Dublin Literature Festivals: This Town Ain’t Big Enough For…. Any Of Them

Dublin Literature Festivals: This Town Ain't Big Enough For... Any Of Them

Literary Ireland. If Dublin’s the shoulders, who’s the arse?

Festivals are fabulous. In Ireland, we have 143 of them every week.

Some of them are small, such as the little-known Toenail Clipping Festival, which takes place in a short field in Leitrim on the first Friday of February at 11 o’clock.

Some are larger, such as the annual feast of St. Patrick, which has now managed to stretch to 2 days either side of the 17th of March each year, kick-starts the tourist season, tells the country to wake the feck up, and causes the island of Ireland to sink just a little into the sea as 16 million tourists arrive to paint odd things on their faces and drink more than the rest of the country does in a year.

Suffice to say there are so many festivals, new and long-established, that some of them are struggling to stand out amongst the crowd.

Book Wars

There are now 5  sizeable literary festivals in Dublin alone, all just a bit too similar and vying for space.

Dublin Literature Festivals: This Town Ain't Big Enough For... Any Of Them

The Dublin Writers Festival (DWF), which in 2014 celebrated its 16th year, must have been pretty hacked off at the Dublin Book Festival (DBF) coming along in 2005, surely trying to steal its thunder.

God only knows what either of them thought of the Mountains To Sea (MTS) book festival, which founded itself in 2009 in Dun Laoghaire, a southern administrative sub-division of County Dublin which often behaves like it would like independence.

And then came the Dalkey Book Festival, which although technically in the same administrative district as Mountains To Sea, decided it needed its own book festival in 2010, seemingly because at least 2 writers (and Bono) were living in its picturesque environs.

[Sadly, Dalkey’s greatest ever literary resident, the late great Maeve Binchy, is no longer with us. I would have no objections to an entire literary festival for Maeve’s body of work alone. People could eat in a pop-up Quentins, go to ‘50s and ‘60s-themed parties and take tours into the city centre on buses, joyfully transcribing the conversations of the charmingly ordinary folks around them. Now that would be a book festival worth going to.]

By 2012, it was obvious that Dublin didn’t have enough book festivals, so the Red Line Book Festival was set up by South Dublin County Libraries, in several different places so that they couldn’t be accused of being locationist (unless you live on the Northside).

By 2014, it must have been ugly. Picture the scene.

Embed from Getty Images

Dublin. An alleyway. Dusk. Rival gangs are patrolling the streets, looking for punters.

Dublin Book Festival: Get out of my way!

Dublin Writers Festival: No, you back off! You wouldn’t be here at all if not for us. We were here first.

DBF: That’s disingenuous.

DWF: Ooh! Big word. Did you look it up in a book? We write them, you know.

DBF: Okay, then: shitebucket. How’s that for a big word?

DWF: Ssssh! It’s Mountains To Sea!

Mountains To Sea: Like, hellllooooo.

DWF: Oh, for feck’s sake.

MTS: I’ve got some, like, reallllly cooooool stuff this year; it’s like, amahaaaayzing.

DBF [to DWF]: Do you want to deck him, or will I?

Dalkey: Hi Guys! OMG, soooo good to see you. Did you hear who we got this year?

DBF: No, of course we didn’t. Nobody ever does.

DWF: Hey – who’s this coming now? He’s all over the place.

Red Line: Howzitgoin’.

DBF: Ah here, you’re just taking the piss.

DWF: Screw you guys. I’m off to change my name. I’m going global, and you lot can all shag off.

MTS [to Dalkey]: Can he do that?

Dalkey: How should I know? I don’t even know what I’m doing.


With so many players on such a teeny tiny pitch, it became necessary to change the game. Which is exactly what two of them did.

So, What’s The Scene in 2015?

Mountains to Sea brought itself forward from September to March – nothing like being the first to kick-start the season. Getting in right after Paddy’s Day is a gutsy move.

