Funding, Artists

Belfast Writer to Represent Northern Ireland at Greatest Literary Show on Earth

3rd January, 2023

Belfast-born author Elaine Canning is set to represent Northern Ireland and showcase her debut novel, The Sandstone City, at the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) – billed as the greatest literature event in the world.

Damian Smyth, joint Head of Literature and Drama at the Arts Council and author Elaine Canning sitting together in a book store. Both holding the book, A Sandstone City
Damian Smyth, joint Head of Literature and Drama at the Arts Council, is pictured with author Elaine Canning.

With support from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Elaine will attend the world famous festival of books and ideas when it takes place in the Rajasthan capital this January (19th-23rd January 2023). The festival has a global following, annually hosting the world’s most prominent writers, thinkers, politicians and creatives. This year’s line- up will include over 250 debates, readings, concerts and events.

Past speakers have included Nobel Laureates J.M. Coetzee, Orhan Pamuk and Muhammad Yunus, and Man Booker Prize winners Anna Burns, Ben Okri, Margaret Atwood and Paul Beatty. An annual event that goes beyond literature, the Festival has also hosted aerospace scientist and the 11th President of India, the late A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, television icon Oprah Winfrey and the first elected president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai.

Originally from Belfast, Elaine is a public engagement specialist and writer living in Swansea, South Wales. She is currently Head of Special Projects at Swansea University, which include the Rhys Davies National Short Story Competition, as well as Executive Officer of the Dylan Thomas Prize.

Looking forward to the event, Elaine said:

“I am delighted to be taking The Sandstone City to the pink city of Jaipur in January. I have been to the Jaipur Literature Festival twice before, in 2019 and 2020, and on both of those occasions I interviewed a number of writers and represented the Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize. This is the first time, however, that I will be there as a writer in my own right and I am hugely excited to be launching my debut novel there. The Jaipur Literature Festival really is a very magical place, where you get to share ideas and have conversations within a very democratic environment.”

Elaine’s trip is supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. Damian Smyth, Head of Literature and Drama at the Arts Council, commented:

“The Jaipur Literary Festival is one of the biggest literature festivals in the world and it is fantastic to see it happening once again live and in person in 2023.

“In 2019 we were lucky enough to help host JLF Belfast and bring a local edition of the festival to audiences here. This is an event quite unlike any other and it is so important to see Northern Ireland writers represented on occasions like this, on stage, alongside their distinguished contemporaries. While there, Elaine will be there talking about her new book but also engaging with writers and thinkers from all around the world.”

About The Sandstone City:
Eighty-eight-year-old Michael Doherty lies in an open coffin, listening to those who have come to pay their respects. Despite his dead son Cormac’s protests, he’s not yet ready to pass over. His granddaughter is the reason. Twenty-something Sarah has inexplicably abandoned her plans to settle in Spain and returned home deeply scarred by the Sandstone City, and he needs to know why.

He is granted a special grace period of forty days. Forty days to discover and heal his granddaughter’s trauma. Forty days to face his own past. Forty days to find peace before he must make his final departure.

But Michael and Sarah are not alone. Ghosts populate the streets of Salamanca and they have a message for Sarah.

Set between modern-day Belfast and the Spanish Civil War, The Sandstone City is a story about the decisions we make, the choices denied us, and how we navigate what’s left.

The Sandstone City (Aderyn Press) is out now.

For more information on the Jaipur Literature Festival go to: