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Cork Lives
Helen Wells is the Festival Director, Submissions and Programming, at the Fastnet Film Festival
Helen Wells is the Festival Director, Submissions and Programming, at the Fastnet Film Festival
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My Weekend: We came for a holiday and decided to change our lives

Helen Wells is Festival Director, Submissions and Programming at the Fastnet Film Festival, which got underway in Schull this week and continues until Sunday June 26.



Tell us a little bit about yourself:

I grew up in Kent in the UK. For 17 years I worked as head of private client administration at a prestigious portfolio management company commuting to London every day. Whilst on maternity leave in 2004, we came for a holiday. Driving into Schull on a beautiful August day, we saw the boats in the harbour and on a whim decided to change our lives! The following April we moved here. As everyone was so warm and welcoming, we settled easily, so can’t imagine wanting to live anywhere else, especially when that sun is shining.

Little did I know 14 years ago, that a friendly hello from Pauline Cotter would set wheels in motion and we would start a film festival! I am Festival Director of Submissions and Programming, and as I have a thing about paperwork, spreadsheets and organising, administration naturally falls to me. When I see the village festooned in festival colours, there is an immense feeling of pride in what we have achieved that makes the long hours and sleepless nights worth it. There is something special about Schull that seems to draw people to it. For a village that doesn’t actually have a cinema we somehow manage to attract the crème de la crème of the filmworld, with most returning each year.

The Highlights? Oh my I could reel off such a long list, as we have so many great events but am not sure we have the space! A Script Q&A with Roddy Doyle and his interview with Greg Dyke and Lynda Myles, Saoirse Ronan Interviewed with John Kelleher, Gerard Stembridge looking at the work of our late patron, Tony Barry and Carl Davis’s live accompaniment on the Grand Piano to the silent film, Smouldering Fires will no doubt be incredible. But I am especially happy that Float Like A Butterfly is finally coming home! So many locals, including myself, Hilary, Pauline and Frankie, were involved in the making of it, that it will be wonderful to see it on home turf!

What is your ideal way to spend a Friday night? 

Friday has always been my favourite day of the week. It always feels like the end of term for some reason! After a hectic week, I love a nice dinner at home, feet up, with a glass of wine and a good film – bliss.

Lie ins or up with the lark.. which is it for you?

I would love to be able to lie in, but I am definitely a morning person. I can wake up, without the need of an alarm, any time between 4:30am to 6:00am. It is my favourite time of the day as I get so much done. I love the peace and quiet when everyone else is still asleep.

Does work creep into your weekend at all?

I try to be good and not let it, but unfortunately it creeps in through checking emails, especially during the submission entry period. I think because we are volunteers and it’s not a ‘proper’ job, we don’t have the normal constraints of a 9 to 5/5 day week, where one can just switch off. I dread to think how many hours we actually do!

If money was no object where would you head to on a weekend city break? And who would you bring with you?

As I am sure my husband, Robin, would prefer to go cycling in West Cork, I would just take my daughters, Jesse and Molly to Rome. I went there for a work conference many years ago and loved everything about it, the food, the shops, the people, the architecture - it’s like an open air museum. My girls would love it.

Closer to home, is there some place you like to head to recharge the batteries?

My family and I often unwind by driving down towards Mizen Head, take a long walk on Barley Cove beach, followed by seafood chowder and crab sandwiches at O’Sullivan’s Bar in Crookhaven.

Do you like to catch up with family/friends at the weekend?

Living in a different country from family means I don’t get to see them as often as I would like, but am lucky enough to have some great friends here. Once a month is Book Club night. Together with nine great friends, we eat, drink, put the world to rights and even manage to discuss a book or two – perfect!

Do you get to indulge any hobbies? Even as a spectator?

I don’t really have hobbies as such, but do love cooking, reading and of course watching films.

Entertain or be entertained? If it's the latter do you have a signature dish?

Both! My house is often filled with visitors so it feels like we entertain a lot, which I enjoy, but I do relish someone else cooking for me occasionally. I am known for savoury rather than sweet and always produce an array of dishes. Most of what I cook has a Mediterranean flavour, my Tortilla goes down well, as does a spicy mushroom salad.

We have so many places to eat out in Cork - where are your go to spots for coffee/ lunch/ special meal?

There is such an array of places to go to, that I try to go somewhere new each time I visit the city. We were recently in Cork for our press launch and had a fantastic lunch in Greenes Restaurant and tapas later that night in Cask. The Bodega is great and no trip complete without a visit to the English Market.

Sunday night comes around too fast.. how do you normally spend it?

At this time of year, probably on my computer….

What time does your alarm clock go off on Monday morning?

It doesn’t!

The Fastnet Film Festival runs until Sunday, featuring nearly 50 separate events across 15 venues. See www.fastnetfilmfestival.com/