The Galway Experience – Cúirt 2014By Esther Murbach
Can’t stay away from Galway when Cúirt is calling. Of course, Galway is always an experience in itself but even more so in April when the International Festival of Literature is on. With the first spring leaves and flowers, literature and music spread all over the city and beyond in numerous shows. I won’t rehash the program it offers during a whole week of celebrating the written and spoken word. Click on http://www.cuirt.ie.
One of the first events this year, the launch of The Galway Review Anthology 2 on 8th April in the Dáil Bar, was of special importance to me. My short story ‘Local Colour’, published inhttp://thegalwayreview.com in 2013, was chosen to be included in the Anthology 2, and I was invited by the Galway Review Team to read it at the launch. This turned out to be a very lively and pleasurable event with the opportunity to speak to some of the other authors and to establish contact with them. And of course to meet Máire Holmes, Editor-in-chief, and Ndrek Gjini, Managing Editor, in person. Equally present was the Mayor of Galway, Padraig Coneely, and many other notables. Last but not least a very interested audience which filled the upstairs lounge of the Dáil Bar to more than the last seat.
With the above I have already addressed some of the typical characteristics of Cúirt’s incredible radiation. It attracts followers from near and far because of the fertility of its cultural soil. Wherever you go, to whichever event, you sit next to someone who is actively creative or interested in creativity. The first question is usually, ‘What’s your name?’, and the second, ‘What do you write?’. Nearly all of them write. Not always professionally but always for the love of it. And most follow creative writing courses. Very often they are creative in other fields, too, like music, painting, sculpturing. Creativity seems to be a need for them like breathing the fresh sea air on the West Coast of Ireland. Talking to each other and comparing notes about what you do is normal.
Also there is such a lot of initiative around to promote and encourage talent. A lot of opportunity to publish and/or to go public with your writing, whether you are mature or young emerging talent. See e.g. the article about ‘Over the Edge’ in http://www.advertiser.ie/galway/article/66004/more-than-a-decade-of-over-the-edge. A lot of literary magazines and publishers who love what they are doing, even when it doesn’t make them rich. They publish also works of authors of non-Irish origin and from abroad. What counts is not nationality but the beauty of their verbal expression in English or Irish (Gaelic).
Poetry, marginal in Switzerland and some other parts of the world, thrives in Ireland. I had the pleasure to meet Jessie Lendennie of http://www.salmonpoetry.com at the launch of Kevin Higgins’ fourth poetry collection, ‘The Ghost in the Lobby’. Jessie is a mature lady with the temperament of a spring chicken. And I met the editing team of http://www.crannogmagazine.com, one of the most prestigious literary magazines in Ireland, at their showcase in the Town Hall Theatre. Meeting important and famous people casually at events, in the street or in the next pub is normal. To talk to them just like that is normal, too. Go to the opening of Cúirt in the noble Hotel Meyrick, and you meet the street musician as well, the one to whom you threw a coin on the day before in Shop Street. He turns out to be equally a painter and writes some poetry.
This year the festival could not be opened by the Irish President Michael D. Higgins. He was abducted by the British Royals at the time for a state visit, drinking tea in Buckingham Palace and Champagne in Windsor, as well as cuddling with lambs, Corgis and Horses on the Royal estates. On the side it was also about Ireland and Britain overcoming their former differences (euphemistically speaking…). The newspapers showed how well the two couples, the British Royal one and the Irish Republican one, were matched. Elizabeth II. and Michael D. equalled in size, so did Prince Philip and Michael’s wife Sabina. Together they made a most photogenic foursome. A good omen for a future prosperous relationship.
The opening of Cúirt 2014 was therefore conducted by a namesake of Michael D. Higgins, the famous poetess and playwright Rita Ann Higgins who addressed the audience in a touching speech. And the festival bubbled on as always. A pleasurable Jaccuzzi I do not intend to miss next year.