2009, Dublin

Hosted by the ALS and the Dubliners’ Literary Circle, in Dublin

Back in January, I’d never even heard of the ALS. Six months on I’m sat in a Dublin bar laughing my head off at a story about Joyce surrounded by more literary societies than I can ever begin to remember at the ALS AGM. How, I hear you ask?

Well, it all started when my brother, who lives in America and is fond of finding gifts of an unusual nature, was searching the web when he found a present for my sister, Kathy. Aware that Kathy and I both have a penchant for Elizabethan literature, he enrolled Kathy as a member of the Marlowe Society.

I’m not sure what Frieda, the Marlowe Membership Secretary, made of it all but before too long Kathy and I attended and were welcomed at the Marlowe AGM at a wonderful London pub and as a result I also became a member.

At the Marlowe Society AGM, Frieda spoke of the ALS and the planned weekend in Dublin and made it clear that all members were welcome to attend. At the time, I don’t really believe that we had any intention of going ourselves, but somehow over the following months it seemed like a really good idea and so all of a sudden we were off. And once we were there, with the help of the Dubliners Literary Circle we were made exceptionally welcome from the start, met people from all over the place and had a really fantastic time.

With the AGM planned for the Saturday morning, we headed to Dublin on the Friday night to make the most of the weekend. We knew there was an informal evening planned but on arrival, realised that we were to be wined and dined in Temple Bar at Gogarty’s restaurant (a friend, and then not such a friend of Joyce, you know) complemented by an impromptu sightseeing tour along the route. The food was superb (a strong recommendation from Kathy for the Seafood Anna Livia) and not only were we in a marvellous setting, we also happened to be dining at the same time as a sensational Swedish choir who entertained the whole restaurant for the evening.

A stroll back to the Hotel and a nightcap with the Tolkien Society (thanks to Pat and Trevor!) it was time to retire.

Saturday morning brought the AGM and such a range of societies I can’t begin to list them. All I will say is that everyone was welcoming and I’ve learnt far more than I ever thought I would about people I’ve never heard of before.  There’s not many AGM’s you would describe as fun but when one includes a re-enactment of a scene from one of Joyce’s works in all its Irish glory then I think you’d agree that it would be different. Hard to follow, but the Committee managed it with talk of the year’s events and next year’s plans. Once all the points were covered, it was on to a fantastic Yeats exhibition at the library (Breda, you’ve been ten times, it’s time to stop.)

After that, Kathy and I made our escape to the local jail and did a little sightseeing, with lots of ground to cover until it was time for the annual dinner. The food was excellent and along with great company and innovative entertainment it was a really good night. Even if a late night for those who chose to stay in the bar! And it wasn’t over then!

Sunday morning we had the pleasure of Des, Paul and Breda taking us for a literary walk around Dublin ending up at the Dublin Writers museum where we learnt that during a particular period of censorship Kavanagh (having had wording removed from his book in print) went to the bookshop and wrote his line about “dangly bits” back into every single one! With still time to see more sights and maybe even partake in a refreshing pint of the black stuff there was plenty more to do before it was time to come home.

Already next year is being planned, this time the turn of the Gaskell society and we’d love to be there. I just need to work out how to explain to my husband that I’ve somehow booked us in at a Gaskell weekend for our wedding anniversary…

Thanks to everyone who made the weekend what it was – all of the DLC including Des (we haven’t read your book yet – we haven’t had time!), Michael (how do you remember all those words?!), Paul (we still like your t-shirt!) and to everyone that I haven’t mentioned I do apologise.

The message from this year’s AGM – endorsed by Janet from the Gaskell Society as  next year’s host – is that you don’t need to be a representative to attend the ALS AGM, and it’s not only one person that has to go from each society. If you joined a society, you want to learn about others, you want to get involved and you want to be entertained then in my limited experience I would say this is definitely worth a try. For all the other societies out there – get your members involved!

Thanks to Frieda for encouraging us to go and for Janet who’s trying to get everyone to do the same and good luck to the Gaskell Society for next year!

PS Do they drink Guinness in Knutsford?!