Meet Gar Cox, the Irish gay singer bringing the community together with his Lockdown radio

Ahead of In the Kitchen with Gar Cox's Lockdown Radio this Thursday, we caught up with Gar to talk about how he has found solidarity in solitary through his online show.

Gar Cox's Lockdown Radio

Gar Cox is a singer/songwriter and artist currently in lockdown in Kilkenny. Out of lockdown, he has built an online community who help to lift each other’s spirits. This Thursday, Gar is bringing his show to GCN as part of In and Out Festival, with Gar Cox’s Lockdown Radio.

We caught up with Gar ahead of Gar Cox’s Lockdown Radio, which will be streamed live from GCN’s Facebook on Thursday at 7 pm.

What has it been like social distancing in Kilkenny?

Having to socially distance in Kilkenny would be very similar to doing it anywhere else, and that is confusing emotional and lonely but I was adamant that I could work around it. Of all the place to be, I was lucky to be here. I had quite a larder built up, as I got a little stung a few years ago when hurricane Ophelia when the country, except Dublin, was without power for three days, which meant no hot water to shower and no stove to cook on, so in that respect, I was prepared for a lockdown. I had lots of miso, flour, coffee and so many cans of chickpeas and stuff I had to be inventive.

My boyfriend was in the UK the weekend of the lockdown and through a combination of bad timing, luck, and ailments we ended up separated for the duration of the time, our beautiful little dog was away in her grannies. She is now fiercely helping her grannie and grandad cocoon deep in Co. Wexford. This added up to massive solitary confinement for me.

However, as a student and sometimes a restaurant worker, my artist boyfriend and I have long been priced out of living in Dublin, I couldn’t be in a better place. We moved here from Kilmainham, we live in the gate lodge of an old castle, with large grounds to walk around, fast internet, plenty of nettles for soup and some rhubarb for pies or crumble.

I have been very strict, and for the first three weeks didn’t go out at all. Now I go to the supermarket all dressed up in my dancing wellies and my gloves and mask. Cheltenham was a big deal down here so there’s a lot of divide about it. I’ve taken advantage of the time to do my college work, learn some piano, to knit and of course, put on #lockdownradio an online light entertainment show.

Has music and food helped you connect with the world?

Music and food have massively helped me connect with the world during this crisis. In September, I started a radio show on Monday nights at 9 pm on, the Maynooth University radio station. I figured that no one else would want that slot, so I started Folk, Roots and Rebels, a weekly hour-long show, which was basically a fruity music show playing a lot of PJ Harvey and Michael Cohen or anything I fancied.

Lockdown Radio started as an extension of that. After the first few nights something really strange happened, I was getting lots of messages from people, thanking me and talking about the recipes or the songs I was playing, and how they were feeling about the lockdown and some of their anxieties.

I was baking Gluten-Free cookies, rhubarb crumble and dishes evocative of comfort food. I found that doing the show improved my mental health, but clearly helped some others too. I encouraged a bit of heckling and some fooling around, people chatted while I cooked and sang. It was a nice vibe.

One of my favourite parts is I have some frontline staff, tuning in from hospitals in Belfast, Kilkenny and Dublin, sometimes on their breaks, checking out #lockdownradio as a distraction from the trojan work that they’re doing.

Some of these people have had COVID-19, some are working at the front of the front line, and they remind me to remind everyone to #stayhome and #washyourhands. They made me realise that if all we can do to help is be a distraction, then we should all make ourselves as safe as possible, and as big as a lighthouse for them, and anyone else to have some light shone on them in these terrifying times.

The night that an old friend from folk and trad gigs was in her last night in Intensive Care, I had requests for a particular song for her, and a friend who works on the frontline up in Belfast also loves that song, Sin City by Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris.

Although I was in my kitchen in Paulstown, music joined people waiting for terribly bad news in Dublin, a frontline worker who had been having incredibly upsetting times at work and the other people who were in the audience. It was a sad but beautiful evening. It was also the night I cooked Courage Cookies which are essentially homemade custard creams, made using a lion-shaped cookie cutter and reserved for when we all need a little extra courage.

What can people expect from your online show?

People can expect a little cookery, a little shiteing on and a few songs. Yes, the songs may be a little Queenie, but that’s just the way. I endeavour to create a coffee-house style atmosphere where nothing is too sacred, the food can go wrong but its a learning curve.

Everyone is going through this and nobody is an authority on it, everyone has had moments of despair, panic and anxiety. I’m trying with some sticky buns, one or two embarrassing stories about myself and life’s twists and turns to create a momentary distraction like a dancing monkey, fireflies and geckos or something brilliant like that.

In the Kitchen with Gar Cox’s Lockdown Radio will stream live on GCN’s Facebook page at 7 pm this Thursday, find out more here.

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