Cork Profile - Jonathan Pearson

Director of Islander

When you were small, what did you want to be as a grown-up?

I wanted to play for Man United like Roy Keane and Denis Irwin.

Tell us about your career progression to your role today:

I started managing Crash Ensemble, an orchestra based in the National Concert Hall in Dublin in 2014. I then started managing other bands and festivals and now Islander manages some of Ireland’s most exciting artists and we run festivals both in Cork and in Dublin. I also run INNI, a music company based in Reykjavík with my colleague and friend Colm O’Herlihy, who is also from Cork.

What is the most enjoyable aspect of what you do?

Being location independent and getting to work within music as my full-time job is something I’m very lucky to do and try not to take for granted.

What motivates you?

Having big ambitions for all of our various artists and projects.

What advice would you give your 15 year old self?

Don’t bother doing agricultural science for your Leaving Cert, you’re not good at it.

If you weren’t in the job you have, what would you be doing?

I think I would probably be working in tech in some aspect, probably through a cultural lens.

What is your greatest life or career achievement to-date?

I’m not sure what the greatest achievement is, but the most challenging role I’ve done thus far is being part of the team that ran Ireland’s cultural programme at the World Expo in Dubai this year and last.

Who has had the biggest influence on you in your life?

Professionally there are many. As a kid, Stevie G encouraged lots of us in Cork to pursue music in one way or another, and people like Olga Barry (director of Kilkenny Arts Fest), Mary Hickson (director of Sounds from a Safe Harbour), Kate Ellis and Neva Elliott from Crash Ensemble, and Eibhlín Gleeson from Cork Opera House have helped shape my career thus far.

What is the life dream now?

To be able to continue working for myself, living where I want and working on great artistic projects for as long as possible in a sustainable way.

How do you switch off?

Meeting friends, going to a gig, and playing chess.

What is your favourite Cork memory?

The feeling of putting on Quiet Lights, our folk festival, for the first time in 2018 was pretty special, as I had always wanted to do it.

What is your favourite place in Cork?

In the city, Fionnbarra’s or Coughlans’ pub. In the county, Schull.

Do you have a favourite quote or motto?

I don’t. I wish I did! I’ll have to find one.

When are you at your happiest?

Being in Schull on a sunny day with family and friends.

What is your hidden talent?

I am unreal at knowing the capital cities and flags of countries.

What might we be surprised to know about you?

I am an avid watcher of chess YouTube channels.

Anything else you’d like to share with us?

Our annual music festival Quiet Lights takes place from 24-27 November in your favourite Cork music venues, hopefully see you there!


Name and position: Jonathan Pearson, Director of Islander, a music company based in Cork, and label manager of INNI, an Icelandic record label and publishing company.

Age: 35

Lives: Los Angeles, but from Blackrock

Family: My wife Síobhra, my mum, dad, their respective partners, and my sister Sarah with her husband and my little niece.

Pets: None right now. I do eventually want a dog when we settle down.

Favourite thing about Cork: Going in the door of Fionnbarra’s on Douglas Street to meet good friends on a cold night.

Least favourite thing about Cork: The weather

One thing you’d change about Cork: A countrywide problem but change planning and zoning laws to punish owners of derelict properties, so we can make Cork the example of city centre living in Ireland. Many of the city centre buildings are empty apart from the ground floor, I’d love to see it become more European in its use of the buildings.