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New Chapter Unfolds for Book Club Festival

Clare Champion, Friday, 31st August 2007

As the evenings begin to draw in, the organisers of the highly successful Ennis Book Club Festival are encouraging others to join together and form their own club. The festival committee are currently hard at work preparing for next year's event which has confirmed an appearance by award-winning novelist Roddy Doyle and Dermot Bolger.

"The first ever festival was a fantastic social land literary gathering that brought together the hundreds of book clubs that exist nationwide. The response was so positive that we have decided to do it all over again. Once again the focus will be on the reader. Author readings, discussions, workshops and walking tours through the narrow streets and lanes of Ennis will be on offer. We will have dedicated sessions on how to organise a book club and advice on reading lists", said committee chairperson, Frances O'Gorman.

Contrary to popular belief, book clubs were not invented by Oprah Winfrey! An American Puritan named Anne Hutchinson is believed to have started the first formal book club in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1643. By 1870 book clubs had spread across America, though they gradually went into decline as they became more political. Meanwhile, in Britain, mill girls were reading books together before work. In more recent times, a 1960s report reveals details of a reading circle where women read aloud to each other as they caught up on their knitting and mending. Oprah, however, can be credited with the current book club phenomenon. In 1996 she mentioned to her viewers that she was enjoying reading The Deep End of the Ocean by J. Mitchard. Sales of the book immediately went through the roof and Oprah’s Book Club was born.

Today, book clubs have spread worldwide and, in Ireland alone, there are several hundred in existence. For the uninitiated, book clubs are groups of readers who come together on a regular basis, usually monthly, to read and discuss books with the emphasis being on reading for enjoyment.

"Reading is a solitary activity. In a book club reading becomes a shared experience and a social activity. New friendships develop and new authors are discovered. The book no longer ends on the final page. The pleasures and the traumas of each book are re-lived as views and opinions are shared and explored", said Frances.

She advised anybody wishing to join a book club to check their local library as hundreds of book clubs are currently being run through the library service. "There is information on local book clubs on the Clare County Library website. Alternatively, you could get a group of friends or colleagues together and start your own, even advertise if necessary", she added.

While some clubs meet in the library, clubs can be run from just about any venue, from people's homes to restaurants, community centres, etc. Most book clubs meet once a month to discuss a book. According to Frances, "There is no one right way to run a book club. Each club will establish their own guidelines as they discover what suits their particular group."

The second Ennis Book Club Festival will run from 29th February to 2nd March 2008, with internationally renowned writers including Morgan Llywelyn, Lorna Landvik and Thomas Lynch set to appear at the event. The three-day festival, which is supported by Clare County Library, is expected to attract hundreds of book club members and book lovers from all over Europe.

The Ennis Book Club Festival Committee confirmed that it had already received bookings for the 2008 Festival from as far away as Wisconsin, USA. The confirmed line-up of participating authors would be complemented by the addition of more writers during the coming months. Frances also confirmed that events would again be held in such venues as Glór Irish Music Centre and De Valera Library, as well as in selected hotels, cafes, bookshops and restaurants around Ennis.

Further details on the Ennis Book Club Festival 2008 are available on the website or by emailing

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