After months of planning and preparation, crowds gathered in the Glencree Valley over the weekend of 22nd-23rd June for the inaugural Shaking Bog Festival of Nature Writing.
On Saturday the sun shone down over the family day (in association with Fighting Words) at Aurora House where children attended a broad range of workshops including, songwriting, graphic fiction, bird box building and art. It was a joyful day enjoyed by a wide range of children of all ages. Indeed, it seemed sometimes that the parents were enjoying everything about the activities just as much as their children.
Later in the afternoon, there was haunting reading of JM Synge’s classic Wicklow play ‘In The Shadow of the Glen’ deep in the woods at Oak Glen. Professor Nicholas Greene - the founder of the Synge Summer School in Rathdrum and renowned expert on Synge - gave the audience a fascinating introduction.
It was an inspiration. The silver branch and a new way of seeing
Liam O’Maonlai , 2019
In the evening, in a huge marquee at Glencree Peace & Reconciliation Centre, there was also a moving and entertaining poetry reading from award-winning British poet Pascale Petit as well as from the legendary Paul Durcan. Durcan, as always, is a charismatic reader of his own poems and opened with a powerful tribute to Seamus Heaney.
Sunday morning started early with some outdoor activities based out of Knockree Hostel - moth-watching with Kieran Finch, a nature trail with Declan Murphy (author of A Life In The Trees), a stunning wildlife camera workshop with Emmy awardwinning cameraman Theo Jebb and Kerry Walker’s forest therapy experience. There was even an opportunity for children to read their own nature writing back at Curtlestown School in a very special Budding Nature Writers Event. This was a particularly inspirational event.
Back up at Glencree Centre, there were powerful readings and talks from writers such Katie Donovan, Jane Clarke, Carlo Gebler and special guest John Lewis-Stempel who talked passionately about farming and nature. In a conversation with Irish Times journalist Sylvia Thompson, the award-winning nature writer stunned everyone with his astounding way of “reading” nature during his daily farming life.
An amazing weekend came to a brilliant climax in St Kevin’s Church, Glencree with a stellar line-up of performers including The Square Pegs, world-renowned piper David Power, Fugato, the inimitable Flo McSweeney and Liam O’Maonlai of the Hot House Flowers. There were also short nature readings and a timely reflection from Green Party leader Eamon Ryan before a jam-packed audience. This remarkable manifestation of the philosophy of “thinking local and acting global” came to a conclusion with a stirring rendition of Bob Dylan’s Forever Young from Liam O’Maonlai and the assembled musicians.
The interest of the press - particularly national press - far exceeded expectations. The festival’s press campaign was hugely successful in securing extensive coverage across all media including; printed press, radio and television. For one small new festival to get three feature articles in the Irish Times is unprecedented and seemed to reflect the general mood towards the festival which was receptive and enthusiastic throughout.