The Swift Satire Festival, Trim starts tomorrow, 4 July, with the official opening and the Battle of the Books. This is the fifth year of this satire competition between the two Trim-based writers groups. The holders are Meath Writers Circle and the pattern so far is a different winner every second year. So the pressure is on Boyne Writers Group this year.
The format has been changed. Previously the contest was held as part of the Bite of Satire lunch which featured some other entertainment as well as the contest. This year it is a stand alone event taking place at 9pm this Thursday immediately after the official opening in the Trim Castle Hotel.
The teams of three submit their satire scripts in advance to the judges who will be familiar with the material before the event. Contestants take turns to deliver their satire, maximum time allowed five minutes, and receive an immediate judgement and score.
The teams have been given a general definition of satire which includes:
In satire, human or individual vices, follies, abuses, or shortcomings are held up to censure by means of ridicule, derision, burlesque, irony, or other methods, ideally with the intent to bring about improvement. Although satire is usually meant to be funny, the purpose of satire is not primarily humour in itself so much as an attack on something of which the author strongly disapproves, using the weapon of wit.
It is still difficult to be definitive as regards what is or is not satire so every year the judges query if a particular piece is satire or not.
This year of course we will miss the late Tommy Murray who captained the Meath Writers Circle in previous years and who died suddenly at the end of last year.
Frank Murphy is their captain this year, a worthy successor to Tommy. Frank has participated in each contest so far and has usually scored highly.
So let the battle commence. I should however mention a few excuses in case we are beaten. The weather is against us. Every year we won the sun was splitting the stones. One of our members has come down with a bad cold. Cough! Cough! Our team is entirely composed of amateur satirists unlike the opposition.
My own satire for this year? I got this great idea one day while thinning turnips but the finished satire is pretty poor. As usual it pokes gentle fun at a few sacred bulls, is very innocuous, not designed to upset anyone. Complete rubbish! Not!!
Picture above: Festival patron Noel Dempsey presenting last year's trophy to the winning side, Meath Writers' Circle; from left, Michael Shiels, the now sadly deceased Tommy Murray, and Frank Murphy.