Creative catalysts: 100 people making things happen in Ireland right now

In the first part of our Catalysts series, we take a look at the people driving creativity in Ireland today

Sat, Aug 10, 2013, 01:00

Last month we started a conversation on our Pop Life blog about the most creative people in Ireland. The list started with 30 entries, then grew to 50, and now it encompasses 100 of the most creative people, organisations and collectives in Ireland.

The initial list generated a lot of discussion, online and off. We handed it over to you, to comment and expand on, and you did so in huge numbers, by email, on Twitter and Facebook and on the original post.

Our criteria for creativity are quite loose, but all 100 entries have some things in common: they all innovate, have a diversity of skills, break new ground, or are doers or hubs for other creative people.

This is a list to explore and add to. We don’t touch on plenty of industries that allow for creativity, so let us know who you think people should check out by emailing

The idea of “right now” is important, too. These are people who are exciting us in 2013. Ireland has a huge number of established creative people, but we have slightly shied away from those. Many of the people on the list have seen their creativity flourish during a time of economic difficulty. Many are also multifaceted, as we’re talking about creativity, not just one amazing talent in one specific area.

There are, of course, multiple types of creativity. Our list is heavy on those exploring work within art and culture, but the point is to continue a conversation about creative doers – as we’ll be doing during this series. Join in, contribute, debate, inform.

Hiding fascinating installations around the country.

10 Days in Dublin
The result of providing something for a community when a couple of friends saw a gap in the cultural calendar for a more open-format festival. This year saw it grow in quality, with artists using the event as a lightning rod for work that is more fringe than Fringe.

Aisling Farinella
Fashion stylist and editor of Thread magazine.

Aisling Rogerson and Luca D'Alfonso
Founders of the Fumbally cafe, in Dublin 8.

Ali Grehan
City architect with big ideas that look beyond Dublin as a place for big developers or for buildings whose sole purpose is to generate rates and rents.

And So I Watch You From Afar
A Band who live to bring their music to the far-flung corners of the world.

Angela Dorgan
Fairy godmother of independent Irish music, head of First Music Contact, Hard Working Class Heroes and Music from Ireland, and founder of Breaking Tunes.

Ángel Luis González Fernández
At the helm of PhotoIreland, pushing photography in Ireland forwards, and overseeing great photography festivals.

Annie Atkins
Stunning artist who is currently working with Wes Anderson. Everything she makes is beautiful.

Annie Ryan
Artistic director of Corn Exchange steers brilliant theatre productions into the fast lane of critical acclaim.

Annie Tierney
Creative heart of Tieranniesaur, one of the most interesting bands to come out of Ireland in recent years.

Avril Stanley
Festival director of Body & Soul who manages to bring together a team of people to create the best music festival in Ireland.

Billie Sparks
Chair of the Dublin branch of the 50:50 Group, and women and equality officer for the Labour Party.

Promoters, venue managers, party organisers and so much more.

Brendan Canty
With Conal Thomson, Canty runs Feel Good Lost, a production house in Cork.

Brown Bread Mixtape
Spoken word, comedy, music and more, creating a live experience that Kalle Ryan and Enda Roche can be truly proud of.

Business to Arts
Stuart McLaughlin, Rowena Neville and Andrew Hetherington provide advice and hook-ups between artistic endeavours and corporate entities.

Cathal Gaffney and Darragh O'Connell
Founders of Brown Bag Films.

Chris Judge
An illustrator of such brilliance he should be treasured, and an innovator whose iPad app is in Apple ads on the New York subway.

Clare Mulvany
Of One Wild Life and the Trailblazery.

James Whelton and Bill Liao started with a computer club in Cork and have gone on to create a global network of free, not-for-profit coding and tech education for young people.

Dave Smith
Man behind Mabos and Kings of Concrete.

Declan Meade
Editor of the Stinging Fly literary journal.

Denise Nestor
Illustrator of phenomenal talent.

Design Goat
Beautiful designers.

Diet of Worms
Comedy troupe and theatre-makers who are now branching into television.

Ed Guiney and Andrew Lowe
Directors of Element Pictures produce film and television and reinvigorated the Light House Cinema.

