Friday, April 22, 2011

Immrama 2011 Launch - An Evening of Anticipation in Lismore Castle

Lismore Castle in evening shadows
Last Tuesday saw the launch of the Immrama 2011 - the 9th Lismore Festival of Travel Writing - in Lismore Castle's renowned Pugin Room. As in previous years, the launch is a much anticipated event as people wait to see what the lineup for this year will be. As ever it didn't disappoint and while the names may not be as familiar to everyone as in other years it still promises to be a great weekend. It has become a tradition for me to blog about the launch and the fundraising events like Devonshire Day and the Table Quiz, so I'll continue that with this short post and some photos.

If you click on the link to the Immrama blog on the website here,  you will see the entire programme on a page - and the revamped website hosted as usual by Déise Design (see, the Deise name - with or without the fada - keeps cropping up in Waterford!) from Dungarvan. There is no point in repeating everything that you can read from that blog; suffice to say that there is already a surge in bookings and there will be as good a following as in previous years - the brand alone inspires such loyalty that people book from year to year without even knowing the line-up.

Jan and me at the launch (thanks to David Clynch, Photographer)
Conor O'Clery, the peripatetic former Irish Times correspondent, is the keynote speaker on the Saturday afternoon, and he should be an entertaining and riveting speaker, with his 33 years of foreign correspondence and his books to draw on for inspiration. What I also like about this year's Immrama is the recognition of blogging in travel writing with the presence of Rolf Potts and a conversation forum on blogging with veteran friend of Immrama and former literary breakfast speaker Manchán Magan facilitating. He will include couchsurfing, a terrific phenomenon I wish had been there in my backpacking youth and which is embraced by one friend here in Lismore with great enthusiasm - go Jane! Social media in this era of Twitter and Facebook can't be ignored and it is good to elevate the oft-maligned world of blogging to give it some parity with the published hard-copy written word.

Ed Lynch, MC for the evening
Other speakers include Alex Von Tunzelmann and Sara Wheeler, Irish Poet Theo Dorgan, and Anthony Sattin and William Blacker, whose book inspired the theme title for Immrama 2011 - Along the Enchanted Way...Travellers Past and Present.Of course there's a nod to On Raglan Road, that wonderful Irish poem by Patrick Kavanagh turned hit ballad by Luke Kelly of The Dubliners, which includes the line Along the Enchanted Way.

Peter Dowd, Immrama President
A large part of the attraction is the venue of Lismore as a beautiful town with its own charms and this has been documented far and wide by previous Immrama visitors and speakers. This includes luminaries like the aforementioned  Manchán Magan, the eccentric Irish writer, eclectic traveller to far-flung parts and intrepid house-builder of an eco-dwelling extraordinaire in the Irish midlands which has earned him the soubriquet of an Irish Hermit by John Murray in a recent Radio One programme on people who chose to live outside society as we have come to know it! He's written glowingly on Lismore here in his Irish Times Travel Supplement - there's a whole archive of his articles but many of the older ones are subscription only (which is really stingy of the Times).

More internationally, Michael Shapiro, who visited Lismore last year for Immrama with his fiancée Jacqueline Yao, wrote a great piece on Lismore and Immrama that has a lovly romantic twist at the end! There's an audio link here to an interview he did recently for Arthur Frommer's Travel Show He's interviewed Dervla Murphy, our own Lismore travel writer of acclaim, and she has lent her illustrious name to Teen Travel Writing Award, a new venture for Immrama supported by the County Library. Fitting, as Dervla's Lismore roots began when her father arrived here to take up the County Librarian post a few months before she was born in 1931.

All in all we had a pleasant couple of hours in the Pugin Room of the castle. There was a nice crowd there, a mix of Immrama organisers and committee members, officials from the Co. Council who have seconded some staff to the festival, and the many friends and supporters of Immrama over the years, without whom the festival just wouldn't happen as their goodwill as well as financial sponsorship is crucial for the ongoing success of such a community venture. We are very proud here in Lismore of Immrama's commitment to maintaining its community core - long may it continue well into its second decade. As the Chairman of Immrama said at the launch - it would only work in Lismore - take it out of this location and it just wouldn't be the same.

