BOOK-LOVERS will descend upon Ennis from all over Ireland this weekend as the hugely popular Ennis Book Club Festival (EBCF) makes it long-awaited return to in-person events.

Greatly curtailed over the past two years due to the pandemic, EBCF is back with a bang and nineteen headline events taking place in different venues across the county.

In what will be the sixteenth staging of the EBCF, there is a vibrant programme aimed to please all ages. It will begin by discussing Irish literary feminism on Friday evening and end with a garden visit to Kiltumper, the home of the acclaimed Niall Williams and Christine Breen.

Among the many highlights are Joe Queally dissecting his book ‘Echoes from a Civil War’, a conversation between celebrated author and playwright Michael Harding with EBCF artistic director Dani Gill while her predecessor Paul Perry chats about his debut novel The Garden on Saturday in St Columba’s Church.

Claire Keegan takes to the glór stage on Saturday evening to talk about her long awaited novel Small Things Like These, praised as ‘a haunting, hopeful masterpiece’.

Regarded as one of the fan favourites, the Sunday Symposium opens the final day of the Festival. Reflections on Ireland will be the focus with special guests Fintan O’Toole, Declan O’Rourke, Sophie White, and Derek Scally. The panel discussion will be followed by an audience Q&A session. On Sunday afternoon EBCF moves to the goat shed on St. Tola Cheese Farm, Ennistimon for a unique event to please the foodies.

For Dani Gill, it will be the first time in her tenure as Artistic Director that COVID-19 hasn’t been as prevalent. “Definitely being able to have live audiences and not a capped capacity is a massive advantage, we are really delighted about that, we only knew a few weeks ago really that it was the case, in terms of planning, we were hoping to be at maybe 70 percent capacity, to be up to 100 percent is great and to have a clearer climate is brilliant, it is really nice to think of a live festival with the authors and attendees on site, that is a huge part of what festivals are about, they are very social”.

It had been difficult to try put together the festival in a primarily online capacity, she admitted. “I think it is hard creating something when it feels you’re in a bit of a vacuum, we’ve all been in a type of a vacuum with COVID and now we’re slowly emerging from that. Programming events at the end of the day is about an audience and a connection with an audience, I do think there is a huge difference between online and personal engagement, there is no real comparison between the two, I’m definitely excited to be out of my apartment and in some venues, for venues it has been a very uncertain time with COVID and not knowing what restrictions would be in place, it’s great for glór and other venues to be open again, it will hopefully be a return to a different type of normal, it is a chance to restart”.

Fintan O’Toole viewed as one of the country’s greatest writers is no stranger to Co Clare and he is very excited to make a return to the EBCF. “The Ennis Book festival is fantastic, I’ve done it before and came out of this book club idea, I love Ennis, I think it is one of the nicest towns in Ireland, it has an ordinary and that is a word we use dismissively but it has that sort of day to day architecture in old parts of Ennis is absolutely beautiful, it has a wonderful buzz about it, I love being there. It is a great place for the festival because you have glór and the other great venues but I think the ethic of the festival was always very democratic and open, it is a great festival. We’re doing an event on the Sunday morning in glór, it is a broad conversation, I’m really looking forward to it, it is probably appropriate that people will go there on the Sunday morning rather than going to mass, they can hear from the new bishops and clergy of Ireland”.

Having previously leading a procession through the streets of Ennis when reenacting the funeral of Brian Ború in the early nineties, it is likely to be a more low-key affair for Michael Harding. “I’m genuinely – this is no joke now- I genuinely love coming to Ennis because I worked there with theatre omnibus, I spent a summer in Ennis and I had a great time. We did a street parade with theatre omnibus in Ennis one time many, many years ago, and also I used to go to the Feakle festival, the music festival there and I’d often be sitting on the stones listening to people like Tommy Hayes”.

Derek Scally will be discussing his book ‘Best Catholics in the World’ and the Berlin Correspondent with The Irish Times is hopeful to get involved in conversations with the people of Clare. “Irish Catholic past is part of our past, it was always part of our past, a survivor of sexual abuse said to me, many people now think that by not going to mass anymore that it is their contribution with coming to terms with our past, that doesn’t help society, it doesn’t help me or our past, my book is a very gentle invitation for people to look at their own history because they know best how things were and I’d be very interested in hearing from the people of Ennis what their experiences were, we haven’t dealt with this past, we’ve dealt with it on a legal level but not on an emotional level, we have to start somewhere and maybe discussing the book in Ennis is the start”.

For in-depth interviews with Evelyn Conlon, Fintan O’Toole, Michael Harding, Derek Scally and Dani Gill keep an eye on www.clareecho.ie.

 

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Subscribe for just €3 per month

If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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