Characters of Cork: Catherine says 'laughter, CADA is my medicine!'

“Arts keeps me going, I’m never bored." 
Characters of Cork: Catherine says 'laughter, CADA is my medicine!'

Catherine Mahon Buckley with young dancers and instructors at CADA. Pictures: Larry Cummins

A teacher who wants people to treat others the way they would like to be treated, Catherine Mahon Buckley is this week’s Character of Cork, says Roisin Burke

A DOUBLE jobbing workaholic for 30+ years, CEO of CADA Performing Arts Catherine Mahon Buckley says laughter is her tonic and working with kids has kept her laughing for over three decades.

CADA was founded in her mother’s front room with just three students 35 years ago after Catherine came home from London with a diploma from the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts (LAMDA).

The CADA founder said she noticed students going for drama, dance and music separately and began offering combination classes where drama, dance and music were incorporated into a two-hour session, while also offering specialised classes in each discipline as well.

“Parents can sometimes be cramming too many things in. I’m a big believer in free time.”

CADA offers classes to all age groups from three years of age to anything above. “It’s never too early, never too late to do something, if you really want to do it.”

Located on Pine Street for the past 17 years, Catherine said she cleared the mortgage on the building just before Covid, the same year she retired as a secondary school teacher in Ballyphehane.

“I love it here, I think it’s important to have a good working environment and I enjoy the creativity, energy and belonging I get from this building.”

A well-educated woman, Catherine is currently working on a PhD at UCD where she also obtained a MA in the Power of Women in Arts, on top of her LAMDA diploma which she pursued after completing a BA in English and business at UCC.

Living in Knockraha with her husband Ted, surrounded by family, Catherine said she loves her neighbourhood. The pair recently lost their pet, an English sheepdog, Paris, whom they had for many years after taking her in when her owner died suddenly.

“She was part of the family,” Catherine said, “it takes time to mourn that loss.”

Ted and Catherine took each other’s names when they got married, Mahon Buckley, a progressive move that Catherine credits to her mother: “My mother was a woman’s woman.”

Aside from her personal life and loves, Catherine said the arts are a liveline to her.

“Arts keeps me going, I’m never bored. 

"I love the creativity and the process, the lonely part is letting go of a production at the end.”

Catherine said she always feels grateful for her health and the energy, determination and belief to make CADA a success.

“Running a business is hard at times, there are tough decisions to make, but it is my proudest achievement, setting up a business and keeping it successful.”

CADA has a range of diplomas and certificates that are accredited and affiliated with LAMDA.

Settled and satisfied with her lot, Catherine said she sometimes wonders about what would have happened if she had stayed in London and where she would be now.

“Ted has always been very good to me, I fell in love over the years. The creative world can be very fragile and Ted is an accountant, very grounded.”

Covid was a tough time for CADA but Catherine said the blackest day was cancelling the Everyman panto which had been running for 28 years. Throughout Covid, CADA did zoom teaching, with a range of competitions and activities, with something never every week.

When she’s not working or studying, Catherine said she loves gardening, swimming in the pool and reading biographies.

The drama teacher said one of the things she tries to instill in her students is to treat people the way you would like to be treated.

“There are a lot of different perspectives in the showbiz world, you need to be open-minded and flexible to change.”

Catherine said she works hard to never hold grudges or pass judgement.

“I try to see the good in everyone, all humans have strengths and weaknesses.”

Another nugget of wisdom Catherine tries to pass on is for students to be confident in their abilities.

“Believe in yourself, look at your strengths and hold on to them.

“Teens have it tough, trying to be individuals and also trying to fit in. It’s very muddled.”

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