Orla Russell, Mayor of Lismore
Ger Barron, Deputy County Mayor

Ray O'Dwyer County Manager

Margaret O'Sullivan, Immrama programmer

Bernard Leddy Immrama Chairman

Audience at Immrama Launch

Attentive Audience
I hope you enjoy the photos and get a sense of the launch atmosphere - it wasn't just all speeches, there was a lot of chatting and cheese and wine - and afterwards we repaired to Foley's on The Mall for a few scoops, as they say. It wasn't great to have such an event in the midweek with work the next day but I was very prudent, and was home not too long after midnight!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Ladies who Launch - At the Lismore Castle Arts Summer 2011 Exhibition

 Last Friday evening I went to Lismore Castle Arts to the
opening of the Summer Exhibition 2011 - Still Life is the name of the exhibition and it has paintings on the walls again - a far cry from last year's way too avant-garde video installations in a blacked-out gallery. I took some nice photos and met some friends there - like any gallery opening it was an eclectic and diverse group with a lot of quite plummy posh people from the art world who stood around knowingly stroking their beards/chins - while I wandered around looking like a lady who launches for a living!

I love the opening events at the castle as there is a good buzz around and plenty of people milling about genteelly. With the setting sun casting slanting shadows across the gardens the atmosphere was magical. I was here about a month earlier at Devonshire Day and it was amazing to see the change in the gardens in such a short time; the tulips and wallflowers were in full bloom and the daffodils were starting to straggle. The blossom on the trees was at various stages of bloom, with some early cherry trees already past their prime and shedding.

The gallery housed the majority of the works on display and after the glass of wine and the wander around, I wallked through the gardens to the only outdoor exhibit - the Monkey Tower, which had a makeover from 2009 Turner Prizewinner Richard Wright that was delightfully quirky. The walls of this circular tower at the corner of the Lower Gardens were stamped with a series of symmetrical triangles on a white background, and it was very pop-arty with a trompe l'oeil effect incorporating the window recesses and the doorframe. That was one of my favourite pieces. Another one that I liked was the video installation of the robot reflecting the room on a continuous 20 minute loop, called Made in 'Eaven, 2004, by Mark Leckey. Weird but pretty cool, like a Philip Starck kitchen gadget - it's been in the Tate and he was the Turner Prizewinner in 2008

There were a lot of floral paintings by Gillian Carnegie, you can see the photos above. The photos of the Open Book series by Anne Collier were nice, if a bit I-could-have-done-that-myself -ish! But that's modern art for you - and at least it was aesthetically pleasing, even if I didn't quite get it - is it art or photography as art? Oh dear, I'm just such a philistine when it comes to the whole art thing.

This year I missed my favourite exhibition of the year in the Castle, the Sotheby's Irish Sale Preview - it was on in early March and I didn't check the dates, expecting it to be in April as in other years. A missed blog opportunity as well as a wander through history. I'll not be so remiss next year!

Another exhibit were three plasticised polystyrene bomber jackets by Seth Price - one of them was slightly in meltdown, and they didn't really do it for me as they were just vacuum packed reliefs of bomber jackets in the plastic. Probably technically great but art? I dunno!

Aspens in Flagstaff made an impact from a distance - it was clever as they were all pictures of the same image of aspen trees - a photo in a large frame - all placed on the wall to make one big exhibit. Sherrie Levine was the artist, and again you could say I-could-have-done-that. And probably add - why-didn't-I? and that would be because I'm not an artist and wouldn't have thought of it!

There is a video installation in another venue in Lismore, St. Carthage's Hall, which has served as a satellite gallery for the Castle Arts last year as well. I haven't yet been, so that will be for another weekend. I enjoyed the stroll through the lovely gardens, and we are very lucky in Lismore to have easy access to the beautiful castle and its gardens, and the boundaries between the aristocracy and the locals have become very blurred, in that the castle incumbent, Lord William Burlington, is a very pleasant chap who doesn't put on any airs and graces and is as friendly and chatty as the next person, as is his wife Laura. They have two little kids, and they spend a lot of time in Lismore, and our son has played cricket with Lismore over in Chatsworth, the main gaff of the Devonshires.

I haven't yet captioned the photos - just have a look and see whether you can match them up from the descriptions I've given. Most are pretty self-explanatory.

