Literary Arts Festival - John O'Connor Writing School
john oconnor, armagh, writing school, masterclass, november, literary events, tutor, writing, events, paul muldoon, muldoon
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Literary Arts Festival

Throughout the Festival

Exhibition: The Life and Times of John O’Connor

Venue: Armagh County Museum.

Primary School Children’s Story Exhibition

Venue: Armagh City Library

Children write about welcoming strangers and valuing difference. Actor and writer, Karl O’Neill, worked with and encouraged the children with his delightful story, The Arrival of Percy Bloo.

Blackwell’s Bookstall Service (with book signings)

Venue: Charlemont Arms Hotel, Friday and Saturday, 3rd and 4th November

Roving Arts

Mick Conway, a cross platform artist, will be picking up images and sounds from the city and the Writing School events and creating an inspiring exhibition for Armagh 2018

A Song for Armagh

Facilitated by Armagh Guitar School, young people from the area write a new ‘Song for Armagh’ which will be sung in a number of events during the Festival weekend

Bellina and the Softening of the Stones

Venue: Abbey Lane Theatre

Price: £8

Theatre Event

Thursday 2nd Nov | 6.45pm

Rehearsed reading of a play by the Armagh writer, Karl O’Neill, with Maggie Cronin as Bellina and Brenda Winter-Palmer as Nina.


In 1888 Bellina Prior, of Vicar’s Hill, Armagh, (aka The Green Lady) was pronounced ‘guilty but insane’ in relation to the drowning of three-year-old Annie Slavin of Callan Street. Children ever since have run in fear past her house on Vicar’s Hill.


Karl’s stage play about Bellina is set on her last night in Dublin, in November 1909. It speculates on what might have occurred.

Maggie Cronin


An award-winning actress, writer and director. Her film credits include the Oscar-winning film, The Shore. Her work for television includes Holby City, My Mother and Other Strangers and The Bill. She has just returned from Broadway where she appeared in the highly-acclaimed, Nivelli’s War.

Brenda Winter-Palmer


A founder member of Charabanc, the legendary women’s theatre company which launched the writing career of Marie Jones. She founded and was first Artistic Director of the Educational Theatre company, Replay, and has numerous film and television credits to her name.

Karl O’Neill


Writer and actor. In 2016 his radio play, 12 Stones in the Water, developed for stage as Bellina and the Softening of the Stones, won awards for Best Writing and Best Drama Special at the New York Festivals’ Radio Awards.York Festivals’ Radio Awards.

Panel Discussion with Q&A. Facilitated by Jo Egan. ‘The Play’s the Thing – What Makes Good Theatre?’

Venue: Irish and Local Studies Library, 39c Abbey Street

Price: £6

Panel Talk with Q&A

Friday 3rd Nov | 3.30pm – 4.30pm

In a conversation peppered with insider tips, wisdom and humour a panel of top playwrights, critics and directors discuss the making of good theatre. They will give the inside track on how to write and produce for the stage, how to get a play noticed and produced and how to stay sane in the process!.

Jo Egan


An experienced writer, producer and director. She holds an MFA in Playwriting and was Creative Producer with KABOSH. She is now co-founder and Artistic Director with Macha Productions in Belfast and works as a dramaturg and writing tutor at the Crescent Arts Centre, Belfast.

Paul Bosco McEneaney


From Armagh and is the founder and Artistic Director of Cahoots NI Theatre Company. The winner of many prestigious awards, he has worked on productions ranging from Shakespeare in the open air to West End musicals. He is director of the recent Broadway hit, Nivelli’s War.

Conall Morrison


Dublin-based director and writer, originally from Armagh. He has worked extensively for companies such as the Abbey Theatre, the Lyric Theatre (Belfast), Storytellers Theatre Company (Dublin), and Bickerstaff (Kilkenny). He has also worked at the Royal National Theatre, London.

Jane Coyle


An established arts journalist and critic, who has worked extensively in newspapers, television and radio in Ireland, the UK and France. She has written many scripts for radio and television, as well as three full-length screenplays.

Rosemary Jenkinson

Currently Artist-in-Residence at the Lyric and her plays include The Bonefire (Stewart Parker BBC Radio Award), Here Comes the Night and Lives in Translation. Her work has been performed in London, Dublin, Belfast, Edinburgh, Washington DC and New York.

Geoff Hill: ‘Falling off Motorcycles – A Beginner’s Guide’

Venue: Abbey Lane Theatre

Price: £6

Talk & Slide Show Presentation

Friday 3rd Nov | 5.00pm – 6.00pm

Stand by for an hour of fun and games as Geoff Hill takes you through a lifetime on the road in words and pictures.


