Current and Forthcoming Activities in 2018.
- I’m running a session on storytelling at this year’s Creative Retreat at Southwell Workhouse Museum. On Sunday 28 October I will discuss the dark history behind some Irish folktales. The aim is to inspire people with the power of stories to convey features of culture and society.
- On Wed 31st October, I will celebrate Halloween by leading a discussion at Five Leaves Bookshop, exploring the ancient pagan roots of how this feast is celebrated in Ireland. As children, we ducked for apples, got blindfolded to find out our futures in the Five Saucers game, and ate barm brack hoping to find the hidden ring. There’s evidence that the emigrant Irish brought Halloween traditions with them to America, where they became adapted to suit the new circumstances.
- On Saturday 17 November, I will once again join Nottingham/Nottinghamshire Libraries on Readers’ Day. I will be talking about how social class features in Emily Brontë’s famous novel Wuthering Heights. I’m on at 2pm. Book for the day event via this link.
What else I have been up to . . . .
- I organised a short series of Irish Studies talks at Five Leaves Bookshop. More information on Nottingham Irish Studies Group website.
- On Fri 29 Sept, I was proud to be part of the support act for poet Maura Dooley at Beeston Library. She discussed the art of translating. As a fan of her work, I was delighted when she told me she enjoyed my reading of Irish language poems ‘Mise Raifteirí’ (I am Raftery) and Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill’s poem ‘Ceist na Teangan’ (The Language Issue) . The event included other readers of international poetry.
- Thurs 14 June: Joyce’s Voices: Pre-Bloomsday readings at Five Leaves Bookshop.
Brian McCormack and I read some extracts from the works of James Joyce, to celebrate the anniversary of Bloomsday, 16 June 1904, on which his 1922 novel Ulysses is set.
Irish fiddle music by Ruadh Duggan of Nottingham Comhaltas.
7pm – 8.30pm, £3 incl. refreshments. We dressed in 1904 costume.
Sat 16 June, Bloomsday: I participated in a short play, Letters to Lucia, written by Richard Rose and James Vollmar. It was performed outdoors, at 3pm at Kingsthorpe Cemetery, Northampton, where Lucia, daughter of James Joyce, is buried. A Triskellion Theatre Company production, supported by the Connolly Association. I played the part of Nora Barnacle, James Joyce’s lifetime partner.
Sat 30 June: Recent Irish writing, Lowdham Book Festival
I was happy to be part of Lowdham Last Saturday. I presented a talk on new Irish writers, including Sally Rooney, Claire Keegan, Sara Baume, Louise O’Neill and Eimear McBride.
I interviewed Graham Caveney about his memoir The Boy with the Perpetual Nervousness.
On Saturday 24 Feb 2018, I participated in the conference ‘The Irish Writer in “Little England”‘ at the University of Kent, in Canterbury.
My paper discussed second-generation Irish writers Maude Casey and Moy McCrory, looking at how they depict the negotiation of female space in an Irish-inflected segment of British society.
On Wed 28th Feb, I interviewed Nottingham-based Graham Caveney about his critically-acclaimed autobiography, The Boy with the Perpetual Nervousness.
Venue: Middle Street Resource Centre, Beeston NG9 2AR. 7pm.
The memoir won rave reviews in The Guardian, The Times, and The Observer. Forty people turned out, despite the snow!
In March, I made a return visit to Birmingham Irish Centre, to talk to the Birmingham Irish Heritage Group about Irish Famine emigrants and the English Workhouse system: Wed 7 March @ 7pm, in their new venue at the Rowton Hotel.
States of Independence,
Saturday 10th March, Clephan Building, De Montfort University, Leicester
This is a one-day festival celebrating independent publishers, run by Five Leaves in conjunction with De Montfort University. I presented a talk as part of the programme; discussing some exciting new voices in Irish fiction.
Storytelling / Scéalaíocht
As part of Nottingham’s annual Irish festival, I collaborated with artist Brian McCormack. We worked with schools in preparation for St Patrick’s Day. We were storytelling and craft-making in Holy Cross School, Hucknall. Our work was based on the legend of the Salmon of Knowledge. The children made banners to carry in St Patrick’s Day Parade. They also made St Patrick’s Day cards. I made another visit to St Philip Neri School in Mansfield. Our 2018 theme story was Fionn and the Salmon of Knowledge. We acted out the story alongside a poem I’d written.
Thurs 22 March, I gave a talk to the Local History Café @ Erewash, about how writers write about Nottingham and Nottinghamshire. 10am – 12.20pm
This talk discussed the work of earlier writers such as D. H. Lawrence, as well as more recent depictions of the locality.
