Guest Post: Kate Ennals on AT The Edge, Cavan

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AT The Edge, Cavan was set up after going to ‘Over The Edge’ sessions run by Kevin Higgins and Susan Millar du Mars in Galway while doing my MA in Writing. When I returned to Cavan, I decided to purloin their idea. I chose to keep the ‘edge’ theme but call it AT The Edge, Cavan because we have 365 lakes in the county (according to lore) and spend much of our time at their edge, musing, fishing, writing, and communing with nature. I bet you didn’t realise that!

Also, talking of nature, Cavan’s Art Scene has blossomed in the last few years. Having the Fleadh for three years and access to Peace III funding has developed a ground swell of activity that has nurtured confidence in the county. We have bi-weekly musical events and regular exhibitions in a converted two up two down terrace house exhibition space, thanks to Joe Keenan. We have an excellent Arts Office in the Council who tries to support the broad range of different ideas that people come up with. Plays have been staged in pubs, hair dressers, warehouses, the abbey grounds. Philip Doherty has forged ahead with the Gonzo Theatre productions (he doesn’t stop writing, that boy), the Hacklers Theatre Company from Carrickallen often cross the border and join forces, and The Moogles from the east of the county perform regularly. The first Cavan Theatre Festival this year was a huge success with every seat taken at every performance. And we have renowned writers: Pat McCabe, Michael Harding, Shane Connaghton, Seamus O’Rourke, and Padraic McIntyre of Livin Dred and we would lay claim to Noel Monaghan, Heather Brett, the late Dermot Healy, Tom McIntyre…in short, there is a wealth of talent from the county. So an event to celebrate writing and poetry fits nicely, and Kevin was very supportive. In fact, we thought Cavan may be the start of an ‘Edge’ empire!

At this point, I was already running Poetry and Writing workshops. So AT The Edge, Cavan would also provide my poets and writers with an opportunity to read their work in public as well as listen to more established writers. I copied the Galway Over the Edge format exactly, except I run AT The Edge, Cavan bi-monthly. We have three writers/poets read for fifteen minutes and then an open mic session, and it is held in the town library so it is free.

So, last February, I applied to the Cavan Arts Office to run a pilot project from May to December 2014 and received a grant of €500. I was thrilled. Unfortunately, it was half of what I hoped for so the ‘Readers’ fee is even more paltry than I had anticipated. I do as much publicity as I can on-line, though I do print posters too. But I am not too much out of pocket, and I have to say, it’s been such a success so far, that it’s worth every cent.

Being an English blow in (I moved to Cavan in 2001) I was a little nervous starting off as I didn’t have too many connections. I wasn’t sure how the ‘Readers’ I asked to read would respond to my meagre offering.

“Better than a slap in the face with a wet kipper,” said Shane Connaughton.

I had phoned Shane to ask him to read at the first event, and he happily agreed. Actually, it turned out that forty years ago Shane and I had lived on the same street in London, seven doors away from each other. He had rented a room in no. 10, a badly maintained, dilapidated looking house with another lodger, a scary old man who used to shout at us children. It is the old man and scary looking house I remember as a young girl trying to get the length of the street without touching the ground: crawling along garden walls and hedges and leaping from gate posts. Now, I loved the serendipity of this discovery. We spent the rest of the phone call gossiping about the Terrace neighbours of half a century ago! But, I digress.

So, the first AT The Edge, Cavan was a great success. Over thirty-five people plumped their bums on seats and the open mic was full. We had TV and radio there too. Yes, I did have a great mix of readers, Michael Farry from Trim, June Caldwell from Dublin, and Shane Connaughton, but, as everyone knows, sadly great ‘Readers’ don’t necessitate a great audience.

I was nervous again at the second event in July. I was sure the first one had been a once off. But, again I had a stroke of luck. Stephen A Murphy’s poem ‘Was It All For This?’ went viral on You Tube and Facebook two weeks before the reading and Stephen was one of my Readers. I was able to fly on his coat tails! I also had a local man, Paddy Halligan and Rachel Coventry from Galway who provided wonderful contrast. All very different but very good. There were over thirty new and different people there. So another success!

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[Stephen A Murphy reading at AT The Edge Cavan in July] 

Now the third AT The Edge, Cavan takes place on Tuesday 2 September. I think it will be interesting in yet a different way. I have three mature woman poets and their poetry again is very diverse. They are all Irish but with different experiences and their poetry reflects that. That is what I love about poetry. A good poem will invite us in, sit us down, make us feel at home even if it is a house we have never visited or come across before.

Of course, I am anxious. Again, I am convinced no one will come. Cavan is not Galway. It is not as big, as cosmopolitan. My AT The Edge, Cavan audiences are very different to the Galway audiences. They are much quieter, obeisant almost. It is as if they are not used to listening to poetry. So maybe, I have exhausted the well. But I don’t think so. Not if my workshops are anything to go by. They are full. It continues to amaze me, the grá there is for writing in this county. It’s a little scary, because they are all really good, too.

AT The Edge, Cavan is supported by Cavan County Council Arts Office. A further three events will be held on Tuesday 2 November and Tuesday 6 December 2015. All welcome.
Kate Ennals. kateennals@live.co.uk

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Kate completed the MA in Writing in NUI Galway last year. She currently runs poetry and writing workshops in Cavan. Kate is also running a new pilot project, At The Edge, Cavan, a literary reading evening and open mic. Her blog can be found at kateennals.com
Kate has been published in Crannog, Skylight 47, Burning Bush 2, in The Galway Review and The Adventure Hat, published by the Black Fort Writers, Ropes and Boyne Berries. She was shortlisted this year in the Claremorris Drama Fringe Festival and the Jonathan Swift, Battle of the Books Festival in Trim.

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