„My Values are creativity, craic, and community”
– A tribute.
Pink-coloured jumpsuit, the sleeves are rolled up to the elbow. She has her brown hair tied up in a bun and the pony is almost over the edge of her horn-glasses. You could say that without her pink-coloured outfit she would seem inconspicuous – but only until the first tunes come up.
Flip. I stand with a pint of Guinness on the edge of the bar in the MVP. The room is small and dark. All the walls are clad in wood and the seating is more thrown together than you could say they fit. The curtains and decor definitely have better times behind them and I’m sure if I would smell at them, my nose could smell half a century of events and parties. Women get together, talk, laugh and order the first round of drinks. The room fills up within half an hour and by then, I can only see about seven men. Probably, because the theme of the evening is called “Girls Takeover”. Most likely, the men were dragged by their wives and partners to just this event. They look a bit lost, a little bit scared and they can’t quite figure out what is going to happen to them in the next two hours. The cash register and the merchandising items are cleared away, the light is dimmed and a delicate female voice sounds through the microphone. “Giiirrrllllls – are you ready for singing karaoke?” – Women scream, applaud and pick up their songbook. It starts.
Sing-Along Social Event. (Credit: Angelina Niederpruem)
Flip. I sit at my desk, block and pen are ready and the recording device shows me the red dot for recording. I dial the number, it rings five times before Aoife arrives at the other end of the line. She laughs and asks me how I am and whether I understand her, she is sitting in the car and driving through Meath. I understand her. But I still can’t fully grasp how she managed it that I wish different things after ending this call. 45 minutes on the phone and I dream that there are more people like her, that I want to be like her and I wish her as a friend. I completely forgot the red thread that I had so beautifully arranged, which should accompany me through my interview questions. I just sit there, laughing and just enjoying listening to her. Expressive, authentic and so honest. So where should I start?
I just follow my guts.
Aoife McElwain. She named herself as a Food Writer, a Creative Event Planner and a Treasure Hunt Enthusiast. She is a multi-talent, a doer and that with full commitment. “I just follow my guts”. In September 2015 she wanted to live out the shared love for Alanis Morrisette’s ‘Jagged Little Pill’ with a friend during a brunch. She wanted to eat, talk and just turn up the music. Aoife invited another 30 friends, whom she knew would also like the idea. In the end, more than a thousand people wanted to join on Facebook and she had to move it from her living room to a larger venue. “It was so magic. It was one of the best nights of my life.” It was the beginning of ‘Sing Along Social’. She quickly realized that there are many people who love to sing. So she organized more events in different venues in Dublin. Every evening has its own theme and all the songs are individually selected. Aoife is confident everyone can sing: “There is no pressure. Singing is such a fun thing to do. And even the world worst singers can come. In a group, it still sounds beautiful.” She’s just quite proud to have had a good idea and to reach so many people and make them happy. Whether it is a wedding party, a hen party, or a small party in a smaller venue – it is so much fun every time and more than two years later she can hardly believe she is allowed to do it.
It’s a crazy job. I make food look nice for a photograph.
Aoife started studying Media & Broadcasting for Radio. But after college, it was a difficult time to get a job in radio. So she worked first as an English teacher and started a food blog through the influence of her husband: “I liked cooking but I was not really confident in the kitchen.” And with this blog, she got a coveted job with the Irish Independent as a columnist about a year later. Today she writes for the Irish Times and their magazine in her column ‘Now we know’. There, Aoife answers all the questions about food and cooking that you do not even know you had. She also started her website ‘Forkful’ with a friend in 2012 and calls herself a food stylist today.
It is the way I most feel fulfilled. It is about getting the balance right. It is about enjoying the creative richness of that.
She is a multi-talent. She does so many different things and everything with all of her heart and soul. But with so many projects there usually comes a time of excessive demand. This time reached Aoife about two years ago. For about six months she had a burn-out, feeling exhausted and depressed. She knew she had to change something with her attitude to work. She had to look after herself: “I have to learn how to work in a way that’s more sustainable for me. Because I love to work and I want to continue this work.” In January, her first book was published by Gill Books and it is named ‘Slow at work’. Can we be slower at work, take controlled work and maybe even a time-out, in order to continue to be fully engaged? Aoife also wanted to show herself and to others a way how to live with a lot of work. Working as a freelancer and with so many different projects makes her richer.
Another big project she is currently doing is the fundraising project for her long-time friend and bridesmaid Jocelyn Blake. She suffers from cancer and needs money for the further healing process in order to finance the therapies in Istanbul. “You know, I can’t cure cancer. The only thing that I can do is planning events.” It was not a question to help, the only question was how she can help. Aoife is incredibly thankful for all the people who help and support Jocelyn on her path to healing. Some of them help in the household, drive her to medical appointments or as Aoife use their talent of planning for fundraising events. And in the end, it also helps all supporters. It is about the family getting support in this difficult time. It is all about hope. The point is that she will continue to receive treatments that make a positive difference to her. “To have hope like that is amazing. And we want to make sure it’s not money that stops her to have access to it.”
In the end, I asked her which three words would describe her best: “I would say creative, honest and of course fun.” Aoife is absolutely fun and she is not even close to being a shy person. But she can’t be that for the work she does. “I often say my three values are creativity, craic, and community”. These three values are absolutely important to her. Helping people and to continue to be creative. Never lose the fun of it and always stand up for yourself. Aoife is remarkable for what she does and how she does it – with the pure joy of life.
Flip. And everybody is singing Paula Cole from the bottom of their lungs: “… I don’t want to wait. For our lives to be over. I want to know right now, what will it be. I don’t want to wait. For our lives to be over. Will it be yes or will it be sorry …”.
Sing-Along Social Event MVP. (Credit: Angelina Niederpruem)
Her Book is available at https://www.gillbooks.ie/lifestyle/lifestyle/slow-at-work?highlight=Aoife%20McElwaine
Check out the upcoming ‘Sing Along Social’-Event and follow the Facebook-Page: 25th February 2018 at the MVP Dublin: Beyoncé Vs. Gaga https://www.facebook.com/pg/singalongsocial/events/?ref=page_internal