Fr Pat Aherne Interview | Founder of Siamsa Tíre

fr aherne 2Fergus Dennehy talks to North Kerry’s Fr Pat Aherne, a man credited with revitalising the traditional music and dance scene in both Kerry and Ireland, when he founded the famous Siamsa Tíre. Here, he talks to us about growing up in a different time, how Siamsa Tíre came about and his fondest memories from a truly incredible life.

FOR those of us of the untrained eye, there have no doubt been times when our eyes have passed over the charming and familiar stone brick exterior of Siamsa Tíre and not given a moments thought to the incredible story and history hidden inside its hallowed vaults of knowledge.

As a Tralee native and someone who has too often been guilty of the above crime of ignorance, I was on a quest to right this wrong and where bettter to start than sitting in the living room of its now 85-year-old founder, Father Pat Aherne.

A Moyvane native, Father Aherne grew up surrounded by music – his mother and brother Seán were talented fiddle players and singers respectively – and he says that if there is anything that growing up in the 30’s and 40’s, surrounded by music, singing, dancing and working on the farm taught him, it is the importance of tradition.

In the context of Siamsa Tíre and its founding then, it is this sense of the importance of tradition that he holds that was to become ‘the seed’ for what would eventually grow into Siamsa Tíre.

Fr Aherne was first sent to Tralee as a young curate back in 1957 where he was tasked with setting up a new choir in Tralee – a task that he still remembers fondly to this day and one which he took to with relish.

“Back then in 1957, there was very little happening with regards to music in town and because of this, without the choir, a lot of the people who joined who never have had another outlet to learn music,” said Fr Aherne, talking on Thursday.

fr aherne quote“It [setting up the choir] was a nice challenge for a young fella like myself but you have to remember, in those days, almost everything was in Latin, including the music!”

“A lot of the lads and ladies who joined originally, they wouldn’t have had it at all. That made the task of learning the music that little bit trickier for them,

“The choir just took off though, it was initially just boys and men – it was called St John’s Gregorian Choir. We had great times back then – we were all young and energetic and we worked hard. Everyone there learned to read music and these were people who would never have studied any bit of music, it was wonderful.”

The initial success of the choir led to them being asked to perform a short pageant to celebrate the centenary of the Lourdes apparitions, a pageant which the group called Massabielle and which was performed in the old CYMS hall in Tralee [now the KDYS].

This successful first outing was to prove to be a major stepping stone for Fr Aherne and his choir.

“Thanks to Massabielle and its success, this then led us on to do a more ambitious show later in 1963, the Passion Play in Tralee about the life of Christ. It went for a long run in the CYMS Hall.”

Again this performance by Fr Aherne’s choir was met with such acclaim that Dean Donal Reidy organised a special celebratory performance night in what was then the Manhattan Hotel [now Ballygarry House Hotel].

It was to be a performance that would serve as the impetus for the future Siamsa Tíre performances.

“I put on a little cabaret there, using the singers, dancers and musicians and it was went very well – it just skyrocketed and we

decided then and there that we wanted to do more things. This was then the little seed that started it all off for us,” he continued.

The rest, as they say is history. What followed was a period of great success both nationally and internationally for the group, which in 1974, was officially renamed as the Siamsa Tíre that we know today, woith its founder Fr Ahernem being named as Artistic Director, a position that he held until his retirement in 1998.

While he’s the first to admit that there has been too many good memories over the years to definitively pick out a favourite, he said that it was the words of a man called Brendan Regan that stand out as one of his proudest moments.

fr aherne 1“We were doing a week in the Abbey Theatre in Dublin and a man came backstage to see us after the show and this man was Brendan O’ Regan. He was a big, big name at the time, a visionary if you like. He was the man who founded the Shannon Free Airport Development and he was the chairman of Bord Fáilte aswell,” said Father Aherne, taking another sip of tea, his foot stretched out, relaxing on the chair in front of him.

“He said ‘I’ve been to New York, where I have seen the Russian ballet and when I watched it, I dreamt of a similiar show in Ireland. Father, in your performance tonight, I’ve found that show.’ He was a man of clout and he said that we had to get all of this on a firm footing – this was not just an amazing appreciative moment of all of our hard work, this was the beginning of Siamsa Tíre. It was an excellent thing for us to hear, from someone so revered,” he continued.

