‘If you didn’t like camogie there wasn’t much else on offer’ - folk artist Jane Cassidy

Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week: traditional folk artist and writer, Jane Cassidy

Traditional folk artist Jane Cassidy
Traditional folk artist Jane Cassidy
1. Up and at it - what is your morning routine?

I wish I could sleep in, but I can’t. I still waken at 7am every morning, even though it’s been years since I had to get to work by nine o’clock. I’m definitely a morning person and wake full of energy and ambition for the day. I usually get an hour of writing done in my PJs.

2. What might you eat in a typical working day for...

Breakfast? Bowl of porridge with cinnamon and blueberries.

Lunch? Vegetable soup, slice of bread, cheese and fruit.

Evening meal? I enjoy cooking and making something with fresh ingredients every evening. Red meat only features about once a week. I eat an apple later in the evening to replace my craving for toast and marmalade, which I used to eat for supper when I was younger.

3. Is nutrition important to you – do you take health supplements?

Eating well is very important to me but, so far, I haven’t felt the need to take supplements. I simply try to cook a good range of food. I use Jamie Oliver’s cookbooks a lot, which gives me ideas for quick, simple meals with lots of flavour.

4. Ever been on a diet – if so, how did it go?

I’ve never followed a particular diet, but halfway through Covid I realised I needed to take myself in hand. Like many people, I’d turned to baking as a positive activity, but eating the results was the downside. I stopped making and eating banana bread, cut out the daily croissant and reduced my wine intake. It took about a year, but I lost a stone and have pretty much managed to keep it off since.

5. Weekend treat?

I love wine with my evening meal, but try to confine it to the weekends.

6. How do you keep physically and mentally fit?

I play golf once a week - weather and the condition of the course permitting. If I’m not playing golf, I walk for an hour, listening to trad music or current affairs podcasts as I go. Writing every day keeps me mentally fit. Last August, I fulfilled a lifetime ambition by having my first novel published: a psychological thriller set in Belfast and Islandmagee called The Desire Line (Poolbeg Press).

7. Best tip for everyday fitness?

I recently attended a dance fitness class for a few weeks and really enjoyed it. Since then, when the ads come on the TV and there’s pop music accompanying them, I get up and bop for a couple of minutes before subsiding into the armchair again... I know... Don’t tell anyone...

8. Were you a fan of schools sports/PE or do you have a memory from those days that you would rather forget?

I liked PE, but we got very little of it at my girls’ convent school back in the day. If you didn’t like camogie, there wasn’t much else on offer. I loved netball and there was one great year when we had a young, enthusiastic PE teacher who trained us and brought us out to play matches - short-lived but memorable.

9. Teetotal or tipple?

As previously mentioned, I like wine with food, rather than drinking on an empty stomach. I love something bubbly when there’s any family celebration, although the fizzy stuff doesn’t agree with me.

10. Stairs or lift?

I confess I’d choose the lift every time. That stems from an anxiety I’ve had all my life about dying from a heart attack like my dad who dropped dead when he was 45 years old. When I feel my heart thumping in my chest, I can’t help thinking, ‘This is it, my turn’.

11. What book are you currently reading?

I’ve just finished The Running Grave by Robert Galbraith (aka JK Rowling). It’s over a thousand pages, but I couldn’t put it down.

12. Best Netflix/streaming TV?

I watch a lot of dark, twisty, psychological series on TV. If I have to pick out something, it would have to be The Handmaid’s Tale.

13. Any new skills or hobbies?

Traditional singing has been part of my life since I discovered it during my teens during the folk revival. I love getting involved in new projects like the Kabosh theatrical walking tour production, Mary Ann, The Forgotten Sister, for which I’m musical director.

I liked PE, but we got very little of it at my girls’ convent school back in the day. If you didn’t like camogie, there wasn’t much else on offer

—  Jane Cassidy
14. How do you relax?

Now that I’m retired, there’s more time to relax than I really want or need, so my focus is on finding fulfilling activity. If I’m tired and need to sit down, I still have to occupy my mind, so I read books and newspapers and do puzzles and crosswords.

15. What would you tell your younger self?

Lots of stuff, but my younger self probably wouldn’t listen...

16. What are your goals for 2024?

To write another novel as atmospheric and mysterious as my debut.

17. What time do you get to bed and do you think you get enough sleep?

I’m a Cinderella and head for bed at midnight. I’ll waken at 7am, no matter what time I go to bed, so if I stay up into the early hours, I regret it next day.

18. Biggest gripe or regret?

I wish I’d learned to dance. I was once offered the chance to go to a ballet class when I was young, but was too shy to take it up and have regretted it ever since.

19. Have your priorities in life or perspectives changed?

They’ve evolved as I’ve moved through the different stages of my life. At this point, I view living like a plane flying through the air. I have to keep moving forward to stay airborne.

20. Has coronavirus – or any health epiphany or life event - changed your attitude towards your own mortality?

The deaths of my parents 60 years apart are the two life events which have shaped my view of my own mortality. As mentioned, my dad died of a heart attack when I was seven - a traumatic introduction to the idea of mortality. In contrast, my Mum enjoyed perfect health and only died last year at the age of 98. Hopefully, if I have my mum’s genes, I still have decades to go.

Jane Cassidy is musical director for Kabosh Theatre’s Mary Ann, The Forgotten Sister (April 13-28) which is interspersed with songs. Info at