Tallaght writer marks The Square anniversary with anthology of poetry, short fiction, prose and drama

By Mary Dennehy

Eileen Casey is an award-winning writer from Tallaght who has edited a new anthology of poetry, short fiction, prose and drama to mark the 25th anniversary of The Square shopping centre.

When The Square opened 25 years ago, it became not only a focal point for the local community but a catalyst for change and future development – with The Square now the epicentre of a sprawling network of retailers, hotels, services, a hospital, transport links, a third level college, theatre, library, council offices and much more.

In recent years, despite challenging times for both retailers and consumers, The Square held its ground, with the local shopping centre continuing to be a significant development on the Tallaght skyline – with plans for future growth and sustainability in the pipeline.

To mark the centre’s 25th anniversary, Eileen Casey and local writers in Platform One, who meet in Rua Red once a month, initiated a celebratory anthology called Circle & Square – with support and contributions from other writers, South Dublin County Council, Transdev, Tallaght Photographic Society and The Square Management.

Discussed during the recent Red Line Book Festival, Circle & Square is now available to buy and ahead of the launch on November 18, editor Eileen Casey took a few minutes to talk about the anthology with The Echo.

LIFE Eileen Casey 2

What is Circle & Square? 

Circle & Square is an anthology of poetry, short fiction, prose and drama. It seemed appropriate to mark the twenty-fifth birthday in a similar way. I’ve always thought that ‘shopping centre’ as a theme for writing is very strong. When I approached writers about the idea they were very enthusiastic.

Why was The Square chosen as the muse for the anthology?

The Square Shopping Centre is very community orientated. It’s very similar to what used to be known as ‘The Village Green’. Although Tallaght does indeed have its own village, it’s fair to say that it’s not as developed as the shopping centre.
The Square has it all and the impact of The Square has been, and continues to be, immense. People of a certain age, myself included, remember Tallaght when there were few facilities and no infrastructure. Young women with children today cannot imagine what it was like to live in a place where there was absolutely nowhere to go to.

What’s the significance of The Square for you? 

I’m living in Tallaght since the late 1970s and reared four children here and I’m now a grandmother. I’m originally from the Midlands, Birr to be precise. Birr is a beautiful Georgian town, complete with castle. It was hard for me, and others too, back in the 70s, early 80s when we came to Tallaght as newly weds.
The landscape was one big builder’s site. We had little in the way of infrastructure and very little to please the eye. We survived and then the day came when The Square opened its doors.
It opened out our lives too, brought a focal point and led to lots of other developments happening. The Luas right on the doorstep means there are exits and entrances whenever we wish. It’s just amazing all that has happened over the last twenty-five years.

Do you visit The Square often? 

I’m a familiar sight at the shopping centre. I’m either going there to shop, visit the cinema, restaurant or else I’m passing through to our fabulous arts centre, Rua Red or the Civic Theatre, the council offices, our state of the art library or to the Luas.
I always count my blessings, we have so much nowadays. Pre-Christmas excitement is already starting up and so, The Square will be a luminous joy for these coming weeks. All that glitters is gold at this time of year.
Winter is dark and depressing so it’s lovely to come into the bright lights and warmth and to meet familiar faces. It gives a great sense of comfort and security, especially as one grows older.

LIFE Eileen Casey book cover

Tallaght has a very vibrant writers’ scene, did the anthology help in promoting and encouraging their work? 

Tallaght and indeed, all South Dublin, has a large number of really talented writers. I joined a writing group over twenty-five years ago, St Colmcille’s. It was the best thing I ever did.
I made friends there I still remain in contact with today. Indeed, two of those writers are included in Circle & Square. The VEC was also very supportive back then, bringing in well-known writers Brian Cleeve, Kate Cruise O’Brien and others.
Eventually we began to facilitate creative writing classes ourselves so it was a lovely organic experience and very positive. Circle & Square carries on this tradition and it’s so great to have writers I admire and respect between these pages.

How important is it to new or emerging writers to get work published? 

I think being published is extremely important. After all, a chef doesn’t make a meal for an empty table. He gets the most satisfaction from people eating and enjoying his food. It’s the same with writing.
A writer needs a reader to complete the transaction. Also, it’s a great encouragement to see work in print, it gives a feeling of ‘Yes, I can do it’.

Any tips for people who would like to put pen to paper but are not sure where to start? 

Joining a good writing group is a first port of call. All those years ago, St Colmcille’s proved a beacon for me. Now, Platform One is equally as significant.
We meet in Rua Red every month and we are keen to try out different things and focus on ‘playfulness’ as well as ‘work’. Creativity is first and foremost a playful impulse, the imagination is and should be, unfettered. And then the work comes which brings the writing to a different level.
Platform One’s visiting writer programme, lots of encouragement and the real possibility of being published. Platform One is the right kind of group to be involved with. By that I mean that we are serious about the work and we treat each other’s work with respect.

Do you have a favourite section in the anthology?

I like everything about the anthology. I have to say that the new writers are very much at home with the more established writers.
We were very honoured to have work from well known writers such as Ferdia McAnna, Paula Meehan, Kevin Power, Louise Phillips, Martin Dyar, Mary Guckian, Mia Gallagher and Geraldine Mills.

Are you still teaching creative writing classes? 

I’m always available if anyone would like me to facilitate a class. I’ve been with Kilroy’s College Home Tuitions for a number of years now.
But I’m focusing on my own writing too. One of my short stories Beneath Green Hills was recently published in Faber and Faber’s All Over Ireland Short Story Anthology.
I also write poetry and have just been published in The Stony Thursday Book (Limerick). A piece about John Wayne The Quiet Man is currently in Around the Farmgate (Ballpoint Press). I guess that piece is particularly poignant now with the recent death of Maureen O’Hara.

Pick up your copy of Circle & Square in Eason, The Square Shopping Centre for €9.99 or attend the launch on November 18 at 6.30pm in County Library, Tallaght.

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