‘The generative ground’


Mayo features in Dublin Book Festival exploration of Irish landscape as inspiration 

Ciara Moynihan

While Covid has put the kibosh on so many of our cultural gatherings, more and more events have migrated online. In a silver-lining twist for audiences, this has opened a window onto some far-away spectacles that were hitherto inaccessible unless you travelled and placed your bum physically on a ticketed seat. Thanks to the internet, however, our own screens can be portals to other worlds, while our derrieres remain comfy on our own couches.
Like others, the Dublin Book Festival has gone digital – and this year it includes a special Mayo angle.
With a special focus on Irish-published authors, the festival promotes and supports Irish literary voices, both established and emerging. This year, it has created a specially curated once-off digital summer series. ‘Departures’ is a vibrant three-part series of conversation and music, hosted by Manchán Magan and set amidst some of the most beautiful scenery Ireland has to offer. The second installment in the series focuses on Westport, and it will be available to watch free online for five weeks from tonight, July 13.
In Departures: Volume 2, Magan travels to Westport to speak with Mayo novelist Mike McCormack and poet Alice Kinsella, who was raised in the county. On the shores of Clew Bay, Mike and Alice discuss the power and resonant beauty of the Irish landscape in their art, while actor Paul O’Brien reads some of their works inspired by the scenery. As McCormack reveals in the episode, the Irish landscape is everything to him: “It’s hugely important. It’s the generative ground which all of my work comes from.”
There will be musical interludes throughout from Westport Town Hall Theatre, with tunes from from Cormac MacDiarmada (of RTÉ Folk Award and Choice Music Prizing-winning band Lankum) and Ruth Clinton of traditional singing group Landless. These two renowned musicians will combine forces to perform their own songs inspired by the local landscape.
Many are familiar with Manchán Magan through his travel writing and his deep interest in the Irish language. He has written books on his journeys through Africa, India and South America, as well as two novels. He writes regularly for The Irish Times, presents The Almanac of Ireland on RTÉ Radio 1 and reports on travel for various radio programmes. He has presented dozens of documentaries on issues of world culture for TG4, RTÉ and the Travel Channel. His book ‘Thirty-Two Words For Field: Lost Words of the Irish Landscape’ explores Irish language’s insights into the geography, psyche and heritage of Ireland.
Award-winning novelist and short-story writer Mike McCormack hails from Louisburgh. His most-famous work is probably the hugely celebrated ‘Solar Bones’, which won the 2016 Goldsmiths Prize, the Irish Book Award Novel of the Year and Book of the Year prizes, and the 2018 Dublin International Literary Award. For those who have yet to explore his back catalogue, it contains rich rewards – including ‘Notes from a Coma’ (2005) and Forensic Songs (2012).
Alice Kinsella’s poetry has been published in The Irish Times, the Poetry Ireland Review and elsewhere. Her poems have been translated into Polish, Arabic, and Greek. Commenting on her work, the late, great Eavan Boland was impressed by its compelling intimacy: ‘The speaker … insists on a charged private space, with every intent of persuading the reader to join her there.’ Renowned poet Gerard Dawe described Kinsella as ‘A bright and convincingly poetic voice’.
Westport’s Paul O’Brien – a former Mayo News columnist – has appeared in several film, television and theatre productions, including Len Collin’s online ‘Covies’, TG4’s ‘Deoch an Dorais’ and numerous stage productions with the St Patrick’s Theatre Group and the Castlebar Musical and Dramatic Society. He lives in Westport with his wife and son, where he works as a coach and trainer.
Artist and musician Ruth Clinton lives in Sligo. With Landless, she sings unaccompanied traditional songs from Irish, Scottish, English and American traditions in close four part harmony. She will be joined in Westport Town Hall Theatre by multi-instrumentalist Cormac MacDiarmada, who can turn his hand to fiddle, viola, guitar or banjo.
Departures: Volume 2 will be available to stream for free at www.dublinbookfestival.com from this evening, July 13, at 6.30pm, and it will remain accessible online for another five weeks.

Register for free on www.dublinbookfestival.com to view Departures. Those who register online will be entered into the Dublin Book Festival’s competition for a one-day family pass (covers four people) to the Pirate Adventure Park at Westport House, and all will receive a Departures postcard, featuring Mike McCormack on the front.