Teachers, Guests & Facilitators 2022

in order of appearance

Angela Keogh

Angela Keogh is a novelist, poet and playwright. Her first novel, The Winter Dress was selected for the Irish Writers' Centre Novel Fair 2020. A number of her radio and stage plays have been produced. Her second novel is due for publication in 2022.  

For details on The Hedge School click here

John MacKenna

is the author of twenty three books and a dozen stage and radio plays. He is a winner of the Hennessey and Irish Times literary awards and a Jacobs Radio Award.   For details on The Hedge School click here

Eleanor Merriman

Eleanor lives in Laois married to Sean and proud parents to Steven, Tommy, Ollie, Séan Óg and Ella . 

They all love and play sports.  Eleanor has a background in Health and Fitness. Also, sports therapy and Wellbeing, teaching Yoga and Pilates to people of 0-100. A love for G.A.A has always been to the forefront in her family. As a little girl, she followed her county and club team around the country with her own Nanny and Grandad. The roller-coaster and passion that G.A.A brings, inspired the writing of her first book. Eleanor’s boys were very relucted readers, being dyslexic doesn’t help or encourage a passion for reading when you struggle so much. So combining all of her knowledge and first-hand experience with Dyslexia and GAA “Up For The Match came about” was born .

Jessa R. Sexton

Remember that first time you wrote something someone else said was good? And you thought, huh, I bet I could make a career out of this. And then you wrote seamlessly for the rest of your life?

Okay, that last part is way off. Writing is an ebb and flow. But it’s my love. And I’ve been at it professionally for over a decade now. That includes my time in the world of publishing and editing (14 years there), in education as a professor of literature and writing (11 years there), as well as my current career as a Senior Editorial Writer at Ramsey Solutions in Franklin, Tennessee. Here I’m able to live my passion for writing and for encouraging other writers in their journey.

Oh, and then there’s the poetry. There’s always the poetry. I’m constantly scrawling out a poem. And then another. And then another. My latest book of poetry (called light) will release in September of 2022.

K. Mark Hilliard

I’ve always loved crows, and in my young twenties I joined the Young Adult Conservation Corp, as a Wildlife Biologist for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife, working with and studying crows, blackbirds, and other wild animals who have been forced to adapt as they live alongside us humans.

By training and career experiences, I have been a medical health educator, a college president, a college and university professor, an academic researcher and fellow, a teacher, a minister, and a writer. My doctoral degree is in Higher Education (Sensory Teaching and Learning) with an emphasis in Health, Wellness, and Human Performance—how our thoughts, actions, and sensory activities affect our wellbeing. And my post-graduate studies have been on sacred-space and sacred-place, mystery, enchantment, and the expanded imagination.

While conducting my doctoral dissertation research, I lived among the Cherokee on the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indian Reservation in Cherokee, North Carolina—the place in and around which most of the stories in my newest book “Crowdancing and the Cherokee Storyteller’s Bag,” take place.

The Irish stories and myths and people and places within this book were a part of my post-doctoral research as I worked in, and studied about, sacred-places and sacred-spaces in the Mid-lands of Ireland, in the village of Abbeyleix, County Laois.

I was once told that perhaps I am a Christian mystic at heart—in that I am a Christian, always in search of true-mystery. As I share my stories, I hope you will find just a bit of that mystery revealed. Stay Enchanted.

Arthur Broomfield

Dr Arthur Broomfield is a poet and literary critic from Ballyfin, County Laois. His latest poetry collection, Ireland Calling [Revival Press, Limerick], Is his eighth book. Arthur mentors those who are interested in writing, or who want to work on their poetry. He is an acknowledged scholar on the works of Samuel Beckett and will give lectures and classes on the writer, if requested.   He holds BA and MA degrees in English and history from National university of Ireland, Maynooth and a Ph.D in English literature on the works of Maria Edgeworth from Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick.

For details on Arthur's workshop, click here  

Frances Harney 

Frances holds a Master’s Degree in Education and a Master of Studies Degree in Drama, both from Trinity College Dublin.

Frances has long been engaged in many aspects of stage craft She has acted in, written, directed and produced many theatrical productions.

Through The Harney School of Speech & Drama, Frances has brought the joy of drama and stage craft to hundreds of children in Laois over the past 25 years. She has written more than 50 children’s plays for the school’s annual showcase performances in Dunamaise Arts Centre.

She has given workshops in “Drama for Children with Special Educational Needs” for DCU, in “Process Drama” for Waterford IT and in many aspects of communication and presentation at Griffith College, Dublin.

In 2012 Frances established a community theatre group "Ballyfin Players" and has written, directed, and produced nine highly successful, large-cast, full length plays with the group. Over the past decade these have entertained audiences with sell-out shows. She has also produced successful shows for Laois County Council while her commemorative 1916 drama has been recorded by the National Archives. This year she has written, directed and successfully produced her first musical ‘To the Dome’.

No stranger to the stage herself, Frances has won individual and group acting awards at the Laois, Rathangan and Mountmellick Drama Festivals.

Frances is also a writer of short stories. Her memoir piece “Keeping in Touch”, is published in A Page from My Life, and “Roundy” in Forever Young.

For details on Frances' workshop click here

Mairead Connell

Mairead Connell is, among other things, an artist, graphic designer, historian and comedian! Abbeyleix born, Mairead currently works as a Learning Technologist for the Irish Prison Service . A valued member of The Power of Words Festival team, Mairead looks forward to sharing her passion for history, art and words with you, in this unique and interesting presentation.

John Whelan

John Whelan has been writing for a living since he left school at 17.

Working his way up from junior reporter, he went on to become Editor of the Leinster Express and later with editorial responsibility for other group titles such as the Limerick Leader and Leinster Leader.

