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  • Writer's pictureLara O'Brien

Roddy Doyle at The Abbey Tavern Howth

Hooks & Reels Feb 8th 2024

It's taken a few days to get through the messages and support for what was certainly a great start to 2024 and major highlight for Hooks & Reels - an evening of story and song. When we started putting our first event together it was to present the workshop writers and local musical talent in a literary and musical performance, while bringing our community together.

The events have gone from strength to strength, from The Boathouse and our intimate nights for 50 guests to St. Mary's Church with Edel Coffey four writers and Saltaire_ to a huge night last night in the Abbey where we hosted 200 people.

Dearbhail McDonald, author, journalist and documentarian is H&R's fantastic M.C. She is such a giving woman of her time and expertise and has gotten behind Hooks & Reels with heart. Dibs invited Booker prize winner and man of our northside hearts, Roddy Doyle, to be our star author some time ago and we were so thrilled when he accepted. He has always been a generous supporter of emerging writers and musicians so we felt really appreciative for giving H&Rs a nod of approval.

On Thursday during a 45 minute interview he spoke about his earlier work and classics such as the Commitments, his writing practice, dedication, his work as a young author, to his more mature works include his latest novel. He spoke too about being a school teacher while winning the Booker Prize for Paddy Clarke Ha, Ha, Ha, that led to his transition from teaching to full time novel, play and screenplay writer.

Not another sound could be heard in the old Abbey Tavern as Roddy read from his soon-to-be released novel of the legendary Paula Spenser star of

Photography by Carlos @Paddifromcadi

The Women Behind the Door. Roddy's reading delivered his trademark Roddy humour, (thankfully) his sharpness in dialogue, tension, action, and he left us all eager to get our hands on this novel and return to Paula's story. It really was an honour to be the first public group to hear about Paula after all these years, and the atmosphere was so alive with appreciation and respect for Roddy with his tender observations of Paula's hard life blows and her tiny steps to self-empowerment.

Melissa Campana opened with her laugh-out-loud piece on the Irish-English language. Melissa has a sharp observation and unique take on Irishisms, particularly mannerisms, including how we speak and create English-Irish. Melissa did a great job of lifting the night off and getting the audience thinking and laughing and they had barely stopped laughing when the second reader stood up to the mic. Melissa is a standout and has grown a solid following with fans of her performance.

Eoghan Ryan presented a piece titled, Heir to the Overdraft. He performed a dramatic birth story, that of his son, with a mix of tension and hungover antics that kept us in suspense, mixed with humour and just when we thought we were out of the worrying waters, he delivered a tough hook at the final moment. Eoghan's piece was an adaption from his memoir about addiction, depression and the rise of recovery. The memoir is a remarkable story, simply told, and weaved with his style and mix of emotional hits and humour. This is Ryan's third presentation and he seems to have been rewarded with a growing fan base.

Colm Skwirbat's performance was truly remarkable. He gave us a little history of his father crafting the one string cigar box,a musical instrument modeled after the instruments of the delta Mississippi. When Colm sang he raised the roof and he was fantastic. While the night was in the ancient Irish Abbey we were transported to New Orleans where Fats Domino and Professor Longhair would have been proud of our native Colm. Colm included a song her wrote called 'A Sad Song' that really was a happy song and had toes tapping and feet itching to dance. It was the absolute best pairing for the night with Roddy Doyle and it was great to see Colm shine in front of a large and captivated audience. @colmskwirbatmusic

Wendy Rudd was back by demand with her 'Ode to my Hangover' and this time she brought the story of the night before. A merry tale of yacht club race culture, her expertise in salsa dancing and getting home while singing and swaying. A funny look at a great night out and her Ode to giving up the demon drink the next morning.

I closed the magical night with 'A Little Murder" an account of killing my inner voice, or the voice of fear. My inner voice is rooted in the word Dyslexia, something I have been battling for years. It was wonderful to come out of the closet while surrounded by so many cheering faces. @laraobrienbooks @hooksandreels

We closed the night with thanks to the Abbey Tavern, new owners Paul McMullan, and staff for hosting us. We remembered it was the first home of The Dubliners and so many other Howth legends (and others) in the past and the space really serves as a community gathering hall at an important time for Howth. The community has lost much of the its space and infrastructure over the last 40 years, with the hotel, bank, community center, CYMC, Band hall and other buildings being sold to developers, and we are left wondering how we can pull together as a community? The want and the wishes of our community clearly all lead to the importance of the arts, youth programs and communal gathering spaces for revitalizing the village. @abbeytavernhowth

As always big thanks to Chris Boland of Horizon events, Carlos and Annroai Og for all their photographs, volunteers Geraldine Mahoney of Geraldine Mahoney Event management, Orla, Ben, Jill, and all who keep the lamp lit for Hooks & Reels. Thank you.

If you are interested in writing with a group, email we have 3 weekly workshops on-going.


"The crowd were mesmerised. Many were new to Hooks & Reels and came to hear Roddy Doyle not expecting such a delightful fusion of memoirs and music. In the interval people got a drink to catch up with old friends and enjoy a conversation around the Roddy Doyle interview, stories and music. A fantastic night.' Rebecca Blomfield.

'The Night with Roddy Doyle will stay with me for years. The warmth, stories that connected us all, along with original music, lifted the rafters! A wonderful setting in our own Abbey Tavern. History was made in Howth last night.' Geraldine Nolan

Photography by Annraoi Og Blaney @a.blaney_

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