Limerick Literary Festival launches

Late novelist Kate O'Brien

By Madeline O’Connor

The 40th anniversary of the death of one of Ireland’s best known literary figures will be remembered at the 2014 Limerick Literary Festival, which was launched today by award-winning Limerick novelist Donal Ryan at O’Mahony’s Bookshop in O’Connell Street.

Some of the most recognisable names in Irish and British literature will participate in the festival from February 20-23, which honours Limerick-born novelist and playwright Kate O’Brien.

Born into a prosperous Limerick family in 1897, O’Brien began her writing career in 1926 and Without My Cloak, a novel written in 1930, was her first best seller. Other works include The Ante Room, That Lady, The Land of Spices and The Last of Summer. Although frequently returning to Limerick, the inspiration for much of her work. She died in England in 1974.

This year’s festival features author visits, readings, lectures and panel discussions at 69 O’Connell St (formerly The Belltable) and The Lime Tree Theatre in Limerick City.

Festival participants include Edna O’Brien, novelist, memoirist, playwright, poet, short story writer and author of ‘The Country Girls’; Anne Enright, Booker Prize-winning author; Michael Frayn, English playwright, novelist and winner of Laurence Olivier, Whitbread and Tony Awards; Mike Murphy, former RTE broadcaster; Michael Longley, winner of Irish Times Poetry award; and Claire Tomalin, English biographer and journalist.

Other Irish contributors to the 30th annual festival include Selina Guinness, author; Vivienne McKechnie, poet; Niall MacMonagle, teacher, critic and Editor of ‘Poetry Now’; Peter Cunningham, award-winning novelist and newspaper columnist; Professor Frank McGuinness, Irish playwright and poet; Tony Curtis, poet; David Lilburn, award-winning artist; Siobhán Parkinson, award-winning novelist and one of Ireland’s best-known writers for children; Robert O’Byrne, author; and Elaine Fox, research psychologist, neuroscientist and writer.

The Limerick Literary Festival, previously called the Kate O’Brien Weekend,  is organised by the Kate O’Brien Committee and funded by the Arts Council, Limerick City and County Council and City of Culture 2014. The Kate O’Brien Weekend has this year been incorporated into the Limerick Literary Festival.

According to Limerick poet and Festival Committee member Vivienne McKechnie: “To mark 40 years on from the death of Kate O’Brien and Limerick’s status as Ireland’s first National City of Culture, we have put together a four-day programme of events that promises to be more wide-ranging than previous festivals.”

“The numbers attending the Festival has grown year-on-year and we expect hundreds of people from all over Ireland, the UK and beyond to travel to Limerick City later this month,” Ms. McKechnie added.

Opening the festival at 69 O’Connell St on Thursday February 20th at 6.30 p.m. will be Duchesse de Magenta, Amélie de Mac-Mahon. Her late husband (Philippe) was a descendant of J.B. MacMahon, one of the Wild Geese who left Limerick after the Treaty of Limerick in 1691. Following the official opening, Beoure Theatre will perform a reading of Kate O’Brien’s play “Distinguished Villa”.

On Friday, historian John Logan will lead a walking tour from Ború House, the former family residence of Kate O’Brien, starting at 2p.m. The walk will be followed by author Robert O’Byrne interviewing the Duchess of Magenta. At 7pm there will be a wine reception to launch two books, ‘Pony’ by poet Tony Curtis in collaboration with Limerick Artist David Lilburn, and A Butterfly’s Wing by Limerick poet by Vivienne McKechnie. Later that evening at 8p.m., internationally renowned pianist Finghin Collins will give a recital at The Lime Tree Theatre.

A busy programme is scheduled for Saturday, starting at, in 69 O’Connell St, with talks by luminaries such as Claire Tomalin, Michael Frayn, Anne Enright, Elaine Fox, Peter Cunningham, Siobhán Parkinson and Selina Guinness, as well as Frank McGuinness in conversation with journalist and RTE Radio producer Kay Sheehy.

The programme concludes on Sunday at The Lime Tree Theatre with Niall MacMonagle at 10 a.m followed by poet Michael Longley. The festival finishes up at midday with one of the event highlights which will see former broadcaster Mike Murphy in conversation with celebrated writer Edna O’Brien about her life and work.

For a full listing of all events and booking details visit



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