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Cork World Book Fest turns 20

The duration of the Fest has also expanded thanks to the network of partners and collaborators that have been built over the years

Cork World Book Fest celebrates its 20th edition from April 23rd to 28th. The festival started back in 2005 when Cork was European Capital of Culture. Former city librarian Liam Ronayne and Ann Luttrell, former literature officer at Triskel Arts Centre, decided to mark Unesco World Book Day (which takes place every year on April 23rd, the date on which both Cervantes and Shakespeare died) with Cork’s first World Book Day.

The library opened at 10am on Friday, April 22nd, 2005 and stayed open through the night and into the following day, April 23rd. There were readings, musical interludes and exhibitions. Despite some concerns about the wisdom of staying open through the night, all went well – World Book Day and a half!

As the following spring rolled around, those involved agreed that the experiment should be repeated. From 2006 on, this celebration of books and reading has been called Cork World Book Fest. It has grown in terms of the range of events included – sessions for aspiring writers, translation workshops and a full children’s programme – and in the languages and cultures featured, from Basque to Kurdish to Galician, as well as Italian, French, German, Russian, Polish, Slovene, Spanish and Catalan, not forgetting Irish, and English (from Ireland, England, Scotland, Canada, the US and Australia).

The duration of the Fest has also expanded thanks to the network of partners and collaborators we have built over the years. And thanks also to our funders, the Arts Council of Ireland, Cork City Council and our loyal hotel partner, the River Lee Hotel. While most events take place at Cork City Library or at Triskel Arts Centre, we continue to programme events in other locations. This year we will be in Cork’s Elizabeth Fort with poets and spoken word performers and at St Peter’s where there will be a celebration of Cork Stories edited by Madeleine D’Arcy and Laura McKenna.


Hundreds of writers have participated in the Fest but we’d like to pay tribute to those who have passed away. They include Canadian writer Alistair McLeod, American writer Amiri Baraka and Irish writers Deirdre Purcell, Eileen Battersby and Dr Ivor Browne, and the former director of Triskel, Penny Rae, who gave the first festival her blessing back in 2005 and came up with the idea of having a “fair day” element to the festival with book and food stalls outside the library on Cork’s Grand Parade. This tradition continues into 2024 with a showcase of booksellers, food and entertainment organised by Goldiefish Events.

Some of the highlights of our eclectic mix of events in our now six-day 20th Cork World Book Fest are:

An opening event when writers Elaine Feeney, Evelyn Conlon and Mary Morrissy will read and discuss their roles as writers and as women in Ireland today with journalist Olivia O’Leary. Other well-known Irish writers to feature at the Fest include Mike McCormack, Aingeala Flannery, Eimear Ryan, Danielle McLaughlin, Billy O’Callaghan, Cónal Creedon – as well as the 2023 Booker prize winner Paul Lynch.

A wealth of international voices from Germany, Galicia, Italy, Catalonia, Chile, Japan, Palestine, Syria, India, Egypt and the UK are putting the “world” into our Book Fest. Writers Suad Aldarra and Sree Sen, who straddle being Irish and their home countries of Syria and India respectively, will take part in a discussion on the topic of home.

Our hugely popular Get Published series involving “First Page Pitch” and “Meet the Publishers” events. (Lynda Marron, a debut author who pitched her book to a literary agent during our Get Published series in an earlier fest, will be reading from her novel in a separate event.) There will be a free comic book workshop, a workshop on translating crime fiction and an event spotlighting literary journals.

As well as You Spin Me Round, a new anthology of essays on music from writers including Peter Geoghegan and Declan Long, there will be a launch of Ceoltóirí Chualann written by Peadar Ó Riada and published by Mercier Press, which blends memoir and historical narrative. Master musician Martin Hayes will do the honours of officially launching the book. There will be a musical performance too!

Sam Blake will debut her YA novel; there will be a YA session titled Thinking Outside the Box; teens celebrating their literary achievements with launches of The Unfinished Book of Poetry and the Teen Graphic Novel; a baby sign and rhyme story time with Leona Forde; events with children’s authors Nadine Hughes Campbell, Ellen Ryan, Pádraig Kenny and illustrators Conor Merriman and Karen Harte; the launch of a French collection for children; and author Rónán Hession meeting his Italian translator, Elvira Grassi.

REIC (pronounced wreck) Filíocht ó bhéal, rap, amhránaíocht, scéalaíocht agus neart eile a bhíonn le cloisteáil ag imeachtaí REIC. Cuirfidh bean an tí Ciara Ní É fáilte roimh Amano, Tomás Ó Coileáin, is Gormfhlaith Ní Shíocháin Ní Bheoláin agus beidh mic oscailte ann.

Editor at Bloodaxe Books Neil Astley invites us to a soul feast with his most recent anthology of voices “of hope and healing, of love and tolerance, of kindness and compassion”. He will be joined by clinical psychologist Dr Tony Bates, who will read from his recent memoir Breaking the Heart Open: The Shaping of a Psychologist.

Besides a poetry event with émigré poets David Nash and Joe Carrick Varty and an event in collaboration with Doire Press featuring poets Jo Burns and Emily Cooper, there will be a special celebration of the poetry of Palestinian poet Marwan Makhoul whose work is being translated into the Irish language in collaboration with IMRAM and will involve readings by the poet translators Eibhlís Carcione, Louis de Paor and Áine Uí Fhoghlú. During the 2023 Gaza war, lines from Makhoul’s poetry were adopted as a slogan by protesters worldwide.

In order for me to write poetry that isn’t
political, I must listen to the birds
and in order to hear the birds
the warplanes must be silent

For information on these and the myriad events, please visit Liam Ronayne and Ann Luttrell continue to be on the CWBF team which is led by Patricia Looney, and also includes Keith Payne, Gillian Hennessy and Toinette Buckley.