Festival Contributors

We are delighted to be joined by so many great Irish writers for our upcoming Leaves Festival, 2023. Enjoy the art of great conversation, wonderful literature and moving music at our upcoming festival. This will be a great opportunity to celebrate Ireland’s great writers.

For more information regarding our contributors, please take a closer look below.

Aingeala Flannery

Author in Residence

Aingeala Flannery is an award-winning journalist and broadcaster. She has completed an MFA in Creative Writing at University College Dublin. Her short story ‘Visiting Hours’ was the winner of the 2019 Harper’s Bazaar Short Story Competition. In 2020 and 2021, she was awarded a Literature Bursary by the Arts Council of Ireland. Her work has appeared in The Bath Anthology and has been broadcast on RTÉ Radio One as part of the Francis MacManus Short Story Competition. She lives in Dublin. 

The Amusements, her first book, was the winner of the 2023 Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year Award in association with Listowel Writers’ Week. 

John Banville

John Banville was born in Wexford, Ireland, in 1945. He is the author of many novels, including The Book of Evidence, The Sea, winner of the 2005 Man Booker Prize, and, more recently, the bestselling crime novels, Snow and April in Spain, both of which were shortlisted for the CWA Historical Dagger.

Andrea Carter

Andrea Carter grew up in Ballyfin, Co. Laois. She graduated in Law from Trinity College, Dublin, qualified as a solicitor and moved to the Inishowen peninsula. Having practised law for twenty years, more recently as a barrister, she now writes full time. She was shortlisted for the Irish Book Awards in 2019 and her first three books have been optioned for television. She lives in Dublin with her husband and dog.

Alex Clark

Alex Clark is a critic, journalist and broadcaster. A co-host of Graham Norton’s Book Club, she is also a regular on BBC Radio 4 and writes on a wide range of subjects for the Guardian, the Observer, the Irish Times and the Times Literary Supplement. She is a patron of the Cambridge Literary Festival, and has judged many literary awards, including the Booker prize. She is an experienced chair of live events, and lives in Kilkenny.

Ultan Conlon

Irish singer-songwriter Ultan Conlon anchored his distinctive sound and sensibility in Los Angeles, California with Grammy Award- winning David Garza (Fiona Apple) who produced Ultan’s 5th record, The Starlight Ballroom. It drops on September 13th 2023. 8 of Ultan’s singles have topped the RTE Radio 1 Airplay charts with current evocative rhapsodic single “Paradise Lane” from his new album residing in the RTE recommendations list for three consecutive weeks. Mary Coughlan grabbed & recorded Ultan’s songs “Hall of Mirrors” and “The Lumberjack” while John Martyn was touched by subsequently recorded “Really Gone”. Many other Irish & international artists have rubber stamped Ultan’s virtuosity by covering his songs. The Starlight Ballroom tour takes in 5 venues across Ireland ranging from Leitrim to Cork. Ultan & his world-renowned band – Alan Kelly (Eddi Reader), Jimmy Higgins (Christy Moore & TheStunning) & Miceal O’Connor (Sharon Shannon) will animate and fascinate audiences with polish & a musical aplomb rarely seen today. The Starlight Ballroom, a Ballroom of Romance in Westport Co Mayo, opened its doors in the early 60s, hosted international & national acts of the day who thrilled thousands of dance goers until it closed in 1981. Roy Orbison played The Starlight in 1969 and Ultan’s song, The Starlight Ballroom, takes in and ponders the night in question. With The Starlight Ballroom in tow Conlon headed for Los Angeles and with the aid of David Garza created a world of characters and misfits (The Old Songs) and dreamers (Susie Gossip). Whether it be an isolated begrudger (All Sewn Up) or a scorned lover living in the past (Hurts Like Heaven) or a young girl cycling the gravel dirt-roads of 1960’s Ireland looking for a fantastical place (Paradise Lane) –  they all converge in “The Starlight Ballroom”. Ultan’s performances have been described as a “rare treat filled with original music, beguiling backstories & loud laughter which make for a wonderful, uplifting evening”.

Cathal Crowley

Cathal Crowley is a multi-instrumentalist, singer and theatre-maker from Cork. Whilst studying Music and Psychology in Trinity College Dublin, he sang at major festivals including Forbidden Fruit and All Together Now with the Trinity Orchestra. The Spring of 2023 saw Cathal’s Dublin theatre debut in Smock Alley Theatre, with the sold-out show “The Wholly Divided Trinity Conspiracy of Queen Elizabeth (near Dublin)”, in which he co-wrote, directed and performed the lead role. As half of the comedy-music duo, Disco Trolley, Cathal has performed in venues such as Whelan’s, The Grand Social and Lost Lane.

Molly Donnery

Molly Donnery is a critically acclaimed traditional Irish and contemporary singer from county Laois. Best known for her vocals with emerging band The Haar, Molly’s style combines the emotive storytelling of the tradition with modern techniques and improvisation. Since winning the All-Ireland Scór na nÓg in 2014, Molly has performed in renowned venues such as Croke Park, The National Concert Hall and the Helix. She has sung at multiple festivals including Electric Picnic and Body and Soul.

