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'I won't forget my 40th or the homeschooling'

Westlife's Kian Egan speaks about life during lockdown and the band's plans

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Kian Egan pictured at his beloved Strandhill beach where he surfs regularly

Kian Egan pictured at his beloved Strandhill beach where he surfs regularly

Kian Egan pictured at his beloved Strandhill beach where he surfs regularly

Westlife's Kian Egan is hopeful that an improvement in the coronavirus situation can see the band return to the stage next year - but for now, he is thankful for the family time he has experienced in recent months.

The onset of the pandemic resulted in the cancellation of a major tour in 2020 which would have seen the group play iconic venues such as Wembley Stadium in London, as well as visit Asia, India and South Africa as part of an international tour.

Plans have been put in place for a rescheduling of some dates - the Wembley gig, and one in Páirc Uí Chaoimh in Cork have been moved to the same dates in 2021 - but for now, Egan has been enjoying life at home in Sligo with his family during the course of lockdown.

He has spent his time at home in Strandhill with his wife, Jodi, and their three children, and speaking to Ryan Tubridy on RTÉ Radio One on Monday morning, he said he has enjoyed the amount of family time they have had together in recent months.

"The first part of the lockdown, as a family, my lifestyle has been very, very different," Egan said.

"I wouldn't get up and go to work every day, I would be here for a few months at a time and then I'd be gone for a while and then back, so we had a little sense of that before. But to be just, the five of us, and nothing else for a very long time, that has been amazing and just being a real family unit and knowing what that is a real family unit, but you do think of all the people around the world who don't have that, and then you have to think about the people who are living in difficult situations, there's been lots of unfortunate things that have happened throughout the lockdown as well for people so all those things really do come to mind."

It has been a particularly challenging time in many households as school-going children attempt to adapt to a new way of learning, much of which entailed taking lessons and classes online. Egan says that his household, like many others, had to try and adjust to the new way of education.

"I think trying to get the eight year old to try and focus in, and having a five year old and a two and half year old running around, that has been the most difficult part," he explained.

"We did a bit [of school work], we didn't do a huge amount, the principal from the school was very, very good, he was sending out letters once a week saying 'listen, do what you can, everybody is in the same position, don't feel under pressure' even though you do feel under pressure to do something and I'm sure every parent out there with young children have felt under pressure so we did.

"But there was a second side to it where I have been home, I've been able to practice his guitar with him, get him in the water twice a day when the surf has been good so his surfing is coming up an awful lot, skateboarding an awful lot so things that he really loves, to be able to have the time to do that with him and all of them actually, that time is has actually been priceless so he said to me, the older boy Koa said to me in the car 'I wish things would go back to normal' and I said 'well, OK buddy, think of it like this, your normal would have been you in school all the time, we wouldn't have had all this time together, Daddy would have been gone off on tour with Westlife, you wouldn't be surfing the way you are surfing so there is a silver lining to it all'. Now, I know that hasn't been the case for so many people around the country and around the world, you do apologise and feel bad for that."

The pandemic has seen many things change - including the way major celebrations are marked. Kian had one of those, with his 40th birthday falling in the middle of the lockdown. It was an occasion he says he won't forget, but for different reasons.

"We haven't seen any of Jodi's family since the whole thing started. Been in contact obviously with FaceTime and all that with Grandad and things like that but what can you do, we had my 40th birthday through the lockdown, my five year olds birthday through the lockdown and you just kind of get on with it."

"I'll never forget my 40th birthday, it might have been completely different but it was beautiful actually because I had a big group of friends do a drive by at the front of the house, they all drove by one after the other beeping their horns and waving out the window and balloons, Shane and Mark came out with their families and all my local friends from around Sligo and family and it was really touching, really emotional, I was nearly crying.

"My wife had organised it all and it was absolutely beautiful what she organised. My next door neighbour put up balloons on the fence and stuff like that, I'll never forget that, it's something you'll never forget."

Many fans in Sligo and beyond will be wondering when the quartet of Kian, Shane, Mark and Nicky may return to the stage, but it is very much out of their hands.

They await, like many others, a clarification on when they can resume playing in front of crowds, much of which will hinge on when people will be allowed congregate at major events again.

"We would have started [their tour] by now, we would've been in the UK with our stadium summer tour and then we were coming back down to Cork, we were doing Pairc Ui Chaoimh, and then we had Wembley Stadium for the first time ever in our career in the UK, and then we were going international so we were going all around Asia, China, South Africa, India, we had pretty much a world tour organised off the back of the last album, the Spectrum album.

"Obviously that is all completely cancelled stroke moved to 2021, we're still trying to figure out what can we do, what can we not do next year because we still don't know. Is the second wave coming, we don't know so we can't really plan a huge amount, it's kind of odd. Obviously we have Cork and Wembley, we've moved them to the same weekends of 2021 that they would have been in 2020, but apart from that, the managers and promoters are all kind of going 'we can't really say yes, lets do it all, because we don't know'".

"From a performers point of view, being up on a stage in front of anybody is worthy. But from an audience point of view, we all know what its about going to a concert, it's about being able to jump up and down and have your arm around your friends and sing along and be part of that crowd atmosphere and have that big cheer when the lights go ip and all those different things, that's what a concert it about and when concerts do get back and concerts will happen, I know that this is a tough, weird time for everybody but it will happen again, I'm pretty sure of that, I'd like to hope so anyways, but I suppose we just have to live with the memories we have from the past and look forward to more in the future and I would imagine when we do get there it'll be ever better because you know what it's like, when you take something away for a long time that's what everybody wants."

Kian was appearing on Ryan Tubridy's programme to outline their efforts as part of the RTÉ Comic Relief fundraiser which aims to raise funds for a number of worthy causes.

Westlife are offering the chance to win a personal gig from the band; they say they will play whenever or wherever the winner wants whether it is at a wedding, a birthday party night or whatever they like.

"The one thing about Westlife since we got back together, we want everything to be something special and we want it to be an event," Kian explained.

"So we thought rather than coming on the tele and just doing a regular performance of Westlife in a studio or wherever it may be, how do we think outside the box, how we do we make this an event? So, what we've decided to do is run a competition for charity, it costs four euro to enter the competition and the prize is to win Westlife to perform at any event you want, whether that be a wedding, a birthday party, in your local pub, it's your choice, if you win the prize, wherever you want us we will be there and we will perform for you at whatever event it is that you want.

"The event could be next year, if you're planning, if your wedding got cancelled this year and you're thinking 'well, I know i'm getting married next summer' if you win that prize, we can perform at your wedding'. That's the idea."

To enter, text Westlife to 50300 at the cost of €4, which will go towards the chosen charities.

Looking forward to the future, Kian says he is fortunate to have had a lot of positives during the lockdown, and he reserved special praise for the efforts of the people of Sligo in curbing the impact of Covid-19.

"I'm one of these people, I try to take the positives."

"I suppose, the positives have been very very good, the negatives have been very very bad obviously when you look at the number of people that have died around the country and the amount of people, you know the frontline workers and what they've had to go through and I can imagine as a frontline worker going to work every day the nerves must be huge just to think are they going to catch this awful disease?

"I think, for us, we've just been so lucky and I just feel so blessed that we have been lucky in that sense. Ireland is a country where I think we have been lucky, I think our government have done very, very well, us as a people and a nation we've all respected it very, very well. I certainly felt in Sligo we did very well even being around our local village, surfing is a sport that a lot of people it would break their heart not to be able to come and do it but everybody didn't come and do it and it was amazing to see that."

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