BIOGRAPHIES 2021

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Ailie Blunnie

Ailie Blunnie is a musician and songwriter from Carrick on Shannon. Her music has been described as sounding "like Leitrim fiddle legend Ben Lennon met up with Patti Smith, had a drink in Carrick on Shannon and worked out how to fuse trad, folk, rock then sprinkle some tasteful electronica over it all. Uniquely edgy and familiar at same time” (Fergus O’Keefe, WRFG 89.3FM Atlanta). She released her début album, West to the Evening Sun, in 2017, described in Hot Press Magazine as “a tour de force of masterful songwriting, which pushes the boundaries, both sonically and lyrically” (Róisín Dwyer, Hot Press). Ailie also writes music for theatre and dance and has recently composed for Manorhamilton's Splódar Theatre Company (Medea, 2019), and Dublin aerial dance company, Taking Flight. She is currently based in Dublin where she works as a psychotherapist.

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Jeanine Cummins

Jeanine Cummins was born in Spain to Irish and Puerto Rican parents, but calls Gaithersburg, Maryland, her home. She studied creative writing at Towson University before living in Belfast for several years. In 1997, Cummins moved to New York City, where she spent 10 years working in the publishing industry. After her first book, the memoir A Rip in Heaven, became a bestseller, she turned to writing full time. Her next two novels explored Irish history The Outside Boy about the Traveller community and The Crooked Branch about the Great Famine. Her most recent novel American Dirt, published 2020 by Flatiron Books, concerns the ordeal of a Mexican woman as an undocumented immigrant to the United States with her son.

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Sonya Gildea

Sonya Gildea holds an MA, Creative Writing from University College Dublin. She was winner of the Cúirt International New Writer’s Fiction Award in 2015 and winner of an Ireland Chair of Poetry (post-grad) Student Award for 2020. In 2021 Sonya was selected for the Poetry Ireland Introductions series and was awarded an Artist Literature Bursary Award and Agility Award from the Arts Council, and a Creative Ireland Artist Literature Bursary Award from Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council. She has published in Crannóg literary magazine; The Irish Times; The Stinging Fly; the commemorative anthology Hold Open the Door (UCD & Chicago Press, 2020); The Cormorant Broadsheet and The Night Heron Barks; with work forthcoming in The Maynard and the Poetry Ireland Introductions Anthology. She is currently completing the prose short story collection, The Switching Yard. She is writing a 1st poetry collection 500 Seconds and completing the chapbook with river illustrations, The Nine River Beats of Owenea set in Glenties, Co. Donegal. She is exploring, researching and developing a multi-disciplinary word project & installation, Rewriting the Constitution.

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Michael Harding

Michael Harding has received numerous awards for his plays and books, including the Stewart Parker Award for Theatre, Hennessy Award and BOI Award for excellence in the Arts. Writer in Association with the Abbey Theatre in 1993, where five of his numerous plays were produced. Short listed for The Irish Times Are Lingus Literature Award in 1989, and a member of Aosdana. Numerous plays, three novels, and six collections of memoir have made him a household name in Ireland, along with writing a creative chronicle of Irish life in The Irish Times he has been podcasting on Patreon since the beginning of the Covid pandemic in April 2020. The Michael Harding Podcast on Patreon is a personal exploration of faith, and living symbolically, in a post religious landscape and a new collection of his writings, illustrated by artist Jacob Stack, entitled A cloud where the birds rise will be published in October.

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Rita Ann Higgins

Rita Ann Higgins was born and lives in Galway. Pathogens Love a Patsy (Pandemic and other Poems 2020) is Rita Ann’s 11th book of Poetry. She has published a book of essays and poems Our Killer City in 2019 and a Memoir Hurting God in 2010. Bloodaxe Books published five collections: Sunny Side Plucked (1996); An Awful Racket (2001); Throw in the Vowels: New & Selected Poems (2005); Ireland is Changing Mother (2011), and Tongulish in 2016. She has written several plays and two screenplays.   She has received numerous awards, she was made an honorary fellow at Hong Kong Baptist University in 2006.  She is a member of Aosdána. In 2020 Rita Ann became the People’s Pandemic Poet Laureate for The Brendan O’Connor Show on RTE Radio 1. In 2021 She was awarded the ‘Living Poets Society award’. Rita Ann Higgins’ readings are legendary. Raucous, anarchic, witty and sympathetic, her poems chronicle the lives of the Irish dispossessed in ways that are both provocative and heart-warming.

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Róisín Kelly

Róisín Kelly was born in west Belfast and raised in Leitrim, and after completing an MA in Writing at NUIG she moved to Cork City where she has lived ever since. Her first full collection of poetry, Mercy, was published by Bloodaxe Books in 2020. She won the Fish Poetry Prize in 2017. She is currently writing a novel.

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Alice Lyons

Alice Lyons's most recent book is Oona (Lilliput, 2020), a novel, which was shortlisted for the 2021 Kate O’Brien Award. Author of three collections of poetry, she is recipient of the Patrick Kavanagh Award and the inaugural Ireland Chair of Poetry Bursary awarded by Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill. She is Lecturer in Writing + Literature, Yeats Academy of Arts, Design + Architecture at IT Sligo.

