Saturday Q&A: Belfast film-maker Alison Millar

Bafta-winning film-maker Alison Millar (51) has just won the Royal Television Society Northern Ireland award for Best Documentary for her Arena film, The Changin' Times of Ike White

Belfast film-maker Alison Millar whose film Arena: The Changin' Times of Ike White has won this year's Royal Television Society Northern Ireland Best Documentary award
Jane Hardy

How do you unwind at the weekend?

Blimey – my husband Howard will say, "You never unwind at the weekend, but step up a gear". He's the opposite to me, the calmness to my manic life. We try to do shopping, clear the house and go for a walk with our dog. Roxy is a small rescue dog. She's 13 and has just gone blind but is still very feisty. We go to the seaside, say Helen's Bay, or to Ormeau Park which is near our home in Belfast. But of course I work at weekends quite a bit. My days and weeks bleed into each other which isn't really good but as a freelance you need to be flexible. Pre-lockdown, I would travel a lot for work. But now I like being at home, it's great.

What do you recall most about weekends growing up?

My best friend Cathy Herbison was a champion three-day eventer and I remember going to events with her. I didn't ride but I used to help out and I loved the craic as a teenager. I moved from Cullybackey to England when I was 18 and went to art college in Leicester, then trained at the National Film and Television School in Beaconsfield. It was, and is, the best film school in the world. Then I worked for artist Tony Hart, who was lovely, on his children's television art show Hartbeat. I was one of his girls making things and had weekends off.

Friday night or Saturday night?

I'm both really but I used to be a Saturday night person. We'd go down to The Wine Company in the Ormeau Road where Gilles holds wine tastings on Saturday. We'd link up with friends and end up falling round to someone's house.

Do you have a must-listen weekend radio show?

I do like Desert Island Discs. I loved the recent programme with Hilary McGrady, the head of the National Trust who's from Northern Ireland. I was punching the air as I was listening – she was amazing, so inspiring.

Must-watch weekend TV show/box set?

At the moment it's Schitt's Creek. Do watch it, it's great if you're stressed out with work or feeling a bit down. I also watch The Undoing.

Favourite eatery – or is it a takeaway?

My favourite place to eat is Ginger on Great Victoria Street where Simon does fish and beautiful food. Then there's The Thai Village where we have been going forever. I remember taking my kids – Sam (22), James (19) and Bea (17) – there from when they were young.

Is Sunday still special?

Yes, it always has been. It's a family day. We go and have lunch with Mum and Dad.

How do you feel on Sunday night about Monday morning?

I think everybody is waiting to email you and on Monday morning. I am still in touch with everybody I've filmed in my life and it's gorgeous to get an email from one of them. Among the stand-out people I've met would be first off the late Margaret McKinney, an incredible woman who campaigned for all the families of the Disappeared and wanted to get her son Brian back.

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