The Attic Sessions – Reclaiming a space for the writer

Last summer, my husband Peter Salisbury and myself finally completed a task we’d been discussing for several years: the conversion of our attic into a workspace for us both. I won’t bore you with the details of the months of labour that preceded and followed the job; suffice to say that neither of us realised just how many boxes of junk/life/treasures we’d accumulated to be hidden away in that loft space and how little suited either of us, now in our 50s, was to the physical effort of transporting them to and fro.

But once the dust had settled (so much dust) and the cracks began to thread their way along the new staircase (very natural, apparently), we looked at our lovely new work area, with its velux windows opening up to sky and tree-tops, and dreamed about how we might use it to its best potential.

I now need to backtrack a couple of decades in order for the next part to make any sense. In the 1990s, I presented a weekly radio show about the world of writing for one of Dublin’s many community radio stations. Writers Ink. (cunning pun, eh?) ran for more than four years, and I was the regular presenter between 1997 and 1999. I loved the whole experience of finding guests, researching interviews, planning shows and getting to talk about my enthusiasms for a captive audience. The medium made it all the more attractive; I had no idea whether anyone was actually listening, but that didn’t matter in the least. This was community radio; audience figures weren’t part of the vocabulary.

But time passed, I moved jobs, then country for a while, and the connection with regular broadcasting was lost, until nearly twenty years later when I and my husband, a cameraman who had already colonised a neat portion of our new attic for his editing suite, looked at what we had made and wondered why we couldn’t do the show right here? And having dispensed with the notion of calling the show The Madwoman in the Attic (too literal), The Attic Sessions came into being.

The idea is for a series of monthly video podcasts in which we invite writers, musicians and generally interesting people up to the attic to have a chat about what ever interests them and us. We’ve set up a website and broadcast using our own dedicated YouTube channel. Although there are plenty of radio and TV shows that do similar things, the internet space is still pretty empty of this kind of show. There’s no shortage of podcasts on other themes, but we found it hard to find the model of interview/chat/performance we had in mind. So we began drawing up a list of people and topics we’d like to feature over coming months.

I knew that if we were going to begin broadcasts in 2016, the year of commemoration, the first person I wanted to feature was Irish novelist Lia Mills, whose novel Fallen, which tells the story of a young Dublin woman Katie Crilly, who gets caught up in events around the Easter Rising of 1916, had been chosen as Ireland’s first Two Cities One Book Festival choice for 2016. Subsequent guests included poet Tony Curtis and Donegal traditional fiddler Dermot McLaughlin, who speak about the overlap between poetry, music and traditional arts, crime writers Louise Phillips and Paul Perry (poet and one half of the Karen Perry partnership) on the phenomenon that is Emerald Noir and Ulster poets Maria McManus and Stephen Connolly, who speak about the new generation of poets building on the work done in previous decades.

So the plan is to produce one podcast per month for the next few years, until we run out of energy or guests (the former is more likely than the latter). The joy about this sort of enterprise is that it can go in any direction we like. We’ve no advertisers, no studio bosses, nobody to obey but ourselves. What freedom. And what fun. You can view the Attic Sessions episodes on

Nessa O'Mahony is a Dublin poet who won the National Women’s Poetry Competition in 1997 and was shortlisted for the Patrick Kavanagh Prize and Hennessy Literature Awards.

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