This year we had two Sean Dunne Festivals; the original Waterford City Council funded and organised Sean Dunne Writers’ festival and the rival, if complementary, The Sean Dunne International Festival of Arts and Culture funded and organised by the School Of Humanities, WIT.

I don’t understand why there had to be a sort of breakaway event, especially as the various organisers had been in on the pre-planning stages. The WIT event wasn’t all that accessible with most events in the Atrium, at the Tourism, Languages and Leisure building, Cork Road, where the highpoint was a significant launch of How The Light Gets In, an Anthology of Contemporary Verse from Canada.

Edited by Dr John Ennis, this is the fourth anthology since 2003 and is a milestone in international academic scholarship that originated from Waterford.

At the launch it was a pleasure to meet Anita Best, the Newfoundland traditional singer and an international culture/folklore icon.

At WIT College Street on the Friday, Liam Rellis organised a rehearsed reading of Waterford writer Sean Kelly’s musical play Twin Circles. Taking on a piece of original musical theatre is a major undertaking and local actors Joe Meagher, Kate Rellis, Claire Horgan, Kate McCarthy, Paul Dillon, Anna Jordan and Nick Kavanagh did the parts. The songs were recorded in America and interspersed with the dramatic dialogue.

The story is set in an Irish B and B and ends emotionally at Ground Zero in New York. Centrally you have a strong mother who runs a rundown B and B – a sort of Songs of a Sad Hotel or Heartbreak B n B – with world-weary people and young rebellious teenagers all hoping and seeking a better life, with tomorrow is the future but dreams are today.

In general, the mostly upbeat songs are the glue of this work in a variety of musical styles from Blood Brothers to The Wiremen by way of Country and Irish. However, the spoken dialogue, or the book, is sparse between many numbers and a tad too clunky and cliched for comfort.

The actors were impressive and Joe Meagher gave substance to a character, a handyman called Jacko Chainsaw. Claire Horgan caught the pathos of disappointment and Kate Rellis shone as the impetuous hope of youth.

I do feel that the City Council Festival organisers should have short-circuited and prevented a rival festival but they probably didn’t see it coming and neither brochure mentioned the other or other events at Garter Lane or Christ Church Cathedral.

The original Sean Dunne Writers’ Festival broke new ground with the Library running the show rather than the Arts Office. This new approach was more inclusive and better structured with excellent childrens’ events and school visits.

Sean Dunne Awards

There was a new emphasis to the annual literary awards with Local Winner Aisling Maire Finnegan of Clonea Power winning with a fine emotive story, The Boy Soldier. The Senior Winner was Ranelagh writer, Luke Sheehan, for a long poem, All The Queen’s Men. This year history was made with a Junior Entry winning the Overall Award for the first time with an amazingly mature story, Escape.

In the Scoil Lorcain section, Luke Byrne, Sean Whelan and Shane Wyse, were winners for fine expressive work. A major Saturday event was organised at the school and Ulick O’Connor read there to honour its famous pupil, Sean Dunne.

During that weekend, Re O Laighleis ran a great workshop and on Thursday the Tramore Writers Group read at the Tower Hotel from their new publication, Ferry Tales.

On the Friday, Macdara Woods, Eamon Carr and Ulick O’Connor were the headline acts. Saturday morning saw a nice innovation of a Literary Breakfast in the Tower Hotel. Established writer, Peter Cunningham, read from several of his novels and painted a great picture of the now gone Imperial and Adelphi Hotel, as well as the Colosseum that he described as a tin shed, masquerading as a cinema. A new chic-lit author from Dungarvan, Ellen McCarthy, impressed with selections from her two books, Guarding Maggie and Guilt Ridden. She came to fame on the Seoige show on RTE1.

At the breakfast I had the pleasure of meeting Mary and John Hickey from Dungarvan, Jane Cantwell and Mary Conway of Waterford City Libraries and Anne Dowling and her co-writers from the Tramore Writers’ Group who will launch Ferry Tales on 2 April in Tramore Library.