‘If I do business stuff for too long, I’ll go to clown school for a bit’

Wild Geese: Entrepreneur and arts performer Kiva Murphy moved to Barcelona in 2013

When it comes to performance art, a little entrepreneurial spirit can go along way, as Barcelona-based Kiva Murphy has proven. After leaving High School in Rathgar in 2004, the Terenure native decided to study acting in Trinity College.

"I only lasted six weeks, because I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I set up a few businesses including Alakazam, a children's entertainment agency, a bouncy castle hire company called Castle Crew Ltd and a company called Drama, Drama, where I ran extracurricular activities for children."

To enhance her skills, she completed a diploma in drama and dance teaching at Griffith College in Dublin in 2007. After that Murphy moved to London, where she set up the UK branch of Alakazam, expanding into corporate entertainment and growing to have more than 100 performers on her books.

"I also started working as a clown doctor with Theodora Children Trust, which I still do. I travel around children's hospitals dressed up, doing magic tricks and jokes in the UK, Spain and Ireland. The kids love it and it's so fulfilling to see how this little sparkle of joy is so needed."

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Mr Bean

But, she insists her look is not all clown shoes and baggy 1980s suits. "I do a lot of improv and mix it up a bit so I look like Mr Bean, Charlie Chaplin or someone from Monty Python. "

Murphy says she’s always been entrepreneurial in a business where people often struggle to monetise their talents.

“When you work in the arts as an actor, performer, clown or any kind of entertainer, it is widely accepted your fate is to sit by the phone or to be poor half the time. Business skills should be taught in arts and performance colleges too. Learning to make a living won’t take away from the integrity of the vocation.”

After successfully growing her children’s entertainment business ventures in the UK, she sold Alakazam and moved to Paris to attend clown school and learn mime, before moving to Barcelona in 2013.

Since arriving at the popular Spanish city, she has shot several commercials and feature films, including Los Europeos by Victor Garcia Leon and It Snows in Benidorm by Isabell Coixet. "

Murphy set up an interactive events company, No Guilty Bones, which is based in Barcelona, but also operates in the UK, in 2014.

"My team and I run all kinds of events with our host of performers, photographers, permits, catering, decoration, venues, translators and more. We do improvisation and theatre and have taken comedy shows on tour to England, Scotland, the USA and Canada to name a few. Sometimes you get a flat flee, other times you have to sell tickets to make money, but if the events are well known it works."

She also runs an improv school called Barcelona Improv Group (BIG). "I work with BIG as an actor, putting on shows but also as a co-director, running classes both online and offline and doing events for big corporate clients like Reebok, Zurich and Nespresso.

“We have regular shows, but also do corporate events, where we show business people how to use the tools of drama for team-building, risk-taking, comedy and public speaking. It’s great to see the corporate side embrace the artistic side.”

About life in Barcelona, the Dubliner says speaking Spanish is a bonus, but many English speakers get by on the basics.

“It’s very international and people speak English, but it’s great to understand nuances and comedy by learning a bit more. Also when I came here originally, the parts I got were in movies and TV shows as the foreign person, playing someone from England or Ireland, which was great, but I’ve had more opportunities since learning the language.”

Murphy says she bought an apartment just before lockdown in 2020, which has been a blessing. “I was so lucky to get the place, because it has a big terrace. We were really locked down here and couldn’t even leave to exercise. I had friends stay over so we entertained ourselves. Now I use the flat to rent out for photoshoots and filming projects, as well as Airbnb.”

She says the pandemic forced her to step back a little and work on her new home.

Lockdown

“I was working on 14 projects when lockdown happened, so it was good to take a moment. I’ve acquired a dog too so I’m settled here now.” Property prices, she says, are about 30 per cent less than in Dublin. “I probably couldn’t afford this kind of space in Dublin.”

But now performances and travel have returned, Murphy says she will continue to mix things up. “If I do too much business stuff for too long, then I’ll go to clown school or something for a bit. It’s good to use both sides of the brain.

“I’m planning on create a new show using only puppets. I’m kind of addicted to doing things and Barcelona is a great place to do things, even though the salaries aren’t as high as back home.

“Right now there are less tourists around, which is great for some people but very hard on businesses relying on the industry.

“The only downside is that the thieves who target the tourists are just after the locals now. You need to watch yourself here and keep an eye on belongings. It’s sad that Spain and Barcelona is famous for theft, because it is so much more than that. But if you’re careful, you should be fine.

“Beyond that, Barcelona is an amazing place for artists to thrive.”