A tour of America was to follow for Fr Aherne and his merry band of singers, musicians and dancers and for some of the group, a lot of whom were leaving Ireland for the first ever time, finding themselves in cities such as New York, Boston and Chicago was a magical, magical experience.

“I’ll always remember one man, Gerry Nolan, he was out of my own parish in Moyvane. He was a beautiful, beautiful step dancer and of course, he had never been out of the country and this man from Moyvane brought down the house in every city we went to!”

“It was amazing, the reaction to his performances. He was a simple and quiet man you know? Going to New York to him was the same as going to Dublin. Here we were in Broadway then, performing in the home of theatre and performance and he went out and the audience, they just clapped and clapped and clapped and even when he came off the stage, they were still clapping and he just turned to the fella next to him and says ‘jaysus, they must know me!’” Fr Aherne says, letting out a chuckle at the memory of his friend.

It was the success of this tour, Fr Aherne said, that gave great creedence to the idea of using Irish folklore and music and dance as a performance art an again cemented the need for Siamsa Tíre.

One man whose core message and style still permeates through Kerry today was a travelling dace teacher called Jeremiah Moly- neaux, or ‘Munnix’ as Fr Aherne affectionately calls him.

Munnix was a man, that Fr Aherne credits with not just helping to bring through some of Siamsa’s most talented dancers, the supremely gifted Jimmy Smith being one of these, but also a man who first ‘wowed’ a young Fr Aherne into wanting to learn to dance.

“He was a beautiful, beautiful dancer. I had met when I was in school in Moyvane and he came to teach in the school. He said, ‘anyone who’s interested in dancing, head into the hall there’.”

“He went out on the floor and danced the hornpipe and my god, I’ll never forget it, the impact it had on me. What this man could do with his two feet, it was absolutely phenomenal, I’d never seen anything like it. It was amazing.”

Finally and fittingly, a man always with a sense of tradition at the back of his mind, Father Aherne, between sips of tea and an odd biscuit or two, tells me of how importantly he viewed the Irish language and all of the old stories and poems hidden within it in helping shape Siamsa’s work.

“The Irish language is one that enshrines all of our best traditions. Irish is the repository of all of our most important traditions. If you want to know the midset of a people, you must first understand the language,” he finished.

Traditional to the last.

 

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Dermot & Dave | Ah Sure, Look It

Me

By Fergus Dennehy

#ThrowbackThursday to March 2017 when I nervously interviewed Dermot & Dave of Today FM for work and how I completely forgot to put it up on this until now.

Happy reading! 🙂

IN the hours leading up to interview with Today FM’s Dermot Whelan and Dave Moore, I will admit that I was feeling nervous; a duo that are renowned for their wit and oftentimes random sense of humour, I was left wondering how I could possibly keep up with them throughout the course of an interview.

To help soothe my nerves, I took to Twitter and send out a mini cry for help in coming up with questions which I could ask the duo and sure enough, in a matter of minutes, I only got one reply…from Dermot Whelan himself.

‘Ketchup or brown sauce?’ it reads.

A question that is so unexpected, so random and so wonderfully Irish does enough to snap me out of my nerves and a half an hour later, when I get the lads on the phone, I feel much more at ease and we quickly get to talking about their upcoming INEC show on Thursday, March 16, the first night of their brilliantly titled ‘Ah, Sure, Look it’ Tour.

“We’re very, very proud of the name!” says Dermot, the pride evident in his voice

“We were stuck trying to think of a name for it and someone just happened to walk by us and we just heard them say ‘Ah sure look it, isn’t that it’ and honestly that’s how the whole thing came about,” he says letting out a hearty laugh.

The wonderful rapport between the two presenters is evident even over the phone, evidence of the 12 years they have spent working together, first in Dublin’s 98FM and now on Today FM, a rapport that they now will bring in front of a live audience in Killarney next week.

When asked about what people can expect from their stand up show in Killarney, I refer back to their quotes in the INEC press release.

“Imagine a bonkers radio show that grows legs and arms and a head and starts firing out craic and waving its arms like an angry King Kong in that movie. Not even close.”

