by vickylass on 16/05/11 at 1:44 pm
With these two excelent festivals in Bantry, on the coast of West Cork, the town is a real bliss.
Bantry House If it is Friday, it is market day. The streets get hectic with shoppers and sellers.
The old Irish name of Bantry is Beanntraige. It comes from a son of Conor MacNessa called Beannt. Connor MacNessa was one of the kings of Ireland at the time of Christ and the ending “raige” means the people or territory of “Beannt”.
Taking a bus from Clonakilty I delight with the rugged and green landscape, but when the bus starts to enter in Bantry, the landscape is enough to make me sit up to look through the window.
The bay glitters and the few boats sway in the sea. On the other side of the road, I spot the gardens of Bantry House -a 19th Century palace that hosts the Festival of Chamber Music every summer.
As one walks inside these gardens, one has a sense of wellbeing, having left the hustle and bustle of the city life behind.
In Bantry House gardens I have been in all sorts of weather. Sitting at table of the conservatory of the House, I think I could stay for hours on end watching the bay and soaking in the atmosphere.
When the music festival is on, one may listen to the musicians rehearsing as one enjoys a quiet cuppa. This magnificent House hosts the festival every year at the end of June and beginning of July. The evening concerts are held in the House, but there are several ones more in town during the day.
I was amazed when I first attended one of these concerts in Bantry House. It has such good acoustics that there is no need for microphones, and it was delightful to indulge in good Chamber Music while looking round the room, seeing the antique furniture, the paintings and, at a distance, Bantry Bay.
After the Chamber Music Festival, there follows the Literary one. If it happens that both of them coincide within the same week, then, as I always say, Bantry town is bliss!
The literary festival was organised by Fish publishing house located in the area. These days I read that it will be organised by the Arts Council as a tourist attraction.
The main features of this festival are the public readings staged by different authors in a choice of venues -in the library, in some of the bookshops, in the Organico Cafe, etc. This gives a chance to meet some of the writers one has recently read and to hold a small conversation with them.
However, the most interesting activity, or at least it should be for anyone wishing to find its way in the writing world, are the workshops on the different genres of literature, such as poetry, novel, short stories, journalism, drama, scripts, song lyrics, etc. They last the whole of the week and one should book well beforehand as some of the most popular ones get full fast. The price is around the one hundred euro. One may think that they are a bit pricey, but then, if one is really serious about writing and wishes to reach somewhere worthwhile, they are necessary. Writing is a lonesome activity. Therefore, it is important to interact with other fellow writers to get much needed feedback, to learn from other experiences and to know our own strong or weak treats sharing what we write with others.
Another important event is the launch of the Fish Anthology of Short Stories, which contains all the winning and short listed stories in their annual international competition. They start with a gathering in Bantry House to present all the winners, to follow with a party somewhere else in town.
The last time I went to Bantry, I stayed in the Bantry Bay Hotel in the heart of the town. To my surprise, I saw that they had enlarged the choice of activities, organising bed time stories. “There you are” said my friend, “you can put on your pyjamas and join in!”