Next week I'll be back (like Arnie) for the launch of Immrama 2011 in the Pugin Room and will report on that illustrious event in Dispatches from the Deise. Watch this space!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A Wonderful Event - Livia, our new Granddaughter is born!

Livia's first car journey
There's been a lot happening in the past fortnight and I am only now catching up on sharing the good news. Before I start to sound like a tent revivalist preaching to the converted - this isn't a polemic or a sermon! On March 26th our beautiful second granddaughter, Livia Lena Martina, was born to Jany and Shayne in Cork University Maternity Hospital, where Sofia, her big sister, was born over a year ago. I had planned a week's leave from work to be on hand to babysit Sofia, so the timing was perfect as Jany went into labour on first day of my holidays - broken waters, and off to the hospital in the middle of the night. I headed of to Cork where Jany was already admitted to CUMH.

The first photo of Livia in CUMH

The next day was the waiting game, as Jany started regular contractions that evening and little Livia was born at 11:19p.m., weighing in at 8lbs 10ozs. or for the metric among you 3.9kg. I was delighted and relived when the call from Shayne came through and I spent half the night on the phone with the family, and went to see Jany the next afternoon. Unfortunately Livia had some fluid on her lungs and rapid breathing at delivery so she went to the Neonatal Unit for observation, and was given antibiotics. She was kept there for longer than expected at first, as she had a raised blood test that could have indicated infection, even though she was fine in every way. The end result was none of the family except Shayne and Jany saw her until she was six days old, as only parents were allowed into the neonatal unit. It was really weird watching the popular TV series From Here to Maternity which looks at birth stories from CUMH, from the human interest perspective, when your own grandchild is in there.
Livia home at last

She is a real beauty with a head of hair exceeding Sofia's and she is settling into life in Cork with her big sister and her doting parents! I came home after 5 days in Cork once Jany got home on Wednesday, and then I went back to bring her home on Friday.

On Saturday her granddad Jan and me went to Tralee for the funeral of a cousin, Tom, who lived to the ripe old age of 97, and on the way home we called to see the family in Cork.

Sunday was Shayne's birthday so we spent the afternoon and evening in Cork celebrating, and I baked a nice fruity cake. Graphic Design son Martin designed the birth cards which are like a film flyer - I love it! What do you think? It's a very Dutch institution, personalised birth announcement cards, and it is catching on here more and more.

Livia in Neonatal Unit CUMH

Coffee on the terrace in CUMH - waiting day!
Meeting Granddad/Opa
Proud Granny with Livia
Proud dad feeding Livia!
The other big event is that Shayne got a new job, and will start on Monday, in a customer services centre in Cork, and our youngest son William also starts there next week. It is great that they have jobs after intermittent work, and Shayne's been doing a back-to-education course for the past six months. It's very timely now as he finishes the course just as he starts the new job

Jany with her little beauty!
With middle son Martin in Dublin working in the Westbury Hotel for the past month or so, they are all gainfully employed, albeit not in their field. They're pretty well over-qualified for the work they're doing now but in this recession it's great to have a job, and selfishly I am glad they'll be in the country and not have to emigrate just yet. As you need savings to go to Australia or Canada or N. Zealand, this will be a stepping stone to that end if they so decide. When I was their ages I had been and gone and come back from Bangladesh, so I can't really come over all Irish Mammy on them and guilt-trip them into staying here just to keep me happy!

Sofia the Jaffa Cake Kid!
Sofia playing Incy Wincy Spider!

Birth Announcement Card!
I am back at work this week, and enjoying the lovely spring weather - tomorrow the forecast is for 21C - high summer temps - so if this is global warming it's hard to complain! I love that we had a BBQ this evening and could sit out till nearly 9p.m. with the stretch in the evenings since the clocks went forward last Saturday week - just after Livia's birth. There was a great piece in the Irish Times  recently which I'll link - Ireland in 100 Euphemisms - and certainly you could add "There's a great stretch in the evenings" to that list if it's not in there already!

Fruity Birthday Cake
I'll post a few photos of Livia and Sofia - and random stuff - and more posts will keep you updated on Livia's progress through the first year, as with Sofia. We are so happy that she is well and healthy and good luck to them all in their new journey!