The twelfth year of the Sean Dunne Festival seemed to have shrunk into a weekend and the organisers opened the workshops out into writing in Irish, how to self-publish with local legend Brian Kennedy, a masterclass with Freak Show creator, Rob Curley, a bevy of book launches and The Brad Pitt Light Orchestra who gathered a larger crowd than the original venue could hold, so they moved to the Greyfriars gallery.
At a pleasant ceremony in the Large Room on the Thursday night, the Mayor, Cllr Mary O’Halloran opened the Festival and presented the various awards. For the first time in a while the prestigious National Sean Dunne Young Writers’ Award went to a Waterford writer, Steven Stubbs, for his prose-piece – The Statement. Stubbs was also part of the Festival, giving a workshop on the Friday, based on presenting a script for television. Earlier this year RTE2 showed his two-part sitcom, The Roaring Twenties.
In the National junior section, Mollie Bruton, from Dublin, won with an amazing piece of theatre or film scripting, The Geografairy. Her work impressed the adjudicating panel, who reckoned the work could lead to a series of books or scripts as the central character, The Geografairy, had lots of potential.
The local section of the Sean Dunne Awards went to a Student at St. Ursula’s, Lucy Twigg, for a whimsical prose piece, Love Is.
In keeping with the tradition of the Sean Dunne awards, Harry Flynn, the principal of Sean’s old primary school, introduced the three Scoil Lorcain pupils who it hoped will follow in the Dunne footsteps. Dean Kavanagh was third with A Step Back; Alan Grimes was second with The Magic Flute and first place went to Armend Gashi for a heartfelt story, My Life So Far, telling Armend’s story of coming from Kosovo in 2006.
Putting five slots into the Festival at Greyfriars, seem poor programming, but there was a lunch opportunity to meet visitors to the Festival. The Canadian-Newfoundland-based poet, Alison Pick, had the early 11.15 slot and she had poems about snow and a lovely opened about a Robin. She suggested that perhaps poems pick or find poets and her Canadian imagery gave her work a newer resonance. At times she came across as a tad academic but the audience warmed to her childhood memories.
Peter Fallon read from his latest book, The Company Of Horses and there was a concern for nature and an excellent choice of imagery – realm of stillness… sores and sorrows of a neighbour… a spill of rain… shards and shatters shimmer… angels of each blade of grass… swarms of starlings. Hen he quoted a Kentucky poel Wendell Berry – she’s a might splashy shitter, I thought that W B Yeats in the Harry Kernoff painting was gimleting me as much to say you are in the presence of poets but a Sean Dunne portrait by Ciaran Brennan winked at me – You will survive. Quoting from his translation of The Georgics Of Virgil you got the sense of more immediate concerns about war and land than the 2,000 year old lines suggested.
Fallow spoke about editing two of Dunne’s books and said – To remember him is a good thing. I hope the city fathers will appreciate that acknowledgement.
The crime-writer Colin Bateman got the audience laughing with his self-deprecating style as he read an hilarious short story and an extract from a recent novel. His publisher markets him now as Bateman and have lost the Colin and made it such fun and he even took on a selection of difficult questions and didn’t bat a kiss curl.