Tonight, Tuesday 29 April saw the launch of the 2008 Dublin Writers Festival in Dublin's Merrion Hotel.
Having been invited by the lovely Léan Ní Chléirigh who is recruiting volunteers for the festival, I popped along to have a look.
Officially launched by Festival Director Jack Gilligan, the festival - running from June 11 to 15 2008 - promises to be an absolute feast for literary fans.
Cllr Paddy Bourke, Lord Mayor of Dublin, gave a great speech outlining the importance of the festival to the city.
"Over recent years Dublin has become a vibrant city in terms of the arts. Our many festivals, events, theatre, music performances and exhibitions have all played their part in firmly placing us among Europe's top cultural cities.Notice the lack of bloggers mentioned. Next year Twenty, next year. ;-)
With our rich literary tradition it is no wonder that writers and writing are very much at the core of this cultural awakening.
I am delighted to say that the great literary tradition is still carried on, with distinction, by our contemporary poets, novelists and playwrights. They continue to win international acclaim and to reinforce Dublin's reputation as a literary city."
"Dublin's Writers Festival celebrates contemporary writers from around the world, providing opportunities for interaction with their Irish counterparts and offering a fascinating range of literary experiences for audiences.
A very welcome addition to recent programmes has been the series of topical debates reflecting local and global concerns. This year's impressive programme has readings and discussions which will, I am sure, be the subject of lively exchange."
The team behind the festival, including the afore mentioned Jack Gilligan and Programme Director Liam Browne have done an impressive job at gathering together writers for what looks like an eclectic mix of events and talks.
I'm sure the 2008 programme will be on their website soon, but in the meantime, some of the highlights as suggested by Liam Browne:
Wednesday 11 June - 8 pm - Project Arts Theatre - J.P. Donleavy
"When I'm dead, I hope it may be said: his sins were scarlet, but his books were read"Tickets are €10.00 and €8.00 and available at +353 (0)1 881 9613.
Multi-million selling author. Famed recluse. Contemporary cohort of Johnny Depp. Author, playwright, artist, farmer and all-round Irish icon, J.P. Donleavy is a one-man literary cult surrounded by a tantalising mythology.
This special retrospective looks back on a remarkable career from Dublin's post-war creative Bohemia to fevered speculation of an imminent Ginger Man screen adaptation care of Johnny Depp and Laurence Dunmore.
Thursday 12 June - 8pm - Project Arts Theatre - Irish Values Debate.
Now this promises to be something interesting. Economist David McWilliams, Senator Ivana Bacik, historian Roy Foster and documentary maker Alan Gilsenan take on the topic of post Celtic Tiger Ireland.
"Since the Celtic Tiger first roared back in the early 1990s, Ireland's economic upturn has transformed the lives of many. But has this new found prosperity also changed our core values? And if so, what does this say about us as a society?Tickets are €10.00 and €8.00 and available at +353 (0)1 881 9613.
Was the Ireland of old a purer, simpler and therefore kinder society, or is this simply the worst kind of nostalgia?"
Friday 13 June - 6pm - MacNeill Theatre TCD - Tom Stoppard
(Photo: Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times)
"A Stoppard play is a lightshow of shimmering language, multi-tiered ideas, intricate wit and outlandish characterisation" Daily Telegraph
Given that Tom Stoppard wrote Shakespeare in Love is almost enough for me. Almost. Add to the fact then that he's responsible for Spielberg's Empire of the Sun, Gilliam's Brazil and Broadway's Rosencrantz and Guildernstern are Dead and I'm there.
"Sir Tom Stoppard is one of the world's most celebrated and influential playwrights, his distinctive oeuvre characterised by big ideas, coruscating word play and passionate humanism.It's likely to be one of THE events of the festival. Tickets are €10/€8 and available at +353 (0)1 881 9613.
Describing himself as a timid libertarian, Stoppard is in fact a tireless campaigner for civil liberties and human rights. He is an ardent champion of freedom of expression."
Saturday 14 June - 11am - Morrison Hotel - Kathy Lette
Image by Ben Lister taken from here.
In a first for the festival - and a first visit for herself to Dublin apparently, Kathy Lette, author of books including Dead Sexy, Foetal Attraction, Girls' Night Out and Nip 'N' Tuck is hosting a Festival Brunch on Saturday 14 June in the Morrison Hotel at 11am (admission €14)
"Join Kathy for coffee, croissants and a side order of breezy Aussie charm as the best selling author and playwright invites you to this year's high fibre, calorie controlled (yeah right!) festival Brunch.Saturday 14 June - Project Arts Centre - 6pm - Esther Freud and Linn Ullman
For the latest slice of fast-talking, pun-laden modern angst from the queen of zeitgest comedy, please tuck in!"
This will be another festival first and I believe the first time these two famous writers (and daughters of famous people) have met.
Esther Freud, daughter of painter Lucian and great-granddaughter of Sigmund Freud and Linn Ullman, daughter of Ingmar Bergmann and Liv Ullmann.
Given the pedigree it's hardly surprising that family dynamics tend to be rarely far from the surface of their latest novels, Freud's Love Falls and Ullman's A Blessed Child.
"Two consummate chroniclers of the human condition. One very special encounter."Sunday 15 June - Gate Theatre - 5pm - David Grossman
I read Death as a Way of Life a while ago and it's an enthralling read. Now the author, Israeli novelist, essayist and political commentator David Grossman is coming to Ireland to talk about the continuing saga and conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians.
"This exclusive Dublin visit is a rare opportunity to explore the work of a major contemporary voice on the global literary scene."Sunday 15 June - Gate Theatre - 8pm - Ian Rankin in conversation with Colin Bateman
Apparently Ian Rankin requested this conversation with Colin Bateman for the festival. Rankin, best selling crime writer and creator of one of my favourite characters John Rebus is in conversation with the author of Divorcing Jack, Belfast Confidential and BBC1 series Murphy's Law.
This promises to be interesting. Very, very interesting.
Other events and names worth looking at include Marian Keyes, John Boyne (Boy in the Striped Pyjamas) in conversation with Lloyd Jones about their new books, a wonderful poetry talk with Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin and Harry Clifton, Sebastian Barry, Jonathan Coe, Anne Enright, Frank McGuinness... phew, what a list!
What's always great about these festivals for me is the effort and enthusiasm that goes into them from the organisers, the volunteers and the participants. It's something Dublin should be proud of.
Even the busy Lord Mayor, off to another engagement and who couldn't get a canapé, had time to lend his support... and stop for a photo:
Max Crisfield (whose words I stole for this post) and Wesley Doherty, a student with Ballyfermot College of Higher Education have done a great job with the programme in conjunction with the Black Mountain Design Company.
Update: The Dublin Writers Festival website has a report on last night as well with more about the launch. Check it out!
The Administration office can be contacted on +353 (0)1 222 7850 and box office for the Project Arts Theatre, MacNeill Theatre, Morrison Hotel, FilmBase, Peacock Theatre and Irish Writers' Centre is at +353 (0)1 881 9613. The Gate Theatre is at +353 (0)1 874 4045.
Finally, if you'd like to get involved by volunteering, please contact the lovely Léan at email@example.com. She's very nice altogether.
Dublin Writers Festival 2008 website can be found here: http://www.dublinwritersfestival.com