50 people