I spot Chloe O’Connor with two of her friends in Meeting House Square, Temple Bar. I’m shooting some photos for my blog with Fashion Boss, Lorna Duffy. Chloe and her mates are straight out of an art house movie; all blunt fringes, minimalist jewellery and that French girl insouciance it’s hard to emulate. Head-to-toe in Cos ensembles (no doubt with some vintage thrown in for good measure), they’re absorbed in a conversation over coffee. I just have to butt in. I’m crushing over their outfits and can’t help but fan girl when I ask them about their style and my suspicions are confirmed – they all have ultra cool, arty jobs and practically ooze culture. You can imagine any one of them as a modern day heroine in French New Wave – think Truffaut or Godard.
Chloe O’Connor is the Development Manager with St. Patrick’s Festival, a four day festival running from Thursday 16 March in Dublin. She’s brimming with enthusiasm for her job, a recent appointment which sees her harnessing the creative energies of Ireland’s massive pool of talent and showcasing them on a national forum. Forget the naff associations with twee parades and binge drinking, Chloe feels she has a role to play in challenging the national perception of the occasion and she’s determined to do this.
It’s so exciting to be part of an important, national event that has such scale. The Festival sets out to completely transform the national and international perception of St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin. This country is bursting with the kind of creative energy, ideas and enthusiasm required to do the job.
Chloe took up her position just six weeks ago but she is no neophyte to working in the Arts. Having studied history and classics at NUI Maynooth and a post grad in computers, Chloe went on to work with a tech start up in the late 90s – right at the time when the internet was exponentially becoming an inextricable part of business life. All the while, she volunteered with The Ranelagh Arts Festival and it was this role that gave her the sucker-punch she needed to make the transition into working in the Arts. Describing her stint volunteering as “an extraordinary experience,” Chloe recognised the power of the collective to make and create art and it made her want to ditch the corporate for the creative sphere more than anything.
” It showed me the power of a community working together, as well as the power of art to enhance your view of the world. I believe that art and culture have the power to transform society. It can be powerful on a personal level; it can make you laugh, cry and process events in your life. On a community level, it can bring diverse people together, who may not share anything else in common. It can be a healer and an equaliser, thought provoking and fantastic fun.”
Chloe is a kindred spirit. We are both culture vultures, firmly of the belief that art is essential, now more than ever. In the era of social media where everything is so curated and polished, authentic art stands out a mile. Not only that but in the era of information saturation, we can reach overload and feel disconnected to the wider issues in the world like climate change, poverty, political instability, war. Sometimes it takes the voice of a poet to really get under our skin. For Chloe, Patti Smith was that person. Seeing her perform at the Abbey Theatre, was says Chloe, “a life-changing experience.”
“She’s such a brilliant writer. I love her album, Horses, but when I read her book Just Kids (winner of the 2010 National US Book Award in the nonfiction category), I was blown away by the writing. She’s a poet. I cried when I finished the book; it was such a beautifully written account of a relationship.”
In fact, Chloe was so taken by Smith’s writing she rushed to see an exhibition at the infamous Chelsea Hotel where Smith and her longstanding lover-turned-friend Robert Mapplethorpe fled after witnessing a murder. Home to bohemians and beatniks like Allen Ginsberg, Andy Warhol and William Burroughs, the Chelsea Hotel was a hotbed for artists who traded art for rent.
Chloe feels energised by the Arts and in her new role, she is particularly excited about seeing Young Blood: The Beats and Voices of Our Generation. Inspired by the poem, My Ireland by Stephen James Smith, the event takes place at the National Concert Hall this Saturday, 18 March. Challenging notions of Irishness, this event champions the best of Ireland’s hiphop and spoken word scene. Choice Music Prize winners, Rusangano Family are a major draw, as are Dublin’s soul pop rappers, Hare Squead (named in NME’s top ten BEST new bands to watch for in 2017) and Kojey Radical (nominated for two MOBO awards in 2016) in what promises to be an alternative yet authentic insight into Irish national identity today. Mention spoken word and it is impossible not to think of Emmet Kirwan’s explosively political yet personal Heartbreak, a comment on Ireland’s abortion laws today. The line-up for this event is phenomenal; in fact, I’m blown away at the diversity on display. Dublin poet Stephen James Smith’s poem was the catalyst for this event celebrating the young blood of Ireland. In response to a spoken word commission on the Festival’s theme Ireland You Are, Chloe is champing at the bit to see him perform live at this event.
So what are Chloe’s other cultural recommendations for the year ahead? Joan as Policewoman, of course, tonight in the Button Factory, Beyond Caravaggio at the National Gallery of Ireland and James Vincent McMorrow in Trinity College Park in July. She also mentions the Festival of Writing and Ideas at Borris House in June, Martina Galvin’s current exhibition (running until 23 April) in the Butler Gallery in Kilkenny and the Swell festival at the Earagail Arts Festival this July.
And when Chloe O’Connor gives a tip, it’s worth noting in the diary.
You can check her out @twitsense on Twitter.
Photos by Neal Byrne, words by Mary Cate Smith.