Friday 17 January 2020

My cultural life: Oliver Callan, entertainer

Oliver Callan
Oliver Callan
Apollo 11

Oliver Callan is the voice and creator of Callan's Kicks on RTE Radio One as well as a columnist and documentary maker. He's from Monaghan and remains a diehard culchie despite being mostly in Dublin for 20 years. He's engaged to his partner John and is performing live at the Bord Gais Energy Theatre in Dublin on May 22 and nationwide including Cork, Waterford, Sligo and all points in between in 2020 to mark the general election season. For more see

Movie: Apollo 11

Apollo 11

My favourite film of the year was Apollo 11, a documentary with remastered footage of the moon landings to mark its 50th anniversary. It was gorgeous with a pulsating, ambient soundtrack and just begged to be seen on the big screen. The footage of the ordinary people gathered along the waterfront in Cape Canaveral to witness the take-off was astonishing. The enigmatic, masculine sound of the 1960s commentators, the style of the men and women, the cars, the look of that moment in time was compelling and beautiful.

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Music: Bruce Springsteen

We thought we knew everything there was to know about Bruce Springsteen. Then, turning 70 this year, he gave us the Western Stars album. An enthralling series of songs with a cinematic orchestral score, full of tunes about journeying and being yourself. His voice can still evoke powerful and romantic imagery. It's the warm cup of tea at the end of a wearisome day for the ears.

Artist: Arthur O'Connor


We have wonderful free museums scattered across the land and I particularly love going to county museums. But my favourite museum visit this year was to the National Gallery off Merrion Square. There's a small painting in the 19th-century Irish artists section that stopped me in my tracks. It's Arthur O'Connor's The Frightened Wagoner. Our vantage point is that of a 19th-Century drone, looking down upon a man struggling to control his horses in the midst of a thunderstorm at night. There's a cosiness, an intimacy to the image despite the obvious show of loneliness and struggle as well as nature's force against man's insignificant efforts to control powers greater than him.

Book: Shadowplay


Fiction is an antidote to the current affairs reading that troubles my head. My target for 2019 was to get through one book per week and I've just fallen short with 45 so far. Shadowplay was the most striking novel. Joseph O'Connor writes with such research that you feel his novels could've been published in the era they're set. Shadowplay deals with poor Bram Stoker, the Dracula author who died without realising the legacy he was leaving behind.

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