Kerry County Council has hosted a number of Writer in Residence programmes since 1996.

1996 Writer in Residence, Moya Cannon, publication following the residency 'A Kerry Anthology'
2000 Writer in Residence, Rosemary Canavan, publication, 'Breacadh'
2001 Writer in Residence Patrick Galvin
2003 Writer in Residence Emma Cooke, publication 'The mermaids purse'
2004-2006 Writer in Residence Bryan Delaney
2007  (2 residencies) John W.Sexton and Tommy Frank O'Connor
2008 Tommy Frank O Connor, publication 'Real Imagines'

Writer in Residence:
The focus of this program over the years has been to support the interest in Literature in Kerry and to encourage development in creative writing.  The residency program also affords a work opportunity for professional writers; who get new inspiration through the residency as well as time to develop their own work.  There is a strong literary tradition across Kerry.  The Arts Office, supported by the Library Service and the Arts Council contracted a Writer in Residence, published poet and author, in 2001.  

Rosemary Canavan - During her residency, Rosemary worked with professional writers, amateur writers and those who write for pleasure.  Her visits around Kerry brought her in contact with aspiring writers of all ages, as she said, ‘it is most up lifting to witness the intense love of literature here in Kerry’. From the outset Rosemary wanted to help people to discover their creative side, to facilitate their investigations and explorations of writing.  Having a special interest in working with local communities, multimedia, web development and illustration, Rosemary stimulated interest in literature across the board.  Workshops facilitated by Rosemary include topics in poetry, creative writing, children’s writing and internet projects.  Rosemary produced the anthology ‘Breacadh’, which features many Kerry Writers as well as work by people never previous published.  She also started the Kerry Writers Web, .  She worked with people of all ages, with varying degrees of experience but equal levels of enthusiasm!

Patrick Galvin - Cork born poet and dramatist, Patrick Galvin’s residency was for a shorter term.  His residency had a good impact due in no small part to his own wealth of literary experience and expertise.  He focused his residency on supporting the writers in Kerry and those who wished to develop their writing skills.  He also gave a number of library and school creative writing sessions.  His experience contributed greatly to the literary sector in particular in terms of consultancy sessions, assisting, guiding, giving advice and support, as well as workshops.

Emma Cooke - Emma’s residency provided another new focus to creative writing and writers in Kerry.  Emma decided to focus an amount of her time on working with writers and schools on the Japanese art form ‘Haiku’; a haiku is a three-line poem, traditionally of seventeen syllables.  It is written in the present tense and deals with life, especially nature.  Emma was very successful in stimulating new levels of creative writing in Kerry, and indeed in inspiring Kerry Writers to explore this form of poetry.  Emma undertook a series of visits to interested primary schools.  Schools, libraries, community groups, writer groups and writers availed of her expertise.  The outcome of the residency included a published anthology of Kerry Haiku entitled ‘The Mermaids Purse’.  The material was gathered during the six months of the residency.  Young and old alike submitted work for this collection. 

The Arts Office and Library Service then decided to alter the focus of creative writing, sourcing expertise in the area of writing for theatre, film and TV.  The rationale being to encourage more writers to look at writing for stage and film, in particular in the context of the new arts centres being built nationally needing good quality product.  Kerry County Council was very lucky with the standard of applicant.  Work has continued in this area from 2004 -2008, with interludes facilitated by professional poets and novelists.  Bheartaigh an Oifig Ealaíon agus an tSeirbhís Leabharlainne, ansan, an fócas maidir le scríbhneoireacht chruthaitheach a athrú, agus saineolas ar an scríbhneoireacht don amharclann, don scannánaíocht agus don teilifís a lorg.  Deireadh seo chun níos mó scríbhneoirí a spreagadh i dtreo scríobh don stáitse agus don scannánaíocht, go háirithe toisc ábhar ar ardchaighdeán a bheith ag teastáil ó na hionaid nua ealaíon a bhí á dtógáil go náisiúnta.  Bhí an t-ádh le Comhairle Contae Chiarraí ó thaobh chaighdeán an iarratasóra.  Tá an ghné seo á saothrú ago leanúnach, 2004 – 2008, agus tréimhsí éascaitheoireachta curtha isteach ag filí agus úrscéalaithe proifisiúnta.

Bryan Delaney - September 2004, Playwright in Residence - Bryan has been Playwright-in-Residence on three different occasions.  As the main project of his first residency, he organised the first ever Kerry County Council One-Act Play Competition.  Writers were invited to submit a one-act play on a theme of their choice.  After receiving a large number of entries from Ireland and abroad, Bryan selected four winning plays, each of which received a professional staged reading at Siamsa Tire Theatre, Tralee on Friday 25th March 2005.  A staged reading is a key step in the development of new writing for the theatre.  Professional actors rehearsed the plays under the guidance of director, Thomas Conway of Druid Theatre Company, with the playwrights in attendance.  The actors then read the plays in character, to a live theatre audience.  Each of the winning plays was a unique and striking piece of theatre and marked the arrival of strong and original new playwriting talent.  The reading of the plays was followed by an open discussion where members of the audience had an opportunity to discuss the plays and the rehearsal process with the writers.  This was the first time ever that an event of this kind took place in Kerry.  The evening was an outstanding success.  The audience was exposed to the first professional reading of four new works by emerging playwrights, three of whom were from or had connections to the County.  As well as enjoying a great evening of theatre, the audience got a rare glimpse of the process by which new work is developed for the stage.  For the playwrights, the experience was invaluable. They were able to workshop their plays with a professional director and professional actors and then see their work come alive in front of a live theatre audience and they found the experience both exhilarating and immensely instructive.