But not half as gutsy as May’s Dublin Writer’s Festival, which has only gone and changed its name to the International Literature Festival Dublin (ILF Dublin, if you please). Just like the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival before it (JDIFF, it insists), it must believe that the solution to overpopulation is emigration: or at least in this case, staying where you are, but pretending you’re abroad.

And yet, there must still be room for an International Book Festival of Dublin and the Dublin International Literary Festival of Um, Literature. Does this remind anyone else of the Judean People’s Front? No? The People’s Front Of Judea, then?

Dublin Literature Festivals: This Town Ain't Big Enough For... Any Of Them

Of course we, as a population of festival-goers, ticket-buyers, course bookers and merchandise collectors, could fight back by arranging a big Dublin Festival of NOTHING.

This will be an opportunity for Irish people to go nowhere while nothing is happening, nothing is celebrated, and nobody cares. Mind you, if it proves so popular that a rival Dublin Nihilist’s Festival arrives on the scene, there’s going to be a LOT of negative energy.

What’s going on in your neck of the woods?

  40 comments for “Dublin Literature Festivals: This Town Ain’t Big Enough For…. Any Of Them

  1. March 25, 2015 at 10:20 am

    The most exciting thing is that my workshop, The Burlington Writers Workshop, is moving downtown to Church St, the pedestrian mall and the holy grail of all locations here. Of course, it’s third floor walk-up with funky stairs, but that’s part of the charm!


    • March 25, 2015 at 10:54 am

      Well, if you’re stuck… I think we have a couple spare lying around. Or you could always visit Dublin!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. March 25, 2015 at 10:51 am

    Shouldn’t there be a Christmas Dublin Book Festival too? It see,s an awfully ,long break between September and March.


  3. March 25, 2015 at 11:42 am

    What you’ve done wrong here, is that you’re having too many festivals.
    You’re welcome.
    What you ought to do instead, is have pointless dedicated days or weeks to stuff; like we do. For example, today is National Garlic Pickles and Cole Slaw Day. Unfortunately, it falls just before the National Day of the Reuben. Unfortunate timing, but the deli’s make out like bandits; should anyone at all know that it’s National Garlic Pickles and Cole Slaw Day, which they probably don’t.
    Our system works flawlessly.

    Liked by 2 people

    • March 25, 2015 at 2:26 pm

      Thanks for that, Naptime. I’ve arranged a call with our President for you to give the lowdown. If you’ll just do up a Powerpoint presentation, we can have you co-opted into a lucrative Board position within a week. Although you’ll have to mind your tongue; they’re not used to such plain speaking. Okay?

      Liked by 1 person

      • March 25, 2015 at 3:52 pm

        You keep the President on speed dial? Go Tara.


        • March 25, 2015 at 4:21 pm

          Of course not. He lives at the bottom of my garden. It’s just easier that way.


          • March 25, 2015 at 4:33 pm

            I see. Well. You let your president know that I’ll have to pass on your very kind offer, citing his life as a garden gnome.


            • March 25, 2015 at 4:44 pm

              Hahahaha!! This is where I have to ask you if you’ve ever actually seen a picture of him…


          • March 25, 2015 at 5:28 pm

            He does certainly bear a resemblance, tell me, was he elected on the platform “They’ll never get me Lucky Charms!”


            • March 25, 2015 at 7:35 pm

              Eh, no, because that is purely an American construct, which when overheard on this side of the Atlantic, invariably makes us bleed from our ears. Sad but true.

              Liked by 1 person

              • March 26, 2015 at 6:07 pm

                Wait, then if that’s an American construct, what about all those pots of gold at the end of your Irish rainbows? Are those fake too? Has my whole life been a lie?
                Is nothing magically delicious?

