FROM the midlands of England to the multicultural cosmopolitan hub of Cork, Sophie Motley, 37, the new artistic director of the Everyman, is taking things in her stride.
Sophie was appointed as artistic director of the Everyman in Cork in November 2020 after spending four years working as the artistic director of a UK touring theatre company in Shropshire, called Pentabus.
While Sophie grew up in England, she studied at the Samuel Beckett Centre at Trinity College Dublin (TCD) and trained on Rough Magic’s Seeds 3 and the National Theatre’s studio director’s programmes.
Sophie had been accepted into University College Cork and TCD, but at the time chose Dublin as it felt closer to home in Shrewsbury.
The Everyman’s newest recruit also founded the theatre company WillFredd Theatre and was associate director of Rough Magic.
Sophie was also the staff director at the English National Opera and resident assistant director at the Abbey Theatre.
No stranger to Ireland, Sophie spent her summers as a child in Kilkenny and grew up horse riding, before getting her first pony, Cinnamon, from her godmother at the age of 12.
Living in Cork for less than a month, Sophie is overwhelmed by enthusiasm and interest for her new-found home.
“Cork seems very cool. It is a city, but it has a lot of character. It is not yet ruined by development and, most importantly, the people are sound.
“Cork people are fiercely loyal and naturally kind. They’re good craic; they have the rhythm of the countryside running through their bones like the Lee, with the sophistication of a major European capital.”
Sophie said that, as a country woman, she wasn’t sure how she would find the pace of city life, but has found herself enjoying Cork’s natural rhythm.
“I hate big cities and I’ve lived in the countryside for the past 10 years. I find Cork the perfect balance of super metropolitan delicious coolness and open space. I love that you can see the fields on the southside of the city from the top offices in the Everyman.
“I live in a beautiful house near the city centre and I love that, in two weeks, I’ve already got to know my neighbours. You don’t get that in most cities.”
The English lass said she was also enjoying reconnecting with her old friends in Cork as many of her colleagues in the arts have found their way to the rebel county over the years also.
Sophie said that, at the moment, her favourite thing to do in Cork is walking the Marina, driving out to the beaches in the county and watching the waves with Spoon, her brown and white spaniel.
“Spoon is a theatre dog. She is four years old and she loves city life, hanging out in Shalom Park and walking the Marina.”
The artistic director also said she had a soft spot for good coffee, something Cork has much of.
After spending time living in Wicklow while working in Dublin and then back home in the midlands, Sophie said there were things she missed from her past lives, but said she was embracing everything the rebel county had to offer.
“I miss the Wicklow mountains, where I lived for six years — in west Wicklow, the wild, real, dangerously beautiful bit.
“In the UK, I miss my horses, the mud, my rural friends (when you work in the arts, having friends who don’t is so important), being able to loose the dog and walk through the fields, knowing everyone in all the shops and buying delicious fresh croissants in the market in Ludlow. However, my new neighbours baked croissants last week, so Cork is replacing most of what I miss.”
Sophie said moving to Cork for the dream job was an easy decision. “It’s the best job ever!”
Building on the great achievements of the previous artistic director at the Everyman, Julie Kelleher, Sophie said she was looking forward to maintaining the legacy of the city’s arts hub: “The privilege of running one of the city’s major cultural institutions, with the responsibility of making and telling stories from Cork and across the country, my colleagues, the beautiful building that is the Everyman and dreams of opening her doors one day soon. Also, the brilliant people that I already know and am yet to meet, make it easy to settle in Cork”
Looking to the future, Sophie said she thought Cork was the place for her, although she said she might find herself drifting to the countryside some time in the not-too-distant future.
“I might move out of the city eventually, but I love Cork. I love being near the sea, that my friends are a short walk or a drive away and, most importantly, the cultural life is excellent.”