A regular contributor to flagship current affairs programmes on radio and television he has also written for The Sunday Business Post, The Sunday Times, Sunday Independent, Woman’s Way, the Irish Independent and the now defunct Irish Press newspapers.

In more recent year’s he has gravitated towards writing on environmental issues, the arts and campervan culture. He is the author of the campervan adventure blog, Vanhalla Camper Heaven and in this capacity continues to contribute to both the Sunday Independent and The Sunday Times.

He is author of three books, The Buddha of Ballyhuppahaun, Growing Pains and Growing Up, and his most recent inter-generational story, The Last Beekeeper, which is inspired by his experiences and travels with the Rainbow People in the Slieve Blooms and Slovenia in the mid-1990’s.

Originally from Portlaoise, he grew up in Monasterevin, he has ‘been about many towns’ including a pleasant stint at Sweetview in Abbeyleix and now lives in Timahoe village.

Martina Murphy 

is a bestselling author based in Ireland. She has written under the names Tina Reilly, Martina Reilly and Martina Murphy. Her books have been sold internationally and translated into a number of languages. Her 22nd novel The Branded is to be published in August 2022.

Danielle McLaughlin

Danielle McLaughlin’s short story collection Dinosaurs on Other Planets was published in 2015 by The Stinging Fly Press. In 2019, she was a Windham-Campbell Prize recipient, and won the Sunday Times Audible Short Story Award. Her first novel, The Art of Falling, was published in 2021 by John Murray and was shortlisted for the Dublin Literary Award 2022.

Andrea Carter

Andrea Carter studied law at Trinity College Dublin before moving to the Inishowen peninsula, in Co. Donegal, where she ran the most northerly solicitors’ practice in Ireland. In 2006, she returned to Dublin to work as a barrister.

She is the bestselling author of the Inishowen Mysteries, most recently The Body Falls (2020). Her books are published in the UK, the US, and Germany, and her first three books are in development for TV.

Her short story The Lamb, which was part of the Counterparts anthology published by The Stinging Fly, was shortlisted for Short Story of the Year at the Irish Book Awards 2019.

Jimmy Rhatigan

Jimmy Rhatigan is a Kilkenny man with a lifelong interest in the works of Patrick Kavanagh.
‘Where Old Ghosts Meet’ is a short play on the life of Patrick Kavanagh, developed in association with Geoff Rose and performed as a ‘rehearsed reading’ in numerous venues over the past three years. Jimmy looks forward to performing this piece at The Power of Words.

David Delaney 

David hails from Athy, County Kildare, the surroundings of which provided a creative backdrop for much of his writing.
The themes of nature and cycles are very much evident in his book 'Reaching Eden' his poetry collection published in 2018 and he continues to write poetry.
David is a certified and ICF accredited embodiment and trauma coach and it's with this work he will facilitate a creativity workshop - for writers, poets, playwrights and indeed anyone who is seeking to re-connect with their bodies.

For more information on embodiment coaching and David's work you can visit his website here and book his workshop here. 

Mary Pat Moloney

Mary Pat is an actor most recently seen in a tour of KathyAnn Murphy’s play Letting Go based on the life of Marie Fleming. In May she performed in Should I Stay or Should I go in Smock Alley. Mary Pat thoroughly enjoyed being part of Amanda Kelly’s play The Bus to Ballyraggot some years ago. Film credits include Release, Follow the Dead, Lava Lisa Remembering Christmas.

Mary Pat has advanced training in the Michael Chekhov Technique and an MA in modern drama from UCD.

Claire Blennerhassett

Claire is an actor and multidisciplinary artist from Kildare. She has a love of nature, the surreal, and the quirky, and imagines her practice as a form of creative archaeology.

She is currently in development with a compelling new project connected to Brigid (Woman, Goddess, Saint), and is a recipient of the Cinetalent Spotlight Award for Emerging Talent at the Dublin International Film Festival (JDIFF) for her role in Ferdia MacAnna's All About Eva.

Our Launch & Musical Guests...


Brian Killeen

My name is Brian and I’m a songwriter and musician. I first picked up a guitar when I was 8 years old and after years of obsessing over riffs and solos I eventually started obsessing over songwriting. I’ve been lucky enough to have some of my songs get radio play over the years and hopefully in the future more of my work will make the same journey.

Laura Murphy 

Laura Murphy is a poet, activist and communications strategist from Laois whose work is centred around the ancient Irish poetic practice of ‘Imbas Forosnai’.
Imbas Forosnai means ‘inspiration that illuminates’. It is comparable to what we know today as ‘flow-state’. The ancient poets of Ireland used this practice to bring healing to society and truth to power.
Laura’s work has been featured in the critically-acclaimed production ‘Home: Part One’ by the Abbey Theatre, the Herstory Light Show and most recently in the campaign to make Brigid’s Day a national holiday.
Laura is Herstory’s inaugural Poet in Residence.

Colleen & Erin Lalor

Erin and Colleen Lalor are sisters living in Raheen, Co Laois who have been playing with Portlaoise Comhltas and other organisations for over 10 years. Colleen is a trained sean ós and lyrical singer and plays fiddle. Erin also plays fiddle with Music Generation, teaches music and plays with comhltas, and plays the harp independently aswell as to accompany her sister in song. They are delighted to be joining and adding to the festival through Irish traditional music and song. .

Spink Comhaltas


Spink Comhaltas promotes Traditional Irish music, song and dance across Laois, Carlow, Kilkenny and Kildare for children and adults.

We provide music classes, preparation for SCT exams, Fleadh competitions, run summer seisiuns, support local events, and our members have represented the branch and Laois at All Ireland level and abroad.