Monthly Archives: March 2013

Good Friday, a 400-year-old poet, and a bit of heavy metal

I was reminded today of a poem I had not read in years (thank you, Twitter): Goodfriday, 1613. Riding Westward by John Donne. Today, Good Friday, is the 400th anniversary of the poem’s composition.

Now it’s not too often that 400-year-old poets crop up on Twitter, let alone one who has been a favourite of mine since secondary school, so to celebrate both that and the anniversary, I hunted out a gift from a long-time friend:

donne book 1

Beautiful, isn’t it? It’s No Man is an Island, a selection of Donne’s prose printed by The Folio Society of London. As the picture shows, it comes in its own lovely box, and the cover features those lines of Donne that have become part of the English language (and, curiously, Metallica songs):

donne book 2

Bizarrely (to me at any rate), when my friend gave me the book, and I thanked her for remembering that Donne was a favourite of mine, she replied, “I didn’t know that – I just thought it’d be your kind of thing”. Ever since then I have fantasised that Donne and I have some kind of connection across the centuries. (You have to be a bit deluded to be a writer.)

As favourite artists tend to do, Donne seems to have been there at other key stages throughout my life, too. I first discovered him thanks to the Leaving Certificate English syllabus in school. All the talk of “metaphysical poets” (a much-disputed label, incidentally) and “conceits” could have put anyone off Donne for life. Thankfully, the work shone through and made a lasting impression.

Later, it seemed to our teenage selves an epic meeting of minds when my boyfriend and I discovered a shared love of Donne’s The Good-Morrow:

If ever any beauty I did see,
Which I desired, and got, ’twas but a dream of thee.”

(You may be feeling faintly queasy now, but this is powerful stuff when you’re 17.)

In terms of popularity, Donne’s work seems to have come full circle. King James I was just one of Donne’s contemporaries who admired the writer’s work, describing his sermons as like “ye peace of God, they passed all understanding”. After falling out of favour for a while, Donne experienced a resurgence in the twentieth century, and has become an established presence in English Literature syllabi the world over.

John Donne was a highly capable, ambitious man who understood how to create and manage his own reputation. I wonder what he would have thought if he had known that 400 years later, people who had never heard of him (and angry, long-haired heavy metal types) would still be quoting his lines.


John Donne, 1572 – 1631

Waterford Writers’ Weekend 2013 – a look back

www13 logo

Phew! Another Waterford Writers’ Weekend has been and gone.

I was delighted to make it to five events over the weekend. Here’s an overview in pictures.

soc media panel

Event: Making Social Media Work for You

Speakers (l-r): Orla Shanaghy, Catherine Ryan-Howard, Derbhile Graham (chair), Derek Flynn

Venue: Greyfriars Gallery

self pub panel

Event: Self-Publishing

Speakers (l-r): Hazel Gaynor, Catherine Ryan-Howard (chair), Sheena Lambert

Venue: Sabai restaurant

blogging panel

Event: To Blog or Not to Blog

Speakers (l-r): Hazel Gaynor, Mark Graham, Anna Carey, Mona Wise

Venue: Waterford Medieval Museum

short stories panel

Event: Writing Winning Short Stories

Speakers (l-r): Vanessa O’Loughlin (chair and festival curator), Declan Meade, Clem Cairns

Venue: Greyfriars Gallery

m grehan launch

Event: “Love is the Easy Bit” by Mary Grehan book launch

Speakers (l-r): Caroline Senior, Managing Director of Garter Lane Arts Centre, author Mary Grehan

Venue: Garter Lane Arts Centre

The festival organisers really hit it out of the park this year. One of them told me that their aim with the programme was to focus on the writers. They certainly achieved this aim with a line-up of events that covered a huge range of the skills that today’s writers need, or at least need to be aware of: social media, self-publishing, blogging, how to approach writing competitions, breaking into journalism, and more.

The panel discussion format was used for most of the events I attended. This worked very well. With the best intentions in the world, the audience can start to get a bit glassy-eyed at events where a single person speaks for an hour or more. With panel discussions, on the other hand, there is a variety of faces and voices to sustain your attention, the discussion is naturally more varied and dynamic, and there is a chairperson to keep it all together, move things along when required, field audience questions, and make sure everyone gets their say.

