Since it’s inception in 1970 Listowel Writers’ Week has been recognized 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.
The concept of the Literary Workshop was first introduced at Writers’ Week in 1971 by Bryan MacMahon. Since then Listowel’s Literary Workshops continue to be the most popular in the country. Prominent Irish writers have shared their skills in poetry, fiction, theatre, screen, writing for radio, children’s literature and more recently workshops in songwriting and comic writing have been added.
Competitions were introduced, together with a series of literary awards, which have given valuable recognition to new writers. In that time many eminent Irish and international literary figures have gathered in Listowel at the annual event to celebrate the work of new and established writers.
Participants have included: Nobel Laureate and Booker Prize-winner J.M. Coetzee, Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney, Booker Prize winner Kazuo Ishiguro, John Banville and Anne Enright, Poet Laureate Ted Hughes, Laurence Block, Gabriel Byrne, Blake Morrison, Chris Whyte, Orange Prize-winner Lionel Shriver. Award winning playwrights Tom Murphy, Brian Friel, Roddy Doyle, Frank McGuinness and Hugh Leonard, celebrated poets Paul Durcan, Anthony Cronin, Christopher Reid, Michael Hartnett, Richard Murphy, John Montague, Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, Roger McGough, Kate Cruise O’ Brien, Aidan Matthews, Rita Ann Higgins and acclaimed novelists Colm Tóibín, Jennifer Johnston, John McGahern, Joseph O’Neill, Sebastian Barry, Frank McCourt, Joseph O’Connor, Hugo Hamilton, Edna O’Brien, Douglas Kennedy, Patrick McGrath, William Trevor, Robert Fisk, Colum McCann, Gerard Donovan, Frank McCourt.
Under the leadership of its president Colm Toibin, together with literary advisors Professor Brendan Kennelly, Seamus Hosey, Lawrence Block, and Michael Collins. Writers’ Week provides a wide ranging program of literary and assorted cultural events including lectures, readings, workshops, book launches, seminars, interviews, theatre, literary and historical tours, art exhibitions, music and dance.
In recent years Writers’ Week has become an international event, welcoming writers from the pan-European and other traditions in order to enhance our appreciation of mutual cultures. Visiting writers have included Yevgeny Yevtushenko, Robert Fisk, Joris Duytschaever, Vagn Lundbye, William Roggermann and Rein Bloem, Rutger Kopland, Ron Butlin, Irvine Welsh, Shereen Pandit, Deela Khan, Beverley Naidoo. Dr.Robyn Rowland, Andrew Lindsay, Michael Cunningham, Michael Collins, William Dalrymple, Jane Urquhart, Anatoly Kudryavitsky, Cees Nooteboom, Michael Dibdin, Clyde Rose, Lionel Shriver, John M Coetzee, Abdel Bari Atwan, Clive James, Melvyn Bragg, Alain De Botton, Lloyd Jones and Eric P Kaufman.
The event takes place in a unique atmosphere of learning and celebration which gives new and established writers an opportunity to discuss their work before a national and international audience.