A Diary of Doneraile: the Doneraile Literary and Arts Festival 2011

A glimpse of Creagh Castle
On Friday (5th) Caroline and I left work and headed to Doneraile, Cork for the Doneraile Literary and Arts Festival 2011. It was the first time for both of us to visit this picture perfect village. Chairperson of the festival, Diarmuid Hudner gave us an idea of what to expect in the programme when he wrote, 'Doneraile, home of the St Legers and the steeplechase, is blessed with a number of beautiful and atmospheric country houses that hide behind copses of ancient oak, beech and sycamore trees, or snuggled up long winding passages with only a hint of great chimneys giving away their existence.' The country houses and the village itself certainly lived up to such a description.

It would already have been a wonderful weekend simply visiting Creagh Castle, Creagh House, Doneraile Court, St Mary's Church and Springfort Hall, as well as meeting the locals who create such a warm and welcoming atmosphere that you instantly feel part of their community; however, the festival programme was full-to-bursting and ready to be launched!
Liberties Press books: The Boy In
The Gap, Paul Soye & New and Select-
ed Poems, Michael D Higgins

We arrived excited for the events planned for two of our authors - Michael D. Higgins (New and Selected Poems) and Paul Soye (The Boy In The Gap) - as well as for the rest of the programme which included events with Ulick O'Connor, Donncha O'Dulaing, Leanne O'Sullivan, Gabriel Fitzmaurice and Mary Leland. The first evening, complete with pipers and a horse and cart ride up to Creagh Castle, saw the festival being launched by Billy Keane. The presentation of the Canon Sheehan Literary Award for the Best Short Story was then awarded to Mary Sheehan and read by Billy Keane, while the Edmund Spenser Poetry Award was awarded to Laura McKenna and read by Gabriel Fitzmaurice. Afterward, Donncha O Dulaing kept us entertained with archive footage of Doneraile as down in the village the play 'I do not Like thee Dr Fell' was being performed by the Las'ra Drama Society. The elaborate evening ended (in the early hours of the next morning) in the local pub where festival performers and attendees shared poetry, songs and storytelling in the Live Mic hosted by Mattie Lennon. 
One of the many great poets from the
Live Mic night

This rich and varied evening was only a sign of what was to come over the rest of the weekend. As I returned 'home' to one of the most beautiful houses I've ever had the pleasure of staying in, I couldn't help but think that such a programme could not take place just anywhere, it had to be here in Doneraile, with its long and distinguished heritage of literature, the history that saturates the houses and landscapes, and the people with whom we'd just shared good conversation, laughter and the parting glass. 

There is so much to say and so many photographs to share I've decided to write a number of blog posts on the Doneraile Literary and Arts Festival so stay tuned! And if you were lucky enough to be at the festival this past weekend, do leave a comment and let us know your thoughts!

Gabriel Fitzmaurice and Michael D.
Higgins
Paul Soye reading from The Boy In
The Gap