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My Creative Career – Nollaig Healy, Director of Clonmel Junction Festival

What is your current role and how long have you been working in it?

I’m the current Artistic Director of Clonmel Junction Arts Festival. I’ve been in this role since last June, although I did work with the Festival for many years as Festival Manager before leaving in 2014.

How did you get to where you are today and what influenced your decision to work in your chosen field?

I did an Arts degree in UCD followed a post-grad in Public Relations. I moved down to Clonmel in my early 20’s and was working in a great company called VisionID marketing barcode scanning software. I was really terrible at it! I just couldn’t get excited or enthusiastic about it. I read a book called What Colour is Your Rainbow and I decided I would go after something that I really loved. So I approached the then Festival Director and asked him if he wanted a hand with the Marketing. I pretty much talked my way into the job and then went on every arts marketing course going so I could get up to speed.

What do you love/enjoy most about your job?

I really love my job! You can to meet so many amazingly creative people, who I am genuinely in awe of their talent.  It is such a buzz being about to programme some of your favourite artists in Clonmel. I get so passionate about some of the artists, I insist friends go to experience the festival and they always thank me afterwards.  I love the way art can completely change the way you look at things.

And what are the most challenging parts of your job?

Budgets. You’re always working in the unknown with funders and sponsors and ticket sales. That can be very difficult. And stressful.

How do you relax?

I try to run or go to the gym in the morning, especially when I’m busy. The endorphins keep me going until at least 3pm! This whole keep fit thing is a revelation to me. I was the most unsporty child ever. Although I did practically live on top of a horse when I was a child but after I had children I gave it up completely. I’m now back in the saddle and it really does keep me sane. There is something about the smell of the earth, and the power of the horse that just grounds you.

What skills and personality traits do you think are essential for a job like yours?

The ability to multi-task and hold your nerve! There are constantly so many balls in the air, and you have to remember what you can slot where. Also being able to make decisions quickly. And grit. During festival time, you work really long days and don’t get a day off for weeks, you just have to suck it up and get on with it. But it’s all worth it when you look back at the fantastic work getting seen by new audiences who are in awe of it as I was when I first saw the work.

What’s your advice to anyone who wants to pursue a career in the same field?

You really have to work hard. And network. Go to many events and volunteer. So often, good volunteers end up getting paid work and great jobs. We as a Festival always try to do this. The good volunteers always stand out.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?

My father always said to me If you want something, go for it. It’s so true, if you want something bad enough, you’ll find a way to get it.

What has been the best moment of your career so far?

Getting the giant pair of Red Shoes installed over the foyer of The Gate Theatre! I jest, no it was definitely getting the position here as Festival Director in Clonmel Junction Arts Festival. I literally put blood, sweat and tears into the Festival over the years so it was just lovely to come back as Festival Director.

What are your career aspirations?

I want to run a really large-scale event or Festival, something massive, with no budgetary constraints! That’s the dream.

Clonmel Junction Arts Festival 2018 runs from 2–8 July. Check out the full festival programme (from Thu 24 May) at