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!

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