April was an extraordinary month for me and for Fallen, as the 2016 selection for the Dublin: One City One Book festival – except that this year, for the first time, it was Dublin-Belfast: Two Cities One Book. Two programmes, more than 100 events. From beginning to end it was a thrill and a revelation.
People ask what the highlight was. Some events and opportunities stand out because they never would have happened without this festival. Some stand out because of the energy the audience brought, or because of the chance to work with and in other art forms and with practitioners I’d never met before as well as with old friends. The cross-border dimension was a thrill, and that will be the general legacy of this centenary year: bookclubs in Dublin have been twinned with bookclubs in Belfast. The first book they read together will be Fallen but their connection will continue into the future.
The other standout experience has been the people. I want to thank absolutely everyone – readers, supporters, interviewers, presenters, the people behind the festival in Libraries Northern Ireland and in Dublin City Libraries, the 1916 Centenary Committee and people who came along on bus tours for the ride but stayed to chat and show an interest in the book. The Lord Mayor of Dublin, Ardmhéara Críona Ní Dhálaigh, has been a particularly generous host and supporter. A very real, whole-hearted thank you to every single one of you, it’s been amazing.
The 2016 festival is over and now it’s the turn of some other lucky writer and some other lucky book. Whoever you are, I hope you have as rewarding and enriching an experience as I did and I envy you your production and support team. I’m going to miss them. And guess what I have to face instead?
A blank page.