Galway City Tribune - Opinion Piece
Drum guru Johnny revels in the sound of silenceNovember 1, 2012 - 2:01pm
A year spent working in Spain, South Africa, Abu Dhabi, China, New Zealand, Brazil, the USA, Portugal, France, and England has given former Saw Doctors drummer Johnny Donnelly a whole new perspective on his home life as he settles back into living in Galway following the adventure of a lifetime.
It all began this time last year, when he completed the Dublin City Marathon on the Bank Holiday Monday before flying off to Alicante in Spain to begin coordinating the 10 stopovers of the 2011-12 Volvo Ocean Race.
As if that schedule was not hectic enough, the father of four young children also found time to compose music and direct a group of 100 drummers who travelled from Coventry to London to put on a special show as part of the Olympic Games.
Johnny says it was an incredible year, but it also broke his heart at times to leave his wife Aisling and four children at home in Headford before he would head off to manage events in cities as far apart as Sanya (China) and Itajai (Brazil).
He was based at the Volvo Ocean Race headquarters in Alicante for most of the year, but had to spend three weeks in each port hosting the Volvo Ocean Race. For Johnny, it was really important to get home to Headford to spend time with the children – even for just three or four days at a time – between each leg of the gruelling 39,000 race.
Effectively, he had been on the road for four years, because he ran a series of marathons for charity between 2008 and 2011 before taking up his role with Volvo.
“I finished the Dublin City Marathon and went to Alicante that night. My family came over for a couple of weeks. I was due to finish my four-year Marathon Challenge in New York on the day the Volvo Ocean Race started. I could not get there on time. The boats started the following week,” he said.
He had to produce gala dinners in each of the stopover ports, in addition to coordinating all of the events on dry land.
Meanwhile, his Galway-based events management company, Arcana, secured the rights to run the Eucharistic Congress in Dublin. That included hiring a stage to put on a Mass for 85,000 people at Croke Park and he would sometimes find himself on the phone at midnight, coordinating logistics and the movement of equipment with the office back in Galway.
“The Eucharistic Congress was a massive event for us to get. So I had to keep in touch with the office back home. I’d be going to bed in the South Pacific at midnight and holding conference calls with the lads back home while they were just up in the morning,” he said.
“It was so important for me to get home between every leg of the Volvo. The four to seven days I was back in Ireland would be so hectic and full-on, in terms of being a husband, father, and the Managing Director of Arcana. Arcana were having their busiest year ever and it was a huge leap for all of us.
“The guys here in Arcana were co-producing massive gigs. The guys here are great. I think all of us have had a chaotic two years, not just me. Now I’m back dreaming up projects, getting back into the running of Arcana.”
His job with Volvo came about because he had toured the world with Tourism Ireland during the 2009 event. It was intense. He rarely had a day off, he had two passports and a phone for every country, and celebrated his 40th birthday, alone, in China by checking into a luxury hotel and treating himself to three massages in one day.
On the road, he missed having a drum kit to bang. But he would watch box set DVDs in his hotel room and later in the year all of his focus was on leading the 100 drummers who marched from Coventry to London for the Olympic Games celebrations.
Form ore, read this week's Galway City Tribune.