Last Wednesday night I attended the launch of the 2010 Immrama Festival of Travel Writing, which just keeps on growing from strength to strength, even seemingly recession-proof. This year's line-up is as star-striking as previous years, and we are all excited and looking forward to the big weekend itself, just over a month away. The festival takes place in Lismore from 10th-13th June and there are some innovations that could become part and parcel of future festivals.
The format is quite similar to last year in that there are two main speakers on the Saturday, and this year they are the renowned Arctic explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes on Saturday afternoon, followed that evening by the intrepid voyager, Tim Severin. They are indeed a stellar pair, and promise to be captivating for their audience, and they embody the theme of this year's festival - Travels: Exploration and Endurance.
Another exciting innovation this year is the world premiere of a film on the life and times of Dervla Murphy, Lismore's very own world-renowned travel writer. That she allowed a film crew to shadow her for some time is indeed quite a coup, as she is media-shy and leads a quiet life in Lismore between her travelling. This is going to look at her life and interviews with Rachel, her daughter who lives in Italy will be included, among others.
Dervla follows in the tradition of the great women explorers of the Victorian and Edwardian era, of the Freya Stark and Mary Kingsley mould, where she heads into the great unknown and eschews modern means of transport as much as possible to enable her to see and engage with the local people and see the country in depth. This usually means by bicycle, though she has had adventures with mules and horses, and even buses and trucks, where the bike didn't make it or she had to abandon it through injury, as happened in Laos, when she injured her foot and had to go by bus to Luang Prabang. Hence the title One Foot in Laos. She met a number of our old friends and former colleagues, and it is lovely that we still have contact with the self-same friends thanks to the wonders of Facebook and email. Some progress you just have to love!
Jan Morris, who wrote for the Guardian and is a prolific historian and travel writer, will speak at a new venue, Fortwilliam House, outside Lismore. This is a private big house not normally open to the public so it's a rare opportunity to visit and admire its fabulous location near the River Blackwater close to Glencairn Cistercian Abbey.
Two new names for me, Pico Iyer and Damien Lewis will speak at the festival - Pico on the Friday night and Damien at the literary breakfast. This is one of the best-loved events at Immrama and the thought of getting out of the scratcher early on a Sunday to face the full Irish in Ballyrafter House Hotel at 8.30am doesn't seem to be a deterrent at all.
I feel I am getting to be quite a regular in Lismore Castle, between the Sotheby's Irish sales preview and the launch of the summer exhibition last Friday (not more of which anon as it just baffled and bewildered me to the point where I couldn't possibly blog about it, but I am sure it has merit for those into video installation art form. It just didn't float my boat, and a blacked out gallery devoted to looped videos of obscure subject matter with a recurrently minimalist theme just had me wondering what it was all about. It evidently brought out my inner philistine, much to the despair of all you art aficionados out there.
The launch was held in the Pugin Room which you will have seen on my Devonshire day posts here and there, as well as last year's post on the launch. It was attended by various dignitaries and officials, and was launched by Waterford's County Manager. There was a tension-mounting PowerPoint slideshow revealing slowly the various speakers and presenters coming to Immrama, with the unveiling of the keynote speakers left till last. As ever, there was a collective gasp of astonishment from the gathered audience as people who didn't know from Adam who was coming realised what a terrific treat was in store for the punters at Immrama 2010 in Lismore this June.
We all enjoyed cheese and wine or apple juice (the best ever made in Cappoquin and called Crinnaughton after the townland where the apples grow, it's an artisan local product and is not that widely available, but worth the search!). Some of us then repaired to Foley's on the Mall for further celebration of our good fortune at being involved in one of the best boutique festivals in Ireland - if the Irish Times calls it that then it's good enough for us!
Bookings have been flying in since the launch, just over a day ago, and it looks like some events will sell out fast. The national press has featured Immrama already, as in this article from today's Examiner. Watch this space in June for the posts on the festival itself, and if you're on Facebook, sign up to the Immrama fan page for live updates and news!
The Photos show the Launch - from the top:
- Slide of Keynote Speakers
- Jan and me
- Jane Jermyn (ceramic artist) and me
- Edward Lynch, Garrett Daly, the producer of Dervla's documentary from Mixed Bag Media, and Bernard Leddy, Mayor of Lismore & Immrama chairman
- Mary Houlihan (Immrama PRO) presenting launch
- Helen Leddy and me
- MC Edward
- Castle Courtyard (with WLRFM Beetle!)
- Presenters of children's workshop at Immrama Pippa Sweeney and Alan Murphy, with Jane Jermyn
- Peter Dowd, Immrama president