                Liked by 1 person

  4. March 25, 2015 at 12:02 pm

    The best part is trying to find out what’s going on at writing festivals-the websites are generally cluttered,difficult to navigate and the info everyone actually wants, a simple breakdown of who’s speaking and when, goes up a day or two before the festival with little or no apparent planning as to what talks/workshops should be grouped together to make it more accommodating (if I’m writing a crime novel I’d rather there wasn’t an hour long talk relating to this on a Tuesday and Friday, put them all on the same day, people!)Plus finding the website in the first place?Sure why would you want to do that?Thanks Tara, the rants I get to expunge here are always beyond cathartic …

    Liked by 2 people

    • March 25, 2015 at 2:28 pm

      And do you ever find that once you’ve navigated the unnavigable website, the best lectures and interviews are already mysteriously sold out to bizarrely well-connected people in the industry? No? Just me, then. I must remember to buy some new friends. I hear I can get another 10,000 Twitter followers for $29, for starters.

      Liked by 2 people

      • March 25, 2015 at 9:13 pm

        Not just you, everything I wanted to see at the, em, Mountain to Sea festival (once again, I’m a sheep, bah;)) was sold out, just as it was put up!Twenty nine dollars is some bargain alright 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  5. March 25, 2015 at 12:10 pm

    Any post quoting from Life of Brian is an instant classic. Well done, you! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  6. March 25, 2015 at 5:06 pm

    The Futch Mucking Festival is a major part of the Shropshire year. Not that it involves the reading of many books, of course. But never mind an unpopulated backwater like Dublin; allow me to interest you in this one, to be run on 23rd April 2015. I’ll be there, reading from my books and offering them AT A DISCOUNT to attract meanies. What’s more, it takes place IN A PUB. If that doesn’t attract the Irish contingent, I don’t know what will. http://hulitfest.com/ Get your arses over there — you know you want to.

    Liked by 1 person

    • March 25, 2015 at 7:27 pm

      Although both those festivals sound fascinating, John, I’m afraid I’m leaning towards the first one, if only to ring people and tell them where I am after a few dozen bottles of wine.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. March 25, 2015 at 5:41 pm

    Hilarious. Lots of argying and bargying there. Love your idea of the Maeve Binchy Festival – I’m there!

    Liked by 1 person

    • March 25, 2015 at 7:28 pm

      Do you know, Derbhile, as I was writing that it stopped feeling like messing and started to feel more like “how soon can they get this off the ground”? I wish!

      Liked by 2 people

  8. March 25, 2015 at 6:12 pm

    Thanks for making me laugh out loud Tara – I think I may need to come back to Dublin and visit one of these (are you sure you can’t organise a Maeve’s Lilac Bus Festival?) 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • March 25, 2015 at 7:31 pm

      I really wish someone would, Jan! I know I’d go. There’s an annual Father Ted festival in Ireland which does brilliantly, so why not MaeveFest?

      Liked by 1 person

  9. March 25, 2015 at 8:28 pm

    LOVE. laugh out loud and you are DEFO onto something with MaeveFest. I’d help you if you want to get serious about it! Poor Jimmy though. ha. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • March 25, 2015 at 8:56 pm

      I wish someone would do it, Orla. It isn’t going to be me, but the world will thank me for that in the end! You never know. If someone’s trying to differentiate themselves they could run with it.


  10. March 25, 2015 at 8:51 pm

    I couldn’t possibly comment…!

    Liked by 1 person

    • March 25, 2015 at 8:56 pm

      You’re dead right, Susan. I possibly shouldn’t have either!


  11. March 27, 2015 at 7:50 am

    Why I knew nothing of this when I lived in Dublin… though that was – gasp – ten yers ago.

    Are you going to any, Tara? Must be such fun.
    Any of them happening the second week of September? I will probbaly be in Dublin at that time 🙂


    • March 27, 2015 at 5:45 pm

      I generally get to a good few gigs the ones in the city centre, Sarah, as they’re doable with the day job. Unfortunately the necessity of making my living rules out anything more adventurous.

      And doubly unfortunate is that MTS changed from Sept to May- now there’s nothing from then to November. You’ll just have to come back in May some year for ILF, altho the DBF in Nov is really great too… OMG, acronym overload :/


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