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A festival that Echoes Maeve Binchy’s passions and concerns

The beloved author believed shared experiences fostered communities – the theme of next month’s Dalkey festival. “Success is not like a cake that needs to be divided,” Maeve Binchy told an interviewer who asked about her sense of pride in other Irish writers’ achievements. “It’s more like a heap of stones – a cairn. If someone is successful, they add a stone to the cairn. It gets very high and can be seen from all over the world.” That 2007 comment is one I’ve thought about often since last January, when Echoes director Margaret Dunne and I first discussed possible themes for this year’s festival. I hadn’t been involved in programming before, though I’ve spoken at festivals since my first book What Becomes Of Us was published. My first outing as a speaker was at the Belfast Book Festival in 2015, and as I heard myself try to answer Marie Louise Muir’s questions with something approaching coherence, I realised that until then I hadn’t had to so clearly articulate the reasons why I wrote What Becomes Of Us. (And, in a note-to-self moment, I also realised that undergoing such a carefully-constructed interrogation before starting to write would be really helpful.) Often, because of the time lag between writing and publication, an author who is discussing a particular book at an event has already moved onto something completely different, absorbed in an idea as yet unspoken to the world: an entirely different set of characters may have taken up residence, commanding the inner stage yet swearing their creator to silence. A book finds a different home in the unique imagination of each and every reader, yet is a fixed thing for its author; completed and concluded. Having to discuss it in public gives authors a chance to revisit its intentions and ideas. There is something curious and exciting about the conversations and connections that occur at literary festivals that adds to Maeve Binchy’s “heap of stones”: each interaction contributes, and each contribution is different. I was in the audience at the inaugural Echoes festival in 2017, and participated the following year, so when Margaret Dunne – director of Dalkey Castle & Heritage Centre, the popular living history tour in the medieval castle in the heart of Dalkey – suggested I get involved in programming this year, the territory was familiar. As the only literary festival with Maeve Binchy at its heart, Echoes (October 4th-6th) attracts an ever-growing audience – in addition to the enthusiastic local crowd, visitors come from the US, Sweden and the UK. Each year, Echoes takes a contemporary theme pertinent to Binchy’s work and uses it as the springboard for an exploration of an aspect of contemporary writing and experience: in 2017, how Binchy’s writing was a social chronicle of late 20th-century Ireland, a recorder of lived experience; and last year Echoes looked at feminism and gender stereotyping in contemporary fiction, with the well-known description of her as “a quiet feminist” as its jumping-off point. Binchy believed that shared experiences created and fostered communities, and from the adventures of Irish writers abroad to our collective identity as an island nation, and from real life as reflected in fiction to today’s activism, this year Echoes considers and celebrates community in contemporary writing in Ireland. A full day of discussion, readings and interviews on Saturday, October 5th is bookended by At Home in The World, Olivia O’Leary’s personal reflection on Maeve’s life, journalism and fiction at 9.30am, and Maeve Binchy at Home in Ireland with Róisín Ingle at 4.45pm. Cathy Kelly, Chris Binchy and Jo Spain, in conversation with Niall MacMonagle, discuss whether contemporary Irish writing reflects the diverse reality of life in Ireland today; Carlo Gébler, Senator Lynn Ruane, Ibrahim Halawa and Martin Doyle explore how writing is giving a voice to previously unheard or little-heard communities, and how fiction, nonfiction and memoir are increasingly being used for advocacy and to drive social and political change; Hazel Gaynor, Andrea Carter and travel writer Fionn Davenport debate whether living on a small island affects one’s sense of community; and Caroline Erskine talks to Madeleine Keane, Christine Dwyer Hickey and Irish-American Mary Pat Kelly (an author who is less well known in Ireland than in US, where her career includes stints as a screenwriter at Columbia and Paramount Pictures, writer at Saturday Night Live, novels, filmmaking and more) about the experiences of Irish writers abroad. Deirdre O’Kane and Clelia Murphy will be reading from Binchy’s nonfiction. A performance of Aches & Pains, Shay Linehan’s adaptation of Binchy’s book on illness and recovery that is part self-help guide and part survival manual, opens the festival on Friday, October 4th at 7.30pm. Directed by Margaret Dunne and starring Michael Heavey and Margaret Toomey, this performance is in honour of Shay Linehan – who also adapted her novels Light a Penny Candle and Minding Frankie – who died in June. It comes with a fascinating post-show bonus: director and writer Conall Morrison in conversation with RTÉ’s Evelyn O’Rourke about the challenges of adapting other writers’ work for the stage. His recent productions include La Traviata for the English National Opera and The Taming of The Shrew for the Royal Shakespeare Company, and he has just opened his production The Travels of Jonathan Swift, adapted from Swift’s work, for the Blue Raincoat Theatre Company in Sligo. On Sunday at 11am, the Maeve Binchy and Irish Writers Guided Walk starts in the Writers’ Gallery at Dalkey Castle & Heritage Centre and takes in the work of James Joyce, GB Shaw, Hugh Leonard, Jennifer Johnston and Flann O’Brien among others on its way to the Maeve Binchy Memorial Garden in Dalkey Library. Assembling the panels with the most appropriate and engaging speakers was a fascinating task. And with each one I thought of Maeve Binchy’s comment about the meaning of success for Ireland’s writers… and how in October, each person will be bringing another stone to the cairn. Read the full article here:

Echoes: ‘a literary event with Maeve Binchy at its heart’

Maeve Binchy and her husband Gordon Snell always made a big thing of birthdays. They had a tradition of writing each other jokey verse to celebrate. Maeve, who died in July 2012, would have turned 80 today. She remains one of Ireland’s most popular writers: her novels have sold more than 40 million copies worldwide and counting. Translated into 37 languages – the most recent being Korean – her influence is so prevalent that it’s hard sometimes to think of her as no longer writing and publishing.

