First Person

‘Losing Sinead was devastating for so many, this is how I will remember her on her birthday’

When Kathryn Ferguson and a small team embarked on a film about Sinead O’Connor, she didn’t know it would be such a poignant experience. Here, on what would have been her 57th birthday, she reflects on the loss of a remarkable woman – and tells the extraordinary and moving story of the making of her first film

Friday 08 December 2023 14:55 GMT
Sinead O’Connor photographed in 1988
Sinead O’Connor photographed in 1988 (Andrew Catlin)

Today is my four-year-old son’s birthday, he was born on 8 December 2019, on Sinead O’Connor’s 53rd birthday. This year she would have been 57. When he was born, my debut feature documentary, Nothing Compares, was in its infancy. Myself and a small team had just recorded an interview with Sinead and her closest friend and “comrade in arms” John Reynolds. We knew that this candid interview was something truly unique and special, but none of us realised how it would become the cornerstone of our film.

People often describe our film Nothing Compares as a music documentary, but to me, it’s much more personal than that. It’s a meditation on grief. During the making of it, when Sinead was still alive, I would have vivid dreams where she and I talked about my reasons for making this film. I remember one early one, she was wary and I sat her down and told her, from the bottom of my heart, what she had meant to me as an Irish woman; how she had inspired me, about the fire she had lit in my belly and that I shared the same rage as her. I woke up with a wet face and was startled at how intense our conversation had been. From that moment on, doors kept swinging open and as a small film team we cautiously put one foot in front of the other.

O’Connor in the music video for 1987’s ‘I Want Your (Hands on Me)’
O’Connor in the music video for 1987’s ‘I Want Your (Hands on Me)’ (Chrysalis Music Ltd)

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