“It’s all our listeners’ favourite characters, stand-up, improvised comedy, music and an interactive gardening segment – what’s not to love?!” added Dave.

When I point out how random and bizarre the night sounds like it is going to be, all I can hear is heavy laughter from the pair.

“Yep, that sounds pretty accurate,” Dave chuckles.

“We did the show in Cork and Galway last year for a comedy festival and Jason Byrne was on after us on one of the shows and he couldn’t believe how much things we crammed into our show, usually comedians have a t-shirt, a microphone and thats it, ours is eh, a little bit different,” Dave laughs gulitily.

“There’s going to be props, costumes, songs, video footage, characters, stand up comedy, improvised comedy and musical impressions; it’s going to be like a circus is happening inside our heads and we’ll just take everything we think of and put it out on stage,” Dermot says, laughing again.

I ask the lads if there will be any of that dreaded audience interaction and particpation on the night and there is a small moment of devilish silence as no doubt their brains whir with all the thoughts of what they’re going to be doing.

“There will of course be some interaction!” says Dave

“The show begins with audience interaction, and ends with audience interaction and just for good measure, we’ve thrown a bit of interaction into the middle of the show aswell, just to be consistent,” he continues.

“Don’t worry though, we won’t make anyone feel bad, we won’t be picking on anyone.” Dermot chimes in.

On how they manage to come up with some of the very random ideas that populate their both their radio show and their live stage show, the pair admit that it’s something that into; simply put, whatever makes them laugh, it has a good chance of getting into the show in some form or another.

“Usually, anything that we’re laughing about or chatting about at our desks, this is a good indicator of what is going to work; if we’re just messing around the office and something makes us laugh, then that will end up working on the radio orat the very least, we’ll end up giving it a shot,” Dermot continues.

“I tend to love comedy where there’s no script and you just have to improvise and talk off the top of your head and see what comes out; that has allowed us to maybe try out different things than other comedy duos so I think that I’m definitely a wild card on stage as to what I’ll come out with,” Dermot finishes.

The ‘Ah, Sure, Look it’ show in the INEC on Thursday (March 16) will be the first time that the duo have performed on stage there and they admit that they are very excited to get on stage.

“We were down in Killarney for the Ring of Kerry last year and it was such a brilliant atmosphere and such a beautiful town aswell; we’ve been down at a load of gigs in the INEC but this will our first time on stage. A load of mad Kerry people in front of us, what’s not to love?! says Dermot.

Doors open at 7:30pm and he show starts at 8:30pm with tickets available from the INEC box office.

Keith Barry Interview | Magic Man

Keith Barry blog 3

Keith Barry |Magic Man

Ahead of his first ever show in Sneem, Fergus Dennehy talks to the world famous magician and hypnotist that is Keith Barry about his new show entitled ‘HypnoMagick’, his love of fishing in Kerry, working in Hollywood with some of the worlds biggest actors and how he thinks that Donald Trump and his White House Staff are in fact master manipulators.

THROUGHOUT his stellar career, Ireland’s Keith Barry has been known by a great many titles. He’s been labelled a magician, a mentalist, hypnotist, brain hacker, an activist for the elderly and in more recent times, he’s even become Hollywood’s go-to resident magic consultant.

Ahead of his upcoming new show entitled ‘HypnoMagick’ in the Sneem Hotel on April 14, I was given the chance to interview the man of the hour and after listening to him speak about his love for his craft, I started to think that there is still one more item that can be added to the above list of titlesand that is that simply put, Keith Barry, is a man incredibly passionate about his craft and someone who is constantly driven to improve and expand upon his already burgeoning repertoire of skills.

Skills gained from a very young age and honed well into his teenage years, Keith admits that practising magic and hypnotiosm weren’t exactly the regular things that a boy his age should have been getting up to.

“I got a Paul Daniels magic set back when I was 5 or 6 and that kind of spawned my initial interest in the whole side of magic and then when I was 14 or 15, I was given another book on the subject called the ‘Klutz Book of Magic’ and this when I first started to perform in the public eye, using all the tricks from that book.”

“At the same time then, I got this little pamphlet on hypnosis called ‘Practical Hypnosis’ and so I started getting involved in that side of things aswell from here and in the years that followed, it all sort of escalated on from there into this amazing career that I have now.”

