Composer Garth McConaghie: The Camino de Santiago was one of the best things I have ever done

Composer Garth McConaghie: The Camino de Santiago was one of the best things I have ever done

1 Up and at it – what is your morning routine?

My morning routine goes either of two ways – either I waken early and it’s either straight up to my attic studio at 6.30am with a cup of tea, or else I’ll have a lazy lie-in.

2 What might you eat in a typical working day for…

Breakfast? I usually don’t eat breakfast.

Lunch? Before Christmas, I was living on prepared soups or salads for lunch.

Evening meal? Of late, the evening meal has been a microwave dinner.

3 Is nutrition important to you – do you take health supplements?

I take multivitamins every morning, but my diet could definitely improve – I have a very sweet tooth.

4 Ever been on a diet – if so, how did it go?

Yes, I’ve been on a diet a few times. The most extreme one consisted of a five-day juice diet where I consumed nothing but fruit and veg juices for five whole days. By day three, I was hallucinating cheeseburgers.

5 Weekend treat?

A weekend treat for me would be a cheeky wee Nando’s delivery.

6 How do you keep physically and mentally fit?

I like going on long walks. I walked part of the Camino de Santiago over two weeks in May and it was one of the best things I have ever done. I battle with depression, so it was also good for the head as well. I’ll definitely be going again next year.

7 Best tip for everyday fitness?

Hmm, you’re asking the wrong person, sorry.

8 Were you a fan of schools sports/PE or do you have a memory from those days that you would rather forget?

I wasn’t a fan of sports, really, except tennis. We had council grass courts where I grew up in Ballycastle and all of us kids were mad into it – all day, every day, all summer long. In school, however, for PE… well, I was often found skiving in the music department when that was happening…

9 Teetotal or tipple?


10 Stairs or lift?

Depends on how many flights we are talking about.

11 What book are you currently reading?

Cocaine Nights by J.G. Ballard – a combination of crime thriller and dystopian fiction.

12 Best Netflix?

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is a favourite and a great watch.

13 Most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself over the pandemic?

I was surprised to learn that I’m pretty comfortable being on my own.

14 Any new skills or hobbies?

No new skills, but I’d love to train as a pilot – if anyone has a spare £100,000?

15 How do you relax?

I love going for walks, particularly near and around Ballycastle. There are so many spectacular walking routes up there, but my favourite place is the ancient woodland, Breen Oakwood. There is fairy magic in the air at Breen – you wouldn’t want to break a twig.

16 What are your goals for 2023?

To walk the Camino again and successfully co-write my first musical of the year: Mirrorball, for Replay Theatre Company, which is on the main stage at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast in March.

17 What time do you get to bed and do you think you get enough sleep?

I have been going to bed fairly early since the pandemic, but I usually fall asleep any time between 11 o’clock and 2am. I usually get five-to-eight hours sleep these days, which I think is fine.

18 Biggest gripe or regret?

My biggest regret is not seeing Prince live in concert before he died.

19 Have your priorities in life or perspectives changed?

No, they haven’t really changed. I just try to keep working on my mental health and try to be kind to others.

20 Has coronavirus changed your attitude towards your own mortality?

No, Covid hasn’t changed my attitude, at all. Depression has long been a more threatening illness for me. Coronavirus was devastating, but there are also mental illnesses in the world of which we have methods (medical and therapeutic) of managing, to some extent, but still don’t have full understanding of, or cures for. Although mental illness has become an acceptable part of the global and local conversations in recent years, I think it is still very much a taboo and a very difficult conversation to have. All I can say is: reach out for help, whether that’s to close friends or family, or to medical professionals. Life can be tough for any number of reasons, but it is still a beautiful and precious thing. And tomorrow can be better, even if we’re not able to see it today.

:: Garth McConaghie is composer and musical director for Replay Theatre’s Mirrorball which takes to the stage later this year and is also part of the creative team for Big Telly’s Frankenstein’s Monster is Drunk and the Sheep Have All Jumped the Fences being staged at the Naughton Studio at the Lyric, February 1-5.