Cork woman Aisling O’Riordan is the Festival Manager for Cúirt International Festival of Literature. Here she talks about growing up in Cork, work and down-time
Tell us about yourself;
I’m Aisling O’Riordan, the Festival Manager for Cúirt International Festival of Literature in Galway. I make sure that the festival happens in a lot of different ways, and run the various teams that deliver the wonderful six days of events.
I lived in Cork until 2020 and worked on lots of different projects there. I ran Quarter Block Party for six years with Caoilian Sherlock, Ruairi Donovan and loads of brilliant folks.
I worked with The Good Room for a few years and ran the first two It Takes A Village festivals. I put on loads of gigs in Cork for a long time before the pandemic and worked in loads of different arts institutions there in between.
I’ve been living in Galway for the last two years and in my spare time I like to read, go to gigs and dips in the sea.
Where were you born?
I was born in Cork and grew up on the northside of the city. Cork is my favourite place and I love it even more since moving away!
Where do you live?
I currently live in a lovely house in Galway city with my partner Cormac and our housemates Rob and Aindle.
My parents are the brilliant Jo and Mick. They live in Cork city. My dad is a northsider for life and my mam is a converted Kerry woman. I also have a half-brother Eoin who lives in Dublin.
Person you most admire?
I have a lot of grá for my friends. They are all brilliantly talented at everything they do.
Person who most irritates you?
I’d be in a lot of trouble if I answered this honestly. I am irritated most by people who think they are ‘devil’s advocates’.
Where was your most memorable holiday?
I went to Faro a few years ago with my great friend Bríd and we spent a day sitting on the beach drinking cocktails and ‘reading’ our books. It was glorious.
Favourite TV programme?
Over the last few years I have gotten very into the Bravo universe and have watched a lot of the Housewives franchises. My favourite show at the moment however is Below Deck Sailing Yacht. I’m a big fan of the Irish Chief Stew Daisy and the combination of drama and dealing with charter guests is just what my brain needs to properly switch off.
Favourite radio show?
I ran/hosted a few different radio shows on Dublin Digital Radio over the last couple of years. It’s such a brilliant station and gorgeous community. My favourite show at the moment is Soft Focus with Cork’s own Jack Horgan and Elaine Malone.
Your signature dish if cooking?
I cook a mean vegan ramen broth. My partner is vegan and I’ve got too many food allergies to count so it’s fun (and a lot) to try and come up with meals that work for us both.
Galway has some great spots - I’m a HUGE Ard Bia fan. I really miss Cork institutions like MyGoodness, Iyer’s and Liberty Grill and make sure to stop in there anytime I’m home.
Last book you read?
The brilliant Catfish Rolling by Clara Kumagai. It’s a YA novel about grief, trying to find people and getting lost in the process. It’s already one of my favourite books of the year and Clara is appearing on a panel with Caroline O’Donoghue and Adiba Jaigirdar at the festival this year!
Best book you read?
This is a very hard question to answer when working on a literature festival. My favourite book of last year in fiction was Trespasses by Louise Kennedy. It is a stunning story about falling in love during the troubles in Belfast. My favourite non-fiction book from last year was Poor Little Sick Girls by Ione Gamble. It’s a brilliant series of essays about living with chronic illness and being a woman existing on the internet. Funnily enough, they BOTH are appearing at Cúirt this year!
Last album/CD/download you bought?
I went to see Alex G in Vicar Street recently and picked up his great new album God Save The Animals. It’s weird and creepy and full of bangers.
Again, this is like asking me to pick a favourite child or something. I have so many songs and album for different moods. Two songs I keep returning to when I need to reset are Helicopter by Deerhunter and Open Wide by The Altered Hours.
One person you would like to see in concert?
I still haven’t gotten to see Erykah Badu in concert. I saw her do a DJ set in the Sugar Club in Dublin a few years ago which was very fun and weird. She played Smells Like Teen Spirit at one point and everyone lost it. I would love to see her belt out Tyrone in a room full of people!
Do you have a pet?
I don’t, but I am a big fan of cats and would love to own one or two very soon. If anyone reading this wants to give me a cat, I would love that.
Morning person or night owl?
I think I am neither at the moment! Once I get a coffee in me I can manage the mornings but I would really rather work from bed most of the day.
I am big fan of the Grandparents in Charlie And The Chocolate Factory - they had the right idea about how to live.
Your proudest moment?
I was really proud of the six Quarter Block Party festivals I was involved in from 2015 to 2020. At the time it was extremely stressful but looking back we created something really special and I’m proud of all the gigs and people we squashed into rooms around Cork city.
Spendthrift or saver?
I think I stress-spend. I like treats and when I am stressed in the run up to the festivals I’m working on, I find myself buying lots of little things I do not need.
Name one thing you would improve in your area in which you live?
I would love to see affordable housing for everyone. I don’t ever see a time now where me or my friends will be able to buy houses. The idea is so far away from reality and it shouldn’t be. Big shout out to organisations like CATU who are doing so much work for those who are in dire situations with landlords. I would also like to see more support, acceptance and safety for the trans community.
What makes you happy?
Being cosy, a good book, a great gig, nice coffee, dancing, eating great food (shout out to MyGoodness nachos), Below Deck Sailing Yacht - all the simple things really.
What else are you up to at the moment?
Each year I get to work on End of the Road Festival in the UK and Other Voices in Dingle so those will be happening in the second half of the year. I’m also working on some projects around Fat Activism and the idea that people in fat bodies deserve dignity, healthcare and respect. I am a person who lives in a Fat body and I try to creatively work through the experiences I have had in the hopes of helping others. I am hopefully putting together a pamphlet in the summer with Mot Collins.
I’m also working on my own writing practice and figuring out what I’d like to do with it!