Keith’s show in Sneem on April 14 will be the first time that he’s performed his shows outside of the INEC in Killarney and he says that while he’s looking forward to hitting the road to new locations, he jokes that if his performing career doesn’t take off any further, he wouldn’t mind setlling down in some quiet Kerry location and fishing his days away.

“I’ve been down in the direction of Sneem a couple of times myself doing a spot of fishing and it’s a truly stunning area. It’s not beyond the real,s of possibility that I’ll spotted sporting a giant beard and living by a river fishing away,” he jokes.

“This will be our first official performance down there and we’re very much looking forward to it; we’ve always played in the Killarney area and we obviously love the INEC and performing there but we realised that Killarney might in reality be too far away for some people to travel to and so we just made the decision to hit the road to places that we’ve never been before.”

“As you can guess from the title ‘HypnoMagick’, the show is going to be divided up into a mixture of hypnotism, mentalism and magic; so parts of the show will involve me manipulating peoples sense of reality and what I like about the performance is that it doesn’t matter if you’re on the stage or in the audience, everybody at some point is going to be a part of the show.”

“Now, obviously I know that some people are nervous when they come to see a show such as mine that they might be landed on the stage with me or something, so I don’t force anybody to come up at all. I just invite people who want to come up and who are willing to give things a go, but still, that being said, it is still a hugely interactive show.”

“In one portion of the show, I basically just perform this mass experiment on all the people in the audience where they will hallucinate for ten seconds into believing that two people are dematerialising right in front of their eyes and it’s a magic trick that really just takes place in the minds of the audience and we’ve been posting the reactions of the crowds from other shows up on social media and you can actually see the people going temporarily insane,” he laughs.

“They can tell that the trick is only happening in their minds but they are powerless to stop it actually happening, even if you believe yourself to a cynic or a sceptic; another thing that I like to do and what people can expect is that every night under hypnosis, I create this ‘UFC Fight Night Conference’ where I hypnotise one person into believing that they are Conor McGregor and I hypnotise the other person into believing they are this Japanese UFC fighter, who can only speak Japanese.

“There is just going to be a load of mentalism throughout the night and people are going to have the opportunity to catch me out and win some money aswell so yeah, people are going to have a really fun time,” he says.

For those of us not in the loop on Keith’s latest exploits these past few years, a litle bit of research shows that the Waterford man has not taken not been resting on his laurels too much; even taking his renowned skills to the glitz and glamour of the Hollywood Hills where he has been busy consulting on the hit ‘Now You See Me’ trilogy, films which follow a group of talented magicians who operate a number of bank robberies and heists.

“I consulted on the first ‘Now You See Me Film’ for couple of weeks a number of years ago; I just looked at the script and I was working with actors such as Woody Harrelson and a number of others aswell.”

“The second film then, ‘Now You See Me 2’, I worked as a consultancy basis for a full twelve month period from day one of production and then I worked on the set for a full three months after this; I was working with all the actors on set to help them with the tricks, we wanted to use as little CGI as possible when it came to the tricks so I had to physically teach all the actors how to do them.”

“We were working on how to produce doves out of thin air, I taught Dave Franco and the rest of the cast how to properly throw and spin cards into a hat for this one big heist sequence at the end of the film and then when it came to the script, if I came up with an idea, I could approach the director and say ‘look, I think this would be a good addition here’ and then we’d go off and look at the practicalities of getting it all done.”

“I still pinch myself everyday because I managed to turn my hobby into my profession and I’ve been loving every minute of it all since I started; I’ve been very lucky to have worked with some amazing people and gotten to do some amazing things so yeah, it’s all been fantastic so far.”

Such is the student of psychology and behaviour that Keith Barry is, I cannot let him go without asking his opinion of the newest and most divisive figure in the world at the moment, American President, Donald Trump.

“He’s got all the hallmarks of a dictator, I suppose, for want of a better word; I mean, people think that he is this lone wolf kind of character that is operating against the grain, but what you have to realise is that he has this huge team behind him who, instead of discouraging his behaviour, are actually actively encouraging him to do this.” he said.

