We need your help now

Support from readers like you keeps The Journal open.

You are visiting us because we have something you value. Independent, unbiased news that tells the truth. Advertising revenue goes some way to support our mission, but this year it has not been enough.

If you've seen value in our reporting, please contribute what you can, so we can continue to produce accurate and meaningful journalism. For everyone who needs it.


John Connell Rural Ireland has been ripe for a 'booktown' - here's why I set one up

The Granard community in Longford has pulled together for its first booktown festival this coming weekend.

BOOKS ARE ONE of life’s great treasures and gifts. For me as a writer, books have been good to me, they’ve changed how I see the world and how I respond.

Maybe it’s the love of books or the love of rural Ireland but I, along with a team of local people, went about setting up Ireland’s national booktown in the heart of the Irish midlands in Granard, County Longford.

What’s a booktown, you might ask? Well, all that started when I was touring my own memoir The Cow Book in 2018 in Scotland. There, in that great land, I attended the Wigtown festival. Wigtown was a small town in lower Scotland which had 25 years before embraced books as a part of its future and became in the process the national booktown of Scotland.

The booktown movement occurs throughout the world from Australia to South Africa, Scotland to England. It’s a movement where member towns, usually rural in nature, take books to their heart and run literary events throughout the year and open book shops and encourage literary tourism to their region.

The organisers of Wigtown suggested to me that my home of Longford could be a great place to start a booktown. It got me thinking, and after a chance conversation with seasoned festival director Ronan O’Toole, we decided to give it a go.

We chose Granard as it was local to us, easily accessible and located right in the heart of the midlands. Quickly we assembled a panel of board members and patrons, including Booker Prize winner Richard Flanagan himself from Longford. Longford, Tasmania, that is.

But even Richard saw what we were doing and attempting, and that excited us even more. Rural Ireland is my home, and rural Ireland is a special place. It is our wellspring as a people and a place of such creativity and wonder.

We wanted to share the best of rural Ireland with the public and do that through literature.

When we booked Donal Ryan and international climate change expert Professor Tim Flannery, I knew we were on to something because they too got the idea of a small town dreaming new ideas into reality. The Granard Booktown Festival takes place this coming weekend, 21-23 April, in the heart of Ireland in Longford. We have authors coming from all over the world and plenty of national and local writers too from Manchan Magan to the amazing campaigner Sinéad Burke.

It is our way of celebrating rural Ireland – and with trad music sessions happening in the local pubs each night, it’s also going to be a darn good time too.

Being the newest booktown in a global community connects us right around the world to the international booktown movement and it’s all thanks to a small rural town in Scotland. We can learn so much from our neighbours and that’s worth celebrating too.

I hope you can join us this coming weekend and see what happens when a small town embraces literature and books.

  • You can learn more about Granard Booktown Festival, running 21-23 April, and book event tickets here.

Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel