Joe Rocks on Caravaggio, Cohen and ‘Championship Vinyl’

Named after the river that runs through Ballymena, The Braid Arts Centre weaves together history, arts and culture alongside contemporary conference, tourism and civic facilities on a site that has been for centuries the centre of local civic life.

Friday, 5th February 2021, 5:46 am

Joe Rocks works at the Braid.

Here he answers our questions:

Q. What is your favourite song/album and why?

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Ross Hickey

A. Starting off with the tough questions first I see. My Desert Island Disc would be Frightened Rabbit’s Midnight Organ Fight. As an album it is as raw and honest as lyrics can get. There are sombre, sober moments alongside songs to sing and dance to. If you can only have one, this one does it all.

Favourite song would have to go to Bruce Springsteen’s Darkness On The Edge of Town. I just never get sick of it. It’s all the reasons I love ‘The Boss’ all bundled up into one song. The drive, the passion, the thundercrack of the snare drum, the lightness of the piano...

Q. What is your favourite film and why?

A. High Fidelity - this one is largely inspired by the fact that I used to run my own record shop. It’s hard not to draw parallels between the staff and customers at Championship Vinyl and my own business endeavour. It’s funny, yet it touches on some of the more difficult life subjects, namely love, death and the correct way to store vinyl. It was also nice for me to see on screen characters who felt the same way I felt about music.

Ross Hickey

Q. What is your favourite piece of classical music and why?

A. Giacomo Puccini’s Nessun Dorma. It’s hard for me to separate this piece of music from its sporting association. We had an old VHS in the house which I used to watch that had this track playing over a montage of Roberto Baggio at the 1990 World Cup for Italy. It’s easy to see why it fits so well with sport. It has tension, it’s dramatic, it has agony and ecstasy - all the emotions you can go through while watching a football match.

Q. Who is your favourite artist (eg van Gogh) and why?

A. I’m going to go with Caravaggio here, purely as we recently had an exhibition here in the Braid Arts Centre where local artist Paul Bell displayed his Caravaggio Imitation.

Paul had been working on his piece for 25 years and was able to capture all the things that I enjoy about the original artist’s work; the ultra-realism, the incredible use of light and the details that reveal themselves the more the work is studied.

Q. What is your favourite play and why?

A. I’ll go for Brian Friel’s Philadelphia Here I Come, mostly because I studied it for my Theatre Studies A-Level, and it brings back some great memories of putting on live performances, but also because it’s a wonderful look at the idea of ‘home’, the allure of travel, the good and the bad parts of small-town Ireland. It also helps that it includes the odd moment of humour.

Q. What is your favourite musical and why?

A. I’m still waiting to get to see ‘Once: The Musical’ and I feel once I do that it will take first place. As a huge Glen Hansard fan and a fan of the movie, I reckon I’ll find it hard not to enjoy it. Honourable mentions to Footloose and The King and I (another school production).

I’m going to have to go with Hamilton, having watched it online over the first lockdown. It’s just so impressive how they blended the history with such a contemporary music style as Hip-Hop. It’s a fantastic display of storytelling and character development and to have such minimal set design etc, and still pack such a punch, speaks for how good a performance it is.

Q. What is your most special moment in the arts and why?

A. I’d have to say it was when we welcomed Sir Ian McKellen to the Braid Arts Centre.

Sir Ian undertook 80 shows in 80 different venues for his 80th birthday. As much as this was an achievement in itself, to bring a star of that nature to a regional theatre (thankfully Ian had earmarked a number of theatres he wanted to perform in with all proceeds going to the theatre).

The real joy from this event came from seeing the buzz around the town when Sir Ian appeared in coffee shops and the smiles on the faces of the audience leaving the theatre. To be involved in any way in making that a reality was a special feeling.

Q. What ‘classic’ just doesn’t do it for you?

A. Film-wise, I was very disappointed seeing Atonement in the cinema. Just didn’t get it at all. Same goes for the Breaking Bad TV series; I lost interest pretty quickly. Music-wise, one or two tracks aside, I’ve always failed to see the real genius in Pink Floyd. The same would go for jazz; very little would do me.

Q. What have you been reading/watching/listening to/revisiting during the Coronavirus period?

A. Reading: Beautiful Losers, Leonard Cohen’s first novel. Bizarre, but the roots of why I love Leonard as an artist are still there. A Kind of Loving – Stan Barstow’s book about life and love in a bleak northern setting.

Watching: The Last Dance – Michael Jordan Documentary. I caught up on both the Fall and Line of Duty series, both of which I thoroughly enjoyed. Listening to: Matt Behringer (The National’s Lead Singer) – Album – Serpentine Prison. Father John Misty – pure comedy album. Ryan Adams – Gold album. Bahamas – Sad Hunk album.

* A message from the Editor:
Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.
In order for us to continue to provide high quality and trusted local news on this free-to-read site, I am asking you to also please purchase a copy of our newspaper whenever you are able to do so.
Our journalists are highly trained and our content is independently regulated by IPSO to some of the most rigorous standards in the world.  But being your eyes and ears comes at a price. So we need your support more than ever to buy our newspapers during this crisis.
With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our local valued advertisers - and consequently the advertising that we receive - we are more reliant than ever on you helping us to provide you with news and information by buying a copy of our newspaper when you can safely.
You can also enjoy unlimited access to the best news from across Northern Ireland and the UK by subscribing to 
With a digital subscription, you can read more than five articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Visit now to sign up.
Thank you