IT MAY have been a miserable raiany evening, but that did nothing to deter or dampen the spirits of the many Cúirt enthusiasts who thronged the House Hotel on Tuesday evening for the programme launch of this year’s festival.
The rainy weather, and the sight of the nearby Corrib in full spate, even served to underline this year’s festival motto ‘All water has perfect memory and is forever trying to get back to where it was’. The programme for the 2016 Cúírt International Festival of Literature was officially launched by Galway County Arts Officer Marilyn Gaughan who hailed it as a “truly intimate, international festival, with a loyal and dedicated audience” and noted that “Cúirt, like water, has kept flowing to get where it has got today”.
This year Cúirt expands to eight days and the festival theme is memory. Speaking on this, festival director Dani Gill said “Ever since I started with Cúirt I always wanted to do memory as a theme, it’s really interesting, it fascinates writers and cuts across all genres. I chose memory because I liked the diversity. I was keen for the theme to be strong yet subtle in the programme. I’ve learned it wouldn’t be right to shoehorn authors into a specific theme. If the theme is strong it will connect to different people. I studied memory in geography, in the human body, along separate lines of enquiry, to come up with things that were interesting about memory, personal memory, how we remember, what we remember and then I linked it to things I was finding in books that I was reading or that I had already read or new things I’d come across.”
Gill went on to outline how the theme resonates with some of the many brilliant writers who are coming to the festival. “In Petina Gappah’s powerful novel The Book of Memory, memory is being used to try and exonerate a woman from a crime she didn’t commit. In Ireland over the last year we’ve talked a lot about our history, and I’d like to give a special thank you to Rita Ann Higgins for giving us the poem ‘Women of 1916’ which is on the back cover of the programme.
"At the festival she’ll be reading for the first time from her new collection for Bloodaxe, Tongulish. Landscape was part of my area of research in geography and the human body in muscle memory and tissue. Kevin Barry’s Beatlebone really brought this theme to life with its unique view of the west of Ireland and the hauntedness and attractiveness of the wilderness.
"I’m delighted to have Tobias Wolff, I’ve wanted him for years, he’s the godfather of US fiction with a phenomenal body of work and personally interested in the memory theme. Canadian author Miriam Toews has been compared to Alice Monro and Margaret Atwood, she’ll be reading from her novel All My Puny Sorrows.”
Leafing through the pages of the programme, which was beautifully designed by Ray Glasheen, reveals a festival choc-a-bloc with must-see events across a dizzying range of genres; readings, launches, plays, songs, talks, labs, masterclasses all featuring a truly stellar array of writing talent from both Ireland and overseas.
Marilyn Gaughan declared this to be “the best Cúirt yet” and it’s hard to disagree with her. As Dani Gill said in her own closing words; “The nature of memory brings us on a journey, I wish you all well on your Cúirt journey this year".