Women We Love: Andrea Keogh, Event Booker & Aid worker

Leading in towards St Patricks Day, one of the most important days and weekends within the Irish calendar, we are shining a light on the women behind the scenes of events in Ireland’s Capital. Focusing on both sides of the River Liffey this month, we take a look firstly at the Northside of Dublin and a lady who is leading the live music scene there in Music Venue ‘The SoundHouse’ on Eden Quay: Andrea Keogh.

Andrea initially set out her career path studying Psychology, as she wanted to help people heal. However somewhere along the way she discovered that music too, held the power of healing for many people. And as she worked event after event, this only grew and expanded that passion and drive to create entertaining events, festivals and shows for people to enjoy and experience.

She has also worked as a charity aid worker with Chernobyl Children International, alongside Irish activist and campaigner for peace Adi Roche, as well as campaigning diligently for many women’s rights issue’s in Ireland.

Right now, Andrea is managing and organising events between her hometown of Kilkenny and her adopted home of Dublin’s Northside. She has worked with an impressive cast of Irish & International talent such as: Picture This, Declan O Rourke, The Saw Doctors, Lisa Hannigan, David Gray, Little Green Cars, Bellx1 and Neil Hannon to name but a few. Festivals she has worked include Kilkenny Arts Festival, Trad fest, Dublin City Quays & St Patricks Day fest among many more.

I met with Andrea in the charming pub The Wiley Fox, which houses her current occupation of Venue manager and Events Booker in one of Dublin’s best loved music venues The SoundHouse

Portraits Andrea keogh in Smithfield, Dublin by Dara Munnis.

You initially studied psychology, yet ended up pursuing a career in event booking and management. How did this huge change happen in your career path and what prompted it?

I have my friend Eva Lynch to thank for that. Long story short . . we started organising fundraising events together in Kilkenny, where I am from. Eva was running the famous bar & live music venue Murphy’s in Thomastown at the time. I was always interested in helping the less fortunate and those in need and wanted my work to reflect this attitude. 

I was planning to do my masters & ended up completely changing my entire career path as I realised there is a myriad of other ways I could help people heal and get a better quality of life.

So I left my full time job, went back to college & studied PR & Event management. 

What challenges did you face getting your career change off the ground?

It was difficult to secure full time work at first in Dublin. So I decided to move home to Kilkenny after a travelling stint in Asia. I love Dublin and have had and still am having a great love affair with it,  so it was a big change to move home. That was 11 years ago- showing my age now!

I started freelancing in various different areas of the industry. Promotion, PR (for bands, festivals & venues), bookings, event management, selling merch at gigs & tour managing.

I pretty much took on every job that came my way. If you want to get into this industry and on in it, it is important to start at the grass roots level, take all opportunities as a chance to rise and learn and work your way up and always be nice to people on the way up and down! 

Given the industry being made up considerably of freelance jobs, the lack of full time work actually pushed me to set up my own business. So I started KPB (Keogh Publicty and Booking) pretty green when I look back now. It took me a good few years to really decide what end of the industry I wanted to focus on. But along the way I learnt a lot and won various awards for the venues I worked for. 

IMRO Venue Awards – Photography by Ruth Medjber www.ruthlessimagery.com

And what challenges do you still face?

Taking on a relatively unknown venue that had recently changed name, owners & focus has been a pretty big challenge over the last two years. But I love challenges. They excite me and push me out of my comfort zones, which is important for me.

In our work modes and life, we are so accessible now with whatsapp etc, so you can be on all the time. Switching off from work is a pretty big challenge for me. I blame my Dad who is a farmer for that because he’s a workaholic. Thanks, Dad!

Event managers and bookers control events from conception to performance. But can you tell us more about what the duties of an event manager and booker entail?

You need to be working at least 3 – 6 months ahead, especially with a venue to ensure the calendar is busy. You need to be very flexible in your work and often dip into areas that are not necessarily falling under your job description.

No two days are the same. Depending on the act or promoter & budgets, you may need to advance and rep the show. Working in a relatively small venue, the budgets are pretty tight so you’ll double up on roles in the lead up to the gig versus working with larger venues where you can delegate more.

A quick turnaround is really important. I know what it’s like to be routing tours so turning around a date quickly for promoters is important, especially if the act is planning a tour. On show day, making sure the artist has the best possible experience pre and post gig. I often ask for feedback from promoters, gig goers & artists especially if it’s a new project, venue or event.

And is this how you gauge feedback? 

Gauging the good from the bad is important. This mostly falls under club bookings. This was something relatively new to me when I took over the bookings in The Sound House.

I hadn’t worked that much with clubs before, we didn’t do that many in Set Theatre, Kilkenny and in the Button Factory, Dublin. So it’s been both a challenge and a massive learning curve.

Everyone is going to sell you the ‘We’re a new collective. We’ll fill your venue line….’ You need to be able to suss the actual decent promoters vs the ones who are just out to run a party for themselves & their mates which is fine, of course but the costs involved in putting on a gig or club are huge & your priority is to make sure the venue isn’t making a loss.

Over the years you have booked and promoted shows with well-known acts such as David Gray, Hozier, Damien Dempsey, Walking On Cars, The Riptide Movement, Le Galaxie, Bell X 1, Bombay Bicycle Club, Lisa Hannigan, Maverick Sabre, FM Belfast, Villagers and many more artists. Also, programming comedy acts such as Nina Conti, Jason Byrne, Neil Delamere and more. Of all the shows, events and concerts you’ve worked at, which has been the most memorable experience and why?

Haha! I’ve probably worked on some level with pretty much every Irish act at this stage. One of the pros of managing a venue. I had the pleasure of working with most of those acts during my time at Set Theatre and promoting shows in Kilkenny, Cork & Wexford.

