STRABANE can look forward to welcoming a whole new breed of visitor when a Flann O’Brian literary trail is launched later this year on the writer’s birthday in October.

One of the town’s most famous sons, Flann O’Brien, was born Brian O’Nolan in Strabane in 1911. A playwright, novelist, journalist and satirist, he was also known under another pen name, Myles na Gopaleen. He ranks among Ireland’s 20th century literary greats and is considered a leading figure in modernist and post-modern literature.

The author’s mother, Agnes Gormley, was a native of Strabane and the young Brian, along with his 11 siblings, were based in the town while his father’s work as a customs officer meant many relocations before the entire family eventually settled in Dublin.

Now, as part of a wider literary tourism programme, Strabane will literally be put on the map, thanks to €5,000 funding secured by BID through an EU INTERREG NPA-supported project called ‘Spot-lit.’ (

Jacqui Doherty, Manager of the Alley Theatre, is now working on the project as part of BID’s Arts and Culture Sub Committee.

Jacqui stated, “We have been attending ongoing mentoring workshops with spot-lit and engaging with other successful applicants.   It is hoped to develop a working group with a number of Flann O’Brien experts in the development of the Flann O’Brien project which we hope to launch on the 5th October on the day of Flann O’Brien’s birthday. The development of a literary festival has the potential to become a very significant cultural tourism product for Strabane as Flann O’Brien is a literary figure of international renown and his birth place originates within the Bowling Green Square of Strabane Town.

Connections will be explored and exploited through music, drama, heritage and discussion. Given the international stature and profile of Flann O’Brien, it is envisaged that the Flann O’Brien Literary project could become one of international significance if properly nurtured and supported. As such it would provide a welcome boost to the economy and profile of Strabane Town placing Strabane on the literary tourism map as is seen in Enniskillen with the Samuel Beckett Festival and the Brian Friel Festival in Donegal. 

 A key element of the project is providing an opportunity for participating businesses to expand their entrepreneurial capacity and achieve greater market reach through the increased number of visitors to the area.

It’s anticipated that the spin-off benefits to the local economy will include stimulation of new business, enabling growth within existing businesses, and encouraging businesses not traditionally engaged in cultural tourism to provide complementary services and products.

As part of the local programme, there will be a series of monthly engagement workshops, learning journeys, business advice clinics and individual mentoring supports available to interested businesses in Strabane.

Following the launch in the autumn, the project is expected to take place in Spring 2021.