In 2017, her long-time agent and friend Christine Green said: “I found myself thinking that Maeve is gone but we don’t have to believe it. We have the sound of her voice, we have her writing. And that’s just wonderful.”

Green was speaking at the inaugural Echoes literary weekend in October 2017. Now in its third year, and attracting an international audience, Echoes is programmed and hosted by Dalkey Castle and Heritage Centre in collaboration with Gordon Snell.

Self-described as a “literary event with Maeve Binchy at its heart”, Echoes features the best of Irish writing and contemporary writers. Writers who have taken part include Catherine Dunne, Diarmaid Ferriter, Patricia Scanlan, Joseph O’Connor, Martina Devlin, Declan Hughes, and Frank McGuinness. It has also featured staged readings of her plays, including Shay Linehan’s adaptation of her Aches & Pains, and excerpts from her journalism.

In 2017, Echoes explored Binchy’s position as a social chronicler, and how our understanding of that position is evolving. As Gordon Snell has often said, Binchy was unafraid to tackle quite fierce topics and modern issues. The keynote speaker, Prof Margaret Kelleher, noted that a closer study of Binchy’s writing suggests that she will be regarded as “as a key witness and chronicler of Irish life in the last decades of the 20th century and the first decade of the next”.

By telling us stories about ourselves, Binchy recorded a different kind of history. Diarmaid Ferriter commented that in Ireland we had “official archives that told us what happened, they didn’t necessarily tell us what it felt like. Maeve’s work was very powerful in communicating what it felt like.”

In 2018, the focus of Echoes was on questions of feminism and gender stereotyping in fiction, and the famous description of Binchy as “a quiet feminist”: a description she always said she loved because it was the first time she had ever been called “quiet”.

From people commuting together in Lilac Bus, or the raggle-taggle team that comes together to raise a child and show us that everyone’s life is improved when individuals, communities and governments collaborate to care for those in trouble in Minding Frankie, or in any of a myriad other settings, Binchy believed that shared experiences created and fostered communities. Her 2008 novel Heart and Soul explored her continuing fascination with travel and migration by looking at one of the new communities in Ireland through the life of a recently-arrived Polish woman, Ania.

In an interview with the Irish Times on the occasion of her winning the Irish PEN Award in 2007 she said: “There’s the sense that they are still at the window looking in at us, not yet living the life. There’s a loneliness in that I want to look at.”

This year, Echoes takes up this theme and celebrates community in contemporary writing in Ireland. Featuring an exciting and diverse line-up of writers, festival topics include our collective identity as an island nation, how real life is reflected in modern fiction, and the adventures of Irish writers abroad.

Speaking at Echoes last October, writer Frank McGuinness said, “the legacy that Maeve Binchy has bestowed on Irish writers is the knowledge that we can do anything, go anywhere and if you choose it, you can be successful as you care to be. She opened gates. She opened doors.”

Happy birthday, Maeve. And thank you.

Echoes runs from October 4th-6th. Events on Saturday, October 5th feature: Chris Binchy, Andrea Carter, Fionn Davenport, Hazel Gaynor, Carlo Gebler, Christine Dwyer Hickey, Ibrahim Halawa, Róisín Ingle, Madeleine Keane, Cathy Kelly, Mary Pat Kelly, Olivia O’Leary, Lynn Ruane, Gordon Snell, Jo Spain among others. Other events to be announced. Details and booking information on

Read the full article here:

ECHOES Maeve Binchy & Irish Writers 4th - 6th October, 2019 Dalkey Castle & Heritage Centre

Echoes 2019 Celebrating Community in Contemporary Writing in Ireland.

Maeve Binchy believed that shared experiences created and fostered communities. ECHOES 2019 explores the concept of community in contemporary writing in Ireland. Featuring an exciting and diverse line-up of writers, festival topics include our collective identity as an island nation, how real life is reflected in modern fiction, and the adventures of Irish writers abroad!

Saturday October 5th featuring: Chris Binchy *Andrea Carter * Fionn Davenport * Hazel Gaynor * Carlo Gebler* Christine Dwyer Hickey * Ibrahim Halawa * Róisín Ingle * Madeleine Keane * Cathy Kelly * Mary Pat Kelly * Olivia O'Leary * Lynn Ruane * Gordon Snell * Jo Spain *

Saturday 5th 9.30am-12.45pm and 2pm-5pm, Dalkey Castle & Heritage Centre

Full day ticket Early Bird (before September 15th) €45

Full day (from September 16th) €55

Half day (morning or afternoon) €30

(Booking fees apply)

Sunday October 6th 11am, Dalkey Castle & Heritage Centre

Maeve Binchy & Irish Writers Guided Walk. Tickets: €12.95

Other Friday and Sunday events to be announced!

Information and booking for all events at Booking via Eventbrite. Booking fees apply.

Founded in 2017, ECHOES proudly celebrates the life and work of Maeve Binchy and Irish writers.

Castle Street, Dalkey, County Dublin, Ireland

T +353 1 285 8366


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