The Trinity Literary Festival never disappoints. This year, among other events, the line-up for the week consisted of a Joycean Evening at Sweny’s Pharmacy, one of the locations featured in Ulysses; a publishing symposium with a guest appearance from John Boyne, author of The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas; a Harry Potter-themed debate based on the fairly incendiary statement ‘This House Believes Harry Should Have Married Hermione’; an erotic writing workshop; and the Litfest Ball, a Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas-themed night at the Twisted Pepper (Hawaiian shirts were advised as dress-code).
There was certainly a lot to choose from. Among these innovative events, I was interested to see how the Wednesday night Litfest Speakeasy fared. The Speakeasy is the Literary Society’s much-loved regular open mic night, billed as a flagship event. Aspiring authors, poets, and songwriters are welcome, and participants can sign up to read works by authors dear to them or compositions of their own. Given the line-up of esoteric and wonderful events of Litfest 2014, it was difficult to predict whether the Speakeasy event would seem almost ‘too normal’ in comparison. But the Literary Society being the Literary Society and knowing their stuff, this happily wasn’t the case.
The Literary Society appears to be constantly evolving and its increased emphasis on the more modern and accessible aspects of literature has led to a growing connection with performance-based arts such as spoken word and slam poetry. It quickly became apparent that this Speakeasy would match the extravagant mood of the week.
The night was held in the basement of Pacino’s, the bar and restaurant on Suffolk Street. This meant that the location was conveniently close to Trinity, at the same time offering a change from the usual pub venues of society events. The turn-out was impressive in terms of the quantity and variety of acts. Recitals of Tennyson rubbed shoulders with Mandarin poetry. This healthy mix of the traditional and the contemporary made it evident that despite its modern slant, the Literary Society still fosters a love of the canonical greats. Also encouraging was the mix of Trinity and non-Trinity attendees, suggesting that such events have gained a wider audience.
This is of course, not to mention the guest speakers. With appearances from John Cummins and Paul Curran, the college event borrowed elements of the wider Dublin performance scene. Paul Curran, a spoken word artist who has recently released an EP, played a captivating set that fused slam poetry, autobiography, and vivid urban storytelling. John Cummins, the current All-Ireland slam poetry champion, gave a memorable performance to finish the night. His style is unique, using catchy refrains and eccentric rhymes, fantastical made-up words and odes to tea. Both poets ensured that it was a very special and memorable evening.
The Speakeasy kept up the standard of the week, adding a special twist to the well-loved flagship event.
Alicia Byrne Keane