Peter Meets, Bill Hughes
Peter meets Bill Hughes
Bill Hughes’ C.V is a vast one that goes from TV producer to director, writer and broadcaster, to radio host. Bill studied Arts in UCD, but in the back of his mind, he had always wanted to study Theatre and Drama. After leaving UCD, Bill left for London to enrol in London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. After returning home to Ireland in 1980, Bill ran a chain of book stores until he secured a job as a production assistant in RTE.
In 1985 Bill left his job and took up the offer of Vincent Hanley to join his team at Green Apple Productions and produce MT-USA. Bill would become best friends with Vincent and would massively impact on his life.
Since 1985 Bill has produced and directed a thousand hours of domestic and international television for the likes of RTE, TV3, the BBC, ABC, CBC, and CBS. He produced and directed four of the best-selling international boyband ‘Boyzone’ music videos, such as ‘Love Me For A Reason’ and ‘Father to Son’ and he created the ‘Irish Tenner’s’.
In 1990 Bill joined the production company ‘Radius TV’ where he stayed until Bill and his business partner, Bernadine Carraher founded ‘Mind the Gap Films’ in 2001. The duo have produced many of the TV programmes we like to tune into on a weekly basis, such as Brendan O’Connor’s ‘Cutting Edge’, ‘Lords & Ladies’ and ‘Healthy Appetite’; all for RTE. ‘Mind The Gap Films’ has also many documentaries on subjects that Bill feels strongly about such as sexuality, AIDS, exclusion, and life on the margins.
In 2004 he made a documentary celebrating Oscar Wilde’s 150th birthday. 150 stars from stage, screen, and music such as Annie Lennox, Sue Perkins, Rossie Perez, Liam Neeson and Joan Rivers recited quotes from Wilde’s vast body of work. Up until 6 years ago, Bill presented a radio show on 4FM, ‘Beyond Broadway’, where he would play show tunes and Broadway hits. On Saturday mornings you can tune into ‘Sit In’ on Newstalk FM, with George Hook. Bill has a segment on the show where he introduces George to music form the world of rock, jazz, R&B, Soul, folk and country.
In 2009, a friend of mine was working for Bill’s production company ‘Mind The Gap Films’, and suggested I approach Bill to be a part of my exhibition ‘Saints and Sinners’. I sent off an email thinking I would hear nothing back, but to my happy surprise Bill replied with eagerness to meet and hear about my idea. After meeting him and talking him through ‘Saints and Sinners’ he jumped at the idea of being painted as Saint Joseph. He loved the idea of me using gay people as saints and bringing attention to the question; what if the people we worship or hold patronage to are gay? Therefore are the church hypocritical in their teachings? Bill knew that he was gay from a young age, like myself, and came to terms with it at a young age. Talking to him about being gay in a time that homosexuality was a crime fascinated me; how gay men and women lived a life in secrecy and fear, but were also a united front. I couldn’t imagine living a life not being me. Living in fear for loving a lover or being ashamed of who and what I am. In a way Bill impacted on my life during the time I painted him, he imparted knowledge and advice to me that I treasure to this day and live by.
1. Do you have a favourite artist and what’s your favourite piece by them?
‘Guernica’ by Picasso. Standing in front of this vast masterpiece in the Museo Reina Sophia in Madrid, you feel a sense of awe and overwhelming emotion. It’s so big that you can pick a central spot in front of it where your entire peripheral vision is filled by it. Immediately behind you is an exhibition of a photo essay of the painstaking process Picasso went through in creating this great work. It really helps your understanding and deepens your appreciation of the piece. This is a must see in Madrid.
2. What was the last exhibition you went to?
This week Tom Climent, at the Solomon. I love his work.
3. What’s your favourite book?
This is such a tough question. To choose one and one only. ‘The Great Gatsby’ by F. Scott Fitzgerald. It carried me through school exams, university, drama school and into adulthood. There are passages I will return to just for the elation of reading them – particularly the party scene.
4. Who’s your icon?
Oscar Wilde. The astonishing wit, the foolhardy romanticism and the devastating tragedy go hand in hand and it breaks my heart. His body of work is so impressive. In 2004 I filmed a performance piece, using 150 of his best quotes, spoken by 150 artists, writers, actors, musicians and broadcasters to mark his 150th birthday. We shot it in Los Angeles, New York, London and Dublin. It was an unashamed homage to the great man.
5. I know you are accomplished in your field of expertise, but do you like to dabble in a bit of painting every now and then?
I loved to finger paint when I was much younger and it gave me a great buzz. I haven’t done it in years. These days I dabble with song lyrics.
6. What influences you on a daily basis?
The world around me. The daily papers. The news headlines. The sense of the world spinning through the universe, doing its best to knock itself off course.
7. What’s your favourite sound?
The witty banter of our friends around our dinner table with the clink of glassware and the cacophony of cutlery hitting crockery.
8. What has been the single most important event in your career so far?
Leaving my safe job in RTE in June 1985 to join Vincent Hanley making MT-USA. I became an independent producer and I am still doing my best to survive in that arena.
9. What do you hope your contribution will bring to your community?
I have tried to include something of my personal truth in everything I have done. I feel it is very important to acknowledge my sexuality at every opportunity so that no one is ever in any doubt about who I truly am. The gay community needs more people who have a platform to stand up on and be counted.
10. What is the hope for your audience when they encounter your work?
It would be great if my work makes people question their ‘fixed’ opinions and inspires them to consider the opposing view.
11. Who has been the most influential person to you and your work?
Without a doubt my business partner Bernadine Carraher. For whatever reason, she always brings the best out of me and forces me to give every project the 100% it deserves.
12. If you could have dinner or a drink with someone, alive or dead who would it be?
My late Uncle Rex. He was an accomplished baritone in the 40’s and 50’s and he died when I was 15. He was privately gay and had mixed in the heady social circles of Broadway and the West End. He died alone, before I had the chance to ask him a million questions. One dinner or a drink wouldn’t be enough……
13. Do you think an artist needs to be tortured to create?
We know this Hollywood stereotype only too well, but we shouldn’t accept it as the norm. All artistic journeys have, by their nature, some degree of pain involved. The darkness of self-doubt. The anguish of writer’s block. The despair of rejection. The blank canvas. The tyranny of deadlines. They all feed into the torture.
14. What was the first piece of art you bought?
It is a watercolour of a landscape with sheep and stone walls by Muriel Brandt, which I still treasure to this day, after 40 years. As a renowned portrait painter with many of her works in the National Gallery, I found this little gem of a picture representing her work when oils had become too cumbersome for her.
15. Where’s your favourite space to get creative in?
Once I have a pen and paper it can happen anywhere at any time.
16. What’s next for you?
TV production is my main work and my bread and butter. Radio is a great outlet for my opinions. But I love writing lyrics, anytime of the day or night.
Thank you Bill. Xx