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'When Ireland locked down, I was locked out of one of my homes' - singer and scientist Fehdah on a turbulent year

Musician and astrophysics teacher Fehdah tells Meadhbh McGrath about the challenges creatives faced during the pandemic, moving between Europe and West Africa as a child, and the lack of role models for non-white students

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Fehdah photographed by Abdullah Abe Neihum

Fehdah photographed by Abdullah Abe Neihum

Fehdah is a Culture Night Trailblazer for 2020 and will take part in an online performance for Visual arts centre in Carlow this Friday; see culturenight.ie

Fehdah is a Culture Night Trailblazer for 2020 and will take part in an online performance for Visual arts centre in Carlow this Friday; see culturenight.ie

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Fehdah photographed by Abdullah Abe Neihum

Earlier this year, Fehdah was gearing up for a big move to London. The Irish-Sierra Leonean musician had spent much of the previous 12 months flying back and forth from her Dublin home for gigs, and she'd had enough of the costly and time-consuming travel.

"Walking around London with loads of bags is not fun," she says drily. But then the pandemic hit, the country shut down, and live music performances were put on indefinite hold. She ended up moving to Carlow with her older sister Sallay, a fellow artist known by her stage name Loah. Now, instead of rushing between gigs on the Tube, Fehdah is relishing life in the countryside and having her own garden to potter around in.

"Although I was born in London and I have quite a connection to London, generally speaking I like smaller towns - I enjoy the peace and quiet," she explains. "I've got a dog, I'm a bit more outdoorsy, I'm a big gardener and I've got loads of vegetables and flowers, so it was always going to be tough for me to leave Ireland. That's why my mum moved back to Ireland in the first place, she was like, 'My kids need to see the sky!'"