Irish Writers in London Summer School

20th Anniversary

11 June – 17 July

 James Joyce famously wrote, ‘The shortest way to Tara is by Holyhead’ meaning that in order for Irish people to understand themselves and Ireland, they historically had to leave their homeland.

First established in 1996, the Irish Writers in London Summer School is your opportunity to explore the different reasons why Irish writers still come to London. How has the experience of migration or growing up of Irish parents in the city influenced their work? How in turn has their writing helped express and mediate Irish culture and Irishness at home and abroad. The Summer School provides an informal but informed setting for you to read and discuss the work of five of Ireland’s leading writers in their field. It is also a unique chance to meet the writers themselves.

Our guest writers this year are:

Maurice Leitch, who was born in County Antrim and whose work includes novels, radio dramas and television documentaries. His novel, Poor Lazurus, was awarded the Guardian Fiction Prize in 1969 and Silver’s City won the Whitbread Prize in 1981. He left Ireland in 1970 to work as a producer for the BBC in London and was editor of Radio 4’s Book at Bedtime for twelve years until leaving to write full-time. He has been described as ‘perhaps the finest Irish novelist of his generation’ and was awarded the M.B.E. for services to literature in 1988. Maurice will be reading and discussing his recent novel A Far Cry about the way one man’s past in Northern Ireland continues to haunt him years later after leaving to live in England.

Martina Evans, who first appeared at the Summer School in 1997. Martina is an Irish poet, novelist and teacher. She grew up in County Cork in a country pub, shop and petrol station and is the youngest of ten children. She is the author of ten books of prose and poetry and has won the TLS Book of the Year and the Premio Ciampi International Prize for Poetry. She returns to celebrate our 20th Anniversary by reading and talking about her latest poetry collection, Burnfort, Las Vegas, which was short-listed for this year’s Irish Times Poetry Now Award.

Roy Foster, who is Carroll Professor of Irish History at the University of Oxford. His many books include biographies of politicians such as Charles Stewart Parnell and Lord Randolph Churchill, a large-scale history of Ireland from the 17th century, a magisterial two-volume biography of Yeats, and many essays on Irish culture and politics. Roy will be sharing his thoughts on the writing of history and his critically acclaimed new book Vivid Faces: The Revolutionary Generation in Ireland 1890-1923.

Roy Foster’s appearance at this year’s Summer School is supported by David P. Kelly Films

Sarah Strong, who is an artist and film-maker with a background in architecture and osteopathy. She grew up in a commune in County Dublin where her father established a pioneering therapeutic community offering support to mentally ill and emotionally disturbed people. Sarah has facilitated arts projects and exhibitions in Ireland and England and joins us to discuss questions of memory, loss and belonging. In particular, she will be discussing her evocative and moving film I Hear Fish Drowning and talking about her mother, the acclaimed Irish poet Eithne Strong.

Lane Ashfeldt, who is a short story writer whose work has appeared in anthologies and magazines such as the Guardian, Punk Fiction, Southword, The Bohemyth, and The London Magazine. One reviewer had the following to say about her recent collection: ‘The sea shimmers through Saltwater, as threatening and beautiful as many of the characters who walk the pages. A gorgeous collection by a bright talent.’ Lane will be reading a selection of her short stories and discussing the pros and cons of raiding history books and family stories to create fiction.

Enrol now at:

Venue: London Metropolitan University, Tower Building,

Holloway Road, London N7 8DB (nearest tube: Holloway Road)

Dates: 11 June – 17 July 2015

Tuesday and Thursday (with an additional class on Friday 17 July)

Times: 6 – 8.30pm (refreshments provided)

Course Fees: 

£165 (concessions £129)

Early Bird booking before 5 May – £149 (concs £119)

N.B.  No prior qualifications are required to attend

The Irish Writers in London Summer School is not a creative writing course, but will complement such a course of study at London Metropolitan University or elsewhere

Further enrolment information, contact Johanna McKinney at:

020 7133 2432

See below for further course information from the course tutor, Tony Murray, or contact him at:

020 7133 2593

During its twenty year history, the Summer School has hosted 77 different writers including: Edna O’Brien, Matthew Sweeney, Emma Donoghue, Ronan Bennett, Martina Evans, Gabriel Gbadamosi,  Julia O’Faolain, Shane Connaughton, Anne Devlin, Blake Morrison, Polly Devlin and John Healy.

By joining this course, you won’t just read and discuss work by contemporary writers, but you will meet and talk with them about their work and careers. In addition, there will be lectures, seminar discussions and optional visits to associated Irish cultural events in London.

The Summer School runs for two nights a week for five and half weeks. Each Thursday evening a leading Irish writer comes to read and speak about their work. On the Tuesday evening prior to this, you will discuss the writer’s work with fellow students and the course tutor. This unique format provides time for you to digest and reflect on reactions to set texts before meeting the writer in question. The final night of the course will be devoted to a celebration of the Summer School’s 20th anniversary to which former guest writers will be invited.

During the course, you will read and learn about a wide range of writing and gain valuable insights into the different approaches involved. This year’s set texts include fiction, screenplay, poetry and history. Lectures will cover topics such as ‘The Irish Short Story’, ‘Memory, Migration and Writing’ and ‘Irish Writing and the Troubles’.

Here is some of the feedback we have received from students and writers over the years….

“It is obvious why the Summer School is now going into its 20th season. Where else would you get a chance to meet such a range of contemporary Irish writers to discuss their work? As well as being interesting and stimulating, it’s always relaxed and a lot of fun. I’ll be back!

(Peter Hammond, student)

“I enjoyed myself immensely, the students seemed like the perfect readers of my mother – subtle, discerning and appreciative of the complexities of her situation.”
(Blake Morrison, writer)

“It was brilliant. The course material was both stimulating and thought-provoking and the visiting writers were excellent”
(Shirley Cully, student)

“The summer school is unique. Its gentle, inclusive atmosphere encourages real debate. Being invited is both an accolade and a very good night out …. a great experience”

(Bridget Whelan, writer)

I really enjoyed the summer school and hope that one day my second generation children can attend as one means of keeping in touch with their roots”  (Nora Holder, student)

“A great venture and an enjoyable evening for any writer who likes seeing their work paid scrupulous attention” (Cahal Dallat, writer)

“It was so great to meet with and hear Irish writers discuss their work as well as share their experience of other Irish people like myself trying to define our own voices in this great melting pot

(Alice Wickham, student)