A highlight for me was the final event of the weekend, which was held last night in Garter Lane Arts Centre. It was the launch of Mary Grehan‘s novel, Love is the Easy Bit. Mary is a huge success story: she is the only new author to be signed by Penguin Ireland in the last 18 months. We are very proud of her here in Waterford and delighted to bask in her reflected glory.

The format of the launch was interesting. We all took our seats in the theatre auditorium and Mary gave an excellent reading. She was then interviewed on stage, which was highly entertaining and interesting. Lastly, there were questions from the audience by means of a roving microphone.

The organisers of Waterford Writers’ Weekend have set the bar very high for themselves if they are to make next year’s festival as good as or better than this one. But they are a bunch of highly motivated, organised and ambitious folk. I’m looking forward to WWW14 already!

PS. Needless to say, there were lots of other events over the weekend that I didn’t make it to. If anyone out there wants to contribute something about any of those other events, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

Waterford Writers’ Weekend 2013 venue review #4: Café Royal

The event that I’m involved in for Waterford Writers’ Weekend 2013 is on the day after tomorrow. It’s a panel discussion on the topic of Making Social Media Work for You and it’s on Friday March 22nd, 1 -2 PM, Greyfriars, Waterford. One of my fellow panelists is Catherine Ryan Howard, Ireland’s most successful self-published author and a master of using social media for promotion. The event is relevant to anyone who uses social media in their work – small business owners, employees, and arts professionals of all hues. You can book your place here.

OK, shameless plug over. Time for the latest of my reviews of venues to visit in Waterford over the festival weekend.

Café Royal, Theatre Royal, The Mall, Waterford

Google Maps location


cafe royal waterford

Food and drink: A fairly standard menu of sandwiches, panini, salads, breakfasts and desserts. The quality of the food is good, most items are home made and there are gluten-free and dairy-free options. Salads are imaginative and change daily. The coffee is very good. The breakfasts are ideal if you’re in town first thing in the morning – I like the two-egg omelette breakfast with two rashers, two sausages and two slices of toast. There are child-friendly options in the form of cartons of juice (as all parents know, the least messy child’s drink when you are out) and cookies, though the cookies are over-priced, as they are everywhere (they’re only big biscuits!).

Service: Table service. The staff are very friendly and helpful. On festival weekends, the cafe people set up a stall by the main door of the theatre (which is at the side, a little confusingly if you’re new to Waterford) selling sweet treats and coffee, to save you climbing the stairs.

Layout and accessibility: This cafe is all location, location, location, and in more ways than one.

Firstly, it’s on the first floor of the Theatre Royal, the former Georgian playhouse that today houses Waterford’s beautiful, best-known theatre and is one of the main venues for Waterford Writers’ Weekend. There’s a treat in store for art lovers on the way up the stairs: the walls are lined with a selection of pieces from the Waterford Municipal Art Collection. Among them is an all-time favourite of mine, the wonderful Curiosity by William Conor.

Secondly, grab a window seat if you can, because this cafe has the most historic view in Waterford city. Right across the street you will see the Irish tricolour fluttering in the breeze. The building from which the flag hangs marks the spot where the tricolour was first unveiled by Irish revolutionary Thomas Frances Meagher in March 1848. This event is now celebrated every year in Waterford by the 1848 Tricolour Festival.

Thirdly, stay in that window seat, especially if you have an interest in architecture, or just like looking at beautiful buildings. The cafe overlooks part of Waterford’s Viking Triangle, including the Bishop’s Palace, home to the Georgian collection of the Waterford Museum of Treasures – a fantastic place to visit, whether you’re local or a visitor – the House of Waterford Crystal with its eye-popping window displays and, if you crane your neck, the Waterford Medieval Museum, a recently added architectural delight. The Mall, an elegant, tree-lined Georgian street, also lies stretched out below.

As for accessibility, the cafe can be reached by lift. There is just about enough space between tables for a buggy or wheelchair. The tables are set back a little from the door so you have space to stop and look around when you go in.

