Leaves Festival

Laois Arts Office & Dunamaise Arts Centre


LEAVES 2021 


Laois Arts Office and Dunamaise Arts Centre are delighted to present Leaves 2021, the 14th annual festival of writing and music in Laois, taking place from 2nd to 7th November. Clíodhna Ní Anluain is the Guest Curator this year and the festival takes place at Dunamaise Arts Centre in the heart of Portlaoise town, celebrating a diverse and rich synthesis of contributors within a multi-media programme featuring live and virtual events with everything from conversations to music, fiction, non-fiction, poetry, film, theatre, essays, workshops and more. Tickets for all events go on sale on Thursday 14th October at 11am.  

Leaves 2021 celebrates what happens at the edges, remotely, away from the so-called given centre of things and the many writers attending remind us to notice the richness and complexity of ordinary detail, of the consequences of the disruption to routine and to what can perhaps unintentionally be overlooked.

Festival highlights include a celebratory evening led by Flor Mac Carthy of the art of letter writing through the wealth of fascinating and entertaining correspondences to and from our Presidents from Douglas Hyde to President Michael D Higgins.

A rare opportunity to savour a live reading by short-story supremo Philip Ó Ceallaigh from his highly praised 2021 collection Troubles and a conversation between himself and writer Enda Wyley.

Portlaoise native Pauline Clooney will shed light on her new novel Charlotte and Arthur with novelist Marianne Lee. The writing lives of trail-blazing Irish women including Éilis Ní Dhuibhne, Celia de Fréine and Phil Herbert will be the focus at what is sure to be a hugely important and engaging conversation around the determination and achievement of woman in being finally recognised as equals in Irish literary life.

Selina Guinness will be in conversation with two young writers whose careers’ as published authors are beginning: Louise Nealon‘s debut novel Snowflakes was published this year and Sheila Armstrong‘s first short story collection will be published next Spring.

The Alphabet of Birds is a wonderful hybrid production combining a screening, a spoken essay performed by visual artist Sara Baume, along with live music by Irene Buckley.

Punctuating the spoken essay are four short documentary films featuring artists Gary Coyle, Natalia Beyliss, Laura FitzGerald and Sara Baume herself, as they consider their passions and rituals and what gives meaning to their days.

Collapsing Horse Theatre Company also bring the highly acclaimed A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings; adapted from Gabriel García Márquez’s classic darkly comic tale, with its beautiful, strange, emotional richness; for younger book and theatre enthusiasts. Also on the theatrical stage, Decadent Theatre will present award-winning play Eden, written by Eugene O’Brien in 2001, which enjoyed much success in the West End of London and Broadway in New York City for this story of stale love and fresh lust in the Irish midlands!

“I am delighted to be bringing audiences a programme of such breadth and interest as that reflected in the writers and artists contributing to LEAVES 2021. Their common grounds are the geographies of the places where they live, with which they associate themselves or which figure in their writing and which they so imaginatively share with us”, said Clíodhna Ní Anluain, Guest Curator of Leaves 2021.

Clíodhna Ní Anluain, is an arts and culture producer with RTÉ. She has also worked as a museum and event curator and as a theatre producer. She is a published editor with Lilliput Press and New Island.  She is a board member and secretary of Visual Artists Ireland (VAI). Her intrigue with place, built spaces, and their richness as a source of curiosity has influenced her programming of LEAVES 2021.


LEAVES 2021 virtual online events include Bernard MacLaverty in conversation with Martina Devlin. Vona Groarke and Adrian Duncan are two highly accomplished artists in different fields who happen to come from the same area in County Longford. The event Poetry, Prose and Place brings them together for the first time to explore a shared visual curiosity and perception which they manifest in various forms.


The programme will also feature workshops with writers Niamh Boyce and Arthur Broomfield and poetry events will take place in schools across Laois.


For tickets or to check out the full programme of events see www.leavesfestival.ie or  www.dunamaise.ie  . Tickets can also be booked directly from Dunamaise Box Office, Tel: 057 8663355.


Leaves Festival 2021, is brought to you by Laois Arts Office and Dunamaise Arts Centre and funded by Laois County Council, the Arts Council and Creative Ireland Laois.



For further media information please contact:

Lorraine O’Callaghan, PR & Marketing Manager, Dunamaise Arts Centre.

Tel: 086 6003484 | E


mail: Lorraine@dunamaise.ie


Muireann Ní Chonaill, Laois Arts Office Tel: 086-0598163 artsoff@laoiscoco.ie

A Review – Leaves Festival 2019 – A Celebration of Writing and Music

The Leaves Festival of Writing and Music 2019 took place in Laois from the 5th to 10th November and impacted and engaged with an audience of young and old, delivering a rich and diverse programme of the very best of literature, music, theatre and film.  Festival curator Dermot Bolger, one of Ireland’s best known writers, was instrumental in making the programme very special this year.

There were many highlights to choose from throughout the run of the festival, including a wonderful evening with the Irish Legend, John Sheahan of the Dubliners fame. On Saturday evening the beautiful St Peters Church of Ireland, in Portlaoise was the perfect setting for a conversation with Dermot Bolger that had poetry readings, humorous and nostalgic stories and some well-loved tunes, including a beautiful rendition of the Marino Waltz and John’s personal story of how he came to compose this iconic piece of music.  Local author Niamh Boyce read from her wonderful new book ‘Her Kind’ and also described the historical background to her work.

Friday evening at the Dunamaise Arts Centre saw award winning authors Joseph O’Connor and Christine Dwyer Hickey read most eloquently from their books and conversations with Dermot brought out some really fascinating insights into their work and lives.  The evening was made extras special with a performance by sean nós singer Sibéal Ní Chasaide, who mesmerised the audience with the haunting quality of her voice, accompanied by musicians Ódhráin Ó Cassaide, Mike Nielsan and Eamon de Barra. 

Funded by the Creative Ireland Laois programme, earlier in the week, Manchán Mangan brought another unique event to the festival with his bi-lingual play, Arán agus Im. Manchán baked bread and made butter on stage while offering insights into the wonders of the Irish language. On Tuesday evening Arán agus Im was such a huge hit with the audience they literally did not want to leave as they enjoyed the bread and butter and chat. He performed it for schools on Wednesday.

The Dunamaise theatre programme included wonderful plays such as the National Theatre Live presentation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Verdant Productions presentation of the play Class. 

Another highlight of the programme was a very rare public conversation with the master photographer John Minahan. John regaled the audience with stories of his eventful career photographing some of the modern day greats to a backdrop of the iconic images of Samuel Beckett, Princess Diana and Francis Bacon and many more.


A number of successful writing workshops were lead by poet Enda Wyely and Dermot Bolger, for children, second level students and adults. Laois Libraries hosted an array of events including the launch of local author Dr Arthur Broomfield’s new book, as well as readings and storytelling workshops.


The finale event was held at Ballintubbert House and Church on Sunday, to celebrate the theatrical, literary and history of the area. Writer John McKenna and members of the Laois Writers Group performed and enjoyed an evening of readings, music and food remembering poet Laureate Cecil Day Lewis, whose father once ministered and lived there.

Thanks to Laois County Council, the Arts Council, the Dunamaise Arts Centre, Laois Partnership, Laois Tourism and Big Idea, for the great media programme this year and to all who helped in making the festival a success.

The festival is organised annually by The Arts Office, Laois County Council. For more info E:  artsoff@laoiscoco.ie or visit www.leavesfestival.ie


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