Arts Q&A: Ursula Burns on Leonard Cohen, WB Yeats and brass bands

Jenny Lee puts performers and artists on the spot about what really matters to them. This week, harpist and comedian Ursula Burns

Harpist Ursula Burns who will perform at this month's Mount Stewart Conversations festival at the County Down National Trust property

1. When did you think about music as a career and what were your first steps into it?

I am still wondering what to do when I grow up. Everything happened by accident – I started playing harp and six months later I had my first and only record deal.

2. Best gigs you’ve been to?

Coco and the Butterfields, Leonard Cohen and Bulgarian State Choir.

3. Fantasy wedding/birthday party band?

I saw a massive brass band play old times tunes in the alley by the Duke of York in Belfast. Everyone was dancing and it was very romantic. I don’t know what they are called, but I would like that.

4. The record you’d take to a desert island?

Franz Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody. If I had a piano there I could spend all my time learning this.

5. And the book?

Complete work of WB Yeats – I could set poems to music.

6. Top three films?

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Pan's Labyrinth and The Brand New Testament.

7. Worst film you’ve seen?

I have deleted any bad ones from my memory.

8. Favourite authors?

Tom Robbins, Cynthia Sue Larson and Pablo Neruda.

9. Sport you most enjoy and top team?

I don’t watch sport but I like to swim, cycle and do yoga.

10. Ideal holiday destination?

South Sea Islands.

11. Pet hate?

Driving first thing in the morning.

12. What’s your favourite:

Dinner? Anything with spinach gets my vote.

Dessert? Chocolate yummy something.

Drink? Red wine and presently Kombucha.

13. Who is your best friend and how do you know each other?

Claire Lewis – we met in a wee shop in Portstewart 25 years ago and she's like a sister to me.

14. Is there a God?

There is energy – but it doesn’t have big hands, a curly beard and a smiley face.

:: Ursula Burns is a guest at the first ever Mount Stewart Conversations festival, organised by the National Trust, on September 17 and 18. The festival will feature a weekend of debate, ideas, storytelling, art and music. For further information and tickets visit


Today's horoscope


See a different horoscope: