Whyte Books/Now AnnaB’s Bookshop

How inviting is this!

So inviting!

Since this post was published, Whyte Books has changed name and ownership. It is now AnnaB’s Bookshop – and we are happy to report it is as charming and wonderful as ever under its new owner, Katarina.

Do you have a favourite bookshop?

Of course you do! We all have one – THAT bookshop where you feel welcomed; where it never matters how long you browse or if you actually buy something; where knowledgeable staff can recommend a good book for your father or your grandchild; where you can sit with a nice cup of tea and a slice of something delicious as you browse through book reviews or escape from the rain; where they can order stuff for you and the process doesn’t feel like a soulless internet transaction.



We have THAT bookshop, here in Schull. It’s called Whyte Books, presided over by the charming and cultivated Sheila Whyte. Sheila is typical of many of us who have made West Cork our home. She grew up in Dublin but spent most of her adult life in Australia. She fell in love with Schull on a holiday here, she fell in love with bookstores wherever she travelled, and when the time came to put it all together, well, we were the winners.

Sheila had a vision of what she wanted – a place that would become a hub of reading and intellectual activity in the area and she has worked hard to create just that. There’s a nook for kids and a space for young adults, besides all the little corners and seating areas where you can while away a pleasant hour with your nose in a book and your hand curled round a cuppa. She holds poetry readings, promotes and launches local books (a recent example is Gubbeen by Giana Ferguson) and hosts a monthly book club.

This week Whyte Books hosted the first ever session of The Moth in the South West. The Moth is new to Ireland although story telling is definitely not! A cultural phenomenon, The Moth got started in New York but is based on the idea of neighbours getting together on the porch to tell stories after it gets dark and the moths come out. Stories must be first person narratives, true, told not read, and last no more than ten minutes. About 20 of us gathered upstairs: there were candles and wine and laughter and stories and a promise to make it into a regular event. All the ingredients, in fact, that make Schull such a vibrant community and locate Whyte Books at the beating heart of that community.

books and books

books and books

We are so lucky to have a great bookshop here! It’s a tough business these days, so take a break from buying online – go buy the latest Must Read at your local bookshop. At Whyte Books, I can guarantee that if it’s not on the shelves they can get it for you. And while you’re at it, have a coffee…and maybe one of those yummy little chocolate thingies.

Browsing upstairs

Browsing upstairs

By the way, I’m not the only one who loves this shop. It’s been voted Best Bookshop in Munster, featured in a beautiful video,  and even people who happen by rave about it

The Fastnet Short Film Festival

Our Village is Our Screen Schull has been getting ready for this Festival for months. Everyone we know seemed to be volunteering or involved or just, like us, planning to cram in as many films and events as they could. The town was freshly painted (yes – the whole town! Well, it seemed that way), banners and streamers flapped gaily along the main street, and cinemas popped up everywhere. The church hall became The Adelphi, Hackett’s Bar became The Carleton and Grove House turned into The Palace. You see – Schull doesn’t have an actual cinema!

But lack of facilities has never stopped a West Cork town intent on hosting a world-class festival. They have come up with the most ingenious method of screening and watching that you can imagine. For the duration of the Festival, the films are hosted on a server and the whole village becomes an intranet. While the main programme runs at the Adelphi, all the pubs, cafes, shops and premises on the intranet have large screens where you can watch the movies. Some are playing the ones on the programme, and others are hosting re-runs so you can catch up on what you’ve missed. You can sit with a coffee and a scone, or a pint and a sandwich and watch whatever’s on screen. You can drop in and out, all for free. But there’s more: you can bring your own device – computer, tablet, phone – and log into the intranet and watch on a park bench, or sitting in your car, or while shopping, if you want. The marvellous Whyte Books hosted a story telling session, and The Blue House Gallery got in a load of bean bags so you could lie on your back and watch movies on the ceiling.

Robert, Chris O'Dell (Festival Artistic Director) and young Austrailian filmmaker Jake Zappia

At the Opening Reception: Robert, Chris O’Dell (Festival Artistic Director) and young Austrailian film maker Jake Zappia

The opening party was at Grove House – the sun shone, much Corona was downed (the generous Festival sponsor), and then it was off to The Adelphi for The Lord’s Burning Rain, filmed in West Cork and based on the Aeneid – a coming of age story with echoes of Ireland’s War of Independence, the effects of which still resonate in this area. This was followed by a Q and A with the filmmaker, Maurice O’Callaghan, hosted by the excellent John Kelleher. With our Canadian visitors in tow (Alex and Mavis, enjoying it all hugely) we took in some shorts the next day in Newman’s restaurant and that night attended the second featured film, Living in a Coded Land. The Q and A session afterwards was enjoyable and stimulating – the director, Pat Collins, expounded on his vision and his influences, and the host, Aidan Stanley, drew him out with thoughtful questions and directed traffic as audience members got into the conversation.

Our most unusual experience of the festival came on Saturday. We took the ferry to Long Island and watched movies in the bedroom of a beautiful island house courtesy of the owners, Maurice and Helen. Long Island has a year round population of under ten people. A local film maker, Helen Selka, has made it her focus. Although we didn’t get to see her longer piece, Bleak Paradise, we watched a shorter one called The Polling Station. In the film, nothing much happens beyond a handful of people coming to a cottage to cast their ballots in a referendum – and yet it was funny, charming and poignant. We also watched one of the eventual Festival winners – a closely observed tragicomedy called Breakfast Wine. The set finished with a gut-wrenching, wonderfully conceived and acted piece called Stolen. I was glad I brought along kleenex for this one. 

There were celebrities to meet (David Puttnam, Steve Coogan and the team from Philomena, Stephen Frears), events for children, lots of technical sessions for the hoards of young filmmakers invading Schull for the festival, and forums and clinics on all kinds of topics. But mostly there were the films – in turn quiet, ambitious, animated, provocative, amusing, youthful-but-showing-potential, soulful, well-written, cleverly directed, beautifully shot. They left us marvelling that powerful stories with fully realised characters can be told in a few precious minutes.

Superlatives fail me – especially when I think that this was all accomplished by a dedicated group of volunteers! Well done indeed Schull and the Fastnet Short Film Festival Team!