Christmas at the Workhouse event @ Southwell
I spent the weekend of Sat 2nd & Sun 3rd December 2017 in character as a vagrant immigrant from Ireland. My character was a storyteller who was forced to leave home because of the famine. I was dressed in ragged clothes and told old Irish legends, interspersed with snippets of factual information, telling people a little about the history of the 1840s and Irish emigration to England. There are lots of parallels with current immigration and refugee stories.
This is the outline of my talk at Readers’ Day on Saturday 18 November 2017:
Austen’s Father Figures
‘Jane Austen portrays some peculiar papas in her fiction: sardonic, selfish, or plain soft-headed. Join Deirdre O’Byrne of Loughborough University for a discussion of far-from-perfect patres familias.’
Readers’ Day is run jointly by Nottingham City and Nottinghamshire County Libraries. This year it was on Saturday 18 November. Details, progamme and booking here:
* Loogabarooga Festival
- The Giant’s Causeway and other stories
Thursday 19th November 2017, 11am – 12.00 Charnwood Museum, Loughborough
I told some old Irish tales. Some of the audience joined in to make bullish noises.
- Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows
Thursday 19th November 2017, 7pm, Charnwood Museum, Loughborough
I discussed the enduring themes of this classic, and how it continues to appeal to adults as well as children.
As Grahame almost wrote: there is nothing half so much worth doing as simply messing about in books.
Suitable for adults and older children (age 12+)
I was back in Crawley on Sunday 27 August 2017, telling stories at Crawley Irish Festival. The weather was beautiful, and as usual, it was a splendid festival.
I ran an Irish storytelling session on Tues 12 Sept 2017 at Nottingham Women’s Centre Open Day. I met great people, and got very rewarding feedback.
The Open Day event ran from 10am – 1pm: http://www.nottinghamwomenscentre.com/2017/09/06/nottingham-womens-centre-open-day-invitation/
Lowdham Book Festival
On Fri 1st Sept 2017, I gave a talk at Lowdham Methodist Chapel on ‘Nottingham in Literature’, looking at poems and stories from DH Lawrence, Derrick Buttress, John Lucas and Rosie Garner, among others.
Saturday 24th June 2017, 2-3pm. I ran a session on Jane Austen’s depiction of men and masculinity, examining the representation of men as love objects and desirable husband material.
I got lots of nice positive comments from audience members who enjoyed the presentation.
* I collaborated with Sheelagh Gallagher on an event as part of Inspire Poetry Festival: Fri 14th July 2017, 2pm @ Mansfield Library – ‘Poems Please!’ People suggested their favourite poems, and Sheelagh and I read them (and a few of our own favourites).
* I participated in the book-launch of Ten Poems About Home (Candlestick Press), edited by Mahendra Solanki at Nottingham Central Library. I read the opening poem, W B Yeats’s ‘The Lake Isle of Innisfree’.
The readings and commentaries were repeated as part of Inspire Poetry Festival at Southwell Library on Sunday 16 July 4.30pm – 6pm. Info https://www.inspireculture.org.uk/poetry-festival/
* In June, I gave a conference paper at the Women on Ireland Research Network. Annual Conference, Waterford Institute of Technology, 1st & 2nd of June 2017. Theme: Women and Irishness. My paper was on second-generation Irish women writers in Britain.
* On Thurs 18 May 2017, I gave a brief introduction to the film The Journey, at Nottingham Broadway Cinema. The film is a fictionalised representation of a journey shared by Martin McGuinness and Ian Paisley, who, after years of political strife, ended up working together as power-sharing colleagues, and developed an unexpected friendship.
For other Nottingham Irish Studies Group events, see https://nottinghamisg.wordpress.com/
* St Patrick’s Day Festival 2017:
I worked with artist Brian McCormack on a project with local schoolchildren. The theme story this year was Fionn MacCumhaill and the Giant’s Causeway. I told the story to the children, Brian played Fionn, and we helped them make some props to carry in the parade.
Read one version of the story here: http://myths.e2bn.org/mythsandlegends/textonly5639-finn-maccool-and-the-giants-causeway.html
* I am researching the history of Southwell Workhouse, looking for evidence of Irish visitors (mostly classed as ‘vagrants’ and only allowed to stay one night) at Southwell Workhouse. I presented some of my findings at a Creative Retreat at the Workhouse 18-19 March.
More information about the event here
I’m open to invitations from groups and institutions, and am prepared to travel reasonable distances. Email me on email@example.com.