“His advisors are telling him to continue to behaviour I’m convinced because it was this type of action that got him elected; they know exactly what they are doing, they know that people follow certain language patterns and that they can influenced in certain ways,” he finished.

Keith’s ‘HypnoMagick’ show is set to be staged in Sneem Hotel on the night of April 14 with tickets available to buy from http://www.keithbarry.com and they are being priced from €30 onwards.

Tim Landers Interview | Stronger Than Ever

Fresh from appearing on our television screens in Fair City, Fergus Dennehy talks to Tralee actor Tim Landers about the long and winding road he’s taken to where he is now, how he’s happier than he’s ever been and how sometimes, he will still run with excitement to rehearsals and auditions.

“Tralee people like to see one of their own doing well and hopefully by now, I’m considered one of Tralee’s own, I don’t know if I am or not.”

These are the modest words of Tralee’s resident actor extraordinaire, Tim Landers, one of the towns most well known and well liked faces and a man who for the past 15 years has lent his significant talents and stupendous energy and work ethic to almost all of the various stages that we here in Kerry and further afield have to offer.

Even now, after an acting career that has spanned almost 27 years and which has seen the Dublin born-turned Tralee local feature in Game of Thrones, Killinascully and more recently a prominent role in Fair City, Tim insists that he is only just getting started and that there is so much more to come from him in terms of honing his craft even further and striving to be the best actor that he can possibly be.

The origins of this amazing passion and love for his job can be seen in the circumstances of how he came to be on stage in the first place; a promising soccer player for at both League of Ireland and International level with his country and with a lucrative paid contract wirth Galway United in his hands, it only took the breaking of his leg and an off the cuff offer of a role in an amateur play back in 1990 for Tim to realise his love of the acting craft and for him to turn his back von what many would have considered to be a dream career. A dream career for many, but not for Tim, he had his own dream to pursue, that of acting.

“I was working in the Bank of Ireland in Galway from 1987 to 2002 and for the last five years there, I was very unhappy. I had been playing soccer but I broke my leg and I was out for a year so my friend went and introduced me to amateur drama and that was it for my soccer career, I had caught the acting bug,” said Tim, talking to The Kerryman on Thursday.

“In Galway, I did my first ever amateur play there way back in 1990, it was called ‘Seven Brides to Seven Brothers’ and I haven’t looked back since and I’ve done every piece that I could lay my hands on,” he laughs.

“I took a two year leave of absence from the bank and I moved away to England and I did a lot of pantomime work while over there and then when I came back from my leave, I worked at the bank for another three months and I found that I couldn’t do it any more and I just left; that life wasn’t for me and I just wanted to be an actor, that’s all that I wanted to do.”

tim-blog-quote“It was a massive leap of faith for me at the time, and my family weren’t sure at all what I was doing leaving such a well paid job but I can honestly say that right now I’m happier than I’ve ever been.”

‘Happier now than I’ve ever been’ is quite a statement to make, but what is it about acting that after all these years and all those hours of travelling and rejection that showbusiness is so famous/infamous for, what is it that has Tim, now at 50 years old, still so enthused and excited about going to rehearsals and being on stage?

“What I love about acting is being given the opportunity to step into someone else’s shoes and being allowed to present their view point; I might not be like that person but my job is try and become that person on stage and in front of an audience and I absolutely love that challenge and that feeling,” he says.

“When it comes to the adrenaline that I get from being on stage, let me put it like this; I’m a hardworking actor, I know that there’s infinitely more talented actors out there than I, but I know that I work very, very hard on my craft, I really do.”

“I watch movies every day, I watch the actors, I watch people in real life and how they are and how they interact with people and I think ‘I could do that in my next part’ so it’s like a job, I’m constantly learning and working to be better.”

“When you’ve worked on the character, you’ve broken down the piece that you are doing and then after a lot of long hours of practice and rehearsals, you get to go out on stage in front of an audience and someone goes ‘Wow, that was great’, that’s the rush, that’s the vindication for all the hard work I’ve put in and for me, there’s honestly no better feeling,” he says, the pride now obvious in his voice.

“I have to say that my first time on a stage back in 1990 is possibly one of my fondest memories from my career, I remember it being like getting hit in the face with this sheer buzz and happiness; back then I was used to performing on the soccer pitch but there I was now performing in front this audience and for them to come up to me afterwards and tell me that I did a great job was amazing.”