John Drennan

John Drennan currently is political correspondent for the Irish Mail on Sunday and Daily Mail. Previously he wrote for the Sunday Independent and the current affairs magazine Magill. Mr Drennan is also the author of five books:

The Secret Dole Diaries of Sean Armstrong, Cannonballs and Croziers A History of Maynooth, Cute Hoors and Pious Protesters, Standing by the Republic: 50 Dail Debates That Shaped the Republic, Paddy Machiavelli How the Irish Prince Secures Power, The Great Betrayal: How the government betrayed the People, He has served on both sides of the political divide being Director of Communications for Renua. Wikipedia describes him as being an ‘affable old Blueshirt’ which is incorrect.

Anne Enright

Anne Enright was born in Dublin, where she now lives and works. She has written two collections of stories, published together as Yesterday’s Weather, one book of nonfiction, Making Babies, and nine novels, including The Gathering, which won the 2007 Man Booker Prize, The Forgotten Waltz, which was awarded the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction, and The Green Road, which was the Bord Gáis Energy Novel of the Year and won the Kerry Group Irish Fiction Award. In 2015 she was appointed as the first Laureate for Irish Fiction, and in 2018 she received the Irish PEN Award for Outstanding Contribution to Irish Literature. She is also the recipient of the 2022 Irish Book Awards Lifetime Achievement Award.Her latest novel is The Wren, The Wren

Emily Hourican

Emily Hourican is a journalist and author. She has written features for the Sunday Independent for fifteen years, as well as Image magazine, Condé Nast Traveler and Woman and Home. Her debut novel, The Privileged, was shortlisted for the 2016 Irish Book Awards in the Best Commercial Fiction. She lives in Dublin with her husband and three children.

Ann-Marie Kelly

Ann-Marie Kelly, is a Double Award winning Radio woman, working also for Midlands Ireland, likes a laugh and a good story. Living in the middle of Ireland.

Henrietta McKervey

Award-winning author

Festivals and events appearances include Ennis Book Club Festival, Murder One, Kildare Readers Festival, Belfast Book Festival, and the Dublin Festival of History. Curator of Echoes, Ireland’s only literary festival with Maeve Binchy at its heart. Book reviewer/contributor to the Irish Times, Irish Independent, Sunday Independent and Sunday Business Post. Podcast reviewer, Irish Independent.Regular contributor to Entertainment Panel, Brendan O’Connor Show, RTÉ Radio 1. Fiction mentor with National Mentoring Programme.

and creative content copywriter
Award-winning copywriter with experience in television, radio, print, online and direct mail across commercial, cultural and charity sectors.

Michelle Mulcahy

Michelle Mulcahy is one of the most significant musicians redefining harp today. Her musicianship has earned her world wide recognition as one of the most significant talents to emerge in traditional music today. An award winning multi-instrumentalist, she is also considered to be one of the most talented multi-instrumentalists performing today. From a musical family steeped in tradition, Michelle possesses a unique musicality in her playing, ‘music that is played with superb clarity, beautiful melodic expression and innate musicality’. She was awarded the prestigious TG4 Young Musician of the Year in 2006 and was also awarded Female Musician of the Year in 2005 at the Live-Ireland awards and again in 2013 for her solo album, Suaimhneas.

Colin O’ Mahoney

Colin O’ Mahoney (he/him) is a comic book writer and editor who has had comic and prose work published in Ireland, England, America, and South America. He also teaches creative writing and comic-making, and is passionate about teaching the benefits of creativity, self- expression, and collaboration to young people through his teaching.

Donal Ryan

Donal Ryan is an award-winning author from Nenagh, County Tipperary, whose work has been published in over twenty languages to major critical acclaim.  The Spinning Heart won the Guardian First Book Award, the EU Prize for Literature (Ireland), and Book of the Year at the Irish Book Awards; it was shortlisted for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the Desmond Elliott Prize, and was voted ‘Irish Book of the Decade’. His fourth novel, From a Low and Quiet Sea, was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, shortlisted for the Costa Novel Award 2018, and won the Jean Monnet Prize for European Literature. His most recent novel, Strange Flowers, was voted Novel of the Year at the Irish Book Awards, and was a number one bestseller. Donal lectures in Creative Writing at the University of Limerick. He lives with his wife Anne Marie and their two children just outside Limerick City.

Thomas Carolan

In April Thomas Carolan was appointed as the new Heritage Officer for county Laois. Thomas brings a wide variety of experience to the role – having studied History & Anthropology followed by Environmental Management, he worked as an archaeologist for a number of years before moving into environmental education and most recently as a Community Water Officer with LAWPRO – the Local Authority Waters Programme.

Leaves Festival of Writing and Music

Choose from a fantastic line up of events



The Festival runs in various locations across County Laois.

Tickets are on sale now at and direct from Libraries.


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