September 18th to 20th

Welcome to the 2nd annual Listowel International Storytelling Festival at Kerry Writers’ Museum. While we would love to bring you the festival in person, it is just not possible this year, so we are delighted to present the next best thing with a programme of online storytelling events featuring the best of Irish and international storytellers. We are especially thrilled to welcome Maria Gillen as our featured teller for the weekend and we are also partnering with St. John’s Storytelling Festival in Newfoundland this year.

Events will be delivered live online via ZOOM, our Facebook page and our YouTube channel.

For the full programme of events and how to register for each click HERE

Storytelling is as old as humanity itself. In fact, it’s the oldest form of entertainment, well before the written word and well before radio or television. It dates to the times of tribes gathering around the fire to listen to heroic tales and legends. The word seanchaí means a bearer of “old lore” (seanchas). In the ancient Celtic culture, the history and laws of the people were not written down but memorised in long lyric poems which were recited by bards (filí) in a tradition echoed by the seanchaithe. Because of their role as custodians of an indigenous oral tradition, the seanchaithe are widely acknowledged to have inherited – although informally – the function of the filí of pre-Christian Ireland.

Born in Sliabh Luachra, Co. Kerry in 1914, Eamon Kelly is considered Ireland’s greatest Seanchaí. Whilst teaching in Listowel, Eamon co-founded the Listowel Drama Group with Bryan MacMahon in 1944, where he developed his love for acting.

I only know what I heard, I only heard what was said and a lot of what was said was made up to pass the night away! So put a sod on the fire, give an apple to the child and pour a drink for the storyteller.

A message from our featured teller Maria Gillen


Maria Gillen

Maria spent 22 years in a Global Multinational environment, spending her last 4.5 years as a European Operations Manager. Maria became a Biodynamic Therapist (graduated from the Centre for Biodynamic and Integrative Psychotherapy, Galway 2007), and graduated from the MA programme in Dramatherapy Maynooth in 2010.

During the Covid Lockdown Maria has hosted ZOOM storytelling sessions with global input for Storytellers of Ireland on St. Patrick’s Day and World Storytelling Day. She was Bean an Tí for the Mermaid Arts Centre Bealtaine Festival. She has also been running popular Medicinal Story Circles online in New Zealand and Ireland.

In 2018 and 2019 Maria featured as an emerging storyteller in the annual Cape Clear Storytelling festival. In 2018 and 2019 she won the Mick McCarthy All Ireland Storytelling competition in Finuge with her own original tales harvested from her work with the six part story and collecting local wisdoms through story. She was a featured teller at the annual Listowel Writers Week in 2017. In 2017 she won the Butter Road Storytelling Competition in Blarney with an original story about the Butter Roads.

Daniel Payne

Daniel Payne is a musician and storyteller from Cow Head on the island of Newfoundland. He lived in Ireland (Cork City!) for a couple of years after high school, immersing himself in traditional music. Upon returning home, he realized that there was still a living tradition in his home town. Since then, he has enjoyed taking part in that tradition, playing for dances, learning old songs and tunes, and hearing lots of great stories, often in the cozy and casual setting of the Newfoundland and Labrador rural home. He’s happy to be taking part in this event, which we can enjoy in the same way, in our homes!

Frances Kennedy

Even though Frances now lives in Listowel, Co. Kerry she is quick to point out that she is very much a Cork woman. The youngest of a family of eleven, songs and stories were always part of her home life. Neighbours called at night and her father would fill them up with all sorts of stories. Her mother, a great believer in ghosts would tell of strange lights seen and things going bump in the night, so it was easy for Frances to fall into singing and telling the odd story. But it was in Listowel that Frances first started singing in public and everyone in Kerry had a story to tell, so she just joined in.

It was in Listowel, of course, that Frances met John B. Keane, one of her idols and there were many great singing nights in his pub. John B. encouraged Frances to tell a recitation or a yarn and before she knew it she was entertaining often.

Anita Best

Anita is a traditional singer and storyteller working primarily with Newfoundland songs and stories. She also works as a broadcaster and folklorist. Anita has received several honours for her work in collecting and disseminating Newfoundland folksongs, including the Marius Barbeau award from the Folklore Studies Association of Canada and an honorary doctorate from Memorial University. She was named to the Order of Canada in 2011. She currently lives in Norris Point, in the heart of Gros Morne National Park, where she volunteers with the Voice of Bonne Bay community radio station.

