June 21, 2024 by Rikki Thompson
A Day In The Life
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Growing up in a household that valued hard work and education, Clare was instilled with the belief that one’s efforts and learning are key to shaping their future. Raised by humble parents Clare’s mother and father who worked as a local breadman and a seamstress, emphasised the importance of education and personal growth. Clare and her six siblings were encouraged to carve their own paths and pursue their aspirations. The ethos of valuing diligence and personal growth over titles or status was deeply ingrained in Clare’s upbringing.

Originally, from Tullysaran, just outside Armagh City, Clare Jennings, is the face behind the scenes of Armagh’s folk music and theatre ensemble The Armagh Rhymers. Clare’s story resonates with dedication and growth. Her educational journey took her from Tullymore Primary School to St Patrick’s Girls’ Academy in Dungannon and further to studying History at Queen’s University Belfast. With a passion for English literature, Clare’s academic pursuits were guided by a love for storytelling and literary exploration.

As her interests evolved over time, so did her aspirations, showcasing a dynamic approach to life and career development. With a foundation rooted in hard work, education, and a strong sense of pride, Clare embodies the spirit of determination and gratitude towards her upbringing that has shaped her into the accomplished individual she is today.

Encouraged by the values instilled by her parents, Clare became somewhat of a globetrotter and embarked on a life-changing adventure to Australia after graduating. What began as a six-month exploration of the world unfolded into an 11-year chapter of growth and success Down Under.

Clare’s Australian tale is a testament to seizing opportunities and embracing new experiences. Starting as a backpacker handling calls for an eyewear distributor, Clare’s path led her to ascend the ranks, ultimately thriving as the Marketing Manager for Tom Ford Eyewear and later excelling as the Customer Experience and Events Manager for Swarovski in Australia and New Zealand.

Speaking to UrbanABC Clare affirms, “working in events for a jewellery company always sounded glamourous but definitely feels less than sparkly when you’re packing away props at 2am in high heels, lugging huge boxes of product around Sydney in 38-degree heat or dealing with the dancer who has just dislocated her knee live on stage in front of a packed ballroom”.

Homeward bound

The itch to return to home soil was sparked by a significant change in Clare’s life, the birth of her child. The addition to the family was a turning point which would see the family re-evaluate their Ozzy settlement.

“Once our daughter was born, my husband and I realised we wanted to move back home to be closer to our families and we resettled back in Armagh. I was unsure where my career would go from there – I had left an incredible job in Sydney and was suddenly back in Armagh having not lived there since I was 18.

“I have always loved art, drama and poetry but never really thought of it as a career, I wasn’t a poet or an artist or an actor. I didn’t realise the multitude of ‘behind the scenes’ jobs that would still allow me to be creative without being on the stage itself”. 

The next step

Armed with a rich background in marketing and customer experience, Clare ventured into the realm of freelance work, leveraging her expertise to assist various clients. Amidst her freelance endeavours, a special opportunity emerged that resonated deeply with her roots and passions.

Drawing from her childhood connections with the Armagh Rhymers and a growing appreciation for the tradition of Mumming, Clare felt a calling to contribute to the preservation and promotion of this distinctive art form. As she delved deeper into the history and significance of Mumming, Clare’s resolve to support this cultural treasure strengthened.

When the chance arose to step into a full-time role dedicated to nurturing Mumming’s legacy post-pandemic, Clare seized the opportunity with unwavering enthusiasm. Her transition from freelance projects to a pivotal position within the organisation exemplifies her commitment to honouring traditions, fostering community heritage, and embracing meaningful endeavors that resonate with her values.

“I knew the Rhymers from my childhood but as time went on and I learned more about the tradition and history of Mumming and the organisation itself I knew I wanted to work to help them preserve and promote this truly unique artform and when the opening came up after the pandemic for a full-time role I jumped at the chance. 

Thankfully Clare’s previous life and professional skills set her up well to work with The Armagh Rhymers where no two days are the same. Clare says that “work with the Rhymers has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career – seeing first-hand the impact they have on the lives of children and people who wouldn’t otherwise experience live music or theatre is a privilege.

“I will say the challenge for all of us who work in the arts is the lack of investment and perceived lack of value placed on their contribution to society. We saw during the pandemic what was considered ‘essential’ and the incredible work done by the NHS, retail staff and others to keep society going – however we lost our ability to come together to experience a play or live music, for our children to go to their dance class, for musicians to hone their skills at a session. We saw that, whilst society can continue on essential services alone, we lose the fundamental elements that make life worth living, let alone the educational and economic benefits of the arts.

“In Northern Ireland we receive £5.07 per person in arts funding, in Wales it is £9.45 per person and in the Republic of Ireland it is £21.68 – are you telling me that people in the North of Ireland enjoy and need the arts half as much as the Welsh or that children in Monaghan should be getting 4 times as much arts education as their neighbours in Armagh? Until our decision makers value the role of the arts and see public spending as investment in our society and our futures, jobs in the arts will always be difficult”.

How a round the world trip led to Armagh woman Clare Jennings working with the Armagh Rhymers

Outside work

Juggling the demands of parenthood and a full-time job, Clare finds solace and joy in the world of interior design and home renovations. Despite the time constraints imposed by her busy schedule, Clare immerses herself in transforming her living space, infusing it with her creative vision and personal touch.

The journey of renovating her home has become a labour of love for Clare, a project that continuously evolves and delights her along the way. Embracing the notion that a home is never truly “finished,” she revels in the process of enhancing and refining her living environment, finding fulfillment in the endless possibilities for improvement and personalisation.

Returning to her roots in Armagh has provided Clare with a sense of comfort and connection, allowing her to savor precious moments with her loved ones. The simple joys of gathering with family in her childhood home, sharing tea, watching the children play, and witnessing her father’s gentle presence in the garden, create cherished memories that warm her heart and enrich her life.

“My father reminds me that I have one of the best jobs in Armagh and I am very mindful of that”.

From humble beginnings to impactful roles in the marketing and customer experience realms, Clare’s journey exemplifies resilience, ambition, and the power of seizing chances for personal and professional development. Her story echoes the transformative power of embracing change, pursuing growth, and embracing the unexpected twists that shape our lives.

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