“I remember just going ‘oh man’ and this buzz and excitement washing over me; you get this buzz when you’re on stage and you get this hunger for acting and you want to do everything. I’m still like that now, I will run to rehearsals sometimes, that’s how excited I am to be doing this thing that I love; in my head, I’m thinking that this is my passion, this is what I want to be doing for the rest of my life,” he continues.

Fresh from his starring role on Fair City last week, a role in which he played the gangster-esque character Donnacha O’ Riordan and got to star alongside two of the shows most famous characters in Paul Brennan and Niamh Cassidy, Tim has nothing but good things to say about his experience working on the RTÉ show and he jokes that he will sit anxiously waiting by the phone to see if his character gets a returning role.

“When I was working in Galway and thinking of leaving my job there, I would sit at home after a days work and I’d be watching Fair City and I just thought to myself, ‘I would love to be on that show. I think I might just be good enough for that.’” he says reflecting on his excellent start to his year so far.

“Working on Fair City back in November, it was just a culmination of all my years of hard work for me; it was an absolute pleasure to work on the show, people were just so lovely up there. There was a lot of support from everyone there, banter between the scenes, they were respectful and engaging, I couldn’t have asked for more,” he admits.

Going from relecting on one of his proudest career moments to date, Tim goes on to look back on his proudest all round moment as an actor, a moment that he says that will stick with him for the rest of his days, the moment that he collected his AIMS award for ‘Best Comedian’ at the INEC for his role as mad German playwright, Franz Liebkin.

“When I won my AIMS award in the INEC back in 2014 and a thousand people rose up to their feet to applaud me and support me, that was my proudest moment as an actor, it’s something that I’ll never forget. It was just amazing and incredible.”

So, what now for the Tralee actor? What does the future hold for him?

“I’m currently rehearsing for my role as King Herod in the musical ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ and I can’t wait for rehearsals to begin, it’s going to be a lot of fun!”

We reach the end of our interview after about 20 minutes of talking and I ask Tim, if he can, to try and sum up his acting career and journey so far in a few words or a single sentence and his answer is wonderfully typical of the hardworking actor…

“Not finished, there’s much more to come,” he states.

Gavin James Interview | A Surreal Three Years

Gavin James Performs At O2 Shepherds Bush Empire

Gavin James in action.

GETTING Gavin James’s phone number for an interview ahead of his upcoming show in Killarney proves a lot tricker than both I and the staff at the INEC had anticipated; even the mans location is hard to nail down at first, with his social media first showing that he is in Biarritz, or is it Paris? He seems improbably to be in both locations!

After eventually tracking him down though, we get to chatting and it turns out that he’s already back from France and sitting in his flat in London, wearing a big fluffy jacket, he delightedly reliably informs me.

While the thought of this amount of travel is baffling to this humble writer from Tralee, this whirlwind and jet-setting lifestyle is certainly nothing new to Gavin though after what he describes as the “absolutely mental” and “surreal” past three years of his life which has seen him support huge acts such as Kodaline, Ed Sheeran, Sam Smith and appear on both the Jimmy Kimmel and James Corden Shows.

This is certainly quite the journey for the 25 year old Dublin born singer but he quickly admits that while the last few years have been as unexcpected and amazing as they have been, he always looks forward to coming home and playing to Irish crowds, something which he says he can’t wait to do at the INEC on Saturday, February 18.

“Playing back home here in Ireland is always an amazing feeling, it’s like you’re just out there playing a few songs for your mates; the crowd are always so supportiveI first played the INEC acoustic room once a couple of years ago and I played the main room there with the Coronas about four years ago and again then with the Coronas again just before last Christmas, I think I jumped on stage to play one small song towards the end so this will be my fourth time playing there and I can’t wait” he says, the excitement clear in his voice.

“I absolutely love playing there, it’s always great fun for me! Going to Killarney and playing there is almost going on holiday, there’s always a relaxing atmosphere around the town; the crowd down there are always well into having a good time, it’s something that I’ve always noticed and loved about playing there.”

When asked about his fondest memories of the South Kerry town, the ‘Bitter Pill’ singer goes quiet for a second or two before letting out a loud sigh, saying that it’s hard to pick just one for him.

