Mich Maroney has always known what she wanted. As a little girl, she loved painting and told her family she was going to be an artist. “I was so young that I didn’t even know what it meant,” she says. “But my dad had this huge book on art and suddenly I knew, yes, this is what I’m going to do.”
Maroney, 61, was born in Hong Kong to a British father and a Macanese mother. When she was eight, the family moved to London, where she later worked as a visual artist and supported herself with administrative jobs.
Six years ago, she moved to Skibbereen in West Cork. “At the time, I was in an intense NHS role as one of my side jobs and knew I’d get ill if I carried on,” she says. She decided she had to leave England. “I’d lived in Ireland before and liked it. It was a moment of absolute clarity. I needed more headspace to get away and focus back on my art.”
In lockdown, she turned to creative writing for the first time. “I had written about my own work before for funding applications, but had always wanted to write more creatively,” she says. “I got on to a Cork County Libraries course for writers who hadn’t written before.” After falling in love with it, she joined the Cork Prose Collective, a group of writers who meet regularly to discuss their latest ideas. Living alone throughout the lockdowns, meeting with other writers over video calls became her outlet.
When she turned 60 last year, Maroney decided it was time for the next big challenge – she wanted to set up a literary and arts magazine. With the support of the writers she had met, her local print shop and a simple design programme, she began to teach herself the basics of publishing. “There was so much brilliant writing that I thought it was a shame we didn’t have a wider audience for it. That’s why I decided to put it all together in a magazine.” Anyone who wanted to submit stories and poetry was welcome to do so.
Swerve magazine was born in 2022. It was formally launched at the West Cork literary festival, where the contributors held a roundtable discussion and an exhibition of images.
The magazine, which is published in print annually and available online, was inspired by a publication that Maroney had picked up from a shop in London many years earlier. “It was the last edition of a beautiful magazine which came out of Paris in 1940, full of amazing illustrations and a celebration of French culture in the face of totalitarianism. I’d always thought it would be lovely to start a magazine, but it seemed such a ridiculous idea.”
But she needn’t have doubted herself. This year, Maroney has widened the scope of the magazine to include an artist-writer collaboration, as well as interviews and articles by visual artists. She has also set up a small gallery where artists can share more experimental work. “Nothing like that existed,” she says.
In addition, she has turned part of her cottage into a space for an artists’ residency programme, which launched this year. “The first person to stay was from France and she was very interested in the environment,” says Maroney. “I arranged for her to visit an organic farm, which has inspired her work. She produced a series of works in France and then came to show it at the arts festival in July.”
Works such as this will feature in the next edition of the magazine, which Maroney is already working to improve. “My next step is to seek funding and to teach myself how to use InDesign, which is the industry standard,” she says. While the magazine is connected to her life as an artist, the world of publishing and writing still feels new and exciting. “I am using a different part of my brain to write and produce a magazine. Writing is difficult in a lot of ways, but it’s a great way to find out about yourself. It helps me to explore the world.”