Fergal McCarthy
An artist who is full of surprises. His performances and installations perch on the edge of what it means to be alive.

Artist who is ripping up the aesthetic of urban street art and starting again. Beauty is at the heart of all of his work.

Fiona Shaw
Possibly the greatest Irish stage actor of her generation. Smart, challenging and an insightful director to boot.

First Fortnight
The First Fortnight crew excels at the almost impossible task of amplifying the cause of mental health through engaging with audiences using visual art, music, comedy, theatre and more. A remarkable achievement that, regardless of the cause, also has its place as a creative hub.

George Boyle
Architect and founder of Fumbally Exchange.

Apart from overseeing one of the best programmed live-music spaces in the country – the Róisín Dubh in Galway – Gugai is one of the best at bigging up Irish talent, and has guided Daithí and Elaine Mai to the fore.

Heneghan Peng
Architects who constantly surprise with their playful and beautiful aesthetic.

A project that brings music into homes, redefining both house parties and house shows and providing those in attendance with a night to remember.

Jack Colleran
Otherwise known as the musician Mmoths.

James Earley
Earley’s amazing large-scale street art is an intriguing mix of anatomy and nature, expanding the medium in a freeform, visceral way.

Jim Carroll
Irish Times journalist and the ball of energy behind Banter. He starts conversations and then leads them.

John Gerrard
Ireland’s most interesting artist. His work is nothing short of stunning. A true innovator.

Jo Mangan
CEO of the Performance Corporation and director of the Big House Festival.

Joseph Walsh
Designer of stunning and often bizarre furniture packed with vitality. Unique.

Joshua Gordon
Photographer and fashion designer.

Julie Feeney
Stunningly talented, multifaceted musician.

Kathy Scott
The woman steering Pop Up Productions, Wonderlust, the Ireland:Iceland Project and Trailblaze.

Katie Holly
MD of Blinder Films

Katie Sanderson
Creator of Living Dinners pop-up restaurant events.

Kevin Barry
His literary punch is unrivalled.

Le Cool
A team of people who turned a city event guide into a cultural hub.

Lenny Abrahamson
Film-maker who isn’t afraid to swim against the tide, and makes hugely effective work that is beautiful and speaks loudly to our society and how we see ourselves.

Lilliput Press
From little acorns do mighty oaks grow, and Lilliput is going to need more than a few trees if it’s to keep up with its publishing output, especially now Donal Ryan’s The Spinning Heart has been longlisted for the Man Booker Prize.

Lorcan Finnegan
It takes a lot of talent to be able to make TV commercials artisic. Finnegan does that with an emphatic high five.

Louise Gaffney
Come On Live Long musician and intriguing graphic designer.

Louise Lowe
Artistic director of Anu Productions.

Maoliosa Boyle
Manager of Void, in Derry, which focuses as much on education and community engagement as on exhibiting work. A vital space.

Mark Little
Storyful may now be a completely different animal from what Little started out with, but gradually it’s working, and the big names are starting to take heed.

Mary Nally
Party maker, event organiser and one of the people behind the Drop Everything free contemporary cultural event.

A continually evolving street artist.

Michael John Gorman
Founding director and CEO of Science Gallery, now bringing the Trinity College Dublin space to an international level.

Mick Minogue
Arts and crafts genius with an excellent grasp of popular culture and humour.

Moray Bresnihan
Founder of MutantSpace runs one of the best art blogs around, established a skills-exchange bank and runs a DIY arts festival. His projects are endlessly interesting.

Myles O'Reilly The emotional depth of O’Reilly’s work realises the key thing many music film-makers fail to capture: you feel as if you’re there.

Nial Conlon
Monthly General Meeting organiser and bassist with Delorentos.

Niamh O'Mahony
A Kindle content developer and writer, O’Mahony has spent nearly three years on the Improving Football Governance through Supporter Involvement and Community Ownership project, and has helped to reinvigorate Cork City FC.

Niamh Sharkey
This illustrator and author of children’s books is also a Disney Junior star, thanks to Henry Hugglemonster, and the laureate for children’s literature in Ireland.

