DALKEY BOOK FESTIVAL

Seaside Marquee – DALKEY BOOK FESTIVAL
In the last few years I have become a right pain in the ass about The Dalkey Book Festival.  “It’s great,” I enthuse to all and sundry, “brilliant events and the town buzzes with energy and the sun always shines”.  Most of those I know who visit will book one or maybe two events.  But me… with my addictive personality… I book way too many and end up tearing about the village from tent to town hall and back again.  I try to build in gaps where I can venture home just so my kids don’t think I have actually gone away for the weekend.  Although every year I wonder should I book into the B&B in the village if there is such a thing – and that’s another mystery – why isn’t there a boutique hotel in Dalkey?  Staying onsite would enable me to not miss a thing… I could completely immerse myself in all the cleverality.  Like the old days back in Dunelles pub in Dun Laoghaire where even if you weren’t smoking a joint yourself, you could get high just breathing I could absorb more just by being there.
Dalkey is a perfect location for a festival.  It’s small and retains the feel of an Irish village, but it also has lots of great places to eat and drink.  And boy is it scenic.  Even for me, a Dun Laoghaire woman (2ndgeneration, I’ll have you know) who misspent much of her youth around Dalkey, the festival allows me to glimpse the location through fresh eyes, especially this year with the addition of the The Seafront Marquee in Dillons Park overlooking Dalkey Island.
But what makes the Dalkey Book Festival so compulsive is that it provides much of what is missing in Irish media today.  A chance to sit and listen to some great speakers discussing big questions, philosophical questions… the kind of stuff that makes you think.  There are great panel sessions too where various topics are debated.  But not debated in the polarised way we have become used to seeing on TV where the extremes are encouraged to contest the issue in sound bites with the facilitator constantly chiding them to hurry up.  Dalkey Book Festival is many ways is reminiscent of the heyday of the Late Late Show.  Long conversations liberally sprinkled with anecdotes and humour.
It is a perfect way to hear your favourite journalists (Fintan O Toole, Olivia O’Leary and Dearbhail McDonald featured this year) as well as writers and thinkers on a wide range of topics.  And that is the key to understanding the Dalkey Book Festival – it’s not just about books, it’s about much more.  And at its heart are the long philosophical conversations that Irish people love to have on topics that are important to us.  This year there were sessions titled ‘Economists, What Are They Good For?’, ‘New World 2020’ and ‘The Next Billion’.  My own favourite was ‘Who Owns 2016’.  And again, unlike the debates we are normally subjected to in Ireland on radio and TV, there are no winners.  No conclusion – but plenty of food for thought, plenty to mull over for days afterwards.
Oh – and it tends to remarkably free of politicians.  What’s not to like?
Well, there is one thing… I would love to see more women on the various stages.  From quick count I did on the adult events (there’s a great kids programme too) there are almost double the amount of men on stage than women.  And historians – although I like Diarmuid Ferriter, I sometimes wonder is he our only historian.  I would especially like to hear someone like Mary McAuliffe discussing Ireland’s revolutionary decade.  Mary has done lots of interesting work on women’s involvement… perhaps that might be something the organising committee would look at next year.
Either way I will be there.  I’m saving already… are you on their mailing list? 

LETS NOT FORGET WHO WE ARE

I love it when I catch the RTE programme, Reeling In The Years, usually by mistake. Last night, I saw the programme featuring 1982 in Ireland. Rugby was big news – we won the Triple Crown. The other big news was the economy – we were in a deep recession. There was plenty of political turmoil. Familiar? Very – except that in 1982 we had not just emerged from 15-20 years of incredible growth and wealth. And perhaps it is that fact that makes it so difficult for us to accept and come to terms with this recession this time.

Last Friday, the Late Late Show began with one of the most hysterical and depressing panel discussions I think I have ever heard. Four (as far as I can remember) journalists discussed just how dire this crisis is for Ireland. The hysterical ranged from Ger Colleran who suggested that the people of Ireland would like the errant property developers to be shot (figuratively speaking) to Kevin Myers foretelling that it won’t just be our children but our grandchildren and even great grandchildren who will pay for this NAMA bailout of the banks. The whole discussion was totally unbalanced and very dark.
Certainly I know that this country is ‘in the shit’ financially, as are many families and I am not for one minute trying to trivialise that fact. But, as I am constantly saying to my husband, it is only money. We seem to have lost all perspective.
Ireland has not changed. We have not gone from a country of winners to losers overnight. We are still a great little country, full of imaginative, creative, energetic, hard working people. We are a nation who can communicate and sell like few others. We are witty and deeply spiritual, if no longer overtly religious. All the talents we used to build the great wealth of the Celtic Tiger era are still intact.
But if we keep being brainwashed by this wholly exaggerated and dark view of ourselves we will be stuck in the economic doldrums for a whole lot longer than we need to be, or that is good for us individually.
We need to stop the blame game. We all understand how it was our obsession with property that was at the heart of our financial woes. But we need to let the law and economic forces deal with that. The rest of us need to focus on getting our mojo back!
Ireland is going through a painful and major detoxification. We are clearing greed and corruption from our business and financial world. We are also witnessing the clearance of cruelty and abuse of power by the Catholic Church. At the end of this process Ireland Inc., will be a morally and spiritually enhanced country – through and through.
In the meantime, we individually, must all remember who we are. We are still a wonderfully articulate, expansive, open minded, well educated people, as we always were. And now more than ever we need to remember that. Because without that confidence we cannot move forward.