In his 45-minute slide show, Geoff reveals the highs and lows of the epic motorbike trips he’s turned into a succession of best-selling books, like Delhi to Belfast, Route 66, Chile to Alaska, and In Clancy’s Boots in which he retraced the journey of Carl Stearns Clancy, the first to take a motorbike around the world a century ago.


There’ll be time afterwards for questions like, ‘How did you get so tall?’ and ‘Are you mad?’ The answer, to save you the time, is ‘Yes’.


Geoff Hill is an award-winning journalist, feature and travel writer. He has written for The Sunday Times, The Daily Mirror, The Metro, and The Irish Times. In a previous life he was Ireland’s most capped volleyball player and a much younger man.


He is editor of Microlight Flying magazine and has written eleven critically acclaimed books including The Butler’s Son.


He’s either won or been shortlisted for a UK Travel Writer of the Year award nine times.


Let’s Talk Beckett and Patrick Magee

Venue: Abbey Lane Theatre

Price: £7


Friday 3rd Nov | 7.00pm – 8.00pm

When Samuel Beckett heard the voice of Patrick Magee bringing one of his novels to life on radio in the late 1950s, he was immediately struck by its strange, distinctive qualities. He went on to write a play specifically for Magee, and the actor became well known, on British radio particularly, for his performances of Beckett’s work. Indeed the two men became close friends. Conor Carville’s talk will concentrate on that personal and professional relationship and its consequences.


Using recordings of Magee’s radio work and clips from TV and film, it will look at the way Beckett transformed Magee’s career, but also how Magee moulded the way we see Beckett.


Lumen in Coeli – a Light in the Dark

Venue: Armagh Planetarium, College Hill

Price: £15

Music & Writing

Friday 3rd Nov | 8.30pm – 10.30pm

With the moon and stars as our stage we present an unforgettable evening of music and contemporary writing in the beautiful domed theatre of the Armagh Planetarium.


Join us as we celebrate Armagh’s contribution to astronomical and scientific heritage, and pay tribute to the Armagh Astronomer, Eric Lindsey.


Guests include the poets Lemn Sissay, Nandi Jola, Kate Newmann, and Joan Newmann, writers Daragh Carville and Jo Baker, The Sing for Life Choir with music specially composed for the occasion by the librettist and conductor, Keith Acheson.


The evening will be presented by the poet, Maria McManus.

Lemn Sissay


Maria McManus


Daragh Carville


Jo Baker


Kate Newmann


Joan Newmann


Nandi Jola


Keith Acheson & The Sing for Life Choir


Blackwell Books – Festival Bookshop

Venue: Charlemont Arms Hotel, 57-65 Upper English Street

Saturday 4th Nov | 10.00am – 6.00pm

Writing School Industry Talks

Venue: AmmA Centre & Milford House Collection, 3 Victoria Street

Price: FREE (Spaces limited – First come first serve)


Saturday 4th Nov | 11.30pm – 12.30pm

(Please see Writing School programme for details)


Industry Talks are free. Limited places available. Admission on first-come, first-served basis


Each of our Writing School courses is supplemented with an informative and interactive Industry Talk, which gives students, and a limited number of members of the public, the opportunity to engage at first hand with some of the most respected writers in Ireland and the UK.


Poetry – Kate Newmann and Joan Newmann.
Venue: Milford House Collection, 3 Victoria Street.


Fiction – Robert McCrum.
Venue: Milford House Collection, 3 Victoria Street.


Screenwriting – Barry Devlin.
Venue: AmmA Centre.


Song – Jim Lockhart (Horslips).
Venue: AmmA Centre.


Playwriting – Conall Morrison and Paul Bosco McEneaney.
Venue: AmmA Centre.

Poetry - Kate Newmann & Joan Newmann.


Venue: Milford House Collection, 3 Victoria Street

Fiction – Robert McCrum


Venue: Milford House Collection, 3 Victoria Street

Screenwriting – Barry Devlin


Venue: AmmA Centre

Song – Jim Lockhart (Horslips)


Venue: AmmA Centre

Playwriting – Conall Morrison & Paul Bosco McEneaney


Venue: AmmA Centre

‘Story time at the Library’ with actor and writer, Karl O’Neill: Under the Fir Tree

For Primary School children.

Venue: Armagh City Library, 2 Market Street.

Price: FREE (Tickets are available at Armagh City Library and Armagh Visitor Information Centre)

Saturday 4th Nov  | 11.30pm – 12.30pm

Karl O’Neill was born in Armagh and is a professional actor and writer based in Dublin. Author of a children’s book, The Most Beautiful Letter in the World, his young audience will be enchanted with the selection of stories, including the delightful, The Arrival of Percy Bloo. Tickets available at Armagh City Library, 2 Market Street, and Armagh Visitor Information Centre, 40 Upper English Street


This event is supported by Libraries NI.