For his second residency, Bryan developed the competition further; it was included as one of the competitions in Listowel Writers’ Week.  There were over a hundred entries and two winning plays received staged readings at St. John’s Theatre & Art Centre in Listowel as part of the Writer’s Week activities.

For his third residency, Bryan decided to focus on a core group of emerging writers and conducted a series of weekly playwriting workshops to this group.  The function of these workshops was to provide the writers with a basic grounding in the rudiments of playwriting and to nurture them through the writing of the one-act play.  With one or two exceptions, none of these writers had ever written a play prior to the residency.  Bryan also held several individual meetings with the writers at every stage of the process to provide encouragement and feedback about their works-in-progress and to advise them about the business side of the writer’s life such as how to find a literary agent, how to submit plays to theatres etc.  At the end of the workshop series each of the drafts was read by the group and feedback and reaction given to each playwright.

‘Overall I am very happy with how the residency has worked out’, says Bryan.  ‘Kate and I structured this residency to try to replicate the very best playwriting programmes that exist in the professional theatre in the UK, America and Ireland.  The response from the writers has been extremely positive and I am particularly happy that so many of them have actually produced written work, especially given the time pressures of jobs, family etc.  Writing a play of any length is a difficult thing to do and the fact that the residency has enabled so many writers to write their first play is for me the most pleasing aspect of my time here.  I’m very proud of them all’.

As well as these key projects, Bryan also gave countless talks and workshops throughout each residency with schools, writers groups, drama groups, active retired associations, women’s groups etc. and worked with numerous writers around the County, reading their work in progress and meeting them to give advice and feedback.  He was a judge for the Beehive Theatre Company’s short play competition and twice co-adjudicated the award for best short screenplay at the Kerry Film Festival.  He gave talks in every library around the County on writing for the stage and was generally available to meet with any group or individual with an interest in writing or the theatre.  Alongside this, he continued to work on his own projects and found that his work during his residencies fed into this:  ‘The residency has also sharpened my own practice as a playwright.  By engaging so closely with the writers’ process every week in the workshops and helping them solve the challenges they face in the writing of their plays, I was constantly reminded of what constitutes good practice in writing for the stage.  These were lessons that I brought to bear on my own work’.

Frances Kay - Frances succeeded Bryan Delaney as Playwright in Residence.  Frances brought another new focus to the residency.  Much of her residency targeted working with primary and secondary schools.  Significantly, she began a ‘Write Your Own Play’ for school children, and a create your own ‘Bugs’ play hosted in the libraries for pre-school children.  These ‘BUGS’ workshops, for three and four year olds formed part of Frances’s own research for a commissioned play for this age group which was due to premiere in Belfast.  Throughout, the focus was on being creative; getting children thinking around developing plots, characters etc.  Mid way through her residency, Frances stated , ‘I am really enjoying it, and I say this with a recent experience of another residency behind me, where I did not feel that my status as an artist was given the trust and enthusiasm I have found here in Kerry’.  ‘Two writers’ groups have formed since I started here, and are having regular meetings at Tralee and Killarney Libraries’.

Frances also worked with the Samhlaíocht Kerry Film Festival, facilitating a ‘Screenwriting for Beginners’ workshop and participated in the panel discussion on ‘What is a film script?’ which brought in an enthusiastic audience of writers who had plenty of questions.  She also ran a comedy scriptwriting workshop in co-operation with the Samhlaíocht Easter Arts Festival.  Her work with adults included sessions at Tralee and Killarney Libraries, VTOS Tralee, I.T. Tralee, An Díseart, Kerry Media Network, The Seanchaí – Listowel Literary & Cultural Centre Writers Group, Waterville Writers’ Group and Blennerville Active Retired Group.  ‘Writing alone can be an isolating experience, and I want people to feel the excitement of writing in a group, and see the progress that can be made, even in one session’.

 ‘I am very lucky to be able to choose to work both with adults and children and young people, in and out of school, as this is where my professional inspiration comes from’. 

Frances advised individual writers; she read many scripts, poems, short stories and even chapters of novels.  ‘I am aware that this job has a vital community arts component, and I see my role as to encourage and celebrate anyone’s desire to write, whatever their level of experience and ability’.  ‘The pleasure of this job is that I also meet professionals; published poets and working playwrights, theatre practitioners and film makers, and in the three months I have been here I have made valuable connections with all of them.  It is the enormous variety of the work that appeals to me’. 

 Following the successful Playwright in Residence projects, Kerry County Council, supported by the Arts Council and the Library Service contracted two Writers in Residence with expertise in poetry and novel writing over a two month period.

