Irish LGBTQ+ trailblazer Orla Egan to release stunning graphic memoir Diary of An Activist

Diary of An Activist traces one activist’s journey through peace and anti-nuclear protests, coming out, lesbian parties, and becoming a parent.

Split image featuring the Diary of An Activist book cover and an illustration of Loafer’s bar in Cork from the book.
Image: Megan Luddy O'Leary

Orla Egan’s new graphic memoir Diary of An Activist, illustrated by Megan Luddy O’Leary, is set to release this November. The book will launch first in Cork City Libraries at 6:30 pm on November 16, and then in Dublin’s Connolly Books in Temple Bar at 6:30 pm on November 18. Orla Egan and Megan Luddy O’Leary will be speaking at both events, joined by other activists, filmmakers and authors.  

The book is written in a diary-like format, accompanied by exuberant illustrations that bring the social history of 1980s Cork to life. It follows the journey of a social activist as she navigates vegetarianism, peace and anti-nuclear protests, feminism, coming out, lesbian parties, and becoming a parent. The book is set in Cork and features beautiful illustrations of the city, including Quay Co-op and Loafer’s Bar.

Talking about how Diary of An Activist compares to her previous work, author Orla Egan said: “The focus of this book is on social activism, on various social change movements in Ireland in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s and on how activism happened in an era before ease of access to telephones, computers and social media.”

Orla added that the story is “more personal, and exposing, than other work I have created. But it is connected to my other work – creating the Cork LGBT Archive, writing Queer Republic of Cork, directing the I’m Here, I’m Home, I’m Happy film – in that they are all about sharing and showing a rich history of activism and social change.”

On the topic of working with artist Megan Luddy O’Leary, Orla commented: “The collaboration with Megan has made it possible to bring this book to life. It has been wonderful, respectful and enriching.”

She continued: “The fact that it was an inter-generational collaboration has been a strength. I wanted to make sure that the book and the images would resonate, not just with my generation of activists, but would also be meaningful for younger activists. The process of creating the book in itself was interesting as I shared stories, images, archival materials and some really bad sketches with Megan and she transformed them into works of art.”

Illustrator Megan Luddy O’Leary talked about how she brought Orla’s words to life, saying: “I really wanted to nail the feeling of the era, especially the early chapters about the late seventies and 1980s, and I think colour can be a really good way to indicate that. Hopefully the colours I picked have the same feeling as a Kodachrome photograph! I was hoping it would feel very nostalgic. I compiled a palette by colour-picking from 1970s fashion magazines as well as from a few photographs from the Cork LGBT archive and then I limited myself to using those colours!”

Megan continued by explaining the creative freedom she had on this project, saying: “Orla, she would give me things to pull from and descriptions but a lot of the time she left it up to me to come up with a scene or imagery. It was a very reciprocal relationship. I felt very welcome to suggest writing edits and Orla was very open to that. It felt like a real collaboration between Orla and me, rather than simply a commission I was working on.”

Diary of An Activist is available to pre-order on the book’s website for €20. 

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