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time out Singer Cliona Hagan on how lockdown taught her to 'actually start enjoying life'

Singer Cliona can’t wait to get back on the stage after a year of Facebook shows for fans

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Cliona will be at the Kilbeggan Music Drive-In Festival.

Cliona will be at the Kilbeggan Music Drive-In Festival.

Robert Mizzell  will also perform at the festival

Robert Mizzell will also perform at the festival

Patrick Feeney will also perform at the festival

Patrick Feeney will also perform at the festival

Cliona and Simon got engaged at Christmas.

Cliona and Simon got engaged at Christmas.

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Cliona will be at the Kilbeggan Music Drive-In Festival.

Stunning singer Cliona Hagan is looking forward to swapping her regular Facebook performances for a live audience at the first major Irish country music festival of the year.

Cliona is set to headline the Kilbeggan Country Music Drive-In Festival in Co Westmeath on the June Bank Holiday Monday.

The Tyrone bombshell will perform alongside stars including Johnny Brady, Patrick Feeney, Robert Mizzell, Matt Leavy and the Sheerin Family Band.

There will be 2,000 fans in 500 cars at the open air event.

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Cliona last performed in front of a live audience in March 2020

Cliona last performed in front of a live audience in March 2020

Cliona last performed in front of a live audience in March 2020

"I can't wait, it's going to be so much fun," Cliona tells the Sunday World. "The last time I performed in front of a live audience was in Cork on March 8, 2020. It's been so long I don't think I'll know what to do when people clap.

"I never thought for a moment that my show in Cork would be my last time in front of a live audience. I was very, very naïve when this all started. I didn't really comprehend the severity and the magnitude of the whole thing, and how long it would last. We thought we'd be back to work within a month."

Clapping

Did she miss it? "Oh my goodness, of course!" Cliona responds. "We do a Facebook Live every Sunday at 7pm. But we also did an online show for a theatre and took over their Facebook page. There were three people there, and after Simon and I sang the first song they started clapping and it was so weird.

"It was really peculiar because we are used to not hearing clapping any more. It's unbelievable how we miss that.

"We had massive smiles on our faces when we heard those claps because we hadn't heard them for a year.

"I miss going on stage. I miss that interaction with everyone. As a performer you feed off the audiences and the fun that they're having. We're really missing that, and missing meeting people and getting to chat to all those who continuously support us.

"But we are very lucky that we have done the Facebook Live since lockdown. It's been a blessing that we have been able to still keep in contact with those people that have supported us."

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Cliona, who has been doing the weekly Facebook Live shows with her fiancé Simon Sheerin, admits that it took her some time to become comfortable performing in front of a screen and with no feedback from an audience.

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Cliona and Simon got engaged at Christmas.

Cliona and Simon got engaged at Christmas.

Cliona and Simon got engaged at Christmas.

"It was so, so weird at the start," she says. "I was like, 'this is awkward.' When you're chatting there's obviously nobody talking back to you. It just felt really silly at the start, but now it has become so normal. Now it's weird to hear someone clapping."

Is she optimistic about the future of Irish country music?

"Absolutely, it has stood the test of time," Cliona says. "There are hardcore fans all over Ireland and they love that music.

"It's a way of life for those people. It might take a bit of time to come back, but I'm very optimistic.

"I don't think we'll be doing meet and greets any time soon. There will probably be a little bit of the fear factor there, but by the same token people still want to get back to some sense of normality and life the way we used to know it.

"The concerts will be back quicker than the dances obviously, because of the social contact with the dancing. I don't think the dances will be coming back any time soon, but I would be happy with any form of music at this stage.

"I love doing concerts. I'd love to be able to get back on stage to be able to chat to everybody and be able to interact with a live audience instead of everything being virtual."

However, Cliona, who got engaged to her musician boyfriend Simon at Christmas, said the lockdown has given her a new appreciation for the important things in life and taught her how to slow down and relax.

Pressure

"It has really taught me personally how the small things are so important in life," she says. "You don't need grandeur, you don't need to be constantly putting stuff up on social media.

"It's OK just to sit in the quiet and not have that pressure on you to be always somewhat in the limelight.

"There was a point where I was constantly going, 'I have to put this up, I have to put that up,' and I actually never took time out for me. I thought I always had to be doing something, and that's not the case. It's OK to not be busy all the time.

"Take time to go for a nice walk or sit outside in the fresh air.

"Sometimes life was passing me by too quickly because all I did was work, work, work and feel as though I couldn't take time off in case I missed the boat.

"But I've actually learned to start enjoying life instead of waiting for this moment or that to happen…enjoy right here, right now.

"We all know at this stage that tomorrow is not promised to us."

  • For festival tickets go to kilbeggandrivein.com

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