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People: Vanessa Magowan on her special relationships

By Kerry McKittrick

Published 05/06/2015

Blooming success: Vanessa Magowan’s festival is in its sixth year
Blooming success: Vanessa Magowan’s festival is in its sixth year
Oz meeting: husband Michael

The 54-year-old is the co-founder and director of the Sunflower Fest music festival, along with her husband Michael. They live in Hillsborough and have two sons, Alex (22) and Louis (18).

My husband, Michael

Michael was backpacking in Australia with two other guys when we met.

My parents actually met them before I did, but I didn't pay much attention until a mutual friend invited all of us over to her house and that was it.

We lived in Australia for 20 years, and then moved out here about 16 years ago after Michael's father died so the boys could get to know that side of the family.

We both sold our respective businesses before we left Australia.

We bought Tubby's Farm so we could be close to Michael's mum. The Sunflower Fest is now in its sixth year.

My children, Alex and Louis

Louis is currently studying for his last A-level and Alex has now moved to Australia with his long-term girlfriend, although he does try to come back and play in the festival each year.

Michael and I would both say that our biggest achievement has been our boys. They're both really good citizens - Alex was head boy at Inst and Louis is deputy head boy. They just get on well with everyone.

I think one reason they've turned out so well is that when we arrived in Northern Ireland, our Australian TV wouldn't work here so we didn't replace it for four years. The boys spent those years reading, playing board games and travelling, and I think that had a good effect on them.

My best friends

I have a group of friends from university and we call ourselves GIN - Girls In Nature. We meet up once a year and do something like climb a mountain, raft down rapids or some silly challenge like that. They are Kim, Jane, Hels, Christine, Melissa and Jenny.

Person I go to for advice

For business I always go to my dad - he's a real bright spark and can always think creatively. For personal advice, I might talk to my mum or one of the GIN girls.

My parents, Rhondda and Bill

My dad is 91 and still plays tennis twice a week, while my mum does yoga and swims. Dad was a solicitor and mum was a court stenographer before she had the five of us. I'm the second youngest. There are David, Peter, Robert and James. Most of the family is still based in Australia.

My family are all very business- minded so they've been a great help for the festival - albeit from afar - and they're very proud of me. My parents haven't been to the festival, but then it's not really their thing.

My mentor, Dave Sinton

Dave Sinton is the man who brought U2 to Belfast in 1997 and has been our operations manager for the festival. No one knows more about festivals and the logistics of it than him.

My celebrity crush

To keep with a music theme I'm going to choose Annie Lennox. I love strong, down-to-earth women so she would be a bit of a role model for me as she's so fabulous. She's a good person and uses her fame and profile responsibly.

Fantasy dinner party

I would ask the Dalai Lama because I would love to sit and have a chat with him.

For comedy value I would also like the cast of Father Ted in character. I would invite Graham Norton, too.

Finally I would like Aung San Suu Kyi to add to the spiritual element.

  • Sunflower Fest takes place at Tubby's Farm in Hillsborough from July 31- August 2, with ticket prices starting at £20 for one day. This year's line-up includes Dreadzone and Senser

Belfast Telegraph

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