My Yeatsian Year- A Patti Smith encounter in Sligo

Patti Smith came to Sligo in 2006 and a young Erin Fox was there to meet her. Now, in advance of her return to Ireland during Yeats 2015, Erin recounts that visit to Sligo almost 10 years ago.

This is the fourth in a series of Yeats2015 stories which will be published weekly in 2015.

Patti Smith Yeats

2015 is a big year for the Yeats family, celebrating their 150th anniversary but it’s also a big year for Patti Smith as it is the 40th anniversary of her very first album, Horses.

After being a long-time fan of Patti Smith, I was thrilled when she came to my hometown of Sligo to showcase her art and perform her music and poetry. This June, she’s back to perform Horses in Royal Hospital, Kilmainham and I am just as excited to see her as I was eight years ago. For a teenager, seeing your favourite artist perform live is one of the most thrilling experiences. When your favourite artist comes to your hometown to perform, that’s just a dream come true.

So what drew my favourite artist to visit my hometown? She didn’t choose any old Irish town, she specifically chose Sligo. What draws anyone to Sligo? For starters we’re on a beautiful coastline; Strandhill boasts some spectacular waves. There’s the vast sea of bluebells every May in Hazel Wood. There’s the cherished lake Isle of Inisfree. Not to mention, we have a budding music scene. Having cited W.B. and Jack Yeats as two of her greatest influences, for Patti, the greatest pulling force was undoubtedly the lure of the Yeats brothers’ artistic ties to Sligo. Her performance at The Model was one of the most intimate concerts I’ve ever been to. The way she sang and read poetry was so beautiful I was moved to tears. Her follow-up interview the next day was interspersed with music and prose and a few stories about her admiration for Yeats. Growing up, she owned a book of poetry within which she would review and grade each poem. He Wishes For the Cloths of Heaven by W.B. Yeats was awarded a deserved five stars. Smith first encountered this poem at the age of seven and had dreamed of visiting Sligo for a long time. Following the interview, I was lucky enough to meet her and she sang Happy Birthday to me!

Looking back, I remember how ecstatic I was that an artist whom I greatly admired was visiting Sligo. I wondered how she must have felt retracing the footsteps of W.B. Yeats and having her work hanging in the same art gallery that’s home to several of Jack Yeats’ paintings. I got the opportunity to ask her about her impressions of Sligo the following year when she returned to perform in Vicar Street. I was so moved by meeting Patti Smith that I wrote about the experience for a local paper. Then, in collaboration with The Model, I interviewed her before her concert. For 22 minutes, Patti answered everything I wanted to know about her. She even invited me to watch her rehearse with her band before the concert began. Finally, she was sweet enough to let me visit her backstage after the concert where I posed for a quick photo with her, gave her a big hug and left feeling like my life was complete!

Patti Smith’ visits to Ireland are two of my fondest memories. Meeting her left a deep impression on me and I hope that visiting the town of two of her favourite artists left as deep of an impression on her.

Erin Fox was involved in Young Model between 2004 and 2010. She graduated from DCU with a BA in Journalism in 2011. She has been working in The Model, home of The Niland Collection since 2013.