Hannah Nic Gib is a Belfast-based lover of creating all types of things. A talented writer, sewer, zine-maker, journalist, and bedroom musician: you name it, she’s done it. I sat down with her this week to have a chat about her work and the Belfast creative scene as a whole.
So, Hannah, you do a lot, but how exactly would you describe what you do?
‘I dabble, I’m a dabbler’. I think I need to constantly change up what I’m doing to keep myself interested, which is why I like to try new things and mediums of self expression… I write every day, writing is the way that I talk about things going on in the world, express opinions and process things. I have a notebook at all times. I have been journalling since I don’t know when. With writing I feel as if I need to do it or I’ll burst, that’s why I’m a writer first and foremost. The other things are things that I like the idea of and want to do, whereas writing is a release I get frustrated with, it is core to who I am. It is my identity.
So writing is your main passion, what’s your approach to writing, how do you focus to get it done?
I’m starting a journalism masters in September, so I’ve had to become more disciplined with writing, but I definitely feel like becoming disciplined with an ‘art’ like writing is a learning curve. For articles I start with a skeletal structure of all the information and opinions that I need and want to include and move with that. Whereas with prose I usually just go for it and write, I don’t know where it’s going, and I find that it’s more relaxing because I don’t have to answer to anyone else. It’s mostly just for me. When it comes to writing something more collaborative like a script I find it useful to talk about it and bounce ideas off others, all my script stuff has been collaborative. I recently put together a script for one of my friend’s music videos, it’s really fun because it lets me have my ideas be taken seriously, without the pressure of coming up with the whole thing: writing and talking at the same time.
Where can readers find some of your writing?
I write under the pen name H. R. Gibs. I like to have a degree of separation between what I write, think it’s interesting what a name means, I like the consistency of it, if anyone were to look up Hannah Nic Gib there’s no writing, it’s all H.R. Gibs.
Aside from writing, what other projects have you been working on recently?
I’ve taken up sewing and embroidery. I feel like there’s been a decrease in practical skills, from a female point of view, with 2nd and 3rd wave feminism there was a bit of a rejection of more ‘traditional’ feminine skill sets, and I feel as if I can reclaim those skill sets back. I’m not neceassrily making a statement about it but it’s great just knowing that I can do these things, and that you can be a feminist and do these things. I think it’s about using these skills at a base level. In my opinion everyone should be able to sew, to make their own lives easier. My mum was a fantastic sewer, so we have a sewing room in the house. I am relearning how to use the sewing machine. I made a skirt last week, I do embroidery, I can fix my clothes, and I can say ‘Hey, I do this for me!’. It also plays into the issue of sustainability, learning how to make my own clothing or make my clothing last longer is also great for the environment… sustainability shouldn’t be a premium thing. It shouldn’t be capitalistic, I love that by being able to do it myself I take that sense of capital out of the equation.
Publicly I make t-shirts, and I’ve set up the soupink t-shirt company: soupink is a collective brand, a sort of music association alliance. My friends are all musical, so we can all be associated with each other and that way if one person does well we can all help lift each-other up. I took the initiative to make the t-shirts related to the brand. My friend Matty Burke is a local musician, and I made him a shirt for his first gig, he’s under the soupink brand too, it’s cool the way it’s all interconnected. Anyone can commission me for their own t-shirt and they tend to let me have my own interpretation of the design. The shirts are one of a kind and hand painted. I love that I get to inject my own creativity into clients ideas and that they get something totally unique at the end of it.
Late last year I was setting up a Zine, I am still germinating the idea. I want to do it really well so I’m still working on the execution, it’s called ROOTED. I wanted to focus on print which obviously has struggles in regards to financing, so it’s on hiatus at the minute. It’s really important to know when to take a pause and know that making something a slow burner can pay out in the long run and be worth the wait.
Do you have any advice for like minded creatives when it comes to working on projects?
Firstly, I feel as though I can be bad at planning: I have an idea, I promote it right away, and sometimes I end up with unnecessary stress because I haven’t thought it through in total. That’s why I said what I did about letting some things be a slow burner, but I am an enthusiast and I sometimes think I have more time than what I really do.
I also think it’s really important to have projects for yourself: I’m teaching myself trumpet. For me. Being creative means doing it for yourself instead of always doing it for validation from others, if it’s for validation that doesn’t always come, and if you don’t genuinely love it and feel like it’s what you want it can be so demotivating because there isn’t always a lot of giveback. Social media platforms tend to show a lot of very lucky people who seem like they have everything breezily handed to them, and when that’s not happening to you it can be heart aching. I remember being angry about the flood of Youtubers who had never written before all getting book deals a few years back, it felt as if they were being handed these opportunities exclusively because of their following, which isn’t necessarily fair. It’s normal to get annoyed by that kind of thing, but if your creative outlet isn’t your passion that kind of thing can impact you so much more. Your creativity has to be fulfilling to you, before any validation from others comes into question.
What’s your experience of the local creative scene? Do you have any opinions on the scene here?
I think Belfast is the focal point of a lot of creative stuff here. I consider myself lucky to be so close to everything. Outside of Belfast, Derry has a very cool music scene. Artists like ROE and SOAK are amazing, it’s a super cool scene, I still think creatives are drawn to Belfast though, and it’s a great city for creatives in most aspects. There’s a lot of stuff going on and a lot of people doing things, and because it’s such a small city there’s an automatic sense of community. But I think the downside to it is that it comes with a level of exclusivity. Sometimes in Belfast it feels as if you see the same people used as mouthpieces for the creative scene over and over and not necessarily because they are doing cooler stuff than everyone else, more because they’ve gained traction and have become a big name.
It’s really good that there are platforms for people to express themselves on but it’s frustrating when it’ s only a handful of people actually reaching those platforms. Some Belfast Based publications wouldn’t really ask for as many up and coming writers, more people with a great reputation and the qualifications to back up their talent. Obviously this makes sense as it keeps interest, but it can be discouraging when you’re trying to break into the scene.
I also feel that there’s a lot of apathy in that if you’re not in the scene you don’t know about it at all. For example, my sister studies abroad and she told me she left because she thought Belfast was boring and nothing was happening, and it’s because she didn’t meet the right people at the right time… she didn’t find the doorway into that creative scene. It’s a shame. I feel like I see Belfast differently to her, but I know that that’s all down to issues of availability. People are leaving this place and people feel like if they can’t make it here they will move elsewhere, and if they get successful when they leave they tend to stay a big ‘Belfast’ name even if they are no longer based here. I think a lot of that energy could be better put into paving a way for people who are young and starting out with their creative journey, I feel like that would make a huge difference here.
A graphic designer named Grace Fairley put on an exhibition in East Belfast recently. I heard that it went really well. I feel like there could be more of a space and a bit more encouragement for people who are not necessarily contributing, who just want to admire and read and watch. I love observing things I’m not actually in the field of and I love being able to just enjoy them without having to worry about how I can make myself better at whatever it is they are so good at, enjoying all artforms without that sense of competition is key, being part of an audience just to be in the audience is also key. Things can’t grow unless you support them.
Lastly, it’s refreshing to see that a lot of the creative projects coming out of here are not inherently ‘green or orange’. Obviously the history of this place is important and impacts almost everything, but I think that allowing creative projects to grow outside of those boxes, and allowing creative people from across all communities to unite over shared interests and have some exploration beyond that is amazing. I think the creativity that comes from Belfast is, above anything else, hopeful.
You can find Hannah @
And if you are interested in getting a custom t-shirt : @soupinktees
Photos provided by Hannah Nic Gib
Interview by Sam Dineen