Keith Payne. Photo: Javier Teniente.

Writer in Residence outlines some of his plans

by Keith Payne

In the Spanish-speaking world, a place and the people who live there are one and the same. Pueblo means a village, a town, a nation and also all of its citizens.

Whether Mrs O’Neill’s kitchen, the map of Cornwall Gardens on Andrew Pollard’s wall or the very intimate, enclosed space of Willie Ryan’s bedroom, place and the people who live there are of the utmost importance to the work of John Broderick. Daly, in the novel London Irish ‘had come a long way from Fuerty, but he had brought his household gods with him.’

How intimate our relationship with our home place this past year, and yet how rich the tapestry of flora, fauna, history, architecture, anecdote, folklore and neighbours, both present and past, across those 5km we’ve been spending so much time in. And so, as John Broderick Writer in Residence 2021, I am delighted to announce the ten-week Creative Writing Workshop ‘Pilgrimage to our Household Gods.’

Westmeath has a very particular character - like many places in Ireland it has its own folklore, its own formal and informal histories, its own way of walking and talking. In these workshops, I want to encourage participants to trust this, to trust in the value and meaning of their own place, to grow their own voices and confidence in their own place.

The geographic centrality of Athlone reminds us of the centrality of place in not only Broderick’s work, but in the work of so many of our writers. For many decades, the transmission centre for Irish radio was in Athlone, whose name reached across the Continent alongside Hilversum, Helsinki, Bremen and Budapest. So now, that once again the wireless age is upon us, tuning back into Athlone is the obvious turn of the dial.

It is also true that our communities are welcoming people from all over the world. And what an opportunity this presents for the people of Westmeath; as a source of enrichment, an opportunity to deepen our understanding, especially about a place we have become so familiar with as to miss much of it.

Interaction with our new communities will allow writers from Westmeath realize how much in common they have with their fellows from Galicia, Granada, Ghana and beyond, making for a closer community – something literature has the immense and endless power to create – as we travel forward along those wavelengths once more.

All my work as 2021 Writer in Residence is open to everyone; to all levels and to all languages. There are numerous strands to this year’s Residency, including a Book Club and Writing Clinics, and full details are available at

And remember, participation is open to all, everyone in Westmeath is most welcome to make this pilgrimage to our household gods.

Keith Payne is the 2021 John Broderick Writer in Residence

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