. Of course, we have lots of local talent, and Marian Kilcoyne is a poet who is from the area and still lives here. She was shortlisted for the 2017 Dermot Healy International Prize and longlisted for the Fish Poetry 2019. Marian read from her collection just being published ‘The Heart Uncut’.
AR That’s quite a broad rage of writing styles and subject matter
BC Yes – as people will see, the backdrop to our home studio is filled with books, so that is no surprise! We also hosted children’s author, Shane Hegarty, who was the Arts Editor of The Irish Times, and Rachel English, of RTÉ Morning Ireland fame read from her fifth book, ‘The Paper Bracelet’. Come to think of it, it is quite an eclectic list, with other guest readers including Henrietta McKervey, Lukasz Krzywon and Haleh Agar, whose narrative essay, ‘On Writing Ethnic Stories’ won the London Magazine’s inaugural essay competition. She read from her debut novel,‘Out of Touch’.

AR Who is your audience, and does it reach beyond Co Mayo?
BC Our audience is a mixture of book lovers from all over the west and its diaspora, as well as throughout the country. We’ve had people tune in from Germany, UK and Dubai. There have been people who visited our shop and new people who have made online orders for books.
AR  When is your bookshop Tertulia reopening, and what measures have you had to take?
BC We are reopening on June 8 in line with Government recommendations for bookshops.  We will have plastic screens for serving customers and will be abiding by all hand sanitisation recommendations. Customers will be restricted, just one set of people at a time.  
No doubt these last few months have been difficult, but we are optimistic about the future.

AR And the most important question, will Tertulia TV continue?
BC Tertulia TV is part of this innovative approach, and we plan to expand this medium to attract a wider audience for what we are doing. We are also working with Spot Lit EU, a project to promote and develop literary tourism here and in Northern Ireland, Scotland, Finland and Iceland.
This is a very exciting project, and our online presence will be part of this too.