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Irish Writers in London, Summer School (short course)

Why study this course?

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 Writer in London Summer School provides an informal but informed setting for you to read and discuss contemporary literature. It's also an opportunity to explore the different reasons why Irish writers still come to London. How has the experience of migration influenced their work? How in turn has their writing helped express and mediate Irish culture and Irishness at home and abroad?

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On this course, you won’t just read and discuss work by contemporary writers, you'll meet and talk with them about their work and careers. There will also be lectures, seminar discussions and optional visits to associated Irish cultural events in London.

You'll read and learn about a wide range of writing during the course and gain valuable insights into the different approaches involved. This year’s set texts include fiction, drama, poetry and memoir. Lectures will cover topics such as the Irish short story, memory, migration and writing, and Irish theatre in Britain.

During its 20-year history, the Summer School has hosted 77 different writers including Edna O’Brien, Matthew Sweeney, Emma Donoghue, Ronan Bennett, Martina Evans, Maurice Leitch, Julia O’Faolain, Shane Connaughton, Anne Devlin, Blake Morrison, Polly Devlin and John Healy.

Summer 2017’s guest writers

Jess Kidd, the winner of last year’s Costa Short Story Award. She was brought up in London as part of a large family from county Mayo, and is currently working on her first collection of short stories – many of which are either set in Ireland or have Irish protagonists. Her first novel, Himself, was shortlisted for the Irish Book Awards 2016 and has been described as "lushly imagined, delightfully original and very, very funny." Jess joins us to discuss her work and, in particular, her award-winning story Dirty Little Fishes, a tale about a young Irish girl in London who accompanies her mother on visits to a dying woman – with curious consequences…

Bernard O’Donoghue, who returns to the Summer School after ten years. Born in Cullen, County Cork in 1945, he is an Emeritus Fellow of Wadham College, Oxford. He has published six collections of poetry and is currently translating Piers Plowman, one of the greatest works of Medieval English. The Poetry Archive describes Bernard’s work as "marked by a gift for poetic portraiture, sketching characters at moments of emotional intensity". Bernard joins us to discuss his career as a poet spanning four decades.

Nancy Harris, a playwright and screenwriter from Dublin who lives in London. She was awarded the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature in 2012 and has since written stage adaptations of Tolstoy’s and Trollope’s work as well as the last ever episode of the TV drama series, The Secret Diary of a Call Girl. Nancy joins as to discuss her stage-play, Our New Girl, described as a "startling psychological drama about the darker side of modern parenthood".

Siobhan Campbell, a poet and critic who is making her second appearance at the Summer School. She was born in Ireland and has interests in post-conflict and cross-community work. She is the author of five books of poetry, including Heat Signature, published this year, which includes reflections on the commemoration of the Easter Rising. She is also co-editor of a recently published collection of essays about the internationally-renowned poet, Eavan Boland. Siobhan will be discussing both of these books on the Summer School this year.

Maggie Wadey, a playwright, novelist and screenwriter who divides her time between London and Devon and has written television adaptations of classic English novels such as Mansfield Park and Adam Bede. Maggie joins us to read and discuss her most recent book, The English Daughter, a memoir and biographical quest into the life of her Irish mother and her childhood at the time of the Irish War of Independence which has been described by Marina Warner as, "a luminous act of love and memory".


There is no assessment for this course, but the last session will have an optional student reading.

This is not a creative writing course, but it provides an excellent accompaniment to such courses at London Metropolitan University or elsewhere. No prior qualifications are required.

The Summer School runs for two nights a week for five and half weeks. Each Thursday evening, an established Irish writer comes to read and speak about their work. On the Tuesday evening prior 
to this, you'll 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.

"It is obvious why the Summer School is now going into its third decade. 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.

"It was brilliant. The course material was both stimulating and thought-provoking and the visiting writers were excellent." Shirley Culley, student.

"My involvement with the summer school has hugely contributed to my life as a writer." Martina Evans, writer and poet.

"I think the Summer School is a fantastic model. The range and depth of discussions, between students, tutor and authors is truly impressive and rewarding to be part of. My reading and thinking have been challenged, stretched and stimulated." Carolyn Morris, 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." Bridget Whelan, writer.

Course dates

Not currently available

Days Tuesdays and Thursdays with an additional class on Friday 14 July 2017
Time 6pm to 8.30pm 
Maximum class size 25

For more information about the application process or fees, please contact The Cass short courses:

Tel: +44 (0)20 7320 1842


For further information about the course itself, please contact Tony Murray:

Tel: +44 (0)20 7133 2593

How to apply

Booking for this course isn't open at this time as the dates of the next intake are not yet confirmed. Please get in touch for further information or register your interest to receive notification as soon as booking opens.

When to apply

Please note, the deadline to book a place on one of our short courses is one week before the start date. If you have missed the deadline, please get in touch and we will do our best to accommodate you.

Fees and key information

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