“My fondest memories? Oh man, that’s a tough one! If I had to pick, I would have to say that I remember that we crashed a wedding down there once, well we kind of crashed it, I mean, I think that we vaguely knew one guy that was maybe there and we just sort of went to this strangers wedding and at the end of the night there, we ended up on the ground with all these strangers doing that dance you do sitting down, you know? Rock the Boat, that’s the one and honestly, it was absolutely hilarious; that was great craic,” he continues.

When talking to someone of Gavin James stature, it’s hard to avoid the elephant in the room for too long and talk inevitably soon turns to the whirlwind success that he’s enjoyed over the past few years and most noticeably, THAT gig in his home city of Dublin, in a little known venue called Croke Park.

“Ah man, I can’t even describe how mental that was, I just couldn’t believe I was up there! All that I was thinking when I was playing to the crowd was ‘don’t mess up. don’t mess up. don’t mess up’,” he laughed.

“You can be on stage playing a song that you’ve played a hundred times before and suddenly your mind can drift to something completely random, like burritos or a movie you watched recently and then you remember where you are and it’s back to don’t mess up. don’t mess up. don’t mess up’,” he laughed again.

Honestly, It’s amazing the simplest things that you can forget when you are up on stage playing to thousands of people, it all becomes about ‘how do I play a g chord?’, the simplest things just become so huge,” he reflects.

“Thankfully though, the only thing I messed up in Croke Park was that I think I said the word ‘arse’ at a couple of points, I had a few people message me about that but that’s all the mistakes I made, so it was all good, thank god!,” he chuckled.

Reflecting more on these bizarre situations that he has found himself in over the past few years leads Gavin to reveal the even more bizarre way in which he was approached for these gigs.
“It’s a strange story how that whole situation came about because it all happened very quickly and nicely.”
“I had gone to see Ed [Sheeran] play a gig that he was doing for VH1 and he just shouted across the room, casual as anything, ‘Gav, you want to play Croke Park with me?’ and I was just standing there going ‘Eh, yeah! I’d love to…’

“That was literally the start of that whole situation, it’s so weird looking back on it but it was such a nice thing from Ed to ask me.”

“The likes of the James Corden show then when I did that, I was on tour with the Kodaline boys in the States and as I’d met James before, he’s a lovely, lovely lad. I thought I would just gave him a call and I asked him out for a pint. He couldn’t make it out unfortunately but he then he just asked me straight out if I wanted to play on his show the next night and of course, I said yes! I was supposed to be heading out with the lads but I just hopped straight into bed,” he laughed.

“It’s all kind of happened like that, these really weird little moments but I’ve enjoyed every single minute of it.”

On his upcoming show in Killarney, James says that people can expect a varied type of show on the night, but he says that one thing that he can guarantee is that people are going to have a great time.

“There’s going to be a few cnew songs that I’m going try out on the night so we’re going to have a little bit of fun with that; this is going to be the biggest show that I’ve done this year so far so I’m going to go all out on stage to enjoy myself.”

“It’s just going to be this weird show that will have a mixture of intimacy, madness and whole load of banter; it’ll be this emotional rollercoaster,” he laughs.

“People will be laughing and crying in equal measure,” he joked.

“Ah, it will just be mad craic on the night and people are going to be leaving and they’ll be buzzing. We’re going to have a great night,” he finished.

Eddi Reader Interview | ‘I feel like I’m coming home’

London Folk And Roots Festival - Eddi Reader

Eddi Reader in full flow.

Ah, It’s so great to hear your voice and to be reminded just a little of Kerry and its people”

These are the first words that the award winning singer/songwriter and 80’s legend Eddi Reader says to me when she answers the phone to me late last Friday afternoon and it’s right then I know that I’ve chosen to right person to talk to this week.

Eddi, who along with her then-band ‘Fairground Attraction’ gained worlwide attention back in 1988 and 1989 for the song ‘Perfect’, a song which she jokingly now refers to as her ‘calling card’, tells me that she is delighted to take my call as it means that that her upcoming show in Siamsa Tíre on February 19 is getting ever closer, a prospect that she admits is all too exciting.

