TELL us about yourself;
My name is Michelle Carew. I’ve been working in the arts and cultural industries for nearly 20 years across youth arts, festivals and film. My early career was spent in Cork for the larger part of the ‘noughties’. After nine years based in Dublin leading the national development organisation for youth theatre, Youth Theatre Ireland, I’m delighted to be back in Cork, having very recently taken up the role of Cork City Arts Officer.
Where were you born?
Thurles, Co. Tipperary. Growing up literally in the shadow of the ‘home of hurling’, my first impressions of Cork people were positive. Everyone in Thurles always loved a Tipperary v Cork Munster final as Cork fans were said to be friendly and happy to spend money when in town!
I’m married to Brian, an artist, and we have two young children. In my job I have a role in shaping policies that affect artists, so being married to one is very grounding. I understand first-hand the risk, hard work and sacrifice it takes to commit to such a precarious vocation and I have nothing but respect for professional artists.
I’ve known my closest friend since childhood and we forged a deep bond in our teenage years that has remained. I admire her deeply. She has a very strong sense of social justice and brings her considerable talents to her work in community law. Many people who otherwise would go ignored, have their rights vindicated because of her, but she would never claim that. I’m very proud to call her my friend.
Earliest childhood memory?
A very early, cold and crisp morning in November, pheasant hunting with my dad. I must have been about six years old. I remember it like it was a regular occurrence but it probably only happened once.
Person you most admire?
I admire lots of people but if I was to focus on one person at the moment I would have to mention Sir Ken Robinson who died on August 21. Best known by many for his Ted Talk ‘Do Schools Kill Creativity?’, he was a great proponent of creativity in education and advocated for the value of a broad education with parity of esteem for arts subjects. He believed that we are all born creative but get educated out of it.
Cork City Council recognises the importance of arts in young people’s development, and youth culture is a cultural priority for the city. Support for programmes like Music Generation, Beag Early Years arts initiative, Rebel Streets, Cruinni na nOg and more are manifestations of this commitment.
Where was your most memorable holiday?
We just had a family holiday to Renvyle in Galway. After months of hardly leaving the house, it was so liberating to travel even that far. In true Irish holiday fashion, the weather was brutal, but we donned our wetsuits and jumped into the sea regardless!
Favourite TV programme?
Schitt’s Creek. It’s genius. I love how it manages to be hilarious without cynicism. Catherine O’Hara as Moira Rose is iconic. A masterful show. I watched all six seasons during lockdown and it was my 30 minutes of pure escapism in each day.
My current favourite is Orzo on Pembroke Street for lunch or dinner. One of my favourite things about Cork is the food culture. The city has no shortage of amazing places to eat, from a rich cafe culture to Michelin starred Ichigo Ichie (I’m still waiting for a special occasion for someone to treat me!).
Last book you read?
Strange Flowers by Donal Ryan.
Best book you read?
I know it’s a cop out but this one is just too hard!
Impossible to choose definitively. One song that I come back to a lot is If There Is Something by Roxy Music. I love the epic quality of it. The drama of the solo instrumental, the nostalgic sentiment of the lyrics and the sheer inventiveness of the composition.
One person you would like to see in concert?
Janelle Monae. I watched her set at Glastonbury 2019 on TV and vowed I’d see her live next chance I get. That could be a long time coming now.
Morning person or night owl?
I’m a night owl trapped inside an early-riser! I’m up by 6.30am most days but would happily sleep until midday if left to my own devices.
Your proudest moment?
My working life has given me lots of moments of pride. I worked in production on The Wind That Shakes The Barley when it shot in Cork in 2005. When the film won the Palme d’Or, Ken Loach’s ethos meant that all crew had ownership of that success. I recall the premiere was held in Mahon Point and everyone who’d had a hand in the film was invited. That doesn’t usually happen. In his speech, Loach was at pains to emphasise the collective effort. It was hard not to feel a sense of deep pride in that moment. It was a masterclass in how to treat a team.
Spendthrift or saver?
A bit of both. Balance in everything is my motto.
What makes you happy?
How would you like to be remembered?
I feel no need to be remembered. What matters more to me is how I’m thought of while living.
What else are you up to at the moment?
I’m only in my new role a few weeks so I’ve been busy getting on top of my brief as quickly as possible, getting to know the team and starting to meet (virtually) with groups and organisations.
Culture Night 2020 is the next big cultural event on the horizon in the city and we’ve been gearing up to invite the public to ‘connect through culture’ on September 18.
This year will be a different Culture Night experience with an increased focus on virtual and online events alongside the real-life events. The variety of the experiences on offer highlights the enduring richness of Cork City’s arts and culture scene.
The programme is live at culturenightcork.ie