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Friday People: we chat to festival director Ruth McCarthy

We ask personalities about the special relationships in their lives

By Kerry McKittrick

The 44-year-old from Belfast is the director of the Outburst Queer Arts Festival, which is currently running in venues across the city.

My partner, Mel Bradley

I met Mel when we both worked on an outreach project in Londonderry. Mel was working on Foyle Pride and we bumped into each other at the Rainbow Project. We kept bumping into each other and then met up for coffee; that was about 18 months ago.

Mel is a performance poet and also works in an art gallery in Derry. It does help having someone who works in the creative industries as we both do very unusual hours. Mel really shares my passion for it, though, and is very much my equal in terms of what she does - she also does a lot of work with young people.

My best friends

I'm very lucky in that I have lots of close friends.

If I was to pick one person, though, it would probably be Laura McMahon.

I can't even remember how we met but she's a human rights barrister and is the most down to earth person in the world.

She's someone I can rely on. She's passionate about the same kind of work I do too but from a policy and legal angle instead of the arts angle I approach it from.

There's also my housemate, Orlaith Hendron, who works as a women's lobbyist - I have the best craic with her.

My parents

My mum Geraldine has just finished working in Dunnes Stores and my dad Joe is an accountant. I'm the middle child of three girls, and my sisters are Edel and Niamh.

We're a very close family, although my parents are in Limerick, where I grew up, so I don't get to see them as often as I would like.

I have a large extended family with lots of cousins, aunties and uncles so it was like a great big tribe.

I've done a lot of things over the years, from working for the BBC to being on the dole to running Outburst, and I don't think there's anything I've done that my parents haven't been proud of me for.

Who I go to for advice

Laura is someone I call on for all sorts of personal things and then my next door neighbour, Marie Quiery, is also on the board of Outburst so I would go to her to talk about that.

My mentor

Cian Smyth is a peer that I would certainly turn to to bounce ideas off. He's the chair of Outburst and has only been on the board for four years.

He looked after the Cultural Olympiad in Northern Ireland and is an international programmer so he has a lot of scope on a world level. He's a really good friend who is into the same stuff as me and whose immense knowledge I can make use of.

My celebrity crush, Julie Andrews

It's not exactly a secret - in fact it's a running joke among my friends, but my crush would be the actress from her Sound Of Music days. I think it's a childhood thing but I've always loved her.

Fantasy dinner party

Doris Day would have to be my first guest, as I'm really into old Hollywood stuff and I just adore her.

Then, I'd ask James Baldwin, who was a black gay writer and civil rights activist in the United States in the 1960s.

He was someone who wrote some amazing books and has been a huge influence on me.

Next, I'd ask John Waters, who directed the film Hairspray, because he is so much fun and so irreverent.

The final person would have to be Peggy Lee, so she could sing to us.

The Outburst Festival runs until tomorrow. For details on remaining events, visit

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