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Vincent Woods talks with Annie Proulx at the 2016 Iron Mountain Literature Festival.

The inaugural Iron Mountain Literature Festival featured, among others, celebrated American novelist Annie Proulx (The Shipping News, Accordion Crimes, Brokeback Mountain) and Laureate for Irish Fiction, Anne Enright.

Anne Enright's novel The Green Road was winner of the 2016 Independent Bookshop Week award. The Man Booker Prize winner opened the festival and talked to festival director Vincent Woods about writing and her work as Laureate for Irish Fiction.  

The festival's sprit was inspired, in part, by Annie Proulx's memoir Bird Cloud whose subtitle –A Memoir of Place– illustrates the curatorial approach of the festival; an approach which has allowed for a wide-ranging event combining panels, talks and readings which look to ideas central to an exploration of place, home and identity. As well as reading from her latest book Barkskins, and her life as a writer, Proulx, who designed and built her own home on 640 acres of Wyoming wetlands, was joined by architect and self build advocate Dominic Stevens to discuss architecture, the environment and the challenges of building a home in the place you love.

Keith Hopper of Oxford University talked on language and landscape in the work of John McGahern and Dermot Healy, and the festival hosted the official Irish launch of two new books on Dermot Healy's literary legacy - his Collected Plays and a volume of writings in tribute to the late novelist and playwright. Fermata, Writing Inspired by Music by Vincent Woods and Eva Bourke was published in 2016 are they were joined at the festival by Brian Leyden who contributed to the book and piper Néillidh Mulligan, singer Mary McPartlan and Tommy Guihen on concert flute.

On Saturday morning archaeologist Sam Moore talked about the rich mythology and folklore associated with Sliabh an Iarainn and the surrounding region and led a field trip to some of the features to be found there. Historian and writer Shane McCorristine explored concepts of the coal mine as a haunted space and discusses the history of premonition in relation to mining accidents in England in the nineteenth century. Shane was joined by Conor McPherson to talk about place, memory, and the role of literature in shaping an understanding of history and human experience.

During the festival Mary Bohan, Cathaoirleach of Leitrim County Council presented the inaugural John McGahern Award to Phil Kearney Byrne. Presenting the award the Cathaoirleach expressed her pride that Leitrim County Council, together with the Tyrone Guthrie Centre and John’s Estate, sought to honour John McGahern’s memory by making an award in his name that seeks to support the development of an emerging Irish writer. She added that It was only fitting that as a local authority Leitrim County Council continue to support the arts and support the development of artists, so that as a society, we can reap the rewards that come from having a rich and vibrant cultural environment.

While the award itself carries its own intrinsic value and significance for an author, it includes a prize of €500 and the opportunity to stay two weeks at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre - a gift of time for an author to develop their own work.

Originally from Dublin and a huge admirer of John McGahern’s writing, Phil recently completed an MA in Creative Writing at UCD where her tutors included the first Laureate for Irish Fiction Anne Enright who featured at the festival. Phil hopes to use the award and the time at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre to bring her first novel, currently in draft form, to completion.


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