The Wardrobe Department

THE WARDROBE DEPARTMENT by Elaine Garvey, which follows a young woman who has moved from rural Ireland to work as a dresser at a theatre in London’s West End. It is a short, spare novel, beautifully told and full of wise observations. It is about a woman finding herself; mothers and daughters, and the power of the past – and the potential of the present too. The publishing rights were secured by Canongate after a four-way auction, with publication planned for Spring 2025. You can read more in The Bookseller here. It has incredible parts particularly in Mairéad and her mother. I know theatre can be tricky in film and TV but this really is the backdrop for a powerful character led, female story.

It’s 2002 and Mairéad Sweeney has moved from rural Ireland to work in London’s West End. She is struggling to adjust to her workplace, The St. Leonard Theatre, and to life in London where she feels she does not belong and is disorientated. But then an unexpected journey home leads her to confront hidden truths about herself. Back in rural Ireland at the wake of her grandmother, she starts to reckon with the things — and people — she grew up with. It’s there that Mairéad gets a glimpse of who she is now and of what her life could be.

It’s partly inspired by Buile Suibhne, (Sweeney Astray), an old Irish poem about a king who is transformed into a bird and exiled from his people. It also comes out of Elaine’s personal experiences of fifteen years of working in the theatre in various visitor services roles.

Elaine Garvey is from Co. Sligo, Ireland. She completed an M.Phil. in Creative Writing in Trinity College, Dublin in 2000. Her short stories have been published in The Dublin Review and Winter Papers. She has worked as editorial and programme co-ordinator at The Stinging Fly, was awarded an agility grant for her writing and has recently been selected as a participant on a basic income scheme for artists by the Irish Department of Arts. THE WARDROBE DEPARTMENT is her first novel.

Elaine is represented by Eleanor Birne at PEW Literary Agency.