On February 5th, in the Wine Cave of KC Peaches on Nassau Street, a group of 20 odd 20-somethings listened to each other read their poems and short stories. There was no name for what was going on until about half an hour in when someone threw out the name Cave Writings – which seemed apt. The readers read a mixture of previously published and unpublished work and everyone drank wine. The readings started at one end of the room and finished at the other end because it was figured that it was easier to hear them there. There was a lot of figuring out on the night.
Every week since the first evening in February, usually Thursdays, what has become known as the Cave has taken place downstairs in KC Peaches. Readers get a glass of wine on the house and students (which most of those in attendance are) get a discount on wine and beer. During the interval there are canapés. Cave Writings is the baby of Fionn Rogan, a Trinity student and writer who works in KC Peaches. When the Wine Cave needed a new hook it was Rogan who saw the issue as the solution to another problem: Dublin’s young writers’ need of a focal point and free wine. Cave Writings, Rogan says, was founded as a space for people to meet and share ideas: “We found there was no frequent gathering for young writers. You had sporadic events but nothing fixed.” The Cave has been a weekly fixture now for seven weeks. Having grown from what was a mostly Trinity affair on the first night there are now young people from all over coming and reading, listening and talking.
Building a community
“We’re community building,” says Rogan. “It’s for sharing ideas and styles. It’s what we ourselves were after as young writers: a place to meet other writers, good company and conversation. There is an established literary community but it’s disconnected from younger people doing new things.” But he makes the point of saying that it’s not an event exclusively for young people, though it appears, and is often the case, young people are doing the most interesting things in Irish writing. “It’s mostly young people but we don’t want to limit ourselves in any way. The Cave has grown organically and isn’t dictated by any one style so this means we hear a lot of fresh interesting work. I mean in the first Cave we had a poem about the devil fucking god.”
Photo: Cave Writings
The Cave was birthed as a literary event similar to usual readings but, as it grew, it expanded. On the second night, there were scientific readings on the pineal gland and an argument against the reintroduction of wolves into Ireland. Science has become a staple of the reading list. Rogan sees this variety as one of the Cave’s strengths: “It’s a gathering of creatives. Literature is our bread and butter but we love hearing about new ideas. Bread and butter needs jam. I’m fascinated by people’s passions. They’re who we want speaking, passionate people.” He added: “You could have no knowledge or interest in their fields and yet listening to them is electric. We’ve had people speak on niche subjects that no-one had ever been exposed to but when it’s delivered with passion it becomes fascinating. In this way people are exposed to ideas they wouldn’t or couldn’t have had. There’s such a huge variety of human knowledge that people are closed off to because they don’t have the opportunity to interact with it. The Cave offers a space for this exchange.”
Though poetry and prose will remain the staples, the Cave is becoming more and more of an interdisciplinary space. Recently, the GUM Collective, a group of 13 artists who are all final year NCAD students, has gotten involved. On March 13th, the Collective’s Aaron Smyth and Stephen Lau presented their work and spoke to the Cave, bringing a new dimension of visual arts.
For writers, Cave Writings offers a sounding board for new work. With the glut of recent literary publications that Irish talent has demanded, the Cave is a testing ground where writers can try things and seek feedback from other writers before submitting to the growing number of journals. Michael Naghten Shanks, editor of The Bohemyth, one of the most interesting of the new wave of Irish literary journals, sees the Cave as something unique: “There’s no lack of venues or events around Dublin in which people can read, perform and discuss their work but most are tailored towards a specific audience. Cave Writings offers something different to that. It’s a place for creatives of all types to engage with each other.”
Reducing the divide between the individual artist and the literary journals is part of the Cave’s project. This it hopes to do through “Cave Writings Presents…” which are nights at the Cave devoted to the launch and featured writers of a specific publication. The first of these took place last Thursday with Cave Writings Presents Icarus and TCD Miscellany. There are plans to host similar events with both The Bohemyth and the Belleville Park Pages in the future.
Photo: Cave Writings
As well as introducing editors to new talent and vice versa, these nights aim to further build up a real world community where texts can come off the page and readers and writers can meet. The Cave is ultimately a drive towards humanising a community that currently only really exists on paper and online.
Cave Writings is a fixed physical space where people can come and actually engage in a community, rather than just interact with it online. At Cave Writings, conversation is not limited to 140 characters. Will Cox, the editor of the Belleville Park Pages, when discussing creative communities that flourished in the past, always insists that first and foremost there needs to be human contact, that people need to get drunk together, fight and fuck.
There is of course a Cave Writings Twitter account and a Facebook page and also a SoundCloud account with recordings of each session. But the social media side of things is utilitarian, a means to an end. The Cave is first and foremost an event. It’s exists only in so far as it facilitates the interactions of people as they think, talk and form relationships. It’s not good enough that people should start following each other on Twitter because they saw someone mentioned through the Cave Writing’s account. As Rogan puts it “We’ve taken the online community and added a much needed dose of reality.”
Since the Cave has started at least one new journal has been started. Undoubtedly more people have started writing in Dublin. As long as people continue to create there will be a need for a space for them to discuss, debate, meet, fight and fuck. With so much going on in Dublin’s creative scene the Cave will occupy an important space, first and foremost by being a space. People need a regular point of contact to see what else is being done around them. It’s inspiring to see what others are doing around you and it incentivises writers to see that others are striving to create and thriving in the same environment as they are.