From page to paint brush! Local artist talks about living with ADHD and working with Read Donegal for their upcoming festival of reading.

Aoife Gallagher is no stranger to having a busy, creative mind. Having grown up in Letterkenny, Co. Donegal, she relocated to London five years ago and now works in Sen Talk CIC, which helps to provide better outcomes for young people with Autism Spectrum Conditions and ADHD. She also likes to apply her skills as an artist to work with young people, believing that art and storytelling can be deeply therapeutic. 

This is something she has a personal connection with: having been diagnosed with ADHD in adulthood, she used art as her way to support and express herself. “Art has always been my safe place”, Aoife said, “I always felt as if I didn’t fit into the world, however art was a way to express myself and my emotions without using words – words [as a form of expression] can be difficult with attention deficit conditions – everything gets so overwhelming. Art, however, never failed me. It never hurt me and never had expectations of me. I always felt that drawing or painting has been therapeutic and calming, as well as a way for me to process difficult emotions or situations.”

Therefore, it has been a pleasure for Read DL, a project that focuses on reading and words, to team up with an artist who has in the past struggled with using words to express herself. This year she will be apart of Read DL’s annual reading festival, celebrating the book Check Mates by Stewart Foster. This book also focuses on a main character, Felix, who has ADHD, as he teams up with his Grandfather to learn chess; Aoife’s art workshop will honour that by teaching young people to create a unique image inspired by the book. “I was so excited when I heard about the theme of this year’s book,” Aoife said, “it’s wonderful that the book is raising more awareness of ADHD, something that is long overdue as there is still so much stigma attached.” 

In the book, Felix always gets into trouble at school. This is something that Aoife can empathise with: “School was always a challenge for me growing up. When I was younger I would get sent out of class for laughing or talking when I wasn’t supposed to… I hated getting in trouble, so I tried so hard to fit in and be ‘good’. The rest of my school years I kept my head down, mastered the art of ‘masking’, which is very common in ADHD/ADD females, and the only thing that helped me to concentrate was to doodle in my notes. I guess that’s how I improved my drawing technique!”

Aoife at Love Fest London

Aoife has continued to develop her art, long after her school days finished. She now has her work published in children’s books, and has showcased her art in national and international exhibitions. “Working with Aoife, particularly this year for Read DL 2022, is so exciting.” Karen Quinn, a Read DL committee member said. “She is a perfect example of how, when words and creativity combine, personal barriers can be broken down.” This is something that Aoife agrees with, offering some words of wisdom to young people with ADHD: “don’t let your diagnosis define you, help the world to see how amazing your brain is… you are capable of so much! You are not a ‘naughty kid’ and you can do anything and be anything. So don’t worry if you can’t fit in, you were made to stand out!”

Aoife’s Workshop, along with a special collaborative discussion with her, The ADHD Learning Curve at LyIT, and ADHD Ireland will be made available online during Read DL’s online reading festival. It will be running this year from 29th-31st of March, and will be available on www.readdonegal.com.  

New resources added!

New educational resources have been added to the website! Check out the brilliant Stewart Foster’s educational toolkit, a very special recorded version by Finn Valley College, Stranorlar, and a quick video on how to play chess!

Check Mate… Over three thousand copies of Stewart Foster’s books have arrived!

We’ve been a bit quiet lately trying to organise everything for those lucky ducks who managed to register for Read DL 2022.

As you can see, some of our lovely committee members were busy packing 3,100 books this week. We’ll be in touch by email in the coming days to notify those registered.

Registration for Read DL closed in December due to unprecedented demand but there’s still opportunities to get involved. Maybe you have the book already? If not you can reserve a copy via your library for loan using your library card and pin at https://tinyurl.com/muwrcpbx.If you’re not a member of your local library yet, you can register online to become a member at https://tinyurl.com/9danfanc

Committee Members (from left to right) Eilis, Brid, Eileen and Karen Q.

Launch Day!

Today is the day!

Tune into Highland Radio today from 12.30pm as Read DL 2021 is officially launched live on air with John Breslin. This years amazing author, Roddy Doyle will be live on air talking about this years chosen title along with Paul Hannigan, President of Letterkenny Institute of Technology Anne McHugh, Chief Executive at Donegal ETB and Karen Sheehy, Donegal County Library staff officer/Read DL Committee member. Happy #WorldBookDayhttps://www.highlandradio.com/on-air/

Behind the screens…

We thought we’d share a sneaky “behind the screens” pic of our hardworking committee who are putting some brilliant plans together for Read DL 2021! Watch this space…

Read DL Poetry Competition Winners

Read DL 2020 has now drawn to a close not with the bang they had hoped for but not with a whimper either!

