On November 8th of this year, our editor and publisher Siobhán Parkinson was named by Irish Tatler as the Arts and Literature Woman of the Year. Find out what she thought about the awards ceremony, and why it means so much for this award to go to a children’s author for the very first time.
To be honest, I was a little nervous – sceptical, even – about attending the Irish Tatler Women of the Year Awards 2014 at the weekend. I am a well-known stick-in-the-mud and general party-poop. Champagne does tend to help this condition, though, and fortunately there was something that bubbled convincingly in champagne flutes. There was a certain razzmatazz quotient on the night, as you’d expect, but not so much as to be scary, and glitz was definitely outshone by genuine warmth. And the food was scrummy too. I don’t tend to eat in the Four Seasons much, but it is some achievement to provide food for a very large number of people at this level of deliciousness.
Awards were made in several categories: arts, media, music, film/drama, public life, business and so on, so lots of women got to be applauded and have their contribution recognised. Christine Keeling won in the business category, for example, and Faye O’Rourke (Little Green Cars) in music. Very popular winners were Joanne O’Riordan, in a category that escapes me but should have been something like Enthusiasm, Good Humour and Lack of Cow-pats (female for BS); Philomena Lee (the real-life woman played by Judy Dench in Philomena); and Panti Bliss (who claimed not to be a woman at all, for goodness’ sake!). The overall Woman of the Year award went to Joan Burton – a brave choice (you only have to look at the venom on Facebook to see what I mean) but I for one was cheering. Also an excellent choice was the charity to which people were asked to donate: it wasn’t an obvious pull-your-heartstrings one, but the Irish Traveller Movement and its work in supporting Traveller women in education and into the workplace. Now, that’s serious women-supporting-women stuff.
There was absolutely no tolerance at this event for the idea that women don’t need this kind of support any more – we always need each other’s support, and even when we (eventually, in about three more centuries) get equal representation of women in all areas of Irish life, it will still be valid for women to affirm and support each other. That, guys, is what women do. It’s part of the deal and it’s why Ireland needs women in business, public life and the arts at least as much as women ourselves need to be represented equally in all areas of life.
It is conventional to accept such awards on behalf also of one’s colleagues and the sector in general, but I am genuinely thrilled on behalf of all my colleagues in children’s books that a children’s writer can be honoured in this way. Everything to do with children tends to have low status in our competitive, economy-centric society, and so to single out a children’s writer for a general arts/literature award is imaginative, possibly even revolutionary.
Well done to Nora Casey and Irish Tatler on their truly excellent and thoughtful awards scheme.