A question of taste: Manchán Magan

Manchán Magan presents a weekly Tuesday travel slot on Newstalk’s The Right Hook, and will be teaching a six-week course in travel writing in the Dublin Writers’ Centre, from February 3.


Best Book:

He Lost Himself Completely: Shellshock and its Treatment at Dublin’s Richmond War Hospital, 1916-1919. An engrossing account of the post-traumatic stress experienced by WW1 soldiers, and treated with surprising success, in Grangegorman Hospital.

Best recent film:

Broken Circle Breakdown, a harrowing Flemish movie about the interpersonal heartbreak of a Belgian band singing American country classics.

Best recent show/exhibition:

Tulca Festival of Visual Art, 2014, in Galway. A genuinely dynamic, large-scale exhibition of contemporary art that seemed totally relevant and accessible, and not narcissistic or self-obsessed.

What formats do you access music?

Antediluvian CDs. Spotify is amazing, but the choice is too bamboozling. I’m both frustrated and reassured by the limited nature of my CD collection.

Best piece of music you’ve been listening to lately:

The panache and brio of Bully’s Acre (a trad, funk, folk, Argentine-flamenco group consisting of Robbie Harris Peter Browne and Lucas González) is gobsmacking.

First ever piece of music or art that really moved you:

Sacred Heart Hotel, a gravitational-bending album from 1986 by the Stars of Heaven, a Dublin band considered, rather extravagantly but potentially truthfully, at the time, to be Ireland’s answer to The Byrds, Gram Parsons and the Velvet Underground.

TV viewing:

Never owned a TV and never will. A crass and manipulative medium and a parasite on free time.

Radio listening:

I used to adore Irish radio, but American podcasts have totally wooed me, especially all the podcasts in the Radiotopia.fm stable, not to mention the aural and intellectual wonders of Radiolab and Fresh Air.

One to watch:

The performer Neil Watkins has had many incarnations: as author-performer of ‘A Year of Magical Wanking’, and creator of the drag-queen Heidi Kunt, but his vibey, disco-infused band, Buffalo Woman, has the potential to really soar.

Best recent holiday or weekend break:

Just back from dog-sledding and hunting for the Northern Lights in Tromso, Norway. Cold and captivating.

Best ever animal encounter:

Having a wound, which I just got from a dog with rabies; being chewed at by piranhas in an Amazonian river; or being chased by a mountain gorilla in Uganda. The sheer adrenalin that ignites upon realising one could be part of the food-chain again is unbeatable.

Most expensive item of clothing you’ve ever bought:

A hand-stitched, white linen shirt from flax spun in Co Antrim, by The Tweed Project in Galway. €250.

Tech habits:

I finally relented and got a Smartphone; I use it to text and email, as I distrust phone calls. Nothing else has really wooed me, other than, I suppose, the phone’s sat-nav, on the odd occasion I’m completely lost.

Favourite app:

Stitcher — a phenomenal podcast-gatherer and organiser, which gives one the opportunity of listening to intriguing audio storytelling.

Weekend treat:

I’m a freelancer without kids and so I don’t differentiate weekend from weekday. I play when I want and work when I want… mostly work!

Health and fitness:

I run through my forest most mornings, and cycle around north Westmeath most evenings. My days are spent eating salad and drinking coffee.

Unsung heroes:

Burrenbeo, a tiny charity in Co Clare working with local farmers to try to keep the prehistoric agricultural landscape of the upland Burren intact for the next generation. It’s genuinely inspirational what they’ve achieved so far — urging farmers to keep the ancient herding practises alive as a way of slowing down scrub incursion and erosion.

You are queen for a day — what’s your first decree?

Women rule the world.


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