In celebration of this year’s tenth Electric Picnic, we’ve convened a glorious rattlebag of wordsmiths and musicians to share with you something of their extraordinary art and its making, and to pay homage to masterworks enjoying their own anniversaries this very year.
From a boy in striped pyjamas to a DJ with no off switch - to say nothing of the lascivious Ginger Man! - this year’s Arts Council's Literary Tent promises a real characterful cornucopia of words and music for you Picnickers, as well as lavish helpings of film and fun.
2013 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the first unexpurgated edition of J P Donleavy’s hilariously picaresque novel, The Ginger Man. Banned on first publication for obscenity both here and in the US, it has never been out of print, and has since sold close on fifty million copies worldwide. Adapted for the theatre in 1959, and starring Richard Harris in the lead role of Sebastian Dangerfield, the novel is currently being reworked for the big screen by Donleavy devotee, Johnny Depp. Its creator, now in his eighty-seventh year and revered the world over, rarely leaves his Westmeath manor, so it is with a deep sense of privilege that we welcome him to our Picnic for a look back on his most infamous scoundrel, and on what continues to be a remarkable writing life.
Celebrating a no-less impressive anniversary this year is John Healy, whose memoir The Grass Arena was published a quarter century ago in 1988. Critically acclaimed on its release - both Harold Pinter and the film-maker Ken Loach were early champions of this ‘savage masterpiece’ - what made the book all the more exceptional was that its author, born to Irish immigrants in London’s Kentish Town in 1943, had received no formal education, and was a homeless alcoholic of some fifteen years in London’s cutthroat parks and ‘grass arenas’. Following a near mythic dispute with the book’s publishers in 1991, The Grass Arena was shamelessly kept out of print until 2008 when it was reissued as a Penguin Modern Classic with an introduction by Daniel Day-Lewis. Twenty-five years on from first publication, this will be a rare opportunity to hear Healy read in the land of his parents’ birth, and in the more benign arena of Stradbally Estate.
One of the highlights of last year’s Literary Tent - if not of the entire festival itself - was the bringing together of Roddy Doyle and Glen Hansard for an hour of song and uproarious fun. This year we continue our musical mixing, and have paired Paul Murray (author of Skippy Dies, longlisted for the Man Booker in 2010) with singer-songwriter Lisa Hannigan, whose track Home was penned in response to Paul’s much-loved novel. We also have Eoin Colfer, creator of the immensely popular Artemis Fowl series of books, teaming with fellow Wexfordian and musical maverick, Pierce Turner, described by Hot Press as ‘Joyce with a voice; Yeats on skates’.
Further Picnic pairings this year will include: Amy Huberman (actress and bestselling author of Hello, Heartbreak and I Wished For You) with Róisín Ingle of The Irish Times; John Boyne (author of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, a novel that spent a staggering eighty weeks at the top of the Irish bestsellers’ list) and Mike McCormack (whose Notes From a Coma John Waters considered ‘the greatest novel of the decade just ended’); and Donal Ryan (author of The Spinning Heart, recently longlisted for this year’s Man Booker prize) in conversation with Colm O’Regan (the man responsible for the hugely successful Isn’t It Well For Ye?The Book of Irish Mammies). Joining the above will be Andy Kershaw, renowned BBC DJ, presenter of The Old Grey Whistle Test and Live Aid, and writer of the biography, No Off Switch, acclaimed by Stephen Fry as ‘sensational. Wildly hilarious. An amazing read. An amazing man’.
This year our intention is to feature a whole medley of literary forms, not least of all comic- and script-writing, to which end we’ll have comedian Dylan Moran (occasional poet and co-creator of the double BAFTA-winning, Black Books), and Stuart Carolan with Aidan Gillen (Love/Hate’s writer and one of its most memorable characters, the notorious John Boy Power). We’ll also be celebrating last year’s heartwarmingly inspirational Good Vibrations (described by Mark Kermode as an ‘absolute humdinger with real heart and soul’) with the film’s subject, the irrepressible Terri Hooley, along with scriptwriters, Colin Carberry and Glenn Patterson. And who knows what musical folk we might coax or cajole into a rendition of The Undertones’ classic Teenage Kicks, released some thirty-five years ago on the Good Vibrations label.
In addition to the above events, we’ll be hosting select screenings on the Friday evening in our Literary Tent (renamed Electric Flix-nic for the occasion). On show will be the documentary Barbaric Genius, Paul Duane’s mesmeric portrait of John Healy; and Good Vibrations, last year’s most-loved Irish movie.
Presiding over the weekend’s events will be Sinéad Gleeson, arts correspondent for The Irish Times and a regular contributor to RTÉ's arts programme, The Works, together with Mick Heaney (The Irish Times).
This year’s Arts Council Literary Tent has been curated by Raymond Bell, editor of Possessed of a Past: A John Banville Reader (Picador).
Friday, 30 August 2013 (film screenings only)
18:00-18:45 Electric Picnic: A Documentary - a film made by Image Now Films in 2006, featuring music from Arcade Fire, Nick Cave and P J Harvey among others
19:00-20:15 Barbaric Genius - an acclaimed documentary on the writing life of John Healy (author of The Grass Arena)
20:30-22:15 Good Vibrations - (we’ll have its subject, Terri Hooley, and the film’s scriptwriters, Colin Carberry and Glenn Patterson, in attendance on the Sunday, along with surprise musical guests)
Saturday, 31 August 2013
14:00-15:00 John Boyne and Mike McCormack
15:00-16:00 Amy Huberman with Róisín Ingle
16:00-17:00 Paul Murray with Lisa Hannigan
17:00-18:00 John Healy with Colm Mac Con Iomaire
18:00-19:00 Stuart Carolan with Aidan Gillen
Sunday, 1 September 2013
14:00-15:00 Donal Ryan in conversation with Colm O’Regan
15:00-16:00 Eoin Colfer with the singer-songwriter Pierce Turner
16:00-17:00 Andy Kershaw
17:00-18:00 J P Donleavy
18:00-19:00 Dylan Moran
19:00-20:00 A Hooley for Hooley - the Good Vibrations crew: Terri Hooley, with scriptwriters Colin Carberry and Glenn Patterson, plus surprise musical guests.