And we’re off! The 10th Dublin Book Festival opened tonight with ‘Beyond the Centre’ – an event celebrating the anthology published to mark 25 years of the Irish Writers Centre. RTÉ’s Seán Rock was on hand to discuss the struggles and successes of the writer’s life with contributors Anne Enright, Pat Boran and Lisa McInerney.
Beyond the Centre is a landmark anthology of essays by twenty-six contemporary Irish writers, bringing together candid and engaging stories of the writing life. Seán Rocks launched the panel discussion by asking what role the Irish Writers Centre played in Irish writing life. Anne Enright saw it as it as a focal point for writing activity – a place with an open, friendly ambience. The writer enjoys solitude, she pointed out, but also needs community. And a place like this was most important, perhaps, to emerging writers: they needed a place where writing seemed possible – where they could talk to others about the nuts and bolts of writing, and the practical matters of publishing.
In the Writers Centre, Pat Boran said, he didn’t have a sense that he was infiltrating – as he sometimes did elsewhere. Here was a place where you could meet people of like mind. It suggested a future for your writing – a sense that it could go somewhere beyond you. And from the connections forged in this place came magazines and festivals (and a few rows!). He agreed that it was a place that allowed people to start thinking seriously about writing – or perhaps to take themselves seriously as writers. Lisa McInerney, usually based in Cork and Galway, admitted an outsider’s jealousy. Here was a place that writers could come in and book a place to work! The Irish Writers Centre was one of the best things about Dublin, in her opinion. That, and the doughnuts.