My Weekend: We've all been blown away by what our little country has to offer

Sorcha O’Brien is the Education and Outreach officer at Nano Nagle Place, Cork city
My Weekend: We've all been blown away by what our little country has to offer

Sorcha O’Brien, Education and Outreach Officer Nano Nagle Place.

TELL us a little bit about yourself and your work.

I’ve been a proud Corkonian since my family moved here from England in 2001. We’ve lived in Frankfield ever since and I grew up there with my older brother and our gorgeous dog Socks (he is genuinely the light of my life).

I went to UCC and studied English and Art History and the third year of that degree was spent studying abroad in Montreal, Canada. This allowed me to gain an international perspective on my studies… I also learned what minus 30 degrees felt like! After UCC, I went on to get a Masters in Arts and Heritage from Maastricht University in the Netherlands.

During my Masters I became very interested in how people learn in museums and also how museums use the digital space to engage and reach out to new audiences. When I returned to Cork, I decided to pursue my interest in the digital aspect of heritage and received a certificate in Digital Marketing from CIT. This has served me well in my current job as Education and Outreach Officer in Nano Nagle Place.

I wasn’t aware of Nano’s story before I began working here, however as a Cork woman and one who had such an impact on women’s educational rights in Cork city, I find her story so inspirational. It is a privilege to share her story with anyone who visits Nano Nagle Place.

My day-to-day job is quite varied. I conduct school tours and create new ways for students to engage with the story of Nano Nagle onsite. Like many museums and heritage sites, we have had to adapt to Covid-19 and deliver Nano’s story to virtual visitors. We have been working hard to produce a new app which can deliver audio tours and a virtual 360 tour of the site, which is available to download now.

I work closely with the Programme Manager Dr Danielle O’Donovan to deliver different events and projects. Our latest exhibition Small Lives: At Home in Cork in 1920, which will be on outdoor display throughout December, was a hugely rewarding project. Researching and creating an exhibition is amazing and seeing it all come together at the last minute is so exciting.

Among other things I manage the Facebook and Instagram pages for Nano Nagle Place and look after their digital marketing which fulfils that part of me that loves the digital space and allows me to keep track of online trends.

I also created Nano Nagle Place Design Shop’s new website in collaboration with our Retail Manager Paul Lehane and Ambassador Nuala Dinneen. Another hugely rewarding project, especially since this Christmas it is so important to shop local.

What is your ideal way to spend a Friday night?

The joys of working in Cork city centre mean that on Friday evening it’s only a quick stroll to the nearest pub! Pre-Covid, I’d be out on the town having a few quiet Beamo’s in Fionbarras, Fran Well, Mutton Lane or the Raven. Instead of going out on the town during lockdown, my partner and I are treating ourselves to a different Cork take-away. To be honest there is nothing I love more than anything from Miyazaki on a Friday night.

Sorcha O'Brien of Nano Nagle Place
Sorcha O'Brien of Nano Nagle Place

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

Lie ins for sure…the only reason I would be out of bed before 9am at the weekends is if the house is on fire.

Does work creep into your weekend at all?

Working from home over the past few months has made it difficult to completely switch off, even at the weekends. I try my best, but I do find myself updating Nano Nagle Place’s Instagram Stories or re-organising a section of the online shop. However, I’ve made a promise to myself that I’m locking the laptop away so I can have a proper break come Christmas time.

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

I have never been to Italy (cue art historian gasps). As someone who has studied Italian paintings and sculpture with the brilliant Dr Flavio Boggi in UCC Department of Art History, I am mortified I have never been able to see them in person. Also, as a voracious pasta, pizza and gelato consumer it’s a must visit. Of course, I’d have to bring my Art History gals to enjoy that trip with me! We’re all living in different parts of the world but no better women for a museum visit and a bottle of wine afterwards.

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

I think this year, lockdowns and Levels 1-5 have allowed us to explore Ireland, and we’ve all been blown away by what our little country has to offer. During the summer we managed to head up to Connemara which was a revelation to me. We stayed in a pre-famine stone cottage halfway up a mountain, which had no WiFi, no TV, no technology of any kind really so it was books, puzzles, and exploring the West of Ireland for a week. It was a great place to escape and I’m very grateful I got a chance to explore Ireland this year…although a bit more sunshine would have made it even better.

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

Of course! I try and see my parents and two nieces every Sunday, and Saturdays are usually spent in town grabbing a coffee, going out to brunch or going for a stroll in Fitzgerald Park.

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

In my lockdown bubble I quite enjoyed a bit of cross-stitch. It really helped turn my brain off at what was a very stressful time. I bought a book from the NNP design shop before lockdown called Feminist Icon Cross Stitch which has loads of different patterns so that kept me quite busy.

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

Be entertained please! I can make a mean Shepherd’s Pie, but my partner Steve is a true star in the kitchen! He cooks and I clean (I love cleaning) so it’s a balanced relationship. A board game night with our friends is something I’m really missing at the moment.

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

I mean, there is no place in all of Cork that comes close to Good Day Deli for lunch, brunch, coffee and of course being in the gardens of Nano Nagle Place means it’s peaceful! What Clare and Mak have achieved in the last three years truly has been amazing to see and it’s great to see them going from strength to strength.

I get my coffee fix from Filter on George’s Quay, it’s a great place to sit and watch the world go by. And they’ve adapted to Covid so well.

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

Sundays are spent making a mental to-do list for work the next day while chilling out on the couch (usually with a glass of wine in hand). We recently acquired a record player and some of my dad’s old records so we’ve been spending our Sundays listening to those and reading, it’s a pretty great way to spend a Sunday evening, especially in winter.

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

I’ll usually set the alarm for 8.30am and I’m at my desk for 9am (OK sometimes 9.05am but don’t tell my boss!).

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