Allihies inspires eclectic festival

July 5th, 2018 8:05 PM

By Southern Star Team

Businesswoman and writer, Deirdre Collins is the driving force behind next weekend's inaugural Allihies Inspires festival.

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From sushi suppers to readings and rap music performances, it's all happening at a new festival in Allihies which is designed to encourage young people to consider a career in the arts

By Carina McNally

FOOD, music and literature is on the menu at an eclectic new festival in Allihies next weekend. 

The brainchild of budding writer and business woman Deirdre Collins, festival goers can expect a lively line-up for the inaugural Allihies Inspires. 

Deirdre, who  runs Dee’s Wholefoods, was recently awarded the 2018 J. G. Farrell Award by the West Cork Literary Festival. 

Writing as M. F. Whitney, the Clare woman was honoured for her work ‘The Lonesome Boatman’ which is based on a teenage girl with psychic powers. It won the competition for the best opening chapter of a novel in progress by a writer resident in Munster. American judge, Katharine Weber, described it as a ‘stand-out’ among the many submissions and said ‘even before the end of the first page we can settle in, trusting the author to tell us a good story.’ When she’s not ‘head down’ writing award winning fiction, Deirdre, an MA student in Creative Writing in UCC, has been busy coordinating one of the area’s newest festivals. 

Co-founded with fellow MA student and Glengarriff native, Claire Zwaartman, Allihies Inspires will run from July 6th to the 8th in conjunction with the Allihies Coastal Education Hub, with a schedule of workshops, readings, walks, music and food.

The Creative Writing MA requires students to seek placement with a literary or cultural organisation, however Deirdre and Claire went one step further, deciding to start their very own event as part of their Business of Writing module.  

There will be workshops which centre on the development of creativity; one of which will be run by internationally acclaimed author and teacher Claire Keegan. 

A wide range of readings will encompass home-grown talent including Beara poet Leanne O’Sullivan and Bob Jackson who will read from ‘A Doctor’s Sword’, the Castletownbere man’s story on which he produced a feature documentary of the same name. 

There is an amalgamation with Penn State University who will simultaneously run  their annual summer school in the Old Schoolhouse. Aosdána members Paula Meehan, Tony Curtis and Theo Dorgan have embraced the festival and will kindly open their doors to be included in the Allihies Inspires programme. 

One of Deirdre’s wishes for the festival is that it will ‘encourage young people to look at the possibility of a creative career in the arts.’ Schools all over West Cork and South Kerry were notified of the children’s workshops and were invited to take part in poetry, short story and art competitions which feature strongly in the festival programme. 

Illustrator Sheena Dempsey, alongside children’s author Jane Landy, will hold an illustration and drawing workshop at Allihies Mens’ Shed. 

With no shortage of talent in the area there are lots of locals involved. Allihies based poet Anita Brohail will recite from her work with talks by resident artists Bill Griffin and Tim Goulding. 

Local chef Sykoni Celestine will host a sushi seafood supper at Jimmy’s Bar and London based rapper Sami Switch, whose mother hails from Allihies, will also perform. 

Although focusing on literature, the ethos of the festival is that it is an ‘overall cultural event’ providing various opportunities including a guided historical tour of Dursey Island with Beara Baoi Tours and a tour of the Allihies Copper Mines organised by Allihies Mine Museum. There will be a Meditative Walk with local artist and yoga teacher Nadette Charlet and a popup bookshop in memory of the late Annie Goulding will also feature.

Deirdre explains: ‘For many years Allihies has been an inspiration for artists. Spending time amid the colours and the landscape of the Beara Peninsula has definitely helped me evolve creatively. 

‘Also, though Allihies might only be a small village, it is well able to host events; it has some great spaces including the Men’s Shed, the museum and café, as well as the village hall.  

‘Paula Meehan’s play Music for Dogs will wrap up the festival on Sunday night and this will be performed at the Old Schoolhouse, a fabulous venue.’

Initially envisaged as a once off event, Allihies Inspires is being run on a shoestring, gaining sponsorship from Macroom Buffalo Meats, UCC’s Department of English, and Deirdre’s own company, Dee’s Wholefoods which has its registered office in the Beara village. Deirdre says she intends to plan the event again next year on a similar premise, voluntarily and with many artists and writers giving their time for free, but with funding it may blossom into a longer term event and become part of the arts ‘industry.’ 

She sees the possibility of making an application for Arts Council funding after these initial two years, and the creation of two work placements for the Creative Writing MA Business Module in conjunction with the Coastal Educational Hub in Allihies.

For further details and a full programme see:

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