Writers’ Week in Listowel, County Kerry, Ireland, the annual literary festival, will be opened by Gabriel Byrne on May 27.

Since it’s inception in 1970 Listowel Writers’ Week has been recognised as the primary event in Ireland’s literary calendar. North Kerry is the birthplace of many of Ireland’s most prominent writers past and present including Dr. John B Keane, Dr Bryan Mac Mahon, Professor Brendan Kennelly, Gabriel Fitzmaurice, George Fitzmaurice, Maurice Walsh and Robert Leslie Boland. Writers’ Week festival was established in 1970 to celebrate those writers and to provide an opportunity for Irish Writers in general to develop their talents and meet new audiences.

Among the many writers in attendance is Colm Tóibín. I can’t imagine being in the same room with these two. Heaven!

Pictures from the event, provided by Jeremy Gould in the event’s Flickr Pool, are now available.

"Gabriel Byrne"Mr. Byrne gets things started…

byrnelistowelSomething about receiving a famous walking stick…

Here are the relevant bits from the recap of the event by Laura:

“Where’s your husband?” yelled the man exiting the theatre, St. John’s Church, in the main square in Listowel, Ireland.

“Do I care, if Gabriel Byrne’s about?” retorted a woman as I passed her.

Gabriel Byrne himself had expressed surprise as to just what an object of female adoration he was regarded here in Listowel, where he opened the 39th Annual Writers Week Wednesday, May 27th, 2009. Inside the theatre he had been reciting a poem he penned for the “Sunday Miscellany” program that is aired on RTE radio every Sunday morning. His oratory the night before for the opening night ceremonies made less reference to writing and more to film, as he recounted an amusing anecdote about a cab driver in Dublin who, upon recognizing him, pitched his own script about a cocaine dealer that he insisted Gabriel would be perfect for, along with fellow “gang” members Pierce Brosnan, Liam Neeson, Colin Farrell. “And what about Stephen Rea?” he asked. You can see this speech on You Tube.

Gabriel talked about how the only reference to 39 that came to mind was the film and recent play from John Buchan’s novel, “The 39 Steps,” about the archetypal “man who knew too much” that had launched Hitchcock’s career in 1935 and spawned several remakes, including a 2008 BBC television production.

Gabriel delighted the crowd by reminding them of the warm welcome he never forgot when he had first come to Listowel many years ago, cast as the lead in “Dev,” by GP Gallivan and directed by Peter Sheridan of the Projects Theatre in Dublin. Later I heard Gabriel elaborate on an RTE radio interview that his love affair with Listowel was deepened by an actual “romantic liaison,” as he put it, set in the town here. He went on to say how honored he felt to be asked to return to open the world-renowned literary festival on this eve when the winners of so many important literary competitions would be announced.

In his Intro, Michael Lynch had already pointed out that 2009 marked the 100th anniversary of the birth of Bryan MacMahon, Writers’ Week founder, along with John B. Keane. John B’s play “Sive” was enjoying via the Listowel Players the 50th anniversary of its first staging in 1959, a year before it won the All Ireland finals. 2009 also marks the 30th anniversary of the last taping of an episode of the Reardons, in which Gabriel Byrne got his start as a sheep farmer before appearing on Bracken, and the morrow would bring with it the performance of “Sive” in St. John’s Theatre on the seventh anniversary to the day of John B.’s death.

gblistowel4Colm Tóibín and Gabriel Byrne

And here is a report from Pauline:

Thursday 3rd June at 5pm, Jennifer Johnston reading in St. John’s Theatre and Arts Centre

For a memorable hour this afternoon Jennifer Johnston held her audience enthralled with her witty ‘off the cuff’ remarks, family anecdotes and readings from her work.
Although she spoke a great deal about her family she emphasised that her novels are not about them – despite what they believe!

Jennifer read two VIVID extracts from her novel “Truth or Fiction“. This was followed by a Question and Answer session during which we learnt that one of her literary influences is E.M. Forster, despite the fact that “he wrote some awful passages.”

We also learnt that a film of her novel “Two Moons” is in the planning stages. Gabriel Byrne has written the script and wants to play the part of the angel. Jennifer confessed to being unsure about that as she visualised Danny de Vito in the role.

It was a pleasure and a privilege to hear her.

Netherland, by Joseph O’Neill, won the top prize and Gabriel presented the award to him.

Part of Gabriel’s opening keynote, with the taxi driver story:

 gb-listowelwritersweek-2009-06Colm Tóibín and Gabriel Byrne. Ah, to be a fly on that wall…


  1. Stella,
    When you first put this link on here was this same pic of Gabe on it?

  2. OK, Sam. Now there is a picture. Yay!

  3. Thanks for the pic. But I was wondering about the pic of Gabe on the Writer’s Week in Listowel link. The one with Gabe against the blue wall. I was trying to date it. Wondering if it was this month or from further in the past. I want to thank you and Yan again for all the work you put in on this site.

  4. Sam: the picture of Gabriel against the blue wall that the official Listowel Writer’s Week site used is from the past. It will go in the Byrneholics Gallery in the Photoshoots section, in the Blues Series 2 sometime soon. I don’t know when it was taken. Glad you are enjoying the site! Your support is appreciated!


  5. There is a video – not especially great quality, but interesting anyway, of Gabriel’s opening speech at the Writer’s Festival on YouTube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r30XY-XUlnc It never fails to make me smile.

  6. Yes, he is a very good storyteller :-)

  7. I want to see a movie about a taxi driver and Gabriel. With all the actors mentioned here… would you maybe go see that??

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