Writers-in-Residence 2020


-Announcing New Laois Writers-in-Residence Programme -

Laois County Council Arts Office in association with Creative Ireland Laois and Dunamaise Arts Centre are delighted to announce that David Butler and Kate Heffernan are their two selected writers appointed for new residencies in Laois from August to December 2020.
Originally from Kilminchy, Portlaoise, now living in Bray, David Butler is a multi-award winning novelist, poet, short-story writer and playwright. His novel, City of Dis (New Island) was shortlisted for the Irish Novel of the Year, 2015. His second poetry collection, All the Barbaric Glass, was published in 2017 by Doire Press. His second short story collection, Fugitive, is forthcoming from Arlen House.
Kate Heffernan is a native of Portlaoise and her first play, In Dog Years I’m Dead, was a winner of the 2013 Stewart Parker Trust’s ‘Emerging Playwright Award’ and an Irish Times Cultural Highlight in the same year. Peat, her first play for children, was commissioned and produced by The Ark in 2019, and directed by Tim Crouch. In 2014, she and director Maisie Lee were Dunamaise Arts Centre’s Theatre Artists-in-Residence. While there, Kate wrote and produced Hometroots, a series of short radio plays by, for and about the people of Laois. She was an Arts Council ‘Next Generation Artist’ in 2017, during which time she worked on a number of texts for performance with the support of Mermaid Arts Centre. A writer who hasn’t always been a writer, Kate has worked in diverse roles in the performance sector for a decade and a half, in varied writing, design, editing, producing, dramaturgical and production capacities.
As part of their residencies, David and Kate will be based at Dunamaise Arts Centre, with time, space, and financial support to concentrate on their own writing as well as a programme of engagement and interaction with the local community in the lead up to and during the Laois Leaves Festival of Writing & Music in early November. They have both proposed a range of exciting and inspiring workshops, outreach projects and mentorships. This aspect of the residencies will encourage aspiring, emerging and established writers of all ages and backgrounds across Laois to come together over the coming months to explore ‘A Sense of Place’, the theme chosen for the Creative Ireland Laois Plan 2018-2022.
Laois is a county where culture and creativity are recognised as being integral to life. The Creative Ireland vision for Laois is to nurture and foster creative expression in all its diversity; to embrace and welcome new ideas; and to create the conditions to help turn those ideas into reality and embed creativity into all aspects of the social, economic and cultural life of the county. The new writers-in-residence will no doubt draw inspiration from this theme in a variety of ways over the season ahead.
Further details of events and engagements with the writers will be announced. Dunamaise Arts Centre is working to ensure that elements can be moved online if reopening is significantly further delayed, but optimistically hoping that most aspects can go ahead in person, with all relevant safety measures in place. See for further details.
Laois Writer-in-Residence 2020 is jointly funded by Laois County Council and Creative Ireland Laois and is hosted by Dunamaise Arts Centre.


Dunamaise Arts Centre presents the best in performing and visual arts to audiences from Laois and across the Midlands region. Comprising an exhibition gallery, a 240 seat theatre, cinema, workshop spaces and a café, we mark 21 years as a leading regional arts centre in 2020. Primarily a receiving house for touring productions, we are now adapting a number of new residency and artists’ development supports through the remainder of 2020, and programming within the confines of Covid-19 related restrictions. This Writers Residency is the first in a series which we hope will further promote and strengthen the connectivity and and collaboration of the vibrant arts community across the Midlands.

Laois County Council Arts Office has been at the forefront of local arts development since 1989. Laois was oneof the first local authorities to appoint an Arts Officer. Laois arts service aims to maximise participation in and access to a wide range of quality artistic experiences across a range of arts disciplines. Our aims are to create an environment which supports the artist and artistic ambition and increase socially inclusive participation in all artistic programmes. Laois County Council has developed a high quality programme including exhibitions, learning and participation initiatives, festivals, public art projects and artists’ residencies.

Creative Ireland Laois provides an opportunity for everyone in the county to become involved in creativity and culture. Laois welcomes the opportunity to be part of this national programme. ‘A Sense of Place’ is the theme chosen for the Creative Ireland Laois Plan for 2018-2022. Laois is a county where culture and creativity are recognised as being integral to life. The Creative Ireland vision for Laois is to nurture and foster creative expression in all its diversity; to embrace and welcome new ideas; and to create the conditions to help turn those ideas into reality and embed creativity into all aspects of the social, economic and cultural life of Laois.

Creative Ireland is a five-year programme which connects people, creativity and wellbeing. It is an all-of-government culture and wellbeing programme that inspires and transforms people, places and communities through creativity and is committed to the vision that every person in Ireland should have the opportunity to realize their full creative potential.




Rebecca is a painter from County Laois, and our current resident artist at Dunamaise Art Centre. She works mainly with oil paint, and aspires to create dark, emotive and atmospheric pieces. Her most recent series of figurative works explores the idea of "emotional vampires”. As well as visual art, Rebecca also has a love for photography, film, and ballet. Rebecca is situated upstairs in the Art Room where she paints and creates her artworks. She exhibits widely all over Ireland, and her unique work is often a popular addition to alterntive markets and festivals. In September 2018, Rebecca curated an exhibition in our Gallery entitled "A Painted Otherworld". Here she brought together a fantastic group of artists with links to Laois, who's work explores the surreal and fantastical. Her paintings, and prints of her works are available for sale on request, and Rebecca is also available for commissions.