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Pat McCabe

Pat McCabe was born in Clones, Co. Monaghan in 1955. His novels include Carn; The Dead School; and The Butcher Boy, which was winner of the Irish Times/Aerlingus Literature prize, shortlisted for 1993 Booker Prize and made into the highly acclaimed film directed by Neil Jordan; Breakfast on Pluto, also shortlisted for the booker prize; Winterwood, which was winner of the Irish novel of the year 2007; The Holy City; The Stray Sod Country; and Hello Mr. Bones, Goodbye Mr. Rat. He has written for radio throughout his career. The play Frank Pig Says Hello was an adaption for theatre by him of his novel The Butcher Boy. In recent years has built a strong working relationship with Livin Dred Theatre Company who have produced three of his plays to date - The Dead School; The Ballad of Pat McNab; and The Bridge Below the Town. His latest book Pogeumahone, due in April 2022, is described as a wild, 600-page ballad, narrated in a kind of free verse monologue by Dan Fogarty, an Irishman living in England.

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Eoin McNamee

Eoin McNamee is a novelist and screenwriter. His nineteen novels include Resurrection Man and the Blue Trilogy. He has written six Young Adult novels including the New York Times bestselling The Navigator, and three thrillers under the John Creed pseudonym.  He wrote the screenplay for the film Resurrection Man directed by Marc Evans and I Want You directed by Michael Winterbottom. His television credits include Hinterland (BBC Wales/Netflix) and An Brontanas (TG4). He has written seven radio plays for BBC R4. He has been longlisted for the Booker prize among other nominations and has won the Imison Prize, the Kerry Fiction Prize and the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger.  He has taught in Sligo Institute of Technology, Maynooth University and is currently Director of the Trinity Oscar Wilde Centre and Director of the M.Phil. in Creative Writing at Trinity College. His latest novel is The Vogue.

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Stephen Murphy

Stephen Murphy’s work is often said ‘to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable’. Videos of his poetry have amassed millions of views online, and though he has performed to crowds in the tens of thousands on several occasions, he draws his inspiration from the time and space afforded to think from living a quiet life with his family in rural Ireland. To date, three albums of his poetry have been released, and his first full-length poetry collection, From the Sea Hound, was published in Spring 2019.

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Kerri Ní Dochartaigh

Kerri ní Dochartaigh is the author of Thin Places. She has written for The Guardian, the Irish Times, the BBC, Winter Papers, and others. She is from the North West of Ireland but now lives in the middle, in an old railway cottage with her partner and dog.

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Seamus O'Rourke

Seamus O’Rourke is a writer, actor, poet… and an independent theatre producer with his own production company BIG GUERILLA PRODUCTIONS. He is a Leitrim man, based in Leitrim... and why not. He has written fifteen stage plays, including four one-man-shows. He is an award-winning actor and has played in most Irish theatres, halls, beer gardens and street corners... anywhere people are gathered... or at least where they used to gather. In 2019, Seamus published his first book of poems, A Lock of Poems, Recitations and Good Ones and has millions of hits on YouTube and social media with his short stories, poems and recitations. During Lockdown 2020, he wrote his memoir, Standing in Gaps... about growing up in Leitrim. He can also drive a tractor and reverse a trailer.

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Nelofer Pazira-Fisk

Nelofer Pazira-Fisk is an award-winning Afghan-Canadian author, journalist and filmmaker, sharing her time and work between Ireland, Canada and the Middle East (Syria, Lebanon, Afghanistan). She starred in the film Kandahar, based on her real life story and has directed, produced and co-produced several films including Return to Kandahar, Audition Act of Dishonour, and This is Not a Movie. Nelofer reported for Canadian television and radio as well as UK and Canadian newspapers from Iraq, Afghanistan, Turkey, Egypt and Syria. Her radio documentary Of Paradise and Failure -- about a Palestinian suicide bomber from Lebanon – won the Silver Medal at New York’s Media Award, and her latest, Road to Damascus, won a Gabriel Award. A past-president of PEN Canada (a freedom of expression organization), Nelofer assisted UNESCO in Afghanistan. Nelofer’s 2006 book A Bed of Red Flowers: In Search of My Afghanistan won the Drainie-Taylor Biography Prize. Her charity, Dyana Afghan Women’s Fund has been providing education for women in remote parts of Afghanistan.

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Stephen Rea

Stephen Rea was born in Belfast in 1946 and studied English at Queen’s University before training as an actor with the Abbey Theatre in Dublin in the 1970s. He established the highly influential Field Day Theatre Company, with Brian Friel in 1980. Since the 1970s he has acted in a wide range of productions on stage and screen. He has appeared in films such as V for Vendetta, Michael Collins, Interview with the Vampire and Breakfast on Pluto and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for Neil Jordan's thriller The Crying Game (1992). He starred in the Hugo Blick TV series The Shadow Line and The Honourable Woman, for which he won a BAFTA Award. In 2020, The Irish Times, ranked Rea the 13th greatest Irish film actor of all-time.

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Vincent Woods

Vincent Woods’s plays include At the Black Pig’s Dyke (Druid Theatre Company, 1992); Song of the Yellow Bittern (Druid Theatre Company, 1994); and A Cry from Heaven (Abbey Theatre, 2005); and for radio, The Leitrim Hotel, The Gospels of Aughamore and Broken Moon. Poetry collections are The Colour of Language and Lives and Miracles. He has co-edited The Turning Wave: Poems and Songs of Irish Australia, and Fermata: Writings Inspired by Music (with Eva Bourke); and in 2016 published Leaves of Hungry Grass: Poetry and Ireland’s Great Hunger (Quinnipiac University Press). Awards include the Stewart Parker Award for Drama and The Ted McNulty Award for Poetry. For many years he has been a regular presenter of arts programmes and documentaries on RTÉ Radio 1. Vincent was part of the Leitrim Equation performance, and the music and spoken word performances Open Room (2018) and Portal at Boyle Arts Festival in July 2019. Borderlines (with Henry Glassie) was published in 2018. He is a member of Aosdána.