“Hi, my name is Seán and I’m a book-aholic”. “Hi, Seán”. “Hi, Seán”. The Seán in question was none other than our first citizen, Mayor Sean Ó hArgáin who was addressing a group of local authors at an event called ‘Celebrating Local Talent’ organised by Dubray Books in the Market Cross during our Arts Festival.
Bet you didn’t know our Mayor was a book-aholic. Well he is. And that’s a fact. And I didn’t even have to google it. Straight from the horse’s mouth, as they say. And don’t say this column doesn’t bring you the odd scoop. Remember, you heard it here first. And fair dues to the Mayor for being there when he could have been swanning it with some ambassador or other (actually he had been swanning it with an ambassador - with six ambassadors, if you don’t mind, throughout our marvellous Arts Festival)
In fairness the Mayor is a good ambassador for books and wasn’t waffling (would a politician waffle?) about his book-aholism. He had read several of the authors present, was familiar with many and informed us that he has a copy of Tom Brett’s book of photographs ‘Kilkenny in ‘Focus’ and a copy of my own ‘Kilkenny City & County’ in his office in High Street. Tom and Gerry were rightly chuffed; two lads who grew up side by-side now lying side-by-side on the Mayor’s table in City Hall. “Boys, oh boys”, as our mothers might have said.
Anyway sincere thanks to Dubray for an excellent concept and most enjoyable evening and to our book-aholic Mayor. Sometimes we take the attendance of our first citizen at an event for granted, forgetting just how busy a schedule the man has. As I said to all present (yours truly was MC for the evening) I’ve been trying desperately to enlist Seán in our once-a-month, Monday night strip-poker session. But he’s always too busy. A pity really as I’d love to see an t-Uasal Ó hArgáin sitting in his pelt, in a smoke-filled room, with only the mayoral chain for modesty.
Other local authors present in Dubray were Edward Crane, the pseudonym for Martin Brennan (The Havishams Hive of Five), Liam Flood (No Margin for Error), Aiden Harte (Irenicon), Edward Hayden (Food to Love) Paula Leydon (The Butterfly Heart), Tom O’Neill (The Lost Friends of Fionn Mac Cumhaill), Anne Neary (Food for Sharing) and Peter-Somerville-Large (The History of the National Gallery of Ireland)
You meet all sorts of characters, real and fictitious, at our annual Arts Festival but the two I will fondly remember are a bald, portly Bulgarian called Ivo and a four-inch, pale-faced puppet called Melancholio. Ivo Papasov and his Bulgarian Wedding Band played the Set and damn near set the place alight with their exuberance and energy. Ivo, a master clarinettist, had the dance floor hopping; as for the girl in the green dress who danced like a demented dervish ALL night, I’m still wondering what her head was like the following morning, not from alcohol but from twirling and swirling and sheer dizziness.
And then there was Melancholio, all four inches of him, the cutest, saddest little puppet you ever did see. Melancholio, ‘the saddest clown in the universe’ was the star of Circo Islu on the Canal Walk. I was like a big child in the middle of all the mams & dads and their kids and absolutely loved the show. In fact I wanted to adopt Melancholio who, with his flaming red hair, looked like the great, great grandfather of Bosco.
Mentioning great, great grandfathers – the great, great grandson of Charles Dickens, Gerald Dickens esquire, was back in Kyteler’s Inn performing his one-man show ‘Nicholas Nickleby’. The man was superb. Gerald Dickens, methinks, is a genius. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again and again and again: if Gerald Dickens ever returns to Kilkenny GO. Do not hum, haw or hesitate, just get on your skates and GO.
I started with local talent and I’ll end with it - the local talent bedecking the walls along the Mayor’s Walk. Well done folks for adding a much-needed splash of colour to what was a particularly dull, grey landscape this ‘summer’ and well done to Curt Phillips for sharing his epigrammatic poems which I found most engaging.
P.S. Oh and then there’s the ‘small’ matter of local talent in that cauldron of passion that was Croke Park last Sunday but that breath-taking art, and analysis of same, I shall leave to the aficionados of the game. My own summation requires just one word: AWESOME.
P.P.S. Finally, the quote of our Arts Festival: “Have ye no match to go to?” - The Voice Squad kicking off their brilliant performance in St. John’s Priory prior to the throw-in between Kilkenny and Tipp.