The Leaves Festival of Writing and Music 2019 took place from November 5 to 10 and impacted and engaged with an audience of young and old, delivering a rich and diverse programme of the very best of literature, music, theatre and film.
Festival curator Dermot Bolger, one of Ireland’s best known writers, was instrumental in making the programme very special this year.
There were many highlights to choose from throughout the run of the festival, including a wonderful evening with the Irish Legend, John Sheahan of the Dubliners fame.
On Saturday evening the beautiful St. Peters Church of Ireland, in Portlaoise was the perfect setting for a conversation with Dermot Bolger that had poetry readings, humorous and nostalgic stories and some well-loved tunes, including a beautiful rendition of the Marino Waltz and John’s personal story of how he came to compose this iconic piece of music.
Local author Niamh Boyce read from her wonderful new book ‘Her Kind’ and also described the historical background to her work.
Friday evening at the Dunamaise Arts Centre saw award winning authors Joseph O’Connor and Christine Dwyer Hickey read most eloquently from their books and conversations with Dermot brought out some really fascinating insights into their work and lives.
The evening was made extras special with a performance by sean nós singer Sibéal Ní Chasaide, who mesmerised the audience with the haunting quality of her voice, accompanied by musicians Ódhráin Ó Cassaide, Mike Nielsan and Eamon de Barra.
Funded by the Creative Ireland Laois programme, earlier in the week, Manchán Mangan brought another unique event to the festival with his bi-lingual play, Arán agus Im.
Manchán baked bread and made butter on stage while offering insights into the wonders of the Irish language.
On Tuesday evening Arán agus Im was such a huge hit with the audience they literally did not want to leave as they enjoyed the bread and butter and chat. He performed it for schools on Wednesday.
The Dunamaise theatre programme included wonderful plays such as the National Theatre Live presentation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Verdant Productions presentation of the play Class.
Another highlight of the programme was a very rare public conversation with the master photographer John Minihan.
John regaled the audience with stories of his eventful career photographing some of the modern day greats to a backdrop of the iconic images of Samuel Beckett, Princess Diana and Francis Bacon and many more.
A number of successful writing workshops were lead by poet Enda Wyley and Dermot Bolger, for children, second level students and adults. Laois Libraries hosted an array of events including the launch of local author Dr Arthur Broomfield’s new book, as well as readings and storytelling workshops.
The finale event was held at Ballintubbert House and Church on Sunday, to celebrate the theatrical, literary and history of the area. Writer John MacKenna and members of the Laois Writers Group performed and enjoyed an evening of readings, music and food remembering poet Laureate Cecil Day Lewis.
Thanks to Laois County Council, the Arts Council, the Dunamaise Arts Centre, Creative Ireland, RTE, Poetry Ireland, Laois Partnership, Laois Tourism and Big Idea Consulting, for the great media programme this year and to all who helped in making the festival a success.
The festival is organised annually by The Arts Office, Laois County Council.