“Oh, I can’t wait to play there again, we’ll be a player short on the night there as one our members is heading away to Japan but I’m sure that we’ll still be able to make a good noise anyway!”she says in her pleasant sounding, almost lyrical, Scottish accent.

The Glasgow born singer has achieved much in her career; she has been awarded an MBE, won two BRIT Awards back in the 80’s and had a UK number one and two with an album and song respectively. For all this success though and all the things she has achieved and the places that she has been to, talking to her on the phone, Eddi only has room in her mind for one topic and that is her beloved Tralee grandmother Margaret Nammock, or as she was more affectionately called her, Madge.

“Well she lived in what I think was Lower Abbey street in Tralee and although she left there way back in the 1920’s, she never stopped telling me about this wonderful place that she called Tralee; I never heard anything but great things about Tralee from my granny Madge. She talked about the town as if it was a Walt Disney magical kingdom,” letting out a loud laugh at the memory.

“She told me about the magic water at the Spa and how she would walk up Rock Street to put some money on the dogs at the track; I just absolutely loved her stories about Tralee, I couldn’t get enough of them, I gobbled them up! She made the town sound like it was some sort of paradise, and so to be able to come back here again and play to my family and relatives here in Siamsa Tíre, it’s a wonderful wonderful feeling.”

Speaking of family, Eddi tells me that there are still a few Nammocks and Roches scattered around Tralee town, some in the Connolly Park area, name dropping Danny and Jimmy Burns specifically as she goes and she says that she will always make the effort to seek them out when she is over here. They remind of her of that special connection she shared with her beloved Madge.

“Granny Madge was 87 when she passed away and I still miss her to this day. I’ve still got all of her records that she kept throughout her life. She wrote to me all throughout my own life when I was growing up; I left home at 18 and she wrote to me, when I lived in London she wrote to me and all through the shenanigans of my youth, she always wrote to me; her advice to me was always so lovely and to this day, I still cherish all of those cards and letters she sent.”

“I had such a strong and special connection to her and Tralee and I think that she, more than any other relative, instilled in me a wonder about the world and that where she came from and grew up was somewhere different and this gave me such wanderlust to see and do so many different things in life,” she continued.

“She gave me some of her Tralee-ness, some of her Kerry-ness and I’m not really sure what it is but certainly when I’m on my way to Kerry and Tralee, I feel like I’m coming home”

Eddi tells me that her upcoming show in Siamsa is her third or fourth time playing the famous venue and she lets out a loud laugh when she remembers her first time playing there, when just her family showed up to watch her play before jokingly praying that people actually turn up to see this time,

“The second time that I played there, there was a few more people there,” she laughed.

“There had been a lot more hype in the papers and a few more people had heard of me so that probably helped! Suddenly there suddenly these two coach loads of people arriving to see me play; it was almost like I was being ‘claimed’ as a Tralee person. A lot of distant Nammocks came to see me play and I even had Elvis there aswell, you know the guy from Tralee who impersonates Elvis; I thought that my Dad would be so proud of me, I had Elvis in the building,” she laughed.

Aside from her upcoming visit, my mind turns to another interest of Eddi’s, poltics. When doing a small bit of research for the interview, my attention was brought to Eddi’s Twitter page, a place where I learn that aside from being a talented singer/writer, she is a staunch activist for everything Scotland with regards to Brexit and Scottish Independence and so I knew that I would admonish myself if I did not at least ask her opinion on the current political situation happening across the pond.

“Brexit, I’ve got no idea about how it’s all going to unfold; all I know is that Scotland, like Ireland all those years ago, we are in a position where it is kind of being ignored.”

“We, the Scottish, have to figure this position out; is this okay? What can we do to change this? Hopefully we can get people around a table with a cup of tea and debate it out like adults with a bit of common sense; you just can’t be sure of what’s going to happen though.”

My talk with Eddi lasted over half an hour and we discussed much more than can be written here, but her final note is one that I feel is a fitting way to end this story:

“When I sing at Siamsa, I feel like I’m singing to that my Granny and that is a very feeling for me. I feel like I’m home”.

The show is set for 8pm at Siamsa Tíre on Sunday, February 19; tickets are €23/ €21 and are available from Siamsa Tíre.

Welcome home, Eddi.