2 minutes with… Declan Murphy

Dublin Book Festival is a festival based in the city, but we love to feature the work of authors whose writing has the power to transport us far beyond the urban skyline, and immerse us in the natural world. Today’s 2 minute catch up is with Declan Murphy, who is most certainly one such author. His latest book The Spirit of the River was inspired by a childhood encounter with a kingfisher, and brings us with him on a journey that investigates this most elusive of birds, and ultimately reveals the power of nature to restore balance in our lives.

Murphy will be discussing his book with Manchán Magan as part of Dublin Book Festival 2021, in the beautiful and apt surrounds of the National Botanic Gardens.

Full details can be found here.

When was the last time you actually saw a Kingfisher?

I have had several encounters with Kingfishers during the past six months, all of which were by chance. Being familiar with their call, their behaviour and their habitat is hugely helpful and often means that I will see a Kingfisher while someone beside me misses it. Most sightings are simply birds flying away, often glimpsed in binoculars as a distant blue speck. Sometimes you get lucky and a bird perches obligingly on a post in front of you and you then get to appreciate it in detail, but these views are the exception rather
than the rule.

Nature has been so important, particularly in the past 18 months, for everyone’s mental and general health. What makes it so special for you?

Lockdown brought unprecedented levels of anxiety, worry and fear to many people. Many peoples ‘downtime activity’ was taken from them – socializing, sport and travelling to name but a few. Trapped in a 2km radius the only way to stay outside was to explore the immediate surroundings – depending om where you lived this could be beaches, parks, seafront or fields. For many people this was a new experience and it may have surprised them to discover that this activity relaxed them and maybe even become the highlight of their day For me, however, it was nothing new. I have always ‘escaped’ into the countryside or wherever I can find nature. Modern day living is challenging, for me anyway! It’s busy, it’s noisy, it’s full on personal interaction and seemingly with countless instructions and streams of information to process every minute. Can our minds handle this indefinitely? Seemingly not when you look at the recent upsurge in mental health awareness. I find being with nature the perfect ‘reset’ or ‘reboot’ to get me through the rest of the day. I can look at a butterfly, listen to a bird or the sound of the river. Its up to me to take in as much as I need at my own pace for as long or as little as needed. Being alone with my dog seems to be more than enough. I don’t need to explain, I don’t need to network or integrate. Its not like downsizing or getting away from it all for the sake of saving the planet… It’s simply what I need and for me – it works.

What do you hope people take away from the book?

Growing up, I relied heavily on books to teach me not just about nature but to feel I wasn’t the odd one out so to speak. Being the only person interested in birds amongst 100 other boys attending a sports mad school wasn’t easy. I would like to think that
some child, or adult, might read my book and find some source of reassurance for their feelings about nature in it.
But more importantly, it might encourage both children and adults to see the richness and value of the world around us

What other Dublin Book Festival event are you most excited about?

The most exciting aspect of the festival for me is simply the fact that we are able to come together in a manner we haven’t been able to for quite some time. Because of this, the event has a newness and a freshness about it and is filled with hope
and expectation – a bit like a leaf bud opening in the Spring!

This is a live audience event, and very limited tickets remain, so book now to avoid missing out.