Your Local Arena presents: Three Irish Writers

films, poetry, writing masterclass

This film was screened from 10am on Tuesday 10 November 2020 to 10pm on Saturday 14 November 2020

It has been said that the English hoard words like misers and the Irish spend them like sailors. This Arena film presents three great Irish masters of the English language, Flann O’Brien, Patrick Kavanagh and Brendan Behan. Anthony Cronin, poet, friend and fellow drinker, recalls their genius and their wild exploits in Dublin.’

First shown in 1991, Arena’s Three Irish Writers is a unique look at the social history of Dublin and three of its most infamous writers. A classic from the BBC archive, it offers a rare glimpse of an era long gone, when culture was part of the everyday and the everyday an intrinsic part of culture.

For five days only, Cúirt International Festival of Literature at Galway Arts Centre brings you this memorable Arena film, produced by Kate Meynell and Rosemary Wilton. Commenting on the film’s portrait of three brilliant writers and the times they lived in are four contemporary Irish authors: Jaki McCarrick, Paul McVeigh, Ciara Ní É and Jessica Traynor. Enjoy new poems inspired by the film from Belfast-Jamaican poet Raquel McKee and Irish-Indian British poet John Siddique, and learn how to start your own personal writing journey with a masterclass from acclaimed author Gabriel Gbadamosi.

Your Local Arena is an Arts Council England-funded project, produced by Speaking Volumes and Lucy Hannah, featuring the BBC’s Arena film archive.

ARENA: Three Irish Writers (1991)

(Producers: Kate Meynell and Rosemary Wilton; series editors Nigel Finch and Anthony Wall)

This film was screened between the 10 and the 14 November.


If you’d like to watch the responses to the film from acclaimed poet and dramaturg Jessica Traynor, award-winning playwright and author Jaki McCarrick, Polari First Novel winner Paul McVeigh and Ciara Ní É, spoken word artist, activist and broadcaster, you can do so at the following link:

Jaki McCarrick is an award-winning writer of plays, poetry and fiction. Her play Leopoldville won the 2010 Papatango Prize for New Writing, and her play Belfast Girls, developed at the National Theatre Studio in London, was shortlisted for the 2012 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize and the 2014 BBC Tony Doyle Award. It premiered in the USA in Chicago in 2015 to much critical acclaim and has since been staged many times internationally. Her play The Naturalists premiered in New York in 2018. Jaki’s plays are published by Samuel French, Routledge and Aurora Metro. Her short story collection The Scattering (Seren Books) was shortlisted for the 2014 Edge Hill Prize. The collection includes her story ‘The Visit’ which won the Wasafiri Prize for Short Fiction. Longlisted in 2014 for the inaugural Irish Fiction Laureate, Jaki is currently editing her second collection of short stories and her first novel, The bright, bright world.

Paul McVeigh

Paul McVeigh’s debut novel, The Good Son, won The Polari First Novel Prize and The McCrea Literary Award, and was shortlisted for many others including the Prix du Roman Cezam in France. Paul’s short stories have been on Sky Arts, read on BBC Radio 3, 4 & 5 and appeared in Faber’s Being Various: New Irish Short Stories, The Art of The Glimpse and Common People: An Anthology of Working Class Writers. He co-edited the Belfast Stories Anthology and The 32: An Anthology of Irish Working Class Writers which included new work by Kevin Barry, Roddy Doyle and Lisa McInerney. He is associate director of Word Factory, ‘the UK’s national organisation for excellence in the short story’ (The Guardian) and co-founded London Short Story Festival. Paul reviews and interviews authors, such as Booker winners Anna Burns and George Saunders, for The Irish Times. His work has been translated into seven languages.

Ciara Ni ECiara Ní É is a spoken word artist, activist and broadcaster who writes and performs bilingually. She is DCU’s Writer in Residence 2020, and an Irish Writers Centre ambassador. Ciara is the founder of REIC, a monthly multilingual spoken word event. She has performed across Ireland and internationally in New York, London, Brussels and Sweden. Her work has been published in a variety of journals including Icarus and Comhar and she is a recipient of the Cill Rialaig Residency through Listowel Writers’ Week. She is a cofounder of LGBTQ+ arts collective Aerach.Aiteach.Gaelach, and her first project with the group was selected for The Abbey Theatre’s 5×5 2020. Her first collection is forthcoming.