Nicky Gogan
Producer and director with Still Films and director of Darklight.

Classic example of a crew who had an idea and ran with it, creating a brilliant festival of ideas.

Oh Yeah Music Centre
Hub of music in Belfast that is as ambitious as it is practical, providing services and inspiration for a generation of new musicians.

Oisíin McKenna
One of the most innovative spoken-word artists in recent years, whose theatre-making is getting better and better.

Olwen Fouéré
An actor who stops you in your tracks, leading to some of the most interesting work in theatre over nearly four decades. A true tour de force.

Renowned drag artist who shows no signs of slowing down.

Peter O'Brien
The man behind Happenings has embraced the challenges of embarking on community-driven artistic adventures.

Phil Campbell
Branching into apps with the successful Fairy Magic, Campbell has done captivating work on some of the most groundbreaking video games ever, especially with developer Quantic Dream.

Philip King
The man who made Other Voices a phenomenon – and he is only just getting started, having spread the Dingle wings towards Derry and London.

Popical Island
Ploughing ahead with DIY releases and gigs, and fostering bands that are on the alternative end of the pop spectrum, Popical Island approaches everything with brilliant positivity.

Project Arts Centre
The genesis for so many creative ventures since its birth, in 1966. It would be unfair to single out one person involved, so we’re throwing them all into the mix. Proper catalysts.

A great gutteral voice in the independent press. It’s a tough job, but these guys are brave enough and smart enough to keep the indie print flame burning.

Rebecca Moynihan
Labour councillor in Dublin who pushes for a creative use of space for communities.

Katie Nolan and Rosie O’Reilly are an alarm bell in an increasingly apathetic world of fashion.

Rejjie Snow
Rapper from Drumcondra who is heralding a new era of Irish hip hop.

Róise Goan
The woman who has brought Dublin Fringe Festival through tough times.

Rory McGowan
An engineer of spectacular talents at Arup. Look no further than China Central Television HQ in Beijing.

The Commonage
Rosie Lynch, Jo Anne Butler, Hollie Kearns and Tara Kennedy are behind thi s design organisation in Kilkenny.

Ryan Skelton
Underground style icon behind the best disco in Ireland, Together.

Sam Bishop
His Street Feast project rocks.

Seomra Spraoi collective
In a small building in Dublin’s north inner city, a collective of people continue to plough a DIY furrow, with a diverse group using the space for everything from political meet-ups to vegan dining and bike workshops.

Shane Griffin
Designer and director whose work is simply beautiful. The net he casts is capturing more and more international clients.

Stag Deer
Beautifully created and curated art and exhibitions at the cutting edge in their thinking, content and execution.

Stefphanie Preissner
Solpadeine Is My Boyfriend moved audiences in a way that a piece of documentary theatre hasn’t in ages.

Steph Green
Film-maker on the up whose debut feature, Run & Jump, won best Irish feature and best first Irish feature at this year’s Galway Film Fleadh.

Stevie Grainger
Stevie G, the man who makes music in Cork tick. Brilliantly restless and awesomely prolific. A doer and music-lover.

Stevie Russell
Young director known for his excellent videos for the band Kodaline. Also has serious advertising chops, having made commercials in Austria, Israel, Ukraine, France and Britain, as well as in Ireland. A star.

Tara Flynn
The actor’s biting, hilarious video responses to anti-choice groups and racism set her apart.

Temper-Mental MissElayneous
A one-woman powerhouse of creative and literary brilliance articulating herself through rap. Captivating.

Phillip McMahon and Jennifer Jennings’s approach to making theatre, parties and performances inspired a new generation and continues to change not just theatre but the capital.

Úna Burke
The most interesting new Irish designer at work, with a focus on innovation and quality.

United Bible Studies
Ramshackle rotating door of a band whose output is as varied as it is prolific. Constantly evolving for more than a decade, always surprising, sometimes rough and ready, but beautifully avant garde.

From alternative election posters to crowd-funded parkland.

Willie White
The director of Dublin Theatre Festival has guided many the budding artist towards fruition.

A promising and rather adorable performance artist.

You Because that’s where the next idea comes from.

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