Westport’s Rolling Sun Book Festival is a firm favourite among bibliophiles, language lovers, scribes and boffins of every ilk, and the festival returns this week with a literary line-up capable of lighting up even the darkest November eve. Starting this Thursday and running for four days, the festival will include its usual winning mix of interviews, readings, talks, workshops, book launches and more.
The Rolling Sun always promises the stars, and this year the celestial offering includes Donal Ryan, Judi Curtin, Anne Griffin and Dr Sabina Brennan, RTÉ Radio 1’s Book Show host Rick O’Shea, journalists Lise Hand and Claire Grady, biographer Ann Ingle and – buckle up now – legendary rally driver Rosemary Smith.
Guaranteed to get you in the mood for more, Thursday’s sole event takes place at Westport Quay, in the quirky and comfy Tertulia – A Bookshop Like No Other. Here, poets Geraldine Mitchell and Marian Kilcoyne and ‘philosopher, artist, musician and educator’ Lukasz Krzymon will wrestle with the theme ‘Philosophy and Poetry – Understanding the Wider Role Poetry Plays in Society’. This free festival teaser, which starts at 7.30pm, should get those brain synapses firing, ensuring the mind is fully primed for more linguistic gymnastics over the next few days.
Friday is dedicated to the festival’s much-anticipated annual opener, always a Rolling Sun highlight. This year sees razor sharp Lise Hand interview two fascinating women, pioneer and icon of Irish motor sport Rosemary Smith and her biographer Ann Ingle (mother of journalist Roisín Ingle). Smith and Ingle have plenty of tales to tell, both about their book and about their lives as pioneers and activists. Featuring live music from local group Coda and a delicious supper, this opening evening has become somewhat of an institution over the years – and tickets always fly.
Saturday’s literary fun starts at 2pm, when award-winning children’s author Judi Curtin will be talking about her new book, ‘Lily at Lissadell’ and what life was like for young girls in 1913 (including her grandmothers, both of whom worked as housemaids around that time).
During this free children’s event, which takes place in the Seán Staunton Room of Westport Town Hall Theatre, Judi will also share insights about the research process, discuss her visit to stately Lissadell House in Sligo, do a short reading and answer any questions that people might have. Judi is the author of the best-selling children’s series ‘Alice and Megan’, ‘Friends Forever’ and ‘Eva’, as well as, with Róisín Meaney, ‘See If I Care’. She has also written three books for adults – ‘Sorry Walter’, ‘From Claire to Here’ and ‘Almost Perfect’.
At 3pm, the mood turns more cerebral when Dr Sabine Brennan joins Claire Grady for a chat ‘on the couch’ in the Clew Bay Hotel. A psychologist and neuroscientist, the resident brain-health expert on RTÉ’s Today Show and an ex-Fair City actor, Sabina is a wonderful communicator with fascinating insights into how to keep the brain healthy as we age. She will also read from her best-selling book, ‘100 Days to a Younger Brain’.
Westport native Claire Grady started her career in journalism in The Mayo News. Over her 30-year career in newspaper journalism, she worked in the Dublin-based Echo newspapers, the Evening Herald, the Sunday Tribune and the Irish Independent. She worked as a news reporter, news editor, commissioning editor and finally as editor of the Herald and editor of the Irish Independent.
The festival rolls out another jewel on Saturday night at 8.30pm, when authors Donal Ryan and Anne Griffin will be chatting to broadcaster Rick O’Shea in Westport Plaza Hotel’s Walnut Suite. The acclaimed pair will be discuss the challenges and rewards of writing from other perspectives – especially another gender’s perspective – and they will also read selections from their recently published work.
Dubliner Anne Griffin’s short-story writing has earned her the John McGahern Award for Literature and seen her shortlisted for the Hennessy New Irish Writing Awards, the Sunday Business Post Short Story Award and for the Benedict Kiely Competition. Her debut novel, ‘When All Is Said’, is already a bestseller, counting John Banville, Louise Penny and Graham Norton among its fans.
Author Donal Ryan has four number-one bestselling novels, a short-story collection and numerous awards and prizes under his belt. He was nominated for the Booker Prize in 2013 for his debut novel, ‘The Spinning Heart’, and again in 2018, for his fourth novel, ‘From A Low and Quiet Sea’. His work has been adapted for stage and screen and translated into over 20 languages. An extraordinary and gripping read, ‘The Spinning Heart’ was voted Irish Book of the Decade in 2016 in a nationwide poll run by Dublin Book Festival. His sixth book, ‘Strange Flowers’, is due to be published next summer.
The Rolling Sun Book Festival wraps up with belly laughs on Sunday with ‘An Afternoon with Colm O’Regan’ in the Clew Bay Hotel from 1pm. A critically acclaimed stand-up comedian, columnist, broadcaster and author, O’Regan runs the @irishmammies Twitter account, which inspired his three award-winning ‘Irish Mammy’ books and ‘Bolloxology’, a book of good humoured rants about the modern world.
The Corkonian’s debut novel ‘Ann Devine, Ready For Her Close Up’ follows the trials and tribulations of Tidy Towner Ann Devine, ‘a riddle, wrapped up in a fleece, inside a Skoda Octavia’ and how her hometown of Kilsudgeon copes with the arrival of a big-budget film crew from out of town.
The afternoon will include readings, comedy, laughs, stories and an audience Q&A.
Please note that tickets must be purchased for some of the festival’s events. For more details, visit the Rolling Sun Book Festival website, www.rollingsunbookfestival.com. For tickets, contact The Clew Bay Hotel on 098 28088.