Sunday 23 July 2017

Bondings: A sweet, slow song of love

They waited over 16 years to get engaged, but newlyweds Julien Clancy and Aoife Gowen didn't hang around after that

Aoife Gowen fell for Julien Clancy when he arrived in late to their classes in college, giving her a chance to admire his dress sense. Photo: Tony Gavin.
Aoife Gowen fell for Julien Clancy when he arrived in late to their classes in college, giving her a chance to admire his dress sense. Photo: Tony Gavin.
Andrea Smith

Andrea Smith

When broadcaster and documentary-maker Julien Clancy, 37, and college lecturer Aoife Gowen, 36, were married four weeks ago, they performed a karaoke duet at the reception. This was appropriate, as the first time they ever spoke was while celebrating a mutual friend's birthday at a karaoke night in a Dublin pub in 1998. Not that they got up to perform that particular night - they were far too cool for that in their student days - but they developed a love for karaoke while living in Japan, where Aoife was doing post-doctoral research.

The pair met while at Trinity College, where they had some shared science classes. Aoife had already noticed Julien in class before they spoke in the bar, as he tended to arrive in late and she thought he was gorgeous. "He had amazing fashion sense, with his brown velvet jacket, corduroy flares and cool boots," she says, adding that kindness and generosity are Julien's best attributes.

And what was Julien's first impression? "I thought Aoife was stunning," he says, adding that he loved her intelligence, blonde hair and attitude. "She was way above my league and her knowledge of cool bands was incredible. We fell head over heels very quickly."

They started dating and their relationship survived a few long-distance stints and changes of career direction. They weren't rushing into anything, because a mere 16 and a half years after they first got together, Julien proposed to Aoife last Christmas in a lighthouse near Cork, over Prosecco and red velvet cupcakes - her favourites. This development thrilled their loved ones , as their friends and even nieces were getting fed up with their perpetually single status, but the years just passed while they were establishing their careers, which took a few twists and turns.

Aoife's study path would floor most of us, as she went to Trinity in 1996 to study theoretical physics, followed by a master's in financial maths and a PhD in food science. She also worked as a medical physicist, and spent two years working on a project on water quality sensors in Japan, as part of her post-doctoral research. Julien joined her there for the second year and they both loved it. She is now a senior lecturer at UCD's school of biosystems engineering, where her specialities include hyperspectral imaging.

Aoife is from Kilkenny and has older twin brothers. Her father John, now retired, worked at the Smithwicks brewery, and her mum Ger was a swimming coach. The years of getting up for lessons before school paid off, because Aoife is also a qualified swimming teacher and lifeguard, which was handy for part-time work during her college years.

Julien was born in Mullingar to Noeleen and Joseph, but his family moved around as his dad worked for Coillte - his parents now live in Sligo. The youngest of four, he went to Trinity to study science in 1996, but the course didn't suit him and he failed first year twice. Actually, it fell to Aoife to deliver the bad news to him in person the second time, although they weren't that long together. Awkward!

Julien left Trinity and completed a degree in business at DCU, followed by a post-grad qualification in marketing. He was also DJ-ing part-time at Anna Livia radio station, and realised that his true passion lay there. He has since made his career in making documentaries and programmes for radio, including work for RTE and Lyric FM, in tandem with teaching and running radio courses.

He produces a series of regular radio-themed evenings in darkened unusual spaces all around the city, called Sounds Alive, where he brings sound-rich radio documentaries and podcasts to the stage through a series of listening events and live performances.

As part of this year's Tiger Dublin Fringe at the Spiegeltent, he is bringing award-winning British radio producer and composer Nina Perry's stunning collection of radio documentaries to the stage for one night only - this Wednesday - together with a live score from contemporary music group, Crash Ensemble. It features the sounds of bees, melting glaciers and even supermarket symphonies carefully woven around a rich tapestry of human experience and a specially composed classical score.

The evening will also feature the debut performance of an exciting new storytelling collaboration between Crash Ensemble and Choice-award-winning Dublin singer- songwriter Adrian Crowley. He will perform a series of spoken-word stories, set against a backdrop of mysterious and mesmerising soundscapes. A not-to-be-missed experience, from all accounts.

Julien also produces the Dublin arm of The Moth every month, the New York storytelling club that has become a cultural phenomenon, where ordinary people get up and tell true stories in front of a live audience (see

Julien and Aoife were married on August 3 in a humanist ceremony in the historic City Assembly House, which dates from the late 1760s and served as city hall when Daniel O'Connell was Lord Mayor of Dublin. After a reception there with cupcakes, beer and wine, they had dinner at Yamamori Tengu, with 70 close friends and family later that evening, which is where the fun karaoke took place.

The delighted pair are now living in an apartment in Monkstown overlooking the sea, and hope to have a family together (and a dog) in the future. Oh, and as part of his wedding vows, Julien pledged to get his driver's licence, which will make them a bit more mobile in the future.

Here's hoping himself and his lovely new bride drive off happily into the sunset together.

Sounds Alive presents Stories through Sound on Wednesday at 9.15pm at the Spiegeltent, Wolfe Tone Square, Dublin 1. It's part of the Tiger Dublin Fringe, which runs until

September 20. Tickets €18 from or call 1850 FRINGE

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