For the first time, the Lilliput Press and New Island Books have made the historic move of bringing a showcase of Irish-published literary talent – the Shebeen Series – to The Times and The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival 2021 as a representation of the industry and the best of Irish writing.
With the generous support of the Arts Council of Ireland, and in partnership with the Cheltenham Literature Festival, this exciting event sees two of Ireland’s most prestigious and long-standing publishers join together to take over a stage for a full afternoon at the world’s oldest literature festival. Irish publishing houses have never before been given a full stage for a whole day at such a world-renowned UK literary festival – this sets a precedent for Irish-published authors. While Irish authors are acclaimed the world over, Irish publishers and Irish authors have not always taken centre stage at international festivals. The Shebeen Series revolutionizes this.
This full programme of panel talks and ‘in conversation’ events is part of this year’s theme ‘Read the World’, a major new three-year theme for the Cheltenham Literature Festival.
Caoimhe Fox at New Island and Ruth Hallinan at the Lilliput Press say: ‘This incredible day-long takeover at Cheltenham shows what can be achieved when collaborations happen and is a great step forward in bringing Irish publishing houses to internationally-renowned festivals in Britain. We hope this exciting showcase of our talented writers will open the door for more Irish-published authors to reach audiences in the UK and beyond. We want to show the reading audiences of our nearest neighbour just how unique and relevant our authors’ work is, that they tell stories that are modern, universal and distinctly Irish, and to show that there is a wealth of talent from numerous Irish publishers just across the water! We couldn’t have asked for a more welcoming or prestigious partner than Lyndsey Fineran and the team at the Cheltenham Literature Festival who have been amazingly supportive of our outlandish ideas from day one!’
The complete line-up of the ‘Shebeen Series’ sees ten Irish-published authors take control of The Huddle stage in person on Saturday 16 October from 1–6pm. The stellar line-up includes: Hennessy Prize-winning PAUL PERRY, author of The Garden (New Island 2021), in conversation with ADRIAN DUNCAN, winner of the John McGahern Annual Book Prize 2020 and author of Midfield Dynamo (Lilliput 2021); NUALA O’CONNOR, author of Nora (New Island 2021) and shortlisted for the Kerry Irish Novel of the Year Award 2015, in conversation with ALICE LYONS, author of Oona (Lilliput 2020), which was shortlisted for the Kate O’Brien Prize 2020; a panel event around the landmark anthology The New Frontier: Reflections from the Irish Border (New Island 2021) with editor JAMES PATTERSON and contributors DARRAN ANDERSON and JILL CRAWFORD; and a panel discussion around Archipelago: A Reader (Lilliput 2021) with co-editor FIONA STAFFORD and contributors JAMES MACDONALD LOCKHART and BERNARD O’DONOGHUE.
Topics will range from the global reach of Irish writing to the lives of overlooked characters; from the art of fictionalising true tales to the exploration of the influence of the Border on the people that inhabit that divide in the 21st century; as well as a reimagining of the relationships between the islands of Ireland and Britain in a world now fast being defined by climate and environmental degradation.
The Cheltenham Literature Festival leads the way in celebrating the written and spoken word, presenting the best new voices in fiction and poetry alongside literary greats and high-profile speakers. With the Shebeen Series by Lilliput and New island, they have embraced this pioneering effort at collaboration across the Irish Sea.
Lyndsey Fineran, Festival Director of the Cheltenham Literature Festival, says: ‘With ‘Read the World’, we will bring you one of our most diverse line-ups to date and continue to lead the way in producing world-class programmes that push the envelope of what literature festivals can do, and who they are for. This was a really fantastic proposal from Caoimhe and Ruth and I am delighted to be welcoming New Island and Lilliput authors to Cheltenham this year.’
New Island Books was founded in 1992 by Edwin Higel, celebrating thirty years in business this year, they are known for fostering debut Irish fiction, alongside Irish interest non-fiction, poetry, short stories, and the Open Door adult literacy series.
The Lilliput Press, winner of the Small Press of the Year Award in Ireland 2020, was founded in 1984 by Antony Farrell in County Westmeath and publishes a wide variety of Irish interest books, including work by Donal Ryan, Kevin Power, Neil Jordan, Elske Rahill, Emer Martin and forthcoming from Martina Devlin.
Named as Bookseller Rising Stars 2020, Ruth Hallinan, Publishing and Production Manager at the Lilliput Press, and Caoimhe Fox, Marketing and Publicity Manager at New Island, are passionate about promoting Irish-published books at home and abroad. In 2020 they successfully applied to the Arts Council of Ireland for project funding to support their collaborative work to raise the profile of both their publishing houses and authors internationally.
This year’s festival runs from 8–17 October. The Shebeen Series takes place on The Huddle stage on Saturday 16 October, 1-6pm and has free entry.
The full programme is online here.