Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Plans in motion for Mullingar literary festival

By Lorraine Murphy

On Wednesday February 28, multi-published author Brendon Colvert and drama producer Don Mortell met in The Annebrook Hotel with the goal of staging a literary festival in Mullingar, starting with a one-off play The Jealous Wall by the late Leo Daly. Retired public service vehicle inspector and friend of Leo Daly- renowned author, historian and world-renowned Joycean scholar, Brendon Colvert from Mullingar believes there has never been a better time to host a cultural festival in town.

“Mullingar has all the necessary gems of information, history and exciting events,” he said. “We’ve gone through the period when the Mullingar Bachelor was the main focus and then recently, our successes in providing a venue for the world-renowned Fleadh Cheoil in two succeeding years.”

Brendon and Leo were close friends and Brendon owns the only copy of Leo Daly’s The Jealous Wall. “I have many years of collaboration with Leo Daly. He and I had long discussions about my publications for 20 years. I regard Leo Daly as being the fourth boy in my family. There were three brothers and Leo certainly occupied the position of the most endearing person I can think of. Highly talented, very versatile; he and I travelled extensively for him to collect the data that he required for his publications. His family were aware of this and when Leo departed this life on July 3, 2010, they recognised my love for the guy and dedication to his ideals. They gave his books to various members of the family and institutions, and they donated the only copy of The Jealous Wall to me as a gift.”

Brendon believes that the Jealous Wall would be a great way to kick off a cultural festival, not just for Leo, but for the whole town of Mullingar. “The Jealous Wall would be an attraction and focus attention upon the town,” he said. “It’s quite unique, revealing the kind of society we had in Ireland at that time. It is a faithful presentation of the facts and is highly dramatic. It is also is a revelation of the position of women in society, which we’re endeavouring to enhance at the present time. There’s too many reasons for not allowing The Jealous Wall to be hidden away in a locker. I think that the play would excite people and give them an insight into what’s valuable. Mullingar is ready for a cultural festival.”

Don Mortell, the man behind the successful Westmeath Christmas Carol project, was excited to come on board with the project. He told Topic, “I’ve got the easy job of trying to put this whole thing together as a performance piece and I have to say I’m very excited by the prospect. We have got this whole festival thing going as a town with the Fleadh and the Westmeath Bachelor Festival, but I think there’s room for something a bit more cultural as well.”

Don was behind the successful Westmeath Christmas Carol project last December. “It was a mammoth task. People from all over the world contributed but once you get the format of doing something like that, it makes anything that follows up a lot easier to do. We will stage something similar with The Jealous Wall, but put a modern twist on what is an absolutely classic piece of work. We’re going to treat it with the respect it deserves. Westmeath has a literary history, we have writers in our community who are doing really well for themselves and deservedly so. I think it’s important that we we show another side of Mullingar that it has culture and it has a literary history as well as far back as the sixth century. I didn’t know much about Leo Daly, prior to this project, but I’m excited to find out more now. I think we’ve got something special here.”

With plans to get local talent onboard an online adaptation of The Jealous Wall and talks of a two-day literary festival for July, Brendon is optimistic for the future.

“Leo’s Daly’s works have all the elements for a summer school that would fill every bed in every hotel in town like the other literary summer schools around the country. Look at Leo’s books – the people, the history and the opportunities are huge. If people came to sit in and listen to lectures they would be held spellbound.

“Mullingar needs something to lure the interest of people of culture around the world to come and rejoice in what we have to offer and if Leo Daly’s The Jealous Wall is the means by which we can do this, I am the happiest person in Mullingar.”

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