Current DLR writer-in-residence Colm Keegan set up a gig in the Studio of the new Lexicon as part of the Dublin One City One Book festivities. This year’s book is Roddy Doyle’s Barrytown Trilogy: The Comittments, The Snapper and The Van, reissued in one volume.
The Lexicon, for those of you who don’t know, is the new central library and cultural space for Dun Laoghaire. It’s an ambitious building and it’s controversial, partly because of how much it cost – figures vary but in or around 40 million is where it seems to settle – and partly because of its scale and design. Some people love it, some hate it. There are Dun Laoghaire people who have vowed never to set a living foot inside it.
Colm took all of this on, on the night. The lineup included poets, fiction writers and musicians and the brief was to read a favourite extract from Roddy Doyle’s work and a piece of their own. The musicians/singers were Enda Reilly and Sinéad White, and the readers were Colm Keegan, June Caldwell, Stephen James Smith, Karl Parkinson. Colm Keegan said that Roddy Doyle writes brilliant Dublin dialogue and he planned the night in that spirit, his aim was to bring ‘an apocalyptic amount of Dublin accents’ to Dun Laoghaire.
It was a treat, from start to finish. June Caldwell brought the house down and set the tone with her reading of the scene in The Snapper where Sharon tells her mates she’s pregnant. Then she read a fresh story of her own, “Natterbean”, written and read with a comic energy that’s pure Dublin. All of the contributors are pure (whatever that might be) Dublin. Stephen James Smith read from The Snapper too, the scene where Darren gets a bike for his birthday, and some poems of his own including the iconic “How Is She?” and an experimental poem that, he told us, was literally written in the margins of a copy of the Barrytown Trilogy, on a bookstall in Temple Bar Square. Karl Parkinson talked about influences and read from The Commitments, where Joey the Lips turns up for his interview with Jimmy. Then poems of his own. Enda Reilly and Sinéad White played a mix of songs from the film The Commitments and their own songs – giving proceedings the atmosphere of a late night session. They could have rocked the building and brought the whole town indoors to listen if we’d stayed on for the night.
Colm Keegan took a detour through A Star Called Henry – it was his party so he could stray if he wanted – and read the scene where Henry and Vinnie have their brief experience of school. Then he read his own poems, including the brilliant, heartbreaking/uplifting “The Promise”, and a poem about the Lexicon, written as part of his residency.
One of the many amazing gifts of this event was the level of honest exposure each of the readers brought to proceedings. Maybe it’s because they’re friends, or because they’re all part of the performance poetry/spoken word scene here, or else it’s just because this is a tone that Colm seems to strike everywhere he goes – he’s honest and he’s real, in what he says as well as what he writes. Everyone spoke about what Roddy Doyle’s work has meant to them and in doing so they said a lot about what their own work is and means. Colm told us that he’s a product of the libraries. When you’re a kid like he was, if you ‘look like a skanger and come from Clondalkin’, you get followed round the shops by people who expect you to steal something, but the libraries let you in and give you books. He acknowledged the controversy of the Lexicon but reminded us that the libraries belong to all of us and this one is no exception. It’s ours. We should use and support it.
Colm Keegan has a facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/ColmKeeganWriter
June blogs at: https://junecaldwell.wordpress.com/
Stephen does just about everything at http://www.stephenjamessmith.com/
Karl is at: http://karlparkinson.blogspot.ie/
Enda Reilly is at: http://www.endareilly.com/
Listen to Sinead White on: https://soundcloud.com/sinead-white-1