Irish Writers in London Summer School (short course)

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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?

More about this course

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, poetry and journalism. Lectures will cover topics such as Fictions of Irish North London, Narrative Poetry and the Irish Revolution, and Writing in the Age of Social Media. 

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.

The Summer School was founded in 1996 by Tony Murray, who will also be teaching on the course again this year. He has taught English Literature and Irish Studies for many years and is also Curator of the Archive of the Irish in Britain. Tony has published widely on literary and cultural representations of migration and diaspora and his book, London Irish Fictions: Narrative, Diaspora and Identity was published by Liverpool University Press in 2012. More about Tony Murray.   

Summer 2019 guest writers

Eimear McBride was born in Liverpool to Irish parents and grew up in the west of Ireland before coming to London to study acting in the 1990s. Her first novel, A Girl is a Half-formed Thing (2013) won numerous literary awards, including the Goldsmiths Prize and is already considered a classic of Irish modernist fiction. She recently completed a year-long Creative Fellowship at the Samuel Beckett Archive (University of Reading) and is currently working on a third novel. Eimear joins us to discuss her second novel, The Lesser Bohemians (2016), which won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. Set in north London, it tells the story of the turbulent relationship between a young Irish drama student and a middle-aged English actor and was described by The New Yorker as a ‘propulsive coming-of-age story… imbued with a captivating sense of youthful excitement and vulnerability.’

John Healy is a writer of novels, plays and an award-winning autobiography. He was born to Irish parents in Kentish Town in 1942. He left school at 15, becoming a successful amateur boxer before alcoholism led to fifteen violent and destitute years living rough, at a time when begging carried an automatic custodial sentence. Whilst in prison, he discovered chess and eventually became a ten-times British chess tournament winner, publishing his book, Coffee House Tactics in 2010. His critically acclaimed autobiography, The Grass Arena (1988) won the J. R. Ackerley Prize, was made into a multi award-winning film directed by Gillies Mackinnon and is now a Penguin Classic. John returns to the Summer School this year to talk about his long-awaited new novel, The Metal Mountain (2019). It follows the struggles of Irish immigrants in Britain in 1950s and 60s and is ‘a perverse grand tragedy with a touch of iron that leads to a shocking climax’.

Martina Evans is an Irish poet, novelist and teacher who has lived in London since 1988. She grew up in County Cork and is the author of eleven books of prose and poetry. Her first novel, Midnight Feast, won a Betty Trask Award in 1995 and she has won numerous awards for her work since. Martina has lectured in Creative Writing at Birkbeck University and the City Literary Institute for many years. She is currently Royal Literary Fund Advisory Fellow and regularly reviews for the Irish Times. Martina has appeared at the Summer School on a number of previous occasions and joins us again this year to discuss her most recent book, Now We Can Talk Openly About Men (2018). It consists of a pair of dramatic monologues in verse which is based on the lives of two women in 1920s County Cork and was described by Prof. Roy Foster in the Times Literary Supplement as ‘…unputdownable…like listening at the keyhole of history.'

Megan Nolan was born in 1990 in Waterford and is currently based in London. Her writing includes essays, fiction and criticism and has been published widely both online and in print including in The New York Times, The White Review, The Sunday Times, The Village Voice, The Guardian and in the literary anthology, Winter Papers. She has read and performed at the Museum of London, the Irish Museum of Modern Art, the Hyper Local Festival in Buenos Aires and the Sandberg Institute’s ‘Wandering School’ in Milan. Her recent Brexit-inspired article ‘English ignorance about Ireland just isn’t funny anymore’ provoked widespread comment on social media. She is currently at work on her first novel which is concerned with body dysphoria and the subjection of female identity in romantic relationships. She joins us on the Summer School for the first time this year to discuss a selection of her essays and articles. 

Kath McKay, who writes fiction and poetry, grew up in Liverpool, her mother from an Irish background. Published work includes two novels, most recently Hard Wired (2016), a crime novel, and three poetry collections, the latest Collision Forces (2015). Her award-winning short stories have appeared in anthologies and magazines and been broadcast on BBC Radio 4. She lived in London for many years where she began teaching creative writing in the late-1980s after working at a community law centre on Irish miscarriages of justice cases. She has mentored African students online for Crossing Borders (Lancaster University), worked on Interland, a tri-lingual (Finnish/Swedish/English) collaboration around the theme of water and swam across the 18 public swimming pools of Leeds, writing prose and poetry on the way. Her most recent book (co-edited with Ray French) is End Notes: Ten stories about loss, mourning and commemoration (2017). Kath joins us on the Summer School to discuss a selection of her short stories.


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

Fees and key information

Course type
Short Course
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Who's this course for?

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.

Course structure

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.

What our students say

"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

"Very well organised. Welcoming and very friendly atmosphere promoted. High standard of participants from whom I learnt. Interesting lectures by Tony. Excellent range of writing and writers. Wonder to have them present to discuss work with and also to dine with them afterwards." – former student

Course dates

Course dates

Summer dates will be announced Spring 2020

Days Tuesdays and Thursdays with an additional class on the final Friday
Time 6pm to 8.30pm 
Maximum class size 25

Further information

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:


Twitter: @LonIrishWriters 

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.