Over the last few years, David Gray in St Canice’s Cathedral was so special for me. I played his White Ladder album to death when I was in school school so it was amazing to be the local promoter for his Kilkenny show.

After 2 years of booking The Sound House, I’m starting to see some of those acts come through the venue now which is really great.

There’s been quite a few memorable moments to be honest. My first one is definitely during my internship with LHP, one of their biggest gigs that year was U2’s 360 tour. I remember thinking HOLY SHIT many times in the lead up to those shows.

Neil Hannon played Culture Vultures first birthday in Odessa Club. We sold loads of tickets & it was just magic.

Booking Picture This 2 years ago for an 80 capacity venue & having to move the gig 3 times. I remember thinking . . who are these young lads from Kildare. Look at them now!!!!

What advice would you offer young women aspiring to fulfil a career in live music management and event booking? 

Get as much experience as you can. Ask for help If you need it. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice.  The majority of time people are more than happy to take a call and meet for a coffee.  

Get stuck in and learn as many aspects of the industry as you can, it will stand to you down the line. It always helps to have some clue of what’s going on both on and off stage.

You organised charity gigs for Chernobyl Children International and Habitat for Humanity, how important is it for you to not only run events but events that change lives?

Very. The charity end of things has always been close to my heart. I’ve never really considered it as work. I’ve also been blessed over the years to have the likes of Bell X 1’s Paul Noonan, Gavin Glass, Ollie Cole, Ian Doyle, & Jack L play & support a lot of the fundraisers I’ve organised.

Travelling out to Vesnova Orphanage in Belarus with CCI has also impacted on my views of life. It’s very rewarding to see the funds directly raised by friends, family & supporters when we travel out to Belarus.  It’s also rewarding for everyone involved to see where the funds they have helped raised directly goes to.

 It is so important that women inspire and allow each other to grow together through mutual support. What women in Ireland, as well as Irish women abroad, do you most admire whom you feel inspire you today?

This is a tough one. There’s so many brilliant Irish women. I’ll start at the top – my Mam for supporting me in (almost) everything I have ever done. She’s the hardest working, kindest woman I know.  Adi Roche & Ali Hewson for all the work they do for Chernobyl Children & Vesnova Orphanage. My good friend Karen Reidy from Kilkenny, she’s based in Bangladesh and is the Communication’s Specialist for UNICEF over there. She is an incredibly hard working & passionate woman.

It’s really comforting to know you can pick up the phone to bounce an idea off a friend in the industry. I’m very lucky to have some amazing women in the events/PR/ tv industry like Roisin O’ Brien from A Rare insight PR in Kilkenny, Hazel Nestor, Kate O’ Dwyer & Susan Scannell.

Dee & Sinead from H&G creations are incredible. They kitted out the terrace in the Sound House last summer and we love it, as does everyone who comes through the door!

What are your goals for 2019?

Read more. Travel more. Go to more gigs . Spend more time with my family. We recently had two new members join the family, my favourite two little men in the world, Will & Luke and they’ve made me want to spend more time at home more than ever before.

I’ve been threatening to go back and do a course to upskill on some level so I might actually get to that this year too! We shall see.

What mantras/mindfulness do you use to cleanse the mind and focus on the job at hand?

Stay clear of negative vibes. Work hard. Play fair. Make the most of my time off.

What is your morning routine to get you through the working day?

My routine is pretty varied to be honest. Monday to Wednesday I try work day time hours. Get up, go for a run, breakfast & head to the office. Then Thursday to Saturday it’s a later start as you’ve gigs on. I’m usually up early either way but I’ll potter around the house, listen to music, do the things most people do at weekends. HA!

Where are your favourite places to eat and drink in Dublin?

Going to places that have sound staff & good service is really important to me. I’m a big fan of The Gravediggers in Glasnevin, Walsh’s in Stoneybatter (especially Cheesy Tuesday’s) & Lanigan’s is also a great spot. I love what the guys in The Big Romance are doing on Parnell Street.

Favourite food spots include The Woollen Mills and Manifesto’s in Rathmines is lovely. The Globe & Izakaya are always good for a late night dance.

What are your favourite ways to keep fit?

Running. It’s also a great way to clear my head. I cycle everywhere, weather permitting of course and I love getting out of Dublin for a walk or a hike on a Sunday if I can. I eat pretty healthy too so that also helps.

What are your top three beauty essentials?

My beauty essentials are minimal to be honest. Always wash your face after a night out, mac mascara extra volume (for after a night out!), and as much water as you can manage in 24 hours.  

Favourite gadget and why?

I’m not really a gadget person but I suppose my phone, or my third arm as my Mam calls it!

Are you an early bird or a night owl?

100% both. I survive on very little sleep.

Your greatest food pleasure?

I’m going to have to say Tom Yum soup after my recent travels. Thank you, Thailand and my Dad’s stuffing on Christmas day. Delicious.

If you could tell your 16 year-old self anything, what would it be?

Stay in college & do your masters. JOKING!

Don’t sweat the small stuff. Travel the world. Learn from your mistakes and move on. Enjoy the journey.

 Can you share any exciting plans you have in the pipeline?

Yes! Its getting close to St Patricks Day! Come join us on St Patricks Weekend at The SoundHouse on 28 Eden Quay as we hold Culture Vultures as part of the St Patricks Day Festival on Fri March 15th with special guests The Gloaming’s Iarla Ó Lionáird and Steve Cooney. Tickets available at www.thesoundhouse.ie !

You can follow Andrea on Instagram & Twitter 

You can follow The SoundHouse on Instagram  & Twitter  

Article by Linda Coogan Byrne, Deputy Editor at IndulgeMe.ie. You can follow Linda on InstagramTwitter and LinkedIn.