Godfrey Coppinger

Godfrey is a five-year-old cleverly disguised as a little old lady! She is a life-long doodler, scribbler, and storyteller. She loves to sing songs, make music, and dance. Godfrey looks funny when she dances, but she doesn’t care.

Originally from California, Godfrey now lives in Listowel, with a leprechaun, a fancy dog, and a retired pirate. She tells stories regularly at the Kerry County Library and works with Fighting Words, a creative writing program that helps students of all ages develop their writing skills and explore their love of writing. She regularly walks the streets of Listowel, searching for new adventures and new friends.

Kelly Russell

A professional musician since 1975, Kelly has been a member of landmark groups Figgy Duff, The Wonderful Grand Band, The Plankerdown Band, Bristol’s Hope, The Irish Descendants and Kelly Russell & The Planks. Working closely for many years with legendary fiddlers Rufus Guinchard and Emile Benoit, learning, recording and documenting their music, Kelly has inherited genuine status as one of Newfoundland’s leading traditional music promoters and performers. His record label, Pigeon Inlet Productions, released over 30 LPs and CDs from 1979 to 1997. Kelly performs his solo show Tunes & Tales of Pigeon Inlet weekly in summer at The Crow’s Nest in St. John’s featuring Tales from Pigeon Inlet by his father, Ted Russell, and the unique fiddle music of NL. He has been recognized with The Marius Barbeau Award for his significant contribution to Canadian folklore, designated the Province’s first Tradition Bearer, awarded The Queens Diamond Jubilee Medal and named to The Order of Canada. This year he received the Musicians Achievement Award from the East Coast Music Association.

Sonny Egan

Sonny is a storyteller, singer, musician and impromptu dancer who hails from North Kerry. For years, Sonny’s home in Abbeydorney was open to locals and strangers dropping in for tea and a chat and soon developed into a rambling house. Sonny recently won the All Ireland storytelling competition at Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann 2019.

Dave Penny

Dave Penny has been performing around St. John’s and beyond for 20 years, and in that time has written several comedy songs such as Johnny Chrome and A Townie Courted a Bayman’s Daughter, about wacky topics like a cyclist feuding with an oversized pickup truck, a shortage of mustard pickles and owning a Chip Wagon stand. He has performed in many Newfoundland and Labrador towns and festivals, the Meriposa Folk Festival in Ontario, and parts of New England.

Paddy O'Brien

Born in Co. Kerry, Paddy is a natural storyteller who has appeared at Storytelling festivals all over Ireland. He has been a featured teller on many occasions at the world-famous Cape Clear International Storytelling Festival.

Paddy can entertain any audience from age 3 to 103 with his fantastic stories, songs and verse – told in his own inimitable way.

Sean Lyons

Originally from Co. Mayo but an adopted son of Kerry, Sean is a storyteller, public speaker and writer of humorous verse. He has published one novel, two collections of humourous poetry and numerous short stories. He has won the Percy French poetry prize for his humourous verse twice and has appeared at many festivals, including the inaugural Los Gatos/Listowel Writer’s Week. A retired teacher, Sean is a regular contributor to Radio Kerry and is past chair of Listowel Writers’ Week.
Listowel International Storytelling Festival 2020 is organised by Kerry Writers’ Museum in association with Storytellers of Ireland and St. John’s Storytelling Festival, Newfoundland.

Consider making a donation!

In this unparalleled time of challenge and change, we have moved our storytelling festival online to protect our tellers and audiences. All our events are free to attend.

While we are generously supported by State and Local Authority funding, and as a community not-for-profit organisation our tickets sales are an integral part of how we continue to provide exceptional storytelling and cultural experiences. If you are in a position to do so, please consider making a small donation: €5 – €20 will help us to deliver quality programming . Thank you!


Supported by:
Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht under The Small Scale Festivals Scheme 2020.
Kerry County Council and Fáilte Ireland under the Festivals & Participative Events Programme 2020.

Listowel Storytelling Festival
Listowel Storytelling Festival
Listowel Storytelling Festival
Listowel Storytelling Festival