Monday, June 13, 2011

Enthralled Crowds Journey with International Travel Writers

Crowds of visitors descended upon the heritage town of Lismore, Co Waterford for The Immrama Festival of Travel Writing' last weekend (9-12 June).

Literary enthusiasts from throughout Ireland and abroad congregated in the town since Thursday evening last (June 9) to enjoy a weekend of literary presentations, workshops, a bloggers clinic and poetry readings with international travel writers including Conor O'Clery, Rolf Potts, Alex von Tunzelmann, Sara Wheeler, Theo Doran, William Blacker and Jasper Winn.

The four-day festival commenced on Thursday evening, June 9 with the launch of four new books by authors Paul Clements, Áine Uí Fhoghlú, Alan Murphy and David Monaghan in Lismore Castle Arts. Friday morning commenced with schools poetry workshops and on Friday evening Theo Dorgan took his audience on a literary sailing voyage, along with polar traveller, Sara Wheeler, who enthralled with her audience with tales of her vast explorations of the northern and southern hemispheres. Travel writer Pól Ó Conghaile ably and expertly chatted with Theo and Sara to provide a wonderful evening's entertainment.

Commenting on the festival, County Manager Ray O'Dwyer said, "Once again the Immrama festival has been a huge success. Lismore Immrama is now a recognised brand worldwide in travel writing circles, with visitors from destinations such as Melbourne, Australia; Vancouver, Canada and Florida in the U.S having traveled to Lismore this week especially for the Festival. It is fantastic to know that County Waterford is making its mark on the world map in this way."

Saturday morning's  Bloggers' Clinic, which was a new event on the Immrama calendar, was a huge success and very well received. More than 50 people were treated to some wonderful presentations and discussion about this post modern method of travel writing from the King of Blogging Rolf Potts, travel writer Manchán Magan, couchsurfer Áine Goggins and blogger Darragh Doyle.  This was followed by a lively questions and answers session which proved to be an insightful workshop on self publishing in the electronic era.

On Saturday afternoon keynote speaker Conor O'Clery spoke movingly on his reporting from the world's conflict zones and the phenomenon of the 'conflict hotel.' He vividly described some of his experiences detailing the camaraderie of journalists working within countries in turmoil. On Saturday evening at the Blackwater Community School, Blogger, Author and Travel Writer Rolf Potts gave his insights into the whole travel writing genre, vividly brought to life by his own travel experiences and travel historian Alex von Tunzelmann enthralled her audience with details of the 'real' story behind the Cuban Missile Crisis and the fall of the British Empire in India.

The Immrama Festival Committee are deeply indebted to traveler and author Jasper Winn, who stepped in at the last moment to give a wonderful 'Literary Breakfast' presentation on Sunday morning at Ballyrafter House Hotel.  Due to unforeseen circumstances programmed author Anthony Sattin was unable to make it and Jasper kindly agreed to speak of his own travels and experiences in various countries around the world, including some fascinating tales of his kayaking trip around Ireland, which is detailed in his new book, "Paddle: A Long Way Around Ireland."

The rain held off on Sunday afternoon to allow large crowds enjoy a lovely afternoon's free family fun entertainment in the Millennium Park, including wonderful music by Loudest Whisper and events including stilt-walking, face painting, dancing and a magician. The tempting food aromas courtesy of the Lismore Farmers Market drew many to the food producer stalls on Lismore Castle Avenue.

The festival closed on Sunday evening with a wonderful literary presentation by acclaimed travel writer William Blacker. The theme of the 2011 festival was taken from William's book Along the Enchanted Way, which is an account of the years he spent in northern Romania, living a life that has hardly changed since the Middle Ages, having discovered the 200-odd Saxon villages of Transylvania, with their fortified churches that have not been touched since they were built between the 14th and 16th centuries. William captivated the large audience with his vivid descriptions of life in the rural mountains, superbly illustrated by a slide presentation of his photos from Romania.

This is the ninth Immrama Festival of Travel Writers' and the Immrama Organising Committee would like to thank all of those who made this year's festival possible, particularly those who attended the various events throughout the weekend. At the end of a magnificent weekend of literary events, audiences were left wondering what the 2012 festival would have in store for them.

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