Tommy Frank O’Connor - Tommy Frank O’Connor worked to advise writers, writer groups, schools and interested communities on creative writing.  Tommy Frank O’Connor is a noted poet, novelist and story writer, based in Tralee.  His published works include a novel The Poacher’s Apprentice (Marino Books, 1997); a novel for children Kee Kee, Cup & Tok (Wynkin de Worde, 2004); a collection of stories Loose Head (Doghouse, 2004), his award winning poetry collection Attic Warpipes (Bradshaw Poets 2005) and his philosophical work Pulse (Doghouse, 2006).  ‘My work often involves creative writing sessions with others, schools, writer groups etc.  I enjoyed this opportunity and was delighted to be Kerry’s Writer in Residence’ stated Tommy Frank O’Connor.  Tommy Frank proved extremely popular during his short residency.  He mentored a number of writers as well as groups in the libraries and schools.

John W. Sexton - John W. Sexton’s residency was divided between adult and national school workshops and the schedule for the entire residency term was completely full within three days from the start of the month.  Because the notice from the Arts Office had been sent to schools throughout the County John found that he was quickly inundated, particularly with national school requests from over a very wide area.  He decided to fit in as many as possible, covering Tralee, Listowel, Lenamore, Drumclough, Fenit, Ardfert, Caherciveen, Kenmare, Lauragh, Tuosist, Bonane, Loughitane, Raheen, Fossa, Listellick, Ballymacelligott, and Aughcashla.  He also facilitated libraries for workshops.  The greatest response, by far, was from small country schools where travel into the towns is impractical.  Furthermore, all of these schools were enthusiastic for an opportunity that they felt was rarely offered to them due to their distance from urban centres.  John managed to fit fifteen national schools within his short term, having turned down many more.

 ‘It is always my intention when visiting schools to offer a solid educative dimension to the workshops,’ so in all classes from 2nd class up ‘I conducted lessons on plotting and story construction. In all cases the teachers took notes and universally expressed that they’d be using the techniques from then on.  This is usually the case in my school sessions, and I normally concentrate on a plotting device known as the Story Square’.

 Outside of the school visits John endeavoured to offer as much workshop time as possible to adults, always conducted in the public libraries.  ‘I came across participants who covered the full spectrum of the writing disciplines from short fiction to poetry to playwriting to autobiography to comedy to general non-fiction’.

 ‘We have in our County a significant population of people interested in the writing disciplines, people both young and old, and it is a very good thing for the County Council to continue to address that area of interest’.

Main Literary Events/ Attractions in Kerry:

Listowel Writers' Week 1st-5th June

Writers' Week Listowel is firmly established as Ireland's leading literary festival. It prides itself on the fact that many of the current galaxy of best selling Irish authors began their first tentative steps at developing their writing skills at the workshops in Listowel.During the week lectures, readings and meet-the-author sessions involving acclaimed writers and critics are interspersed with drama, film, literary tours, discussion forum, comedy, book launches, all forming part of a very attractive programme. Literary competitions, inviting children to participate from schools throughout the country, as well as adults, are proving to be exceptionally popular with a prize fund this year totalling Euro 30,000Writers' Week strives to involve all - writers, poets, singers, storytellers, children, visitors and locals. The town assumes a carnival atmosphere with poetry, singing, dancing and drama resounding through the streets and pubs. Listowel is unique not alone for its famous sons, the late John B. Keane and the late Bryan MacMahon, but for it's unrivalled hospitality and sense of fun. We know you will enjoy being with us in 2005 to sample the magic that is Writers' Week.For further details please contact:Writers’ Week24 The SquareListowelCo. Kerry Telephone: 068-21074Fax:  

Seanchaí - Kerry Literary & Cultural Center  - features five of North Kerry's Kerry's most distinguished writers.  A full biography of each writer is outlined -George Fitzmaurice, John B.Keane, Brendan Kennelly, Bryan MacMahon,  Maurice Walsh.  North Kerry, in particular Listowel, has been described as the ‘Literary Capital of Ireland’ and has produced an abundance of world famous writers, giving it a uniqueness not to be found in any other part of Ireland North Kerry has a strong tradition in literature, this center is well worth a visit, with information that will encourage you to read the Kerry greats. For details contact Caragh -068-22212

The Díseart Celtic Educational and Cultural Institute is Ireland’s newest third level institute, situated in the heart of famed Corca Dhuibhne – the Dingle peninsula ‘an enchanted land on the western seaboard of the Atlantic’. The Díseart’s purpose is to promote research, study, reflection and appropriation of Celtic culture, spirituality, civilization and related disciplines  Overlooking Dingle Bay the Díseart is a stately neo-Gothic building designed by J.J. McCarthy, a pupil of Augustine W. Pugin, and includes tranquil gardens and a beautifully proportioned chapel. It is furnished with finely carved Spanish oak stalls, Italian marble altar and the remarkable feature of twelve stained glass lancet windows depicting scenes from the life of Christ by Harry Clarke (1889-1931), Ireland’s outstanding stained glass artist.

Kerry County Council, Co. Buildings, Rathass, Tralee

Phone: (066) 718 3500     Email:

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