Irish Writers in London Summer School (short course)

Add to my prospectus Why study this course? More about this course Who's this course for Course structure What our students say How to apply Meet the team Visit us

Why study this course?

James Joyce famously wrote, "The shortest way to Tara is via Holyhead", meaning that in order for Irish people to understand themselves and Ireland, they historically had to leave their homeland.

First established in 1996, the Irish Writers in London Summer School will celebrate its 25th anniversary in Summer 2021 and will be formally opened by our new patron Martina Evans. It provides an informal but informed setting for you to read and discuss contemporary literature. It's also an opportunity to explore the different reasons why Irish writers still come to England. How has the experience of migration influenced their work? How in turn has their writing helped express and mediate Irish culture and Irishness at home and abroad?

More about this course

On this course, you won't just read and discuss work by contemporary writers, you'll meet and talk with them about their work and careers. There will also be lectures, seminar discussions and optional visits to associated Irish cultural events in London.

You'll read and learn about a wide range of writing during the course and gain valuable insights into the different approaches involved. This year's set texts include fiction, radio drama, poetry and journalism. Lectures will cover topics such as Fictions of the Irish in England, Sense of Place and Irish Poetry, and Irish Journalists in London. 

During its 25-year history, the Summer School has hosted over 90 different writers including Edna O'Brien, Eimear McBride, Matthew Sweeney, Emma Donoghue, Ronan Bennett, Martina Evans, Maurice Leitch, Julia O'Faolain, Shane Connaughton, Anne Devlin, Blake Morrison, Polly Devlin, John Healy and Jess Kidd.

The Summer School was founded in 1996 by Tony Murray, who will also be teaching on the course again next year. He has taught English Literature and Irish Studies for many years and is also Curator of the Archive of the Irish in Britain. Tony has published widely on literary and cultural representations of migration and diaspora and his book, London Irish Fictions: Narrative, Diaspora and Identity was published by Liverpool University Press in 2012. More about Tony Murray.   

Summer 2020 Guest Writers 

Kit de Waal was born in Birmingham to an Irish mother and Caribbean father. She worked for fifteen years in criminal and family law, for social services and the Crown Prosecution Service. She is a founding member of Leather Lane Writers and Oxford Narrative Group and has won numerous awards for her short stories and flash fiction. My Name Is Leon, her debut novel won the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year 2017 and was shortlisted for numerous other awards including the Costa First Book Award and the Desmond Elliott Prize. In 2019, she published Becoming Dinah, a novel for young adults and edited Common People: An Anthology of Working-Class Writers. Kit joins us to discuss The Trick to Time, a novel about a young female Irish migrant in Birmingham which explores grief, longing and a love that lasts a lifetime.

Catherine Heaney grew up in Dublin and worked as a journalist and editor at various magazines and for the publisher Fourth Estate before moving to London where she became head of Faber and Faber’s creative writing school from 2011 to 2014. In 2016 she edited a volume of essays, Trinity Tales: TCD in the 1990s, published by Lilliput Press. She is currently a director of the Estate of Seamus Heaney, working with publishers and cultural organisations in Ireland and beyond to preserve and promote her father's work. Catherine joins us to discuss her career and, in particular, her role (alongside her mother and siblings) in editing the recent anthology, Seamus Heaney: 100 Poems.

Lin Coghlan came from Dublin to London in the 1980s and has been writing drama for stage, screen and radio for over three decades. As well as plays such as The Miracle, produced at the National Theatre in 2008, she has a long-established reputation for work that relies on strong relationships with community theatre groups such as Red Ladder and Half Moon. She has numerous credits on British and Irish television, including EastEnders and accolades include the Peggy Ramsey Award and the Dennis Potter Play of the Year Award. She has also run creative writing programmes at the University of Oxford, the Arvon Foundation and Holloway Prison. In 2019, she was made a Fellow of The Rose Bruford College of Speech and Drama. Lin joins us to discuss her radio dramatisation of Edna O’Brien’s The Country Girls which was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 last year.  

Peter Flanagan is an Irish writer and comic based in London. After studying Philosophy and Political Science in Trinity College Dublin, he left Ireland for Australia in 2012, where he started performing stand-up and appeared at the Perth International Comedy Festival that same year. He now performs at the top comedy clubs and festivals around Ireland, the UK and Europe. He has written dozens of short stories and columns exploring the Irish emigrant experience in the UK and beyond and is currently writing his first novel. Peter joins us to discuss his widely-read column for the Irish Times which amongst other subjects has commented on the impact of Brexit on the Irish community in Britain.

Maria C. McCarthy was born in 1959 and raised in a community of Irish migrants in Epsom, Surrey. Her Irish heritage features strongly in her writing. She is the author of two poetry collections: strange fruits (2011) and There are Boats on the Orchard (2017) published by Cultured Llama. She has an MA with distinction in Creative Writing from the University of Kent and was winner of the Society of Authors’ Tom-Gallon Trust Award 2015 for her story, More Katharine than Audrey. Maria joins us to discuss this and other short stories from As Long As It Takes (2014), a collection of interwoven tales about the lost generation of Irish women who sailed to England to look for work in the middle of the twentieth century, described by Martina Evans as, "dark, impeccably minimalistic stories about immigrant mothers and their English-born daughters". 



There is no assessment for this course. The last session will include optional student readings.

Fees and key information

Course type
Short Course
Apply now

Who's this course for?

This is not a creative writing course, but it provides an excellent accompaniment to such courses at London Metropolitan University or elsewhere. No prior qualifications are required.

Course structure

The Summer School runs for two nights a week for five-and-a-half weeks. Each Thursday evening, an established Irish writer comes to read and speak about their work. On the Tuesday evening prior to this, you'll discuss the writer’s work with fellow students and the course tutor. This unique format provides time for you to digest and reflect on reactions to set texts before meeting the writer in question.

What our students say

“It's been such a wonderful and enjoyable experience in every way, and I can say with confidence that it's one of the best things I've ever done. From the reading list and lectures to meeting the other participants and, of course, the writers themselves, it's all been fantastic.”

“I think the Summer School is a fantastic model. The range and depth of discussions, between students, tutor and authors is truly impressive and rewarding to be part of. My reading and thinking have been challenged, stretched and stimulated.”

“It was perfect! Well-prepared and engaging tutor, balanced presentation: seminars and group discussion, exciting and stimulating opportunities to meet varied and interesting authors and a chance to meet like-minded learners and compare Irish related backgrounds and interests.”

“The format meant that we explored the work in our group and then had the chance to discuss with the writers themselves after hearing them read.  The overall process led to some fascinating discussions, the lectures provide context and insights and I feel completely enriched by the course. It’s been just fantastic.”

“Very well organised. Welcoming and very friendly atmosphere promoted. High standard of participants from whom I learnt. Excellent range of writing and writers. Wonder to have them present to discuss work with and also to dine with them afterwards.”

Course dates

Course dates

Course postponed to Summer 2021

Days Tuesdays and Thursdays with an additional class on the final Friday
Time 6pm to 8.30pm?
Maximum class size 25

Further information

For more information about the application process or fees, please contact short courses office:

Tel: +44 (0)20 7320 1842


For further information about the course itself, please contact Tony Murray:


For updates about guest writers and related cultural matters, follow us on Twitter'



How to apply

Booking for this course isn't available at the moment as the course has been postponed to Summer 2021.

If you have booked your ticket already, you can either keep it for the next year, or if you would like a refund, please get in touch.

When to apply

Please note, the deadline to book a place on one of our short courses is one week before the start date. If you have missed the deadline, please get in touch and we will do our best to accommodate you.