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Friday people: We ask Alison Graham about her loved ones

We ask personalities about the special relationships in their lives

The 50-year-old lives in Bangor with her partner Kieran Gilmore and their children Katie-Rose (14) and Rory (11). They are founders of the Open House Festival, which kicks off this weekend in Bangor.

My partner, Kieran Gilmore

Kieran is festival director and I'm the festival manager so we're a couple as well as partners in business. We met in London at a party in 1992. We started talking about music and we haven't stopped talking since. Music has become our business and after we moved back to Northern Ireland we started the Belfast Open House Festival 16 years ago, while the Bangor Open House Festival started last year.

We've been together for 22 years now and Kieran proposed to me on the 20th anniversary of the day that we met. We were having a quiet dinner with our kids and Kieran gave me a ring – though, Katie-Rose made him do it again properly and ask my dad for permission first!

We still haven't got around to getting married. I think it's because we work as event organisers and can't bear the thought of having to organise a wedding.

My children

Being a mum keeps you busy. Rory and Katie-Rose are both lively and into their music – one of the biggest arguments in the house is who is on Spotify.

They're both quite independent and creative, too. They love the festival and come to some of the gigs with us.

My best friends

Mandy Walker and I lived in the same street in Bangor when we were seven and went through school together. She lives in the south of France now but we're as close as ever. Her eldest son Jason will be coming over to work on the festival for the rest of the summer.

My other best friend is Pauline Cameron, who is also a Bangor girl. I got to know her when I moved back from London in 1999. She's also Mandy's best friend so although she had gone to France she left a best friend for me to play with. Pauline is a secretary at a special needs school. She's lovely, fun and glamorous. My friends are really important to me.

I also have a group of friends I made when the kids were at nursery and they're a big part of my life.

My parents

My dad Norman worked in the heating trade and my mum Maureen was a social worker, although now she plays golf and bridge. They live just two streets away from us in Bangor so we see them quite a lot.

I also have a brother, Paul, who lives in Hong Kong and a sister, Gill, who lives in London. I'm the youngest of the three.

Even though they live away from Northern Ireland I talk to them on Skype and Facetime a lot.

We are a close family and my parents are very proud of what we've achieved with the festival. They're big supporters and constantly hand out programmes and recruit people to come to gigs.

Who I go to for advice

I have different people for different things. As far as the kids and family go, I would turn to my mum as she's a great homemaker and also very family-oriented.

My sister and brother are great for business advice – my brother runs his own advertising business and my sister is in human resources for a global company.

My mentor

An early, major figure in my life was Patricia Irvine, who was my speech and drama teacher at school. She gave me a lot of confidence and I think that lead me into a career in communications and the arts.

Also there's Kieran. He would be the biggest influence in me and we talk work stuff day and night.

My secret crush is ... David Bowie

He has been the love of my life since I was 10, but that's not really a secret for anyone who knows me. I also love the actor James Spader. It's a weird crush but he gets some really interesting roles and I think he would be very intriguing and complicated.

My fantasy dinner party

Noddy Holder, from Slade, would be my first guest. He played at the festival last year and we had a drink with him after the show. He was so funny and so lovely.

I'd also ask Susan Sarandon, who is my favourite actress and has done some films with James Spader. She's funny and sassy and smart and I like that in my friends. Next, I'd ask comedian Sean Hughes. He's coming to the festival this year but I think he would be hilarious to have at a dinner party. Finally, I'd ask Jack Black, as he's funny and smart, too.

  • The Bangor Open House Festival runs throughout August and features acts such as Foy Vance, Eddi Reader and Alabama 3. For details, visit

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