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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, poetry and place, health and family history, and Irish theatre in Britain.

During its 20-year history, the Summer School has hosted over 80 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, John Healy and Jess Kidd.

Summer 2018 – guest writers

Stephen McGann is an English actor of Irish descent and began his stage career in the early 1980s. Along with his three acting brothers, he starred in the TV drama serial, The Hanging Gale (1995) about the Irish Famine of the 1840s. Today, he is best known for his portrayal of Dr Turner in the long-running BBC TV series, Call the Midwife. He graduated from Imperial College, London with a Master's degree in Science Communication and is an Explore Your Archive ambassador for the National Archives. Stephen joins us to discuss his recent book, Flesh and Blood: A History of My Family in Seven Sicknesses which explores how health, or the lack of it, fuels our collective will and informs our personal narrative.

Judy O'Kane graduated in law from Trinity College Dublin and holds an MA in Life Writing from the University of East Anglia where she is completing a PhD in Creative and Critical Writing. She teaches at the Law Society of Ireland and her poetry and prose has been published in Landfall, The Manchester Review and the Irish Times. She has won the National Memory Day Prize, the Irish Post Prize and the Listowel Writers' Week Original Poem Prize. Judy joins us to read and discuss Thirst, a work-in-progress shortlisted for the Tony Lothian Award in 2016 for best proposal for an uncommissioned first biography. It has been described as "…a quest in many registers, and a celebration of the mystery of wine. Written with verve and insight, it's a very modern form of memoir, and one that leads its readers into many different worlds along the way."

Martin McNamara is a playwright and journalist. His documentary work has appeared on BBC Radio 4 and his first stage-play, The Magic Hour, a black comedy about an Irish family funeral, was produced at the Brockley Jack Theatre in Lewisham in 2013. Subsequent plays have been performed in London, Newcastle and Edinburgh and include Traitors Cads and Cowards, set in the military wing of Wandsworth Prison in 1916 and Your Ever Loving, based on the prison letters of Paul Hill of the Guildford Four. Martin will be talking about his recent play, Mosley Must Fall, which is set in London in October 1936 as fascists prepare to march through the Jewish and Irish ghettos of the East End.

Deirdre Shanahan was born to Irish parents from counties Mayo and Kerry. After spending part of her childhood in Kerry and part in Hertfordshire, she studied English at University College North Wales and now lives in London. Her short stories and poetry have been published in the USA, the UK and Ireland in journals such as The Southern Review, The Massachusetts Review and The Cimarron Review. Her work regularly appears in anthologies of British and Irish poetry and short stories. She has been recipient of the Eric Gregory Award and more recently the Lightship Novel Award for The Night Breathing which will be published by Bluemoose Books in 2019. Deirdre has appeared at the Summer School a number of times since its inception in 1996 and returns this year to discuss her recent fiction.  

Róisín Tierney was born in Dublin and after graduating in Psychology and Philosophy from UCD, taught for several years in Spain (Valladolid and Granada) and is now settled in London. Her pamphlet, Dream Endings (Rack Press) won the 2012 Michael Marks Pamphlet Award. Her debut collection, The Spanish-Italian Border (Arc 2014) includes Gone, which was highly commended in the 2014 Forward Prize. A later pamphlet, Five Poems, was published by Clutag Press in 2016. She has taught for the Poetry School and recently won 2nd prize in the 2017 Winchester Poetry Prize. Róisín appears at this year’s Summer School to discuss a selection of her published and current poetry.


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-a-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 Cully, 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.

"It was perfect! Well prepared and engaging tutor, balanced presentation: seminars and group discussion, exciting and stimulating opportunities to meet varied and interesting authors and a chance to meet like-minded learners and compare Irish related backgrounds and interests." – Eileen McGroary, student

"I loved the format of this course. A real privilege to meet the writers." – former student

Course dates

Thursday 7 June to Friday 13 July 2018

Days Tuesdays and Thursdays with an additional class on the final Friday
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

To book on to one of our short courses, click the apply button to visit our eShop.

We have a limited amount of concession and early bird tickets. Please book early to avoid disappointment. Our early bird offer ends on Tuesday 8th May. For the concession rate, please provide us with proof of eligibility before making your payment. 


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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