The Closing Ceremony which was due to take place in the Balor Theatre, Ballybofey on the 26th March had to be cancelled due to the Covid 19 pandemic. Despite the enforced closure of all schools, the pandemic did not deter our budding poets in Donegal and 90 entries were received for the Creative Writing Competition organised by the project. Indeed, some were inspired by their experiences of living through the pandemic to write poems on the subject.

The Read DL “One Book, One Community” initiative is designed to bring local people together through reading and discussing the same book. This has the dual effect of building a sense of community while promoting literacy. In a departure from previous years and to mark the 10th year of the Read DL Project a poetry book was chosen for the first time – “Hopscotch in the Sky” by Lucinda Jacob.

Not without some trepidation and feeling well outside our comfort zone, Read DL 2020   embarked on their poetic journey inspired by a partnership with the outgoing Laureate na nÓg and award-winning poet Sarah Crossan. This partnership offered the opportunity to 5 schools across the county to undertake poetry workshops with local poet Denise Blake. 

Approximately 120 Pupils from Dromore N.S. Killygordon; Cloontagh N.S. Clonmany; Scoil Eoin Baiste Carrigart; Killaghtee N.S. Dunkineeley and Letterkenny Educate Together created their own poems in these workshops with the help of Denise. These were to be read at the planned Closing Ceremony in March. Unfortunately this did not take place but the poems are now housed in the National Laureate na nÓg archive.  

Over 2000 books – the purchase of which was  financed by Letterkenny Institute of Technology and Donegal  Education and Training Board – were distributed to 53 Primary Schools, 15 Secondary Schools, 6 Youthreach Centres, all ETB Learning for Living Centres, 2 Community Groups and 2 individuals/families over the course of this year’s project. The figures illustrate the astonishing growth of the initiative since its inception 10 years ago when 2 schools took part and less than 100 books were needed.

Lucinda Jacob writes in her introduction to Hopscotch in the Sky that “Ideas for poems are all around us; all we have to do is keep our ears and eyes open.” In a video message posted to the Read DL website she encouraged the students to use their imaginations and keep writing. It was apparent from the entries to the Creative Writing Competition that the young people took her words to heart and submitted poems on a wide variety of topics  and themes ranging from the seasons, colours, animals, friendship, football, families and a subject that no one had heard of when the Read DL Project was launched –  Covid 19.

In the absence of a Closing Ceremony a 10 to 15 min video will be compiled for the website with contributions from Lucinda Jacob, Denise Blake, poetry winners, artwork by schools etc. This will be available to view in September.

The winners of the Creative Writing Competition were announced on Around The Northwest by John Breslin on Highland Radio. In the Primary School category winners from 1st place to 3rd were Chloe Doherty St. Patrick’s Girls National School, Carndonagh; Eiran and David from Ballymore National School, Dunfanaghy. Secondary school winning entries from 1st place to 3rd were Hurrera Simon from Letterkenny Youth Reach, Aishling Doherty from Carndonagh Community College and Conor Cleary from Crana College, Buncrana. Irish Language poetry winners were Aisling Ní Dhochartaigh from Carndonagh Community School and Fionnuala de Brún from Pobalscoil Bhun an Phobail. Many congratulations to all winners. 

Links to Video & Poetry Toolkit

https://www.poetryireland.ie/publications/hopscotch-in-the-sky/

Links to Audio Book 

https://www.kobo.com/ie/en/audiobook/hopscotch-in-the-sky

A special message…

Today we were supposed to be celebrating #ReadDL2020, but now we have to do that safely indoors! As a special way to mark the day, writer Lucinda Jacob has a very special message for you all…

Important announcement for our readers…

It’s with a heavy heart that we have to cancel all remaining Read DL events. We’ll review what we can do regarding hosting a closing ceremony at a later date. In the meantime, we encourage all our readers to keep reading our chosen book this year, and to write as much you can (we have waivered the deadline for our writing competition this year).

Thank you so much for all your support.

The Read DL team.