IRON MOUNTAIN 2017

Vincent Woods Interviews writer Eugene McCabe as part of the 2017 Iron Mountain Festival

Place, migration, history

This year's Iron Mountain Literature festival discusses the role of culture in a time of crises of borders and migration and these themes and the power of famine memory will be to the fore in a gathering of writers, activists and musicians at the festival in Carrick-on-Shannon.

Henry Glassie’s books include his celebrated writings on life and people in Fermanagh (All Silver and No Brass, Passing the Time in Ballymenone) and studies of traditional arts and culture in Turkey, Bangladesh, Brazil and Nigeria. Glassie is a renowned speaker and his talk ‘Passing Time, Old Borders and New’ on Friday October 6th presents his insights on language, culture and migration in Ireland and elsewhere in the world.

The festival will host the official Irish launch of the new edition of Glassie’s acclaimed 2006 book, The Stars of Ballymenone, described by author Patrick McCabe as ‘the equal of Heaney and Faulkner – a thing of shining wonder. A masterpiece’.  McCabe (author of The Butcher Boy and Breakfast on Pluto) will read from his work on Saturday and join Glassie, Bernadette McAliskey and Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill to discuss issues of border identities, language and literature.

Arising from the John McGahern seminar which ran from 2007 for eight years, the Iron Mountain Literature Festival was established in 2016, reframed in a wider context involving writers, artists and thinkers from many perspectives. The festival draws much of its motivation from the works and legacy of John McGahern, an approach which has allowed for a wide-ranging literary event combining panels, talks, readings and field trips which look to ideas central to and arising from an exploration of place, home and identity.

In the context of the Dock’s current exhibition Thinking Living Dwelling, Vincent Woods chairs a talk about architecture and the built landscape as a reflection of place and home with Dock director Sarah Searson, Henry Glassie, architect Pascal Mahoney and curator and visual artist Deirdre O'Mahony. Also as part of the exhibition, earlier on Friday 6th, Selina Guinness hosts a workshop for writers entitled Field Notes: thinking in spaces and writing in places.

Famine memory will be marked by a number of events: The exhibits at the Carrick on Shannon Workhouse Attic Memorial describe the history of 19th century building, transcripts of workhouse day books and an evocative video work by artist Alanna O’Kelly. Before a guided visit, Paschal Mahoney will discuss the architecture of the workhouse in Ireland, while Trinity College Economics lecturer Gaia Narciso traces the links between the economic and social impact of the Great Famine and subsequent acts of political rebellion. Paul Lynch will read from his new novel Grace, set in Famine Ireland, and praised by Edna O’Brien as ‘a beautifully written novel with a haunting story and deep echoes of the ancients’. 

Monaghan novelist, short story writer and playwright Eugene McCabe will read from his work as part of the Iron Mountain festival. McCabe’s play King of the Castle - which is set in Leitrim - has just been revived by Druid Theatre Company. Eugene McCabe’s other works include Tales from the Poorhouse and the novel Death and Nightingales, described by Colm Tóibín as ‘one of the great Irish masterpieces of the century.

Two of Ireland’s most distinguished poets, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin (current Ireland Professor of Poetry) and Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill will read from their work and discuss the influence of other languages and poetic traditions - Turkish, Rumanian and Italian - and the art of translation.

The Iron Mountain festival hosts the first visit to Leitrim of London Imam Muhammad Al-Hussaini, who sings sean-nós song and is a fellow in Islamic Studies at the Westminster Institute in London. An ardent advocate for pluralism he believes that the artistic and theological traditions of Christian and Islamic cultures have much in common adding that he finds much common ground between his Islamic heritage and his passion for Irish music. He is joined in concert by his teacher and music mentor, fiddle player Karen Ryan, Director of the Return to Camden Town festival and a host of Leitrim musicians.

As part of the festival Finola Armstrong, Cathaoirleach, Leitrim County Council will present the John McGahern Award which supports new writing and recognises the exceptional contribution of John McGahern to literature, and to Leitrim. The festival finishes on Sunday afternoon with music and poetry in Skerry Rynn’s, Ballinaglera.