New writings are a beacon of light amid darkness of pandemic

A collection of writings during Covid-19 showcases great Irish talents and also salutes our frontline heroes, says GRAINNE McGUINNESS
New writings are a beacon of light amid darkness of pandemic

West Cork publisher and author, Niamh Cooper.

A NEW collection of poetry, fiction and drama, entitled Lights On The Horizon, has been described by West Cork publisher Niamh Cooper as “a message of hope for a nation which was on its knees”.

The collection showcases the talents of a mix of fresh voices, seasoned writers and visionary photographers from across the island of Ireland and has been created to honour frontline heroes.

Written during the lockdown in March, the collection reflects people’s thoughts, fears, actions and inactions, as they emerged from the darkest depths of Covid-19.

“The original idea for Lights On The Horizon came from Antrim writer and playwright Andrew William Tinney,” Ms Cooper explains. 

“Lockdown was difficult for so many of us and when Andrew put out a call for submissions, with all proceeds going to frontline workers, it got me writing again.

“I actually wasn’t even sure I was going to send in my story, as some elements of it reflected my own story — single mum of two in lockdown with two teenagers.

“However, other elements were fictional and dramatised, and I felt that by injecting a good portion of humour, it might make people laugh in these dark times.

“My story was accepted, and Andrew managed the entire process of publishing a first edition back in May.

“When I received my copy in the post, I thought that Andrew had touched upon something special. I also felt that so many of us wanted to do more than stand by our front door and clap for frontline workers.”

The collection has been endorsed by Skibbereen-based actor Jeremy Irons and Clonakilty-based author Louise O’Neill.

“This collection of poems, stories, and photos will be something to treasure when we look back at this time in years to come, wondering how we survived,” Ms O’Neill said.

The themes of the collection are ‘heroes and hope’, which Ms Cooper feels will resonate with a wide audience.

“The frontline workers were our heroes of the day, still are,” she says. 

“But also, I read a quote attributed to Albert Camus: ‘Sometimes just carrying on, just carrying on, is the superhuman achievement.’ And I realised that everyone was trying to keep things together, and keep going, one day at a time, so the tales of heroes and hope are really for everyone who’s managing to get through this second lockdown, somehow.

“For many of us, the second lockdown seems even harder, and the mention of a vaccine now, together with last week’s U.S election results, are a beacon of hope after months of bad news. So hopefully, our book will be another beacon of hope.”

Ms Cooper was blown away by the support she received when she decided to publish a hardback coffee table edition in time for Christmas. The writers and photographers featured, along with the publishing team and many individuals and businesses, donated their work and their time free of charge.

“I have to say, I expected a lot more rejection, but the fact that literally everyone responded so positively was down to our admiration for our health care staff,” Ms Cooper says.

“We all have a sister, an uncle or someone we know who is a nurse or a doctor or works in healthcare in some capacity, and how they’ve kept going these last nine months is beyond many of us.

“Everyone I asked has been so positive about it and within days I had our graphic designer on board.

“Our editor had to do a good few edits due to the usual last minute publishing changes, and she was meticulous to the last. And then there were the photographers, the actors for our photoshoot, we even got paramedics and a loan of an ambulance!

“I am completely in awe of everyone who jumped on board and made this edition of Lights On The Horizon possible, in such a short space of time — we turned this second edition around in less than four months. I would be so grateful if people felt it was something they could support.

“We also believe we have produced a beautiful book with some gorgeous poems and stories which we hope will resonate with people — and by buying it, they’re also doing something for a good cause! We all have a hero in our lives, so maybe this book would make the perfect Christmas present.”

Ms Cooper would like to see the buying public support artists this year more than ever.

“I believe the arts are suffering hugely, and if we think about it, it’s stories, music and art that we turn to when we need solace,” she says. “A great story can transport us away from this reality we might want to temporarily escape. A song you emotionally connect with can get you through a difficult time. Looking at a work of art can take you back to a happier time.

“I feel that we need to support our artists so this Christmas — in addition to shopping locally, if we can — if we all went out and bought a drawing, a CD directly from the artist, or even this book, it would provide such a boost to artists to keep going, and to help them believe that their creativity can help raise someone else’s spirits.”

The premium ‘coffee table’ edition of Lights On The Horizon will be available from November 28, RRP €24.95.

It is being sold in independent bookshops who will post nationwide: Kerr’s in Clonakilty, Bookstór in Kinsale, Philip’s of Mallow, Charlie Byrne’s in Galway and The Secret Bookshelf in Carrickfergus, with more to be added.

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