Toilet facilities: The toilets are handily located just off the main cafe. Toilets are functional and clean though a little cramped. There is no changing table, a strange omission in a cafe that has high chairs; children who need high chairs are going to need changing too. On the plus side, there is a hook on the back of the toilet door. (This may seem like a trivial point, but us lay-dees really don’t like having to leave our bags on the toilet floor …)

Free wi-fi: Yes.

Parking: There are a few on-street parking spaces on The Mall, directly outside the theatre, but they are almost always full. Instead, head to Catherine Street, a two-minute walk, or Waterside, a four-minute walk, where on-street parking is more plentiful. Alternatively, park in the Bolton Street car park, a two-minute walk. This car park has no daily limit, so you can leave your car there as long as you like. Charges: €1.80 per hour.

As I mentioned in my last review, if you’re planning to head to several festival events over the day, park in the private car park just off Thomas Hill (head up the hill, follow the street around to the right, entrance is on the right) for €5.00 a day flat rate.

Accessibility to festival venues: The Theatre Royal is one of the main venues at Waterford Writers’ Weekend. Other festival venues are a maximum of five minutes’ walk away.

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Waterford Writers’ Weekend 2013 venue review #3: The Granary café

Tempus is fugiting! Saint Patrick’s Day is now behind us and Waterford Writers’ Weekend 2013  is right in front of us. So here’s the third in my series of reviews of alternative venues to visit over the festival weekend.

The Granary café, Hanover Street, Waterford

granary cafe

Google Maps location


Food and drink: Above average prices with standards to match. On offer are quiches, pies, salads, panini and daily specials. Everything is of exceptional quality. The salads in particular are among the best I have had anywhere; the beetroot and carrot salad takes the two humble roots to new heights. The main dishes change daily; a recent example is pan-fried hake with lemon and tarragon cream. The coffee is very good, though not the best in Waterford (for that, see my previous venue review). If you are booked in to any of the early morning events at Waterford Writers’ Weekend, the mushroom omelette breakfast (two-egg omelette with mushrooms, sausage, rasher and wholemeal toast) comes highly recommended.

Service: Self-service. The counter staff are highly efficient, though some are not given to smiling. An exception is manager Artur, who is equally efficient and very friendly.

Layout and accessibility: The cafe is located in a high-ceilinged, glass-walled extension to the beautiful old granary building. These days, the former granary is home to the Waterford Institute of Technology School of Architecture.

The cafe itself, located on the ground floor, is one of the best in Waterford in terms of accessibility and family-friendliness. The main doors have no steps or door-sills. Inside, there is plenty of space to manoeuvre wheelchairs and buggies. The seating area is large, and there are leather sofas and good-sized coffee tables at the back by the lift. This area is also good for quiet conversation, and local movers and shakers of the arts and commerce are often to be seen holding meetings here.

Toilet facilities: Upstairs, accessible by lift only. The lift itself is well located. The toilets have baby changing facilities.

Free wi-fi: Yes.

Parking: There is no parking directly outside as Hanover Street is pedestrianised. The nearest on-street parking is on Thomas Hill, across O’Connell Street. A little farther away, there is the car park on Little Patrick Street behind The Book Centre. Charges: €1.80 per hour.

If you’re planning to head to several events over the day, park in the private car park just off Thomas Hill (head up the hill, follow the street around to the right, entrance is on the right) for €5.00 a day flat rate.

Accessibility to festival venues: The Granary is a 60-second walk from Garter Lane theatre, one of the main venues at Waterford Writers’ Weekend. Other festival venues are a maximum of five minutes’ walk away.

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Waterford Writers’ Weekend 2013 venue review #2: Café Libro

In my last post I introduced my series of reviews of alternative venues to visit during Waterford Writers’ Weekend 2013. Here’s review number two!

