I follow Listowel Writers Week. It is a very popular annual literary event in Ireland that attracts international attention and very good prizes. There has been some tension between the voluntary body and the Arts Council which has resulted in a new curator coming on board. That isn’t what I wish to highlight, though.
One of their latest social media postings highlights the opening of the annual short story, novel and playwriting competitions which writers from all over the world enter. Last year, in June, when the results were announced, the winner of the Eamon Keane full-length play award was named as Daniel Wade, who wrote Search and Rescue.
The only problem being that it seems reasonable to surmise, from the information at hand, that he did not write it alone.
Fellow playwright Anne Manter James, who has documented the history of the play and the controversy surrounding it (from her perspective) claims that she was the co-author of this play along with Daniel Wade. Yet it seems that her name was quietly deleted off the shared Google document they used. When she pointed this out last September, she was very quickly locked out. On the surface of it, unless there is some very concealed info, it would appear that this is a case of women’s work being devalued, erased and appropriated by a man. A man, moreover, who is heavily supported by several people in the Irish literary world. That it might have been done without any expectation of winning and just to take a chance does not excuse the problem unfortunately.
(If it turns out this reasonable inference is incorrect and this has been a misunderstanding or only partial knowledge of the facts, I’m more than happy to clarify this at any time.)
I have been on to Listowel Writers Week several times since learning of this to get clarification on the situation. Why, when I did not at the time know either person (I’ve since been corresponding with James) did I get involved? Because I was disturbed at the wall of silence Anne Manter James is meeting from the Irish arts world. I am disturbed at the lack of support from influential figures. I am disturbed that she has been left to fight this legal battle on her own. I am disturbed that Listowel Writers Week have taken no action to investigate and if needed, publicly rescind the award as it is now and redistribute it correctly.
A lot of people who call themselves feminists are saying nothing. I cannot help but wonder if it is because James is not Irish, to be honest. I don’t know Wade, have no ill-will towards him, and wish him all success – on his own terms!
I do not recommend submitting work to Listowel Writers Week competition until this matter has been resolved. I personally, as a woman writer, would feel unsafe sending my work in (particularly if a fee is required) until this is sorted out.