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My Weekend: With Arts Over Borders festival manager Sally Rees

The festival manager of the Arts over Borders Happy Days Enniskillen Beckett Festival on  growing up in Fermanagh and remembering a dear friend


Sally Rees

Sally Rees

Sally Rees

The best time to get up at the weekend is?

Last summer I was usually up and out for the door for a 10am dip in Lough Erne with the Fermanagh Flounders, but this summer I am busy preparing for the 10th Anniversary Happy Days Enniskillen International Beckett Festival which runs on July 21-25. So, the weekend is an extension of the working week at the moment. We have a lot of site-specific performances from Culicagh to the caves and Devenish Island, as well as in and around the island town, so there’s a lot to organise, but I love seeing how these places are transformed into theatrical spaces.

Breakfast or brunch?

Sunday brunch. There’s nothing better than some poached eggs, salmon and avocado, on cornbread from the local bakery Leslies. Weekdays it’s coffee, coffee, coffee – and to be fair on weekends too – as a treat, it would be coffee and an almond and cherry croissant from FOLK.

What does an ideal Saturday look like?

Definitely has to involve some dancing!

What would your perfect Sunday be like?

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A perfect Sunday is a long leisurely pot of coffee, followed by a hike and Sunday lunch somewhere. Wine on the decking in the afternoon, catching up with family and friends, and then lying up in front of the TV with cheese and wine.

Do you prefer to be indoors or outdoors?

Outdoors at this time of year and in Fermanagh we are blessed with glorious mountains and lakes to enjoy, especially when the sun is shining there is no better place to be. But in the winter, it’s curled up by the fire for me.

How have weekends changed as you have gotten older?

Growing up in Enniskillen Saturday nights were all about getting the bus from the back of the Vintage and heading to the disco in the Manor and ending up on Chippy Street. Fast forward to weekends now and it’s my 20-year-old daughter and niece who are the ones out on the town in Enniskillen and my nightclubbing days are too far and few between.

If you could eat out anywhere tonight in NI, where would you go and why?

EIPIC in Belfast. I loved watching Alex Greene and his creative cooking on The Great British Menu. I don’t even know him, but I have to say I cheered and did shed a tear when his dishes won.

What would you have?

The desert inspired by Oliver Jeffers’ book The Incredible Book Eating Boy, which I loved reading to our children when we lived in England, mainly because it featured the word ‘boke’.

At weekends you’ll always make time to…

Go for a walk with my husband and our dog Seamus.

Do you sometimes work at weekends?

Sometimes… always! It might be a Dylan Quinn Dance Theatre Board meeting, NASUWT teachers’ conference or my work with Arts Over Borders, so it’s always very varied, but I love being able to connect with people whether through teaching, activism or arts. I am continually grateful for the work of the amazing local volunteers we have supporting the Happy Days festival, without which we could not run.

Who would you most like to go for a drink with and why?

My friend Amanda who died unexpectedly last year. I’d love to be laughing and sharing a G&T with her.

Are you a weekend cook? If so, what’s your speciality dish?

I’m lucky that my husband does most of the cooking as I really only get time to cook at the weekends. I find it a great way to de-stress. During lockdown, a Saturday night favourite of the kids was my pulled pork and homemade flatbreads, but it’s usually a roast dinner on Sunday. I make a very good cauliflower cheese.

What’s your dream Sunday dinner?

Cooking roast beef for my family, with music playing, glass of wine in hand and all gathered round the table having the chat and the craic. Finished off with crumble and custard.

Who do you normally eat Sunday dinner with and where?

Since the kids have gone to university, and being a feeder, I find it impossible to cook for two, so we are trying to work our way around the local restaurants and sample the roasts of Fermanagh – so far Saddlers is coming out top of our league table for their fabulous Sunday carvery and service.

Too tired to cook – what are you ordering from the takeaway?

Has to be the award-winning Stef’s Fish and Chips on the Sligo Road in Enniskillen.

Heading for the cinema? What are you going to see?

Recently went to see Elvis and as a family we enjoyed bingeing on the recent spate of music biopics during lockdown. But I’m looking forward to sharing the films we are showing as part of the Happy Days Festival celebrating the centenaries of Beckett being at school in Enniskillen, TS Eliot’s The Wasteland and Joyce’s Ulysses.

Staying in… what TV/streaming/catch-up programmes are on the menu?

Always something dark and twisty, so I love a good crime drama. I thoroughly enjoyed Sherwood recently. And of course, I’m looking forward to Adrian Dunbar’s new drama Ridley when it comes out.

What are you reading? Fave type of book?

I love reading – though I haven’t much headspace for it at the moment, so I can’t wait for the family holiday to Croatia to soak up the sun and escape into a good book. Recently my go-to has been female Irish writers: Anna Burns, Jan Carson, Louise Kennedy. I am currently reading Lucy Caldwell’s These Days and starting in on Fix the System, Not the Women by Laura Bates.

Bedtime is?

My iPhone pings a bedtime reminder for 11pm, which is wishful thinking, I am a bit of a night owl especially during the festival when I find it hard to switch off, but on a school night it’s a Pukka night-time tea or if ‘it’s one for the stairs’ it’s a glass of red wine.

The Happy Days Enniskillen Beckett Festival returns on July 21-25. The artistic line-up features local and international talent including Toby Jones, Dame Sarah Connolly, Fleur Barron, Tadhg Murphy, Liam Ó Maonlaí and Adrian Dunbar. Venues include Marble Arch Caves, Devenish Island, Ardhowen Theatre and an upland mountain bog. www.artsoverborders.com

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