A lot of people ask about the Two Cities One Book experience and I thought I might write about it a little, in the blog. Nothing like this has ever happened to me before, it’s as new to me as it is to many of you, so why not?
Before you start to jeer about self-promotion, let me say that self-promotion is not what I’m after. This isn’t a plea to ‘come to my gig’ – although of course I want everyone to come to everything. The whole point about the One City One Book festival in general and this year’s astonishing Two Cities One Book festival (Belfast and Dublin reading the same book, i.e. Fallen) in particular, is that it’s one big celebration of books, of reading and of writing.
For me and for the novel, obviously, this is an extraordinary opportunity to connect with new readers, but for everyone else – well, it’s whatever you want it to be. It’s a celebration of the arts, using one title as a pretext for many fabulous events, exhibitions, talks and theatrical productions, many of which have no direct connection to Fallen. This year there are additional areas of intersection with history and with the 1916 commemorations. In other words, it’s an excuse for a month-long, bookish, artsy and historical party to be held in both cities, with some crossover between the two.
As well as readings and panels, there’ll be walking tours, talks on the fashion and business of the time, musical events, bus trips … I’ll post links to both programmes when they’re finalised.
Among other things, Libraries NI will run an online workshop helping people discover how to use online resources such as the Dictionary of National Biography and Oxford Reference Online. This is part of the Great War centenary. Details will be posted on the Libraries NI website soon.
There’s a more direct link with Fallen in the fantastic national writing competition for students run by Hot Press: Write Here Write Now Students are asked to consider – and write about their sense of ‘what is is to be from the island of Ireland, or to live here’; and to write “A Story of Ireland”. Full details are on the Hot Press website.
One of the many incredibly lucky things I get to do for the festival is to write a monologue for Katie, which will be performed in the Studio of the Lexicon in Dun Laoghaire on 21st April (details to follow). This week, we held auditions for the part of Katie – ‘we’ including Emer Casey, who’ll direct Katie, and Celia de Fréine, whose one woman play Beth will be staged in the same production. I can’t describe the thrill I got, hearing and seeing such talented young actors embody words I’ve written. It was electrifying, and made me want to go away into a quiet corner and write nothing but plays for the next few years.