Belfast Telegraph

Q&A: Aidan Browne

The 50-year-old is artistic director of the Youth Lyric Theatre Company. He lives Belfast with his wife Joanne and their children, Rebecca (19) and Laurence (16)

By Kerry McKittrick

My best moment

I celebrated my 50th birthday last summer and my surprise present was something I will cherish forever. Joanne had arranged a two-week stay at my favourite hotel in Gran Canaria. Everyone knew about it but me so over the two weeks various friends and relatives would keep appearing at the hotel. It was a fortnight of surprises. It was just wonderful and I keep a photo of the resort at eye level on my desk to look at when the going gets tough.

My best song

It has to be Walk the Line by Johnny Cash. It has fabulous lyrics and is a real crowd-pleaser live. I saw the documentary about his concert in San Quentin as a teenager and have been a dedicated follower ever since.

My best way to relax

We are blessed to be able to spend time in beautiful Donegal and nothing in life gives me greater pleasure than to wrap up and walk along the beach, recharging the batteries with every step. It's only improved when we go to a restaurant filled with family, love and laughter.

My best job

I've been with the Youth Lyric since I joined as a student in 1978, and I then went back to cover four classes in 1986. A lot of people have come through the ranks over the years. I was listening to Dr Michael Moran on the radio the other day – he's an eminent oncologist at the Royal Victoria Hospital, but I remember him playing Romeo in our production of Romeo and Juliet.

I've told the board that the day I wake up on a Saturday morning and want to go and play golf instead of teaching drama then I'll stop doing it. That hasn't happened yet.

The best bit of advice anyone has ever given to you

I heard Lucy Lumsden from Sky TV talking at a conference recently and she said 'Love what you do and be lovely to work with'. Sound advice.

My best movie

Walk the Line with Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon. A gorgeous love story which was beautifully shot and edited with live music and no miming from the lead actors while singing.

The best gift ever given to you

Apart from the most recent holiday, my wife Joanne gave me a really beautiful watch for my 40th birthday 10 years ago. It was a Rolex and I'd wanted one since I was about seven when I saw an advert in a magazine about the famous firefighter Red Adair wearing one.

My best buy

A Youth Lyric hoodie! I wear it to class and rehearsals on Saturdays and it is a most forgiving item of clothing!

My best book

Alfred E Smith: The Happy Warrior by Christopher M Finan. It's a really brilliant biography of the man with the vision to build the Empire State building during the worst years of the economic recession in the USA.

My best achievement

Apart from watching our children Rebecca and Laurence succeed and achieve, there is nothing that I am more proud of than the young men and women of the Youth Lyric. Around 325 of them attend weekly classes in Antrim and Belfast and to see and hear them speak with confidence in public is wonderful. I think that performing arts should be at the centre of the curriculum and that everyone should learn how to stand and deliver.

In 2006 then President of Ireland Mary McAleese (above left) attended our production of Romeo and Juliet in the Waterfront Hall, and that was a tremendous achievement for all of us involved with the charity. The president and her husband, Dr Martin McAleese, were completely charming and very easy to chat to.

The Youth Lyric's production of Magical Mayhem will be on stage at the Waterfront Hall, Belfast, from this Wednesday to Saturday. For details, tel: 028 9033 4455 or visit

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