Gort literature festival forges ahead

Conor Montague.

Conor Montague.

THE FORGE at Gort Literary Festival begins on Friday March 29 with a reception in the Gallery Café, Gort, at 5.30pm to which all are welcome.

This year’s lively line-up features Dublin-based poet and playwright Gerry McDonnell; poet Nessa O’Mahoney; The Clare Three-Leggéd Stool Poets’ Group; Welsh author Chris Keil; a talk on George Moore courtesy of Coole Park; poets Knute Skinner and Mary Ellen Fean; plus writer Jackie Queally, who will explore the interactions of space and natural water sources, with violinist Peter Aranos in an event that combines poetry, film and music.

The lecture on George Moore, which takes place on Saturday March 30 at 2pm, in Coole Park is given by Conor Montague of NUI Galway who co-edited the recent volume, George Moore; Dublin, Paris, Hollywood. Both the book and the lecture signal the revival of interest in Moore’s life and work following the success of the Glenn Close film, Albert Nobbs which was based on one of Moore’s stories.

Saturday afternoon also sees a flurry of poetry readings. Knute Skinner and Gerry McDonnell read together at Sullivan’s Royal Hotel at 3pm while Nessa O’Mahony and Mary Ellen Fean share the stage at the same venue at 5pm. Meanwhile, at 4pm, O’Grady’s Bar & Restaurant hosts the Clare Three Leggéd Stool Poets’ Group.

Another highlight of the festival is the visit of critically acclaimed Welsh writer Chris Keil, whose latest novel is Flirting At The Funeral. Kiel has worked as a sheepfarmer, journalist, tour guide, and academic, and has written three novels to date. His books have been much praised with The Guardian declaring that “Kiel’s writing, which is limpid and often arrestingly vivid, has a charged quality that conveys the mysteries pulsing behind the everyday surfaces of things”.

Flirting at the Funeral is a story about love, money, and lost opportunities, ranging across Europe against a background of financial crisis, terrorism, and the power of the super-rich. The novel reads with the pace and tension of a thriller while addressing urgent contemporary issues as the global economy melts down. Kiel will read from his novel at Sullivan’s Royal Hotel, at 6pm on Saturday March 30.

At 8pm at the same venue, Jackie Queally and Peter Aranos will take to the stage with Water and Place which is sure to be an absorbing event. Queally is the founder of Celtic Trails which offers personalised tours of ancient sacred sites throughout Scotland and Ireland. She has also written extensively on ley lines and the patterns of ‘sacred geometry’ in the landscape.

Water and Place includes short films on water and sacred locations of the Burren and south Galway as Queally and violinist/composer Aranos together provide a cultural interpretation of some of the area’s hidden nature spots.

This is the seventh year that the Forge at Gort has taken place and it arrives in the face of considerable financial adversity.

“We have had to fight against Arts Council cuts this year,” said Fred Johnston, director of the Western Writers' Centre Galway and organiser of the festival. “Our grant for the festival was cut by two-thirds, to €1,000, which gave us the dubious honour of being in receipt of the smallest grant under the events and festivals scheme to be awarded to any organisation in Ireland. There is no logical explanation for it, as the Forge at Gort festival had consistently being growing its audience numbers.”

While disappointed at the cut in Arts Festival sponsorship, Johnston is keen to acknowledge the support the festival receives from many quarters.

“We would like to thank our supporters and sponsors Poetry Ireland, Sen Lorraine Higgins, Scéal Eile Bookshop in Ennis, Patrick Hornig, Phil Mason, Sullivan’s Royal Hotel and everyone else who wished us well,” he said.

It may have been operating on a shoestring budget but the Forge at Gort has still pulled together a fine programme of events and the readings also represent great value for punters with most admission fees at €4/2. So next weekend is very much a case of ‘get thee to Gort’.



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