‘Lights, Camera, Action’. Panel Discussion with Q&A

Venue: The Charlemont Arms Hotel, 57-65 Upper English Street

Price: £7

Panel Talk with Q&A

Saturday 4th Nov  | 1.00pm – 2.00pm

Award-winning screenwriters and directors in conversation with Daragh Carville. A fascinating insight into the world of film and television.


With the success of Game of Thrones and other TV dramas
made in Northern Ireland (The Fall, Line of Duty), the region is fast becoming a sought-after centre for film and
drama production.


Panellists Ursula Devine (Script Developer with NI Screen), Barry Devlin (IFTA nominee), Ronan Blaney (BAFTA, Oscar nominee) and casting director/producer Jude Sharvin discuss the exciting possibilities and challenges for artists working in this fast-developing field in Northern Ireland.


Daragh Carville is a well-known playwright and screenwriter and is from Armagh. He has won the Stewart Parker and the Meyer Whitworth awards for playwriting and teaches Scriptwriting at Birkbeck University of London. His work includes Cherrybomb, Being Human, The Smoke and 6 Degrees.

Daragh Carville


Jude Sharvin


Barry Devlin


Ronan Blaney


Ursula Devine


‘A Moment with Louis de Bernières’. Louis de Bernières In Conversation with Padraig Coyle, followed by Q&A.

Venue: Armagh Robinson Library, 43 Abbey Street.

Price: £8

Conversation with Q&A

Saturday 4th Nov  | 2.30pm – 3.30pm

From adventures through Western Australia with Blue Dog and Red Dog, Sylvie, the girl who believed in reincarnation, and the secrets of lassoing cattle and horses in Colombia, best-selling writer Louis de Bernières takes us on a literary journey that crosses three decades


In his conversation with Padraig Coyle he will talk about his work including Birds Without Wings, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin and The Dust That Falls From Dreams. Louis will share readings of some of his favourite prose and poetry as well as explaining his Huguenot roots in Lisburn


Louis de Bernières is the bestselling author of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin and The Dust That Falls From Dreams, Birds Without Wings and A Partisan’s Daughter, a collection of stories, and two collections of poetry.


Padraig Coyle (Armagh) was a BBC Producer for over twenty years. He has written for The Observer, The Irish Times, The Independent, The Irish News and Culture Northern Ireland. He is the author of three books and several plays.


This event is sure to be one of the highlights of this year’s festival.

Louis de Bernières


Padraig Coyle


Robert McCrum In Conversation with Adrian Moynes

Venue: Armagh Robinson Library, 43 Abbey Street

Price: £8


Saturday 4th Nov | 4.00pm – 5.00pm

Robert McCrum is a writer and editor whose most recent book, Every Third Thought: On Life, Death, and the Endgame was published in August 2017


In a world where we are determined to live well at all costs, can we make peace with what Freud calls ‘the necessity of dying’? Robert McCrum ponders this question in his new book, Every Third Thought. Searching for answers he turns to brain surgeons, psychologists, cancer patients, hospice workers, writers and poets.


Robert was Editor-in-Chief of Faber & Faber for 16 years, where he published such writers as Kazuo Ishiguro, Milan Kundera, Marilynne Robinson, and Hanif Kureishi.


His account of his stroke, My Year Off (1998), is in its third edition as a Picador Classic. He is now Associate Editor with The Observer


Adrian Moynes comes from Armagh and has enjoyed an illustrious career with RTE, with whom he produced, edited, wrote, and directed. He was Managing Director of RTE Radio and then Group Secretary of RTÉ.He has recently been appointed Chair of The Tyrone Guthrie Centre. His interest in the arts is far ranging; literature is his life-long passion.


This event is supported by The Seamus Heaney Homeplace: Robert McCrum will read at Homeplace on Sunday afternoon, 5th November.

Robert McCrum


Adrian Moynes


Jo Baker In Conversation with Glenn Patterson

Venue: Armagh Robinson Library, 43 Abbey Street

Price: £8


Saturday 4th Nov  | 5.30pm – 6.30pm

Expect spies, artists, deprivation, danger and passion….


Jo Baker is the author of six novels, including the bestseller Longbourn, currently in development as a motion picture with Studio Canal. Her most recent novel, A Country Road, A Tree, which is a reimagining of literary icon Samuel Beckett’s Resistance years in Paris, was named a book of the year in The Guardian and The New Statesman.


Glenn Patterson was born, and lives, in Belfast. The author of ten novels, including the critically acclaimed Gull, he is the co-writer (with Colin Carberry) of Good Vibrations (BBC Films).


