Arts Q&A: Marie Campbell on Shirley Bassey, Liza Minnelli and... white leggings

Jenny Lee puts performers and artists on the spot about what really matters to them. This week, artistic director and writer Marie Campbell

Marie Campbell is artistic director in YouthAction NI’s Rainbow Factory School of Performing Arts

1. When did you think about a career as an artistic director and writer and what were your first steps into it?

I trained at the Gaiety School of Acting in Dublin which I loved and worked for several years as an actress and stage manager. However, I realised that I much preferred being a director and writer, behind the spotlight rather than in it. Now I love to teach and direct in my role as artistic director in YouthAction NI's Rainbow Factory School of Performing Arts. It's not just an arts school; here, young people can feel safe to explore who they truly are. We nourish their confidence, social awareness, leadership and professionalism in a world where poor mental health and discrimination are often commonplace.

2. Best gigs you've been to?

Shirley Bassey at The King's Hall in Belfast. She was unbelievable. Her voice was incredible and stage presence was a thing to behold. Bette Midler in Manchester Arena. I have loved Bette for years, from when I first cried and laughed at her movie Beaches. And Liza Minnelli – five times – in London and Paris. She is such a dynamic talent and totally enthralling.

3. Fantasy wedding/birthday party band?

The Glen Millar Orchestra – admittedly he's not in too good a shape at the moment but even a tribute band would be amazing, or I could see if Liza was free. ?

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

The Psalms Project – any of their albums for easy reflective listening but I'd sneak in Yentle by Barbra Streisand – because I love to sing my heart out on every song on this album and if I was on a desert island my audience would only be the odd perching toucan or a sunbathing gecko, I would imagine.

5. And the book?

I'd bring a huge blank notebook so I could write and, without doubt, my daily inspirational book I Am With You by John Woolley. ?

6. Top three films?

I like quite lighthearted entertainment usually, but strangely when I think of my favourite films, they are all heavy and deep with life-changing morality like Grand Torino, Life Is Beautiful, The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas and The Green Mile. I have to mention my top favourite, though, which is Cinemagic's Grace and Goliath (I wrote it). It showcases Northern Ireland to be the beautiful place it is with exceptionally warm-hearted people.

7. Worst film you've seen?


8. Favourite authors?

I do love spiritual authors such as Daniel J O'Leary who wrote Treasured and Transformed.

9. Sports you most enjoy?

I love a bit of football and I used to play volleyball. Now I like to cycle.

10. Ideal holiday destination?

Right now the south of France is calling me. My friend Paul McErlean had his 50th last summer in Nice where he rented a chateau and we partied for several days with lovely hilarious people. We brought the Norn Iron craic to Provence, that's for sure.?

11. Pet hates?

Meanness on social media – people seem to accept cruel videos as humour and say things online they would never say face to face. And white leggings.

12. What's your favourite:

Dinner? Christmas dinner with all the trimmings.

Dessert? A wedge of freshly baked soda bread with butter and raspberry jam.

Drink? Kir Royal.?

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

My longest best friend is Patricia Duddy. We met literally at birth as our mothers were in the same hospital. We have been through everything including: skateboards, bringing back bottles for 10p, stacking the turf and getting sunburnt to a crisp, glorious summer days in Bundoran, broken bones, crimpers, perms, snowball fights, laughing, crying, births, deaths and the tragic loss of our wonderful mothers Maeve and Dolores so closely together.

14. Is there a God?

Yes. God is a friend who loves unconditionally and who needs us too. Often this friend gets bad press as a distant cold-hearted judge who can't wait to punish us. It couldn't be more the opposite, as a parent and pal God knows how hard it is here on earth and how most of us have shadows and weaknesses and they are met with forgiveness and compassion.

:: Maire Campbell is Artistic Director in YouthAction NI's Rainbow Factory School of Performing Arts. They have just launched their Virtual Rainbow Factory. Young people can access through the website Email to receive your access password.

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