We were delighted to welcome award-winning author and Laureate for Irish fiction Sebastian Barry to lead a special Book Club event at WHAT on 9 August. Supported by the Arts Council, this special event was for patients and staff of renal dialysis at UHW, and was organised as part of Sebastian Barry’s plan to meet and encourage people from all over Ireland, in many different places, to engage with Irish fiction. The event was an extension of the arts programme in renal dialysis at UHW which is managed by WHAT with support from the Punchestown Kidney Research Fund.
The Laureate for Irish Fiction is an initiative of the Arts Council and was established in partnership with UCD, NYU and The Irish Times. The role seeks to acknowledge the contribution of fiction writers to Irish artistic and cultural life by honouring an established Irish writer of fiction, encouraging a new generation of writers, promoting Irish literature nationally and internationally and encouraging the public to engage with Irish fiction.
The Book Club idea was initiated by Sebastian Barry and the Arts Council, and Waterford Healing Arts Trust was selected as a partner through an open call earlier this year. Speaking about the event Claire Meaney, Acting Arts Director of Waterford Healing Arts Trust, explained “We have been running an arts programme in the Renal Dialysis Unit of UHW for the last 11 years. Each patient attends for renal dialysis for approximately four hours, three times per week. Due to the restrictive nature of dialysis, the arts programme is welcomed by staff on the unit as it provides positive, creative and diversionary activities for their patients. We felt that Sebastian Barry’s idea to reach out to readers in unusual places would complement our work in renal dialysis and would provide a wonderful opportunity to the patients and staff to meet this outstanding writer and enrich their experience of Irish writing. We were delighted and honoured to have been selected for this event and would like to express our appreciation to the Arts Council and also to Waterford City and County Library Service for their support”.
Sebastian Barry is from Dublin. A graduate of Trinity College Dublin, he received an Arts Council grant in 1982 to support his early writing. In 1988 his play Boss Grady’s Boys won the first BBC/Stewart Parker Award. He was elected to Aosdána in 1989. His award-winning play The Steward of Christendom (1995), starred Donal McCann and premiered at The Royal Court. His novels include The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty (1998), A Long Long Way (2005) (Kerry Group Irish Fiction Award, short-listed for the Man Booker Prize and the Impac Prize); The Secret Scripture (2008) (shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the LA Times Book Awards; winner of the Costa Book of the Year, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, and the Irish Book Awards Novel of the Year); On Canaan’s Side (2011) (longlisted for the Booker Prize; winner, the Walter Scott Prize); Days Without End (2016) (winner, the Costa Book of the Year Award and The Walter Scott Prize; longlisted for the Booker Prize). He has three grown children, Merlin, Coral and Tobias, and lives in Wicklow with his wife Alison. He was appointed Laureate for Irish Fiction 2018-2012 in February this year.
Waterford Healing Arts Trust (WHAT) is Ireland’s leading arts and health organisation. Established in 1993, WHAT brings arts experiences to the bedsides of patients at University Hospital Waterford (UHW) and other healthcare settings. WHAT has been running an arts programme in the renal dialysis unit of UHW since 2007, supported by the Punchestown Kidney Research Fund. WHAT believes that the arts contribute to the wellbeing and vitality of society and that engaging with the arts stimulates the participant’s sense of identity and creativity. WHAT also supports the development of arts and health in Ireland and manages the national website www.artsandhealth.ie