Earlier this year he was appointed Director of the Seamus Heaney Centre at Queen’s University Belfast.

Jo Baker


Glenn Patterson


A staged reading of Both Sides by Jane Coyle

Venue: Abbey Lane Theatre

Price: £7


Saturday 4th Nov  | 7.00pm – 8.00pm

Both Sides comprises two interlocking monologues, entitled Me Here, Me and Before Before. They are inspired by the writing of Samuel Beckett, and set respectively in Paris and Nice.


Me Here, Me was first performed at the inaugural COMMENCEZ! Beckett Paris Festival in March 2016.


A companion piece, Before Before, was added to make this intriguing double-header. It premiered at the 2017 Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival.


The romance of Paris and the spirit of Beckett loom large…


Performed by actresses Hannah Coyle and Libby Smyth.


Jane Coyle is an established arts journalist and critic. She has written many scripts for radio and television, and three full-length screenplays. Her stage plays include The Lantern Man, The Suitcase (BIAF Audience Award), and Farm Girl, written and performed for Holocaust Memorial Day 2017.


Hannah Coyle is a professional actress based in Paris and Libby Smyth is one of Ulster’s bestknown and versatile stage actresses.

Jane Coyle


Hannah Coyle & Libby Smith


The John O’Connor Celebration Evening

Venue: The Charlemont Arms Hotel, 57-65 Upper English Street

Price: £18

Saturday 4th Nov | 8.30pm – 10.30pm

The finest of writers, musicians and poets come together to celebrate John O’Connor in what promises to be two hours of the best entertainment seen on any stage. The evening will feature performances from a star-studded guest list including Louis de Bernières, Horslips, Glenn Patterson, Fiachna Ó’Braonáin (Hothouse Flowers), Rosemary Jenkinson, Gareth Dunlop, Lisa Lambe (‘the finest singer and actress of her generation on whom a whole foundation of theatre could be built’ – Fintan O’Toole in The Irish Times), Karl O’Neill, and new writers, Erin Halliday and Louise Kennedy.

Louis de Bernieres


Lisa Lambe




Glenn Patterson


Fiachna O'Braonain


Gareth Dunlop


John O’Connor Writing School Creative Writers showcase their work

Venue: The Charlemont Arms Hotel, 57-65 Upper English Street

Price: FREE

Sunday 5th Nov | 11.15am – 12.15pm

Facilitated by Martelle McPartland.

A Literary Lyrical Lunchtime

Venue: The Charlemont Arms Hotel, 57-65 Upper English Street

Price: £10

Sunday 5th Nov | 1.00pm – 3.15pm

An afternoon of entertainment in song, poetry, prose and music.


A rare chance to enjoy a unique pairing of words and music, as Fermanagh-born poet, Frank Ormsby, and Belfast songwriter, Anthony Toner, read and perform together.


Frank Ormsby is one of Northern Ireland’s most revered poets, the author of a number of important collections including the recently acclaimed, Goat’s Milk: New and Selected Poems.His new collection, The Darkness of Snow, is to be published in September 2017.


Anthony Toner, a gifted singer, guitarist and storyteller, is then composer of well-known songs like Sailortown, Well Well Well and The Road to Fivemiletown. He is currently celebrating the release of his eighth album, Ink.


As this year’s festival comes to a close, we continue the afternoon with an impressive line-up of writers, singers, musicians and poets including Anne Doughty, Patricia Craig, Tony Villiers, and Warren Atwell – with a surprise or two!


Award-winning Orla McAlinden from County Armagh (author of The Accidental Wife) will read, as will Matthew Rice, runner-up in the Seamus Heaney Award for New Writing (2017).


Sunday lunchtimes should always be like this!

Frank Ormsby


Anthony Toner


Orla McAlinden


Matthew Rice


Armagh Literary Walk

Meeting place: opposite Gaol Square, The Mall, Armagh

Price: FREE


Sunday 5th Nov | 3.30pm – 4.30pm

The second annual John O’Connor Writing School and Literary Arts Festival is again hosting a one-hour stroll around the Mall and the city centre, to introduce walkers to Armagh’s forgotten literary and cultural history; revealing stories that will enlighten, surprise and even shock. From the places and spaces that inspired the mysticism, poetry and painting of George Russell (AE), to houses and buildings associated with historic figures including the family home of the father of Crime Scene Investigation, who is forgotten in Ireland but still revered in America.


Guided by history researcher Eric Villiers you will meet an eclectic bunch of the famous and infamous.


Note: In the past year Ulster History Circle Blue Plaques have been erected at the Armagh homes of John O’Connor at 94 Banbrook Hill, and Patrick Magee (Samuel Beckett’s favourite actor) at Edward Street, both a short walk from the city centre.