Arts Q&A: Journalist and author Patrick Freyne on PJ Harvey, the Star Wars Holiday Special and his literal 'pet hate'

We put performers and artists on the spot about what really matters to them. This week: journalist and author Patrick Freyne

Author and journalist Patrick Freyne will be in online conversation at this year's Belfast Festival. Picture by Chris Maddaloni
Author and journalist Patrick Freyne will be in online conversation at this year's Belfast Festival. Picture by Chris Maddaloni

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

I'D ALWAYS been writing bits and pieces but I never thought about a career in writing. As a youngster I fantasised about creating something so amazing I would never have to work again, so even in my fantasies I didn't have a "career". In reality, I began pitching feature articles to newspapers and magazines and slowly it turned into a job.

Best gigs you've been to?

PJ Harvey in the Olympia in 2008. David Byrne and St Vincent and a full brass band at the Electric Picnic in 2013 (I think). Going even further back, when I was about 11 my mother brought me to Goffs to see Mary Black like I was a fancy gentleman after my younger brother had a full-on tantrum which meant my father had to stay at home. It was very sophisticated. People were drinking wine.

Fantasy wedding/birthday party band?

Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, but possibly with the rhythm section from Talking Heads and an instruction that they have to smile more to keep things peppy.

The record you'd take to a desert island?

Hits 7, because it features Five Star, Shakin' Stevens, The Bee Gees and the Beastie Boys, all four of the acts you need in an emergency.

...and the book?

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark. It's the anti-Dead Poets Society – the tale of a charismatic but delusional teacher and the effect she has on a cohort of girls. It's crisp and cold and epically short. A perfect book.

Top three films?

Alfonso Cuaron's Children of Men, Powell and Pressburger's A Matter of Life and Death and Monty Python and The Holy Grail.

Worst film you've seen?

The Star Wars Holiday Special. This is a made-for-television film that George Lucas allowed be made in the gap between the debut of Star Wars and the creation of The Empire Strikes Back. I thought it would be funny but it isn't. It's truly awful and actively disturbing.

Top three authors?

Muriel Spark, Shirley Jackson and Graham Greene.

Sports you most enjoy and your favourite team?

I no longer even pretend to be interested in sport. I'm not even sure if I believe in sport, to be honest with you.

Ideal holiday destination?

Absolutely anywhere right now. I'm literally thinking of having a house swap with my relatives who live on the other end of my road. In the olden days, it would have been to the Dordogne where we went for a couple of years in a row and largely sat in the sun overlooking a big valley with glasses of wine and good books.

Pet hate?

I currently hate my pet. She's a tortoiseshell cat called Beebles and over the course of the pandemic she has taken it upon herself to wear away at my last nerve. I haven't checked my bank statements yet but I'm sure when I do I'll find she's been buying things online with my debit card.

What's your favourite...

Dinner? Sandwiches.

Drink? Renegade IPA from Porterhouse and my local off-licence has run out, so please send more.

Dessert? Banoffee.

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

My best friend is Corncrake. This isn't his real name but it's what his uncle used to call him and it's how he is referred to in my book OK, Let's Do Your Stupid Idea. We met when we were about 12: he was showing off some footballing moves and I was pretending to like football. So our relationship started based on this lie but it has improved since then. When we were younger, we took turns being the straight person to the other's doomed folly, but he has blossomed in middle age into a cool and interesting person.

Is there a God?

If you mean a magic bearded humanoid who lives in the clouds and has neurotically specific prayers and dance moves he wants us to do or he will torment us for eternity, then probably not. If you mean trees, clouds, sea, bunnies, whales, stars, you, me, the cosmos and all of existence connected as though one, then sure, that's just about vague enough to be true.

:: Patrick Freyne will be in conversation with Hugh Odling-Smee at 4pm on Saturday October 24 during the 2020 Belfast International Arts Festival. Watch this free event online via Belfastinternationalartsfestival.com. Patrick's book OK, Let's Do Your Stupid Idea is available now, published by Penguin Sandycove.