Meet our 2023 Festival Artists


Storytelling Festival Logo 2021

Welcome to the 5th annual Listowel International Storytelling Festival hosted by Kerry Writers’ Museum. As the seasons change with long nights drawing families and friends around the hearth, our festival is inspired by the Irish Rambling House tradition and its sense of togetherness – a community gathering full of tales, recitations, music, songs and ballads.

Performance, workshops, spoken word, drama, story walk & tour, and children’s events radiate out from the Kingdom’s cultural capital, as the best of Kerry’s storytelling talent merge with invited national & international guests, offering locals and visitors an opportunity to celebrate and discover oral traditions.


Here you can find out more about our local and visiting artists for Listowel International Storytelling Festival 2023

Maria Buckley Whatton

Born in Liverpool of Irish descent, Maria is an award-winning storyteller and founder of “Stories for Peace” at the National Memorial Arboretum. For over twenty years she has toured performances of traditional tales nationally and internationally. She is a fiction author, published by Orion, has been the Chair of an International Literary Prize and Artistic Director for numerous community performance projects. She is curator and founder of “Once Upon a Wednesday” a storytelling and spoken word event based at The Brewhouse Arts Centre, Burton.

Paddy O’Brien

Born in Co. Kerry, Paddy O’Brien 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.

Bryan Murphy

Bryan left his job milking cows to pursue music just over a two years ago. Since then, he has made quite an impression on the Kerry’s music scene and beyond.He first took to the stage at the age of six in a storytelling competition run by Listowel Writers’ Week.  A champion accordion player, Bryan started playing the guitar in recent years and can be seen throughout the year in venues throughout the Kingdom.

Sonny Egan

Sonny returns to Listowel International Storytelling Festival as All-Ireland storytelling champion, his 3rd win at Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann. A native of North Kerry he ran one of the most popular rambling houses in his home for many years.

Patsy McDermott

A native of Virginia, Co. Cavan, Patsy is a farmer who started composing and reciting  poems and monologues about 15 years ago – a late starter but better late than never.  His writings and stories relate to his everyday observations of life.   He says that this new hobby has opened up a whole new life style for him and has resulted in many friendships the length and breadth of the country.  He is a regular visitor and performer at Listowel Writers’ Week.

Maria Gillen

Maria is one of Ireland’s leading storytellers performing in festivals throughout Ireland and overseas. She was Storyteller in Residence at Kerry Writers’ Museum in 2021 and 2022 and acted as our Festival’s Artistic Director in both years. Maria works through the medium of Drama and Story Telling and has designed and delivered workshops on Building Resilience, Exploring Difficult Community Issues and Team Building in several environments.

Frances Kennedy

Even though Frances now lives in Listowel, 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, 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.

Paddy McElligott

A retired secondary school teacher from Ballylongford in North Kerry, Paddy is a regular performer in many theatrical productions in and around Listowel.  A natural storyteller he is particularly known for his interpretation of the humorous verse of poet Brendan Kennelly, from which he adapted into the hilarious play ‘Bawdy & Soul’ with the late Fr. Pat Moore.

Sonia Elston

Sonia graduated from Newcastle University with a degree in English and a primary school teacher’s certificate. She also has a background in drama and on moving to Ireland in 2001 she joined the Group Theatre and Tralee Toastmasters. She established the Ragged Road Theatre Group in 2020. Since retiring from teaching Sonia has devoted her time to writing, particularly comic verse, and was placed in the prestigious Bard of Armagh competition. She established the highly acclaimed ‘Bard of the Kingdom’ competition in Tralee.

Mike O’Mahony

Mike is a native of Kerry. He made his stage debut in New York with the Thomas Davis Irish Players in ‘Moll’ (Fr. Brest), ‘The Shadow of a Gunman’, ‘The Righteous are Bold’, ‘Big Maggie’, and ‘I Do Not Like Thee Dr. Fell’.

Mike is a dramatherapist and works as a mental health professional, holds an MA in Modern Drama Studies, is a licensed drama facilitator and provides a theatre-dramatherapy-rehearsal-workshop-space in Ardfert.

Tom Dillon

A native of Listowel, Tom is one of Kerry’s leading historians. He graduated from the University of Limerick with an MA in History of the Family in 2014. Between 2014 & 2018, Tom gave numerous lectures on the involvement of Kerry people in the First World War and wrote the hugely successful 1916 centenary supplement published by Kerry’s Eye.

Tom was Historian in Residence with Kerry County Council from 2020 to 2022. He teaches classes in Local History, Genealogy and Folklore for Kerry ETB.

Dominic Bennett

Dominic draws on the rich storytelling and bardic traditions of his native South Armagh to create comical tales full of colourful characters and memorable mishaps.  Combing elements of storytelling, poetry and stand-up comedy he takes a very humorous view of the modern world and its impact on the middle-aged population of rural Ireland.  His satirical poem How Brexit Ruined My Life became a huge hit online. Dominic began writing fiction in 1997 and was short-listed in the Brian Moore Short Story Awards in 1998.


Where to Stay

Where to stay in and around Listowel, Co. Kerry.

Listowel Arms Hotel
Visit website
North County House B&B
Visit website
Aras Mhuire B&B
Visit website


What people are saying about us
  • Popped in here to escape the rain and get a cup of tea and cake. Very reasonable prices and great service. Then noticed the little hare jumping around on the wall when I used the toilets! Looked very intriguing and prompted us all to buy tickets to the museum. Wow! So worth it as the exhibits and the way it was presented was lovely, really unusual. So informative and so different to other museums. Really good value for money and a real highlight to the town.

    Great Service (Trip Advisor Review)

    – March, 2023

  • Most impressive is how ingrained in both The Creative & local communities The Seanchaí is, from the workshops, coffee mornings & plain old drop ins, To Book launches, poetry recitals, projects & engagements with the local schools. The Seanchaí is a much loved and universally treasured cultural icon. By the inhabitants of Listowel, most of Co. Kerry and West Limerick.

    Mark Ollerhead (Google Review)

    – March, 2023

  • We had requested the 30-minute tour, but happily lingered for an hour longer than we had planned. As we exited, we looked at each other and laughed out loud at our good fortune. We could have so easily missed this experience that left us feeling moved, intrigued and a bit more educated about the Kerry writers. In our delight, we failed to tip our guide but I will be going to your donations page to make a modest pledge in gratitude for our host whose name we did not record to memory.

    Jane Braswell (Google Review)

    – March, 2023

  • Our visit to the Kerry Writers Museum was a very memorable experience from beginning to end. Cara, who was working at the centre that day, was very welcoming and most helpful. The exhibition of the Kerry writers was imaginative and most engaging. The seanchai relating the background stories each writer was magic! A wonderful experience all round.

    Cara (Google Review)

    – May, 2021

  • This museum has been developed with great care and meticulous attention to detail. The audio elements are matched perfectly to the installations which are beautifully presented. The option to activate the audio guides in each room without resorting to the use of handheld devices worked very well. This is a must see/hear for anyone with an interest in Irish writing. There is also a little coffee shop and gifts on sale.

    Beautifully Curated (Trip Advisor Review)

    – July, 2019


Keep up with the latest news & events at Kerry Writers’ Museum

Back to Top