Factory-bleached baguettes stuffed with coleslaw, The Backstreet Boys and a perverse appreciation of Freddy Prinze Junior; independently, Brídín Murphy Mitchell and I had taste. Together, we made magic.
We met at work, sharing a beautiful, old office over-looking Parnell Square. She didn’t suffer fools, was a serious work-machine but had stand-up quality chat. I was a fool, had yet to locate my professional mojo but was powerless in the face of comedy. And so, two became one for 12 excellent months.
Plunging into the arts straight from school, Brídín studied Drama & Theatre Studies at Trinity College. By the time I met her at the Gate she was back from travelling and ready for a ‘real’ job. Three years later, she relocated to New York, landing a position at the Irish Arts Center almost immediately. Within four years, she was Managing Director there and an all ‘round boss lady. She stayed three more years before making the huge decision to move closer to home, changing careers in the process. She now works as a Music Publicist in London, looking after clients including Blur, Damon Albarn, PJ Harvey, Arcade Fire and U2.
Here she is on the business of being awesome.
What did you want to be when you were a kid?
The sixth member of The Famous Five
What or who were you most influenced by in your mid to late teens?
Books. I was a big reader from early childhood. I read everything I could get my hands on. And luckily for me, I grew up in a house full of books. Friendships were incredibly important to me too, I was fortunate enough to have a wonderful group of school friends, the nine of us are close friends to this day. We were completely in our own bubble of fun and friendship and I was protected from any bullying or peer pressure that so many kids endure in that period.
At what point did you start taking yourself seriously?
Probably not until my early 20s when I landed my first ‘proper’ job as assistant to Anne Clarke, then Deputy Director of the Gate Theatre. I was just back from a year in Australia, working in Eddie Rockets while doing a FÁS course to brush up on my computer skills. A friend of mine arrived into the pub one Friday evening with an ad she’d cut out of the Irish Times. She handed it to me and said ‘here’s your new job’. The confidence of youth!
Did you have a mentor or someone who championed you along the way?
Anne Clarke, now at Landmark Productions, was an important role model and early mentor for me. I worked at the Gate as her assistant for almost three years and I learned so much from her, on every level. I owe her a lot. And Michael Colgan was a great champion too. I first went to New York with a Gate production and immediately fell in love with the city. Two years later, when I decided to move there, he was nothing but supportive. The Gate was a very lucky break so early in my career.’
How do people react when you tell them what you do?
Interested. I usually get a lot of questions.
What do you love most about your job?
The people. I meet and work with a lot of interesting people. Musicians, artists, creatives from every discipline.
What do you find most challenging?
The travel and extended periods away from home can be difficult. But I can’t really complain, it’s a lot of fun too.
What is your super power?
The ability to fall asleep – immediately and completely – for whatever amount of time is available. 20 minutes, 12 hours… I’ll take it.
What gets you excited?
Visiting home and family in Kerry.
What is your relationship with time and ‘time management’?
I’m pretty good with time, I keep to office hours most days. Occasionally I’ll work late or have to see a show. I do travel a lot but I don’t find it too overwhelming.
What’s the biggest risk you’ve taken, personal or professional?
Moving from an established life and career in New York, to London, where I had no job and limited professional contacts. It was a risk but I was ready for a change, and thankfully it all worked out.
What’s your biggest fail – professional or otherwise – and what did you learn?
I have zero proficiency in languages. I have Irish and a bit of Italian but so many people I’ve met through work speak about 4 languages fluently. I like to think it’s never too late…
What experience has most shaped who you are today?
Losing my mother to cancer when I was 12 years old. It has given me a lifelong ability to appreciate the little things in life, together with certain fearlessness. I think that when you go through such a traumatic upheaval as a child, there’s a feeling that nothing can ever be that bad again. That was the case for me anyway.
What would you say to an 18 year old now, hoping to trace your career?
I’m not sure I’d have any strategic advice for someone starting out now. I never really had a 5 or 10 year plan as such. Much of my career thus far could be described as a series of opportunities, seized at exactly the right moment.
A belief in your own ability to figure it out and work hard is helpful. And when the hours are long and the work is not particularly well paid, as is so often the case in the arts unfortunately, everyone appreciates those who turn up on time, work hard and do their best.
And if you have an idea or a dream, go for it, what’s the worst that can happen? If you believe you can do something, you probably can!