RICHARD Lynch has been showing Limerick his love for the past ten years.
From the birth of ilovelimerick.com as an offshoot of Limerick Pride Week in 2008, the project came the full circle last June when Richard revelled in his role as Grand Marshal of the 2018 Limerick Pride parade.
He dedicates the foundation of the website to his late parents, Florence and Eric, who he moved home from New York to care for in 2008:
“That’s why I kept on doing ilovelimerick. My parents celebrated so much, and they were so incredibly proud of their city.
“When I got home from New York, I believed the same negative stereotypes other people believed about Limerick, because I had been reading about it from afar. It wasn’t until I got back here that I realised it was so jam-packed with all these talented and creative people.”
When Richard saw how positive people could be in the city, he organised Limerick’s first Pride week and called it ilovelimerick.com to make it “integrative and inclusive”.
Working at the time with Miriam Garcia-Mortell, they pooled their talents to populate the internet with videos showing all things positive in Limerick.
“When you Googled ‘Limerick’ all that came up were videos of ‘stab city’ and all that shite. Miriam was also a very proud Limerick person, so that’s how ilovelimerick started getting its legs,” Richard said.
Over ten years, working on a project comes with its highs and lows, and Richard’s experience with ilovelimerick is no different.
“Falling out with people over ilovelimerick, in the beginning I wasn’t really taking ownership of it.”
He describes how, in the early stages, he tried to make the website very communityorientated.
“I was letting other people have a say in everything about what was initially my vision. I created ilovelimerick.com, and that created a lot of problems, and a lot of conflicted relationships, which made me very sad and stressed, so I guess they would be the only lows I experienced.”
Seeing ilovelimerick through its ten years was the undoubted high.
This was achieved by operating the website on a voluntary basis and “seeing it through, and realising that what I was doing was having tangible results.”
Being first with a story proved to him that the project was working.
“It could have a story about a person with a life-limiting illness, or a rare form of cancer, but seeing it raise thousands of euros, and then seeing the national media pick up on that story made it all worthwhile”
But it wasn’t always about Limerick as Richard spent almost 16 years in New York after getting a degree in marketing.
“I went for my very very first job interview, and it was just me and a guy alone in the room, and he was interviewing me.
“And he just said over the table ‘you’re nothing but a dirty f***ing steamer’, I looked at him straight in the face and I said ‘I’m going to New York’. I was in Aoife Nic-Anna’s house when I was 16 smoking hash and drinking Buckfast.
“She had a Robin S poster on her wall, Robin S playing at this club in New York, and I said to myself I’m going to go to that club. And I did. I went to that club a lot,” he says laughing.
His time spent in New York allowed him to find himself and find his way through his sexuality:
“I’d had this torturous childhood where I was constantly beaten up and the kids in the street used to call me Sheila, that was my nickname, and they used to torture me.
“I was carrying remnants of that when I should have been celebrating love and life in New York. I was finding myself and going around in circles at the same time.”
Richard is now in a happier place, having married his husband Hugo last Summer after being together for almost seven years. The celebrations were held in the Strand Hotel surrounded by close friends and family on what was Richard’s parent’s 60th wedding anniversary.
“Hugo is the most amazing human being, he completely chills me out, and if I’m ever in a dark space, or I’m depressed, or I’m sad or fearful, he’s always there smiling or laughing.”
Over the ten years, Richard had the opportunity to interview some Limerick icons including Terry Wogan and Andy Lee, but says the interview that stands out most is with the Knight of Glynn.
“He was the last living Knight of Glynn, and he invited me out and wanted to do an interview with him – his last interview – which was unbelievable.
“He had Parkinsons and throat cancer, and it was really special, it taught me so much, it was a piece of history, he was very much involved in the Limerick Civic Trust and he was super-interesting.”
Another experience which stands out is ilovelimerick’s video capturing the floods in St Mary’s Park in 2014 as Richard says he saw “the resilience of these people and everyone gathered together and helping one another”.
Richard showed up with what a handheld camera as he didn’t want to be invasive.
“The people came out saying ‘Richard, come in here I want to show you this’ and everyone was inviting me into their homes. They were hugging and kissing me. You know, that’s the kind of high.
“It’s the people. I love Limerick so much because I love the banter.”