Review: Five Years of Banshee Press

Author Tom Vowler’s warm and comforting fireplace backdrop set the tone for Dublin Book Festival’s online event celebrating five years of Banshee Press. Eimear Ryan, one of Banshee’s co-founders, kickstarted the evening’s festivities by introducing Banshee Press and five of its talented contributors who joined her for the event: Kevin Power, Ellen Brickley, Bebe Ashley, Marie Gethins, and Tom Vowler.

First to speak was author Kevin Power, whose forthcoming novel, White City, is due to be published in 2021. Kevin’s narration of the composition was engrossing, with his chosen extract detailing a meeting between two friends in a hotel gym who deliver a visceral and unforgiving account of inadequacy and moral greyness.

Where Power’s chosen piece focused on questions of morality and greed, fellow contributor Ellen Brickley’s non-fiction essay contemplated the inevitability of death. Her reading evoked a vivid sense of the fear and worry that one experiences when confronted with the potential loss of a loved one as she recounted her mother’s unexpected hospitalisation at the beginning of the first lockdown.

Bebe Ashley’s reading from Gold Light Shining, her selection of poetry based on pop icon Harry Styles, came as a more light-hearted break away from the deeper subject matter of the first two readings, professing a fan’s fascination with artist, music, and the communities that form around landmarks of culture such as bands and musicians. The varied settings of Ashley’s chosen poems signal the universal connection of music and worldwide unity in our appreciation of musicians.

Marie Gethins’ reading of flash fiction, meanwhile, presented an intimate representation of family life; the work is abstract, poignant, and nostalgic in its remembrance of childhood in a by-gone time, followed by the breakup of the family unit as a result of parental divorce and the death of a grandmother.

Last to speak was university lecturer Tom Vowler, whose reading, in a similar vein to Gethins’, focused on the disconnect between family members. Vowler’s work follows a man who has ventured into the Peruvian jungle to reconnect with his estranged mother, and is undergoing a ritual to improve his health. The narration is atmospheric and transportive, creating a lasting mental image of the Peruvian backdrop and the jarring disconnect between mother and son.

The difference of form, tone, and subject matter contributed by each of the five participants made for a truly enthralling event. Kevin Power, Ellen Brickley, Bebe Ashley, Marie Gethins and Tom Vowler each spoke with clarity and eloquence, offering thought-provoking perspectives on a wide range of topics and socio-political issues. Host Eimear Ryan maintained a smooth pace throughout by posing some wonderful questions to each writer between segments. If you missed this thoroughly enjoyable night of entertainment, fear not – you can watch the event now by clicking the link below.