Café Libro, The Book Centre, 25 John Roberts Square

cafe libro logo

Google Maps location


Food and drink: the menu looks ordinary enough at first glance – pre-packed sandwiches, pizza, cakes and pastries, coffee – but the quality and freshness of the ingredients elevate the fare here well above the ordinary. The made-to-order pizzas have fabulously thin bases and the sandwiches are delicious. The cakes and pastries are home-made by local artisan bakers, which is particularly commendable for a chain. The cinnamon rolls are worth the visit alone. And the coffee is – drum roll – the best in the city.

Service: Very good. Friendly and efficient. Order at the counter and staff bring your goodies to your table.

Layout and accessibility: Now we come to the real USP of Cafe Libro. Like the other cafes in the chain, it is situated in a book store. But this one is special, because it is in The Book Centre. This book store is notable on two fronts: it is one of Ireland’s few remaining independent book stores; and it is housed in a former cinema. The cafe is located on the mezzanine, overlooking the ground floor and main entrance – ideal for people-watching. The atrium construction preserves the cinema feel.

Appropriately, the cafe serves as an informal meeting place for writers, and many can be spotted here on weekdays mornings, tapping feverishly on their MacBooks. The tables are quite close together, but not unreasonably so. There are leather sofas and a low coffee table near the counter. The walls are lined with books on sale just like the rest of the store, and the ceiling is decorated with an impressive newspaper collage made from real newspapers (I checked with the manager!).

Accessibility is fine for the non-mobility-impaired, but if you use a wheelchair, or have a buggy or pram, this is where things get tricky (despite the sign outside proclaiming the cafe to be “child-friendly”). There is a lift in the building, but it only goes to the higher floor, not the mezzanine. Buggy users have two options: fold up your buggy and carry it up the stairs (hopefully you will have someone with you to carry the child), or leave the buggy downstairs. Wheelchair users have no means of access that I have been able to make out.

Toilet facilities: up a flight of stairs, basic, clean, very cramped, no baby changing facilities.

Free wi-fi: yes.

Parking: behind The Book Centre on Little Patrick Street. Charges: up to €1.80 per hour.

Accessibility to festival venues: this cafe is bang in the city centre, within two or three minutes’ walking distance of all festival venues.

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Waterford Writers’ Weekend 2013 venue review #1: Harlequin cafe-bar

Waterford Writers' Weekend

Waterford Writers’ Weekend 2013 is fast approaching. This is one of the smaller of Waterford’s many festivals throughout the year, but that doesn’t stop it from being a vital, vibrant weekend.

One of the challenges faced by festival organisers the world over is to vary the content of their festival programmes from year to year. The Waterford Writers’ Weekend organisers, Waterford City Library, Galanta Events and Vanessa O’ Loughlin of, certainly seem to have achieved that this year. The focus  of the programme is on emerging writers, self-publishing, independent publishing and social media.

The Weekend has a selection of official venues and partners, all of which are great and worth visiting. I thought it might be useful in the run-up to the festival to attempt to complement the official list by posting reviews and information on additional venues from the viewpoint of a local person.

These venues are perhaps lesser known for whatever reason, but offer people something different and a good reason to venture off Waterford’s main thoroughfares and do some exploring.

I’ll make my reviews as practical as possible by including information on parking, toilet facilities, accessibility, child-friendliness, availability of wi-fi and any other useful tips.

Here’s my first venue review!

Harlequin cafe-bar, Stephen Street

Google maps location


Food and drink: Authentic home-made Italian food – such as gnocchi with gorgonzola sauce – great coffee, good selection of Italian wine. The staff don’t mind you popping in for just a coffee and pastry or a glass of wine.

Service: Excellent. Beautiful native Italian coming from the staff as they work. Some of the best-looking male staff in the city (sorry, men of Waterford!).

Layout and accessibility: compact, tables close together. Buggies have to be folded up and even at that there is not much space to stow them. Having said that, the staff are very welcoming of families with small children. Wheelchair users should be able to get in the door easily as there is no step.

Toilet facilities: on same level, basic, clean, slightly cramped, no baby changing facilities.

Free wi-fi: yes.

Parking: on-street outside the cafe or nearby Mayor’s Walk. Charges: up to €1.80 per hour.

Accessibility to festival venues: maximum 10-minute walk (if you’re a slow walker – five minutes power-walking!).

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