Josepha Madigan: My Cultural Life

The author and Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht JOSEPHA MADIGAN reveals what’s INSPIRING HER this season …

Fennell Photography

Spaces to dream

In my early twenties I was thrilled to live in Vienna, one of Europe’s most beautiful and cultural capitals. The Viennese State Opera ran a great scheme that allowed people attend for free if they were prepared to stand for the duration – I made the most of this opportunity! It was here that I fell in love with the beautiful aria “O Mio Bambino Caro’’ from Puccini’s opera Gianni Schicchi.

Oslo’s Litteraturhuset

In March, I visited Norway for St Patrick’s Day and was very impressed by Oslo’s Litteraturhuset – a house where literature meets society, enabling free, public conversations and debate, for authors and children and young people. Why wouldn’t we do something similar here in Dublin? That said, I strongly recommend a visit to the National Library of Ireland’s Seamus Heaney: Listen Now Again exhibition. The combination of the colonnaded setting and Heaney’s magical words make
it unmissable.

Countess Markievicz

On my to-do list

Autumn can be one of the most picturesque times of the year. I’m hoping that I’ll have the opportunity to visit more of Ireland’s National Parks, as they come under the responsibility of my department. I was lucky enough to host the Duke and the Duchess of Cornwall when they visited Killarney National Park in June. Our seven National Parks and Reserves have some of the most breathtakingly beautiful landscapes and wildlife in the world. In November The Abbey is staging an adaptation of Louise O’Neill’s gripping debut novel Asking for It. Thankfully public debate around consent has increased significantly since the book was first published. I’m really looking forward to this production. At the National Gallery their “[In]visible: Irish Women Artists Archived’’ is a collection of letters, scrapbooks, photographs and art materials from celebrated Irish women artists including Mary Swanzy and Mainie Jellett. In October its Countess Markievicz exhibition will explore this pioneering Irish woman through paintings, photography, illustration and film. The Chester Beatty Library has a collection of immaculately restored Japanese calligraphy scrolls, about the daring deeds and romances of a tenth century warrior. The Tale of Tawara Toda is on display until January.

Maya Angelou

Finding inspiration

Words have always been my source of inspiration. Finding the time to read is more difficult but now it hasn’t changed my love of fiction and non-fiction. I’m particularly drawn to books that I feel I could never write myself. I suppose the attraction is that I’m enjoying and learning at the same time. There are usually about five books on my bedside table. I’ve almost finished William Trevor’s Last Stories and I read Hillary Clinton’s most recent book What Happened with interest. Maya Angelou is my idol. She wrote beautifully and she has campaigned passionately and effectively on gender equality issues. Sinead Gleeson’s anthology of Irish female writers Long Gaze Back is an absorbing read. It contains the perfect mix of light and dark stories. Kevin Barry and Joseph O’Connor are two of my favourite Irish fiction writers. Sinead Moriarty, Marian Keyes and Liz Nugent are all strong writers I enjoy too.

A time to write

I made a point this year of taking a week out in August to concentrate on my writing. It was my first time at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre at Annaghmakerrig, Co Cavan, a residential workplace for artists. It’s peaceful and quiet and perfect for writing and mixing with other creative people. As I only had a week, I focused on my poetry. My second manuscript is drafted but needs considerable reviewing and editing before publication – it’s still in a drawer.

Viennese State Opera

I believe …

My faith is my scaffolding. It is my ultimate source of inspiration. Although this doesn’t stop me from making the case for change in the Church – hopefully inspiring others – particularly on the issue of gender equality.


No matter what age you are in life, making time for yourself and your passions should be near the top of your priorities.


Increasing female representation at all levels of Irish public life is something very close to my heart.

Love Sign up to our MAILING LIST now for a roundup of the latest fashion, beauty, interiors and entertaining news from THE GLOSS MAGAZINE’s daily dispatches.