Name: Philomena “Fil” Campbell
Residence: Rostrevor, Co. Down, Ireland
Profession: A singer of traditional and original music
What are your favorite hobbies or pastimes? Why do you enjoy them? I love looking at maps! When I was a child I fantasized about visiting every country in my atlas and ticking them all off as ‘done’ – but even now I can easily pass hours imagining a trip while looking at Google Maps – happily that fits in well with booking tours. I go off every morning for a wee visit to whatever country I’m planning the next trip to. I also love watching movies, and the usual stuff of reading and playing games. And recently I’ve become fascinated with art — painting, drawing, doodling. I have absolutely no ability whatsoever in this direction but I love looking at the pictures!
When did you first hear about the town of Phil Campbell, Alabama? In the early ‘90s, the first time I entered my name into a search engine on the Internet to see what would come up, I made contact with a Phil in California who wrote back and told me about the town. Initially I thought it was a joke, but as someone said, the joke was on me. I followed the plans for the first Phil Campbell reunion there in the ‘90s and thought I must visit sometime.
Were you able to attend the Phil Campbell Hoedown of 2011? No.
You are a Phil Campbell. What do you think of that name? I love it! It’s been amazing connecting with everyone this year and I’m now wishing that I hadn’t changed the spelling of my name – that was because of Scottish Phil releasing a CD the same week as me!
I love the ambiguity of the name – in the North of Ireland names always have a religion attached and people make assumptions based on your name – PC is vague and gives no information other than the name, which suits me well. Also it’s very common to have women called Phil in Ireland, but when we travel out of the country, people expect to meet a man – that was another part of the reason to change the spelling of my name to Fil – to make it more female and Irish. Now that there’s the added bonus of being part of a family just because we all have the same name, it’s just class.
Tell us a little about yourself, as many words as you would like. I’m a singer – I manage myself and I record a mixture of traditional Irish and some of my own material and tour through the UK and Europe, here at home in Ireland and occasionally in the USA. I also have been a radio broadcaster and make documentaries for TV broadcast. I run a community choir and do vocal coaching in between tours.
I suppose my whole life has been about music. I work with my husband Tom McFarland who is a percussionist and sound engineer and video editor. We live on the shores of Carlingford Lough on the border between the North and South of Ireland in a beautiful wee village called Rostrevor.
A few years ago a CD I made, called Songbirds, was developed into a six-part TV documentary about the pioneering Irish women singers from the ‘30s and ‘40s and this subject has been the focus of my work since then. I used to write quite a lot of my own songs and plan to get back to that this winter, and I have a few more projects starting to brew to allow me to do more broadcasting which I adore. Over the years, I’ve run my own music publicity business and have organised festivals and summer schools, presented a radio programme for the BBC and did publicity for Queen and U2 concerts. I originally come from the pottery village of Belleek in the West of Ireland, a connection which I’m very proud of.