Keith Harkin is normally found in a studio or on the road, but a chance encounter recently led to the Derry musician spending a week with Virgin tycoon Richard Branson at his world-famous Necker Island.
He told the ‘Journal’: “Back in March I was invited to play at Muhammad Ali’s Celebrity Fight Night in Phoenix, which is a massive charity event in the States. I was sitting at the top table opposite Muhammad Ali and all the performers like Steve Martin, Andrea Bocelli and Billy Ray Cyrus, and I got talking to a US business-man called Glenn Stearns about charity gigs. Later, he called and asked if I’d play on Richard Branson’s island!”
The trip was an event for Horatio Scholars, ‘Thriving and Surviving’ with many guest speakers. “I learnt a lot, it really was inspirational to listen to these people and how they coped,” Keith says. “Glenn told his story too, how he’d been a punk-ass kid who became one of the most successful men in America.”
When the charity gig had ended, Keith found himself invited to stay. “On the last night, Richard Branson asked if I’d like to stay around and party for his 63rd birthday, so three days turned into eleven! I stayed on the island for six days and when his family arrived, I moved out to his 105 foot catamaran moored off the island, so that was amazing! They were a brilliant family, really down to earth, we all had dinner together every night.”
“Thanks to Glenn Stearn and his wife, Mindy, and to the Branson family too, of course, for having me on their island,” Keith added.
“It really was a once-in-a-lifetime trip, even though Branson did tell me to call in if I’m ever passing!”