The Dublin Book Festival takes place from the 15th to the 18th of November. The festival is in its twelfth year running, each year growing more diverse with its speakers, events and audience. Most events take place in Smock Alley Theatre, however it does spread to other venues such as The Gutter Bookshop, The National Library and more. The programme includes events for school students, children of all ages, writers, publishers and all book enthusiasts. But what is involved in a book festival? Why is it culturally significant in Ireland?
Book festivals tend to operate on two broad fronts; for the benefit of those who produce books and for the benefit of those who consume books. Ireland is arguably prolific for its literary scene, as we pride ourselves on the reputation of the historic great writers, as well as continuously producing meaningful content that is received internationally. Book festivals allow for two related communities of book lovers to merge. It is an opportunity for producers and consumers to interact in a direct and encouraging environment. They break down the barriers between writer and reader.
Ireland is arguably prolific for its literary scene, as we pride ourselves on the reputation of the historic great writers, as well as continuously producing meaningful content that is received internationally
The Dublin Book Festival has proven its success with several years of repeated attendance. It is a notably welcoming festival, as the programme director Julianne Mooney commented; “Our tagline says it all – Celebrating Ireland’s Writers and Publishers. We want to bring audiences and writers together in a fun and creative atmosphere. Most of the events are free of charge to ensure the festival is accessible to all, something that has remained very important to the festival”.
Julianne Mooney has been working as the programme director since 2008 and has highlighted the advantages of the seasonal work. “You have to be reading and researching throughout the year. Your job doesn’t stop when the festival is over, you must keep on top of things happening within the industry or you would be left behind. I love the buzz of the lead-up to the festival, seeing all the work coming together, others getting involved and becoming as excited about the programme as you are”.
The festival relies on this excitement to function on a practical level, at all stages during the festival. A large contributing factor to the smooth running of events are the volunteers. Every year, members of the public offer their time to the setup, running and aftermath of the festival. The volunteering initiative encourages book enthusiasts to build lasting relationships with each other.
“I met a lot of new people from different walks of life and different countries and made quite a few friends whom I now meet regularly as we are all volunteers at various events around the city” – Sheila Phillips Byrne, volunteer for DBF since 2013.
“I always remember about the people. They were really nice to me. I had arrived recently in Ireland, so sometimes it was difficult to understand everything that people were saying, but other volunteers helped me when I needed” – Laura Sanábio, volunteer for DBF since 2017.
This community is the foundation of the Dublin Book Festival, a sentiment that is evident in those headlining the events. It prides itself on showcasing the best writing, illustrating and publishing talent Ireland has to offer. Guests include emerging and established authors from UCD such as Emilie Pine and Bryan Fanning, to internationally acclaimed author Patrick McCabe.
Events for the festival are designed to appeal to all. Readers of all ages, poets, novelists, illustrators, publishers, librarians, families, students, bookshop owners, and all those eager to be a part of this community. When asked what she hopes to inspire with the festival each year, Julianne Mooney said “for those wanting to write, to know that is possible and to get writing. For those who are writing, to keep doing so. For the publishers, to continue to bring us new books. For those who are reading, to keep reading and discover new voices”.