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West Cork Literary Festival meets Bantry Day Care Centre

On Friday, July 14th, writers E.R. Murray and Jon Gower visited Bantry Day Care Centre as part of the West Cork Literary Festival.

The event was a relaxed affair, with both writers sharing samples of their own work as well as some of their favourite poets, with plenty of scope for audience participation. Both writers talked about the power of story in poetry and prose; how it generates knowledge but also friendships and hope, and the audience shared some personal experiences of reading and learning poetry and the comfort that gave them.

Jon shared a variety of Welsh poems, including ‘Leisure’ by William Henry Davies, which many people were familiar with and helped to recite. Jon also read a section about lighthouse keepers playing chess across the seas, from his latest book, The Turning Tide, which beautifully captured the mood and atmosphere of a lighthouse keeper’s life, as well as the skewed sense of time. Jon also sang ‘Bugeilio’r Gwenith Gwyn’ (English: Watching the White Wheat) which is a traditional Welsh love song that dates from the 18th century, and shared the poem ‘Fern Hill’ by Dylan Thomas.

Elizabeth read ‘The Wild Geese’ by Mary Oliver, an uplifting poem about our place within the world, which led to discussions about swallow migration and nesting, plus local salmon spawning spots and how the salmon return to the same birthing nest or ‘redd’. Elizabeth also read the prologue from The Book of Learning, the first book in her middle-grade Nine Lives Trilogy, which opened discussions about why writers touch on dark topics, as well as the importance of children’s books. As one of the audience said, ‘if I hadn’t read as a child, I wouldn’t read now.’

There was plenty of laughter and smiles from the audience, as well as story sharing and recitals, including a local song about a legend of a stolen Gardaí car and a T.D. Sullivan poem, ‘The Priest’s Leap’ which immortalises a priest’s escape from the military during penal times, landing safely on a rock just three miles outside Bantry town – a rock commemorated to this day. Another audience member recited ‘An Old Woman of the Roads’ by Pádraic Colum, and another surprise was a poem written by a family member about a wandering cat.

The event finished with several of the audience holding hands and swaying while singing, followed by tea and scones. Overall, it was an upbeat and heart-warming morning, sharing a love of story in all its guises.

Jon Gower grew up in Llanelli, Wales and studied English at Cambridge University. A former BBC Wales’ Arts and Media correspondent, he has been making documentary programmes for television and radio for over 30 years. He has over thirty books to his name, in both Welsh and English. His last trade book in English, The Story of Wales, with an introduction from Huw Edwards, was published to accompany a landmark BBC series broadcast in 2012. He lives in Cardiff, Wales, with his wife Sarah and two daughters, Elena and Onwy. He is currently a Hay Festival International Fellow. His latest non-fiction title The Turning Tide: A Biography of the Irish Sea was published by Harper Collins in February 2023.

Elizabeth Rose Murray writes novels, essays, short stories and poetry for children, young adults and adults. Her books include The Book of Learning – Nine Lives Trilogy 1 (2016 Dublin UNESCO Citywide Read for Children), The Book of Shadows – Nine Lives Trilogy 2 (shortlisted 2016 Irish Book Awards and 2016 Irish Literacy Association Award), The Book of Revenge – Nine Lives Trilogy 3 (Feb 2018) and Caramel Hearts (May 2016). She has short fiction published in journals across Europe, the US, Canada and Australia, and has been shortlisted for several notable competitions including Francis McManus and Aesthetica Creative Works. Recent anthology publications include The Elysian: Creative Responses (New Binary Press), Reading the Future (Arlen House) and Women On Nature (edited by Katharine Norbury). Elizabeth lives in West Cork and is an artist for the Arts For Health West Cork programme.

This event is in partnership with West Cork Literary Festival