Jessica Traynor is a poet, dramaturg and creative writing teacher. Her debut collection, Liffey Swim (Dedalus Press, 2014), was shortlisted for the Strong/Shine Award. Her second collection, The Quick, was a 2019 Irish Times poetry choice. Awards include the Hennessy New Writer of the Year Award and the Ireland Chair of Poetry Bursary. In 2019, with actor Stephen Rea, she co-edited Correspondences: an anthology to call for an end to direct provision, which was a best-seller, raising funds for the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland. She is Poet in Residence at the Yeats Society, Sligo, and a Creative Fellow of UCD.

INSPIRED BY ARENA’S Three Irish Writers: New Poetry by Raquel McKee and John Siddique

Listen to and read specially commissioned poems inspired by the Three Irish Writers film from two poets, Raquel McKee and

John Siddique, at

A poet, actor, cultural training facilitator and storyteller, Raquel McKee has been living on the island of Ireland for nearly two decades. She uses poetry to interrogate the status quo and to push boundaries of perception. In 2019 Raquel was commissioned by the African and Caribbean Support Organisation Northern Ireland to write for the National Lottery Heritage Funded Links and Legacy 400 project; its showcase event, Gala Nia, was held in Titanic Building. Her cultural workshops (Legal Island; Herbert Smith Freehills and others) incorporate her poetry as stimulus or exposition. Raquel has performed at numerous Festivals and at the Poetry Ireland Cross Border Transitions showcase amongst others. Samples of her work can be found in Community Arts Partnership Monthly (July 2020), Four x Four (Issue 28), The Corridor literary publication – X Borders Issue, Writing Home anthology (Dedalus Press) and Her Other Language, as well as on her YouTube Channel.

John SiddiqueSacred teacher and writer John Siddique gently draws on his Irish and Indian heritage to straddle the complications of today’s society. He has dedicated his life to honouring the authentic in our human experience. He is the author of six books ranging though poetry, memoir and non-fiction, with two new books to be published in 2021. His meditations and teachings are listened to by millions of people around the world. His writings have appeared in the Guardian, Granta, Poetry Review and on BBC Radio 3 & 4. Siddique is the former British Council Writer-in-Residence at California State University. He is an Honorary Fellow at Leicester University, and currently serves on the editorial board of WritersMosaic for The Royal Literary Fund. The Times of India calls him ‘Rebellious by nature, pure at heart’ and Scottish Makar Jackie Kay speaks of Siddique’s writing as being ‘a brilliant balancing act’.

WRITING YOUR MEMOIR: A Masterclass from Gabriel Gbadamosi

Taking Arena’s Three Irish Writers as a starting point, explore how you can begin to craft your own memoir or life writing with award-winning novelist, playwright and poet Gabriel Gbadamosi. You can watch Gabriel’s life writing masterclass at:

Gabriel Gdadamosi Gabriel Gbadamosi is an Irish and Nigerian poet, playwright and critic. His London novel Vauxhall (Telegram, 2013) won the Tibor Jones Pageturner Prize and Best International Novel at the Sharjah Book Fair. He was the AHRC Creative and Performing Arts Fellow at the Pinter Centre, Goldsmiths University in British, European and African performance; a Judith E. Wilson Fellow for creative writing at Cambridge University; and Writer in Residence at the Manchester Royal Exchange Theatre. His plays include Stop and Search (Arcola Theatre), Eshu’s Faust (Jesus College, Cambridge), Hotel Orpheu (Schaubühne, Berlin), Shango (DNA, Amsterdam); and, for radio, The Long, Hot Summer of ’76 (BBC Radio 3), which won the first Richard Imison Award. He presented BBC Radio 3’s flagship arts and ideas programme Night Waves and is currently the founding editor of WritersMosaic for black, Asian and minority ethnic writers at the Royal Literary Fund.

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