Rebecca is available to groups and individuals who would like to book a visit to our Gallery or her studio for an artist talk, further exploring her work.

Rebecca also faciliatates regular Life Drawing Sessions here at Dunamaise. These are un-tutored sessions offering a variety of poses and models, suitable for practicing artists of all levels.

You can find out more about Rebecca and her work on her website as well as her Facebook & Instagram (Rebecca Deegan Artist)


Spoken Word Residency




Dunamaise Arts Centre and Laois Arts Office, with the support of the Arts Council and Creative Ireland, have commissioned a Creative Artist to develop the first ever Laois Spoken Word Project for young people in the county. Spoken Word, a specialty that is developing as an art form and mode of communication, is a very popular outlet for self-expression. It is hoped the residency will stimulate greater awareness of the artform as well as encouraging opportunities for young people to engage with the work of established spoken word artists by working with young people throughout second level schools, Youthreach and youth theatre groups in Laois. This project is coordinated by Dunamaise Arts Centre and Laois Arts Office with funding from the Arts Council and Creative Ireland Programme. Creative Ireland is an all-of-Government five year initiative, from 2017 to 2022, which places creativity at the centre of public policy.

The artist selected for the position is Stephen James Smith. Stephen is a Dublin poet and playwright central to the rise of the vibrant spoken word scene in Ireland today. To date, his poetry videos have amassed over 1 million views online. Stephen is a co-founder of LINGO Festival (inaugural festival in 2014), Ireland’s only spoken word festival, and poetry curator of the annual First Fortnight Festival. He co-produced Dublin: A Year in Words poetry video series for Dublin UNESCO City of Literature.

In 2017 Smith was commissioned by St. Patrick’s Festival to write a new poem as a “celebratory narrative” of Ireland. The resultant piece ‘My Ireland’ is accompanied by a short film by Director Myles O’Reilly, arranged and mixed by Conor O’Brien (Villagers & Ivor Novello Award Winner ), with music by Colm Mac Con Iomaire, Loah, Saint Sister, Eithne Ní Chatháin (aka Inni-K) and Ye Vagabonds. It has been viewed over 300,000 times online and was screened at London Film Festival in Trafalgar Square on March 17th. The poem was in many ways a follow on from Smith’s previous poetry video Dublin You Are, which itself has clocked up in excess of 250k views.

Stephen has performed at high profile events and festivals such as the Electric Picnic, Other Voices, the National Concert Hall, the Abbey Theatre (Noble Call) and Vicar Street (alongside luminaries such Oscar winner Glen Hansard, Shane McGowan, Roddy Doyle and Joseph O’Connor, Shane Koyzan); and further afield at the London Palladium, the Oscar Wilde Awards in LA, Glastonbury, George Town Literary Festival (ML) and other events in New York, Chicago, Iowa, Montreal, Ottawa, Paris, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Utrecht, Ljubljana and Warsaw. In 2012 he was invited to perform for the Irish Olympic team in London.

Arise and Go!, Smith’s debut album with musician Enda Reilly, was selected by Hot Press as one of the best albums of 2011 and he also is a member of Dublin music collective The Lazy Band, who released their debut album In My Garden last year. His ABSOLUTE Dublin Fringe play Three Men Talking About Things They Kinda Know About (2011), co-written with Colm Keegan and Kalle Ryan, was shortlisted for the Bewley’s Little Gem Award. And in 2010 he won the Cúirt International Literary Festival Poetry Grand Slam.

Stephen’s poetry videos have been screened at film festivals at home and around the world, and he has featured in programmes and documentaries for television such as RTÉ’s IFTA Award Winning documentary WB Yeats: No Country for Old Men; The Works (RTÉ); News Today (RTÉ); The Six O’Clock Show (TV3); Nationwide (RTÉ) and Like A Virgin (RTÉ). He is currently working on two video’s commissioned by Listowel Writer’s Week, with Myles O’Reilly, Donal Dineen and Conor O’Brien.

Stephen has been conducting poetry workshops in secondary schools around Ireland for a number of years and is a regular volunteer with Fighting Words. His poetry is included on the syllabus at Western Connecticut State University and his work has been translated into Irish, Spanish, Slovenian, Polish, Dutch and Italian.

Stephen James Smith’s debut collection, Fear Not, is published by Arlen House with a launch due in Autumn 2017.

LINKS: / YouTube Playlist: / Twitter: @SJSwords / YouTube: / Facebook: / Instagram: / LinkedIn: / G+:


Home – MIRARI Theatre Residency



Throughout 2014, Portlaoise-native writer Kate Heffernan will join director Maisie Lee of Mirari Productions as our Theatre Artists in Residence. Based here at Dunamaise, Kate and Maisie invite you to discuss and explore with them ideas of home and what it means to us as individuals and as a community. The residency will culminate in a performance with a local cast in late 2014, written by Kate and directed by Maisie, and based on ideas which we will explore together.



Dunamaise Arts Centre

Church Street Portlaoise, Co. Laois, Ireland.

Contact The Dunamaise Arts Centre

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Tuesday to Friday: 10am to 5.30pm
Saturday: 10am to 1pm & 2pm to 5pm.
One hour prior to curtain on the evening of a performance.
Box office 00353 57 866 3355.

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