Fishing out West – The Fish Prize and West Cork Literary Festival

If you are anywhere near Cork in the first half of July, try to get yourself over to Bantry for the West Cork Literary Festival taking place from 6-12 July 2008. Last year I was invited to read my story ‘Dancing on Canvey’ at the festival. I found it very open and welcoming, and the town itself is a gift of a location. There were plenty locals among the crowd, especially at the free events in the library. I like events like that — often the sheer cost of entry at literary events can be excluding.

I arrived the night before and went straight to a reading in a church at which Bernard MacLaverty was telling journalist Brenda Power how his family used to eat sandwiches filled with segments of orange. I am a sucker for a Belfast accent and listening to Bernard made me want to rush out and buy his book of short stories, Matters of Life and Death. The next day I grabbed a quick coffee in Organico before my own reading in the local Bantry bookshop. It was early in the day so I kind of thought there’d be no one there, but no. A good crowd, lots of questions and debate. Brenda Power and even Bernard himself was there (sat on the floor at the back as all the chairs were gone). I felt really pleased they’d made it along, and had a good feeling about being there. I don’t know, just being part of something I guess.

Later I went to as many other events as I could fit in, many of them in Bantry library. And in the evening there was the Fish Prize ceremony. My story won first place in the Historical Novel Society / Fish Prize ‘Short Histories II’. Judges also placed it second in the Fish International Short Story Prize. It was really nice to meet other writers who’d won prizes: Vanessa Gebbie, Carys Davies and Kathleen, and several from further off (a few from America). 

Among the authors taking part at this year’s festival: ColumMcCann, Dervla Murphy, Kevin Barry, David Mitchell. Win a season ticket to the 2008 festival!


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