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All the best: Sean Doran on his favourite things

Sean Doran (54) is the director of the Lughnasa International Friel Festival. He lives in Paris and Belfast with his wife, Ruby Philogene and they have one son, Lughan (23).

My best moment

That was when my son was born — that shook everything up. It took me from an experimental freelance performer into much more stable roles.

My best song

Dancing Queen by Abba. I’ve had no shame in my fondness of Abba since the Seventies. My other great hero is Freddie Mercury, so the other song is Bohemian Rhapsody.

My best way to relax

I read a lot and I like to walk. When I’m in Paris, I wholly embrace the cafe culture of the continent — it’s where being artistic is normal. It’s considered a bit mad over here.

My best bit of advice

My dad told me after I graduated that the first thing I should do when I got a job was to plan my exit. It sounds bad, but it’s all about not letting the grass grow under your feet. I never stay too long in one place, so it’s worked for me.

My best gift

My parents gave me the gift of music with instruments and lessons. I started with Irish traditional music and then moved on to classical. I was a performer up until the age of 30.

My best job

I ran the English National Opera as artistic director and chief executive from 2003 to 2006. The human voice and classical music are my number one loves, so to be given one of the great opera houses of the world to lead was fantastic. We produced 20 operas a year in the heart of London, so it was very exciting.

My best achievement

Taking the first ever opera to Glastonbury in 2004. We brought a 100-piece orchestra and nine singers to the Pyramid Stage to perform The Valkyrie by Wagner. The field fell silent, with 50,000 people in tears — at the time it was the biggest ever live opera.

An added bonus was that the act that followed was my ultimate hero, Christy Moore. Because I was the director of the opera, I had an access all areas pass, so I was able to just sit at the side of the stage and watch him.

My best buy

It has to be a pair of slippers from Clarks. I walk a lot, so I can have problems from time to time with my feet. I have three pairs; one in Paris, one in Belfast and one in London. It must be the best outside comfort ever given to me.

My best film

It’s an Argentinian movie called The Secrets In Their Eyes. It’s about the coup in Argentina, which has always interested me, but it’s a fantastic film and won an Oscar.

My best book

It’s Le Grand Meaulnes by Henri Alain-Fournier. It’s a story about a boy which I read as a boy, and it really affected me. It has beautiful language.

  • The Lughnasa International Friel Festival will take place between Belfast and Donegal on August 20-31. For tickets and information go to

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