Arts Q&A: Naomi Long on ABBA, Harper Lee and Dirty Dancing

Jenny Lee puts well know faces on the spot about what really matters to them. This week, Alliance Party leader Naomi Long, who is taking part in the Women's Work Festival in Belfast

Alliance Party leader Naomi Long
Alliance Party leader Naomi Long

1. When did you think about a career in politics what were your first steps into it?

I actually took my first steps into a career in politics without knowing it a long time before I had ever considered one!

I joined Alliance around 1995 while I was working as a civil engineer. I became active in the party behind the scenes at party council, on our local association committee and helping out with campaigning.

I had no intention of ever standing for election and only agreed to do so in 2001 because I was told I wouldn't get elected! Well, I did – and I guess the rest is history.

2. Best gigs you’ve been to?

P!nk at the SSE Arena in 2010, Aerosmith in Chicago in 2014, when Slash was the warm up act, and Depeche Mode at the MEN Arena in November 2017.

3. Fantasy wedding/birthday party band?

It has to be ABBA. They were my first ever album as a kid and kicked off my life-long love affair with Eurovision! No party is complete without a few ABBA tracks. If they aren't available, I'd settle for Erasure.

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

Depeche Mode, Violator. It's one of my favourite albums and contains my favourite song – Enjoy the Silence. Plus, I think I could listen to David Gahan's voice forever.

Depeche Mode – Violator
Depeche Mode – Violator

5. And the book you’d take to a desert island and why?

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. It's my all-time favourite book.

6. Top three films?

Wizard of Oz, Schindler's List and Dirty Dancing – the first date movie I went to with my husband, Michael.

7. Worst film you’ve seen and why?

I'm sure I've seen worse on TV, but Far and Away with Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman is possibly the worst movie I ever paid to see in a cinema. Why? The accents. They were just atrocious and turned what was supposed to be a romantic tale of the hardship of Irish emigrants into a bit of a cringefest.

8. Favourite authors?

Aside from Harper Lee, I love a crime or courtroom novel, so if I'm looking for a bit of escapism, John Grisham or Patricia Cornwell. I also like Carl Hiassen – his novels are surreal, fast-paced and often utterly hilarious.

9. Sport(s) you most enjoy and top team(s)?

I'm not a major sports fan, but I like football. Growing up beside the Oval, I've always been a Glentoran fan, though I only rarely get to see them play these days. I don't watch the English Premiership, but I love the international matches and went to see Northern Ireland play in the Euros last year. And I'll definitely be watching the World Cup this year.

Other than football, I like watching winter sports. They're pretty high stakes and the failures are as spectacular as the wins. I think watching Torville and Dean as a teenager plus spending my weekends at Dundonald Icebowl probably had an impact. I actually went to the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and it was fantastic to see the ice skating, hockey and snow boarding live.

10. Ideal holiday destination?

I love travelling and seeing new places, so probably somewhere I haven't been before would be ideal. My favourite destination so far is probably South America, where I've been a few times. Cartagena, on Columbia's Caribbean coast, is absolutely beautiful. Still, it's hard to beat a few days in Donegal to re-charge the batteries and without the hassle of a long haul flight.

11. Pet hate?

People cracking their knuckles drives me up the walls. And I hate milk. I don't have it in the house.

12. What’s your favourite:

Dinner? Jambalaya

Dessert? Key Lime Pie

Drink? A Cosmopolitan

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

Michelle Brown. We met on our first day at secondary school and have been friends ever since. She was my bridesmaid and I'm Godmother to her daughter, Aimée.

14. Is there a God?

Yes. I have a deep, personal Christian faith which is hugely important to me.

:: Naomi Long will be taking part in the Soundtrack of Our Lives event at the Women's Work Festival at Oh Yeah in Belfast tonight alongside Claire Hanna, Carál Ní Chuilín, Claire Bailey and Paula Bradley. Tickets £10 via Womensworkni.co.uk