Last Sunday, I went along to a new literary endeavour in Cork. Set up by writers Danielle McLaughlin and Madeleine D’Arcy, Fiction at the Friary was an afternoon of readings, an optional writing exercise (though I think everyone was too giddy to take it very seriously) and an open mic for brave souls willing to share ongoing projects. No pictorial evidence, unfortunately, as my photographic skills are matched only by the terrible camera on my phone.
The guest speaker was William Wall, whose work I’m embarrassed to say I wasn’t familiar with but now intend to read more of (I started with this story in Granta, and it’s a beauty). He spoke eloquently, read beautifully and had a wonderfully self-deprecating sense of humour for someone who has just won the prestigious American Drue Heinz Literary Prize, the first European to do so.
The turnout was impressive, people in every corner of what is a pretty tiny pub over two floors. While all the action was happening upstairs, there were many of us listening downstairs, with latecomers having to stand (not me, I was alright, Jack). It reminded me of those Sunday Masses from long ago, when you legged it up late to the church and had to listen from outside the door.
What struck me most of all was the camaraderie of the afternoon. Maybe it was the cosiness of the tight squeeze, maybe it was the cheerful glasses filled with marshmallows and jelly beans provided by our hosts, but the general mood was uplifting, the perfect antidote to a week of Voldetrump news. It also didn’t matter what your level of expertise was – rank amateurs (*hand aloft*) and well-known writers happily rubbed shoulders, not to mention elbows, knees and feet.
The aim is for Fiction at the Friary to become a regular event on the Cork literary landscape – I certainly hope it will be. Next month’s guest is Eimear Ryan, a short story writer who is also one of the founding editors of Banshee literary journal.
Fiction at The Friary will take place at The Friary Pub, 62 Shandon Street (by the North Gate Bridge), Cork, on the last Sunday of the month. The next event is scheduled for February 26, 3-6pm. Entry is free. You can find out more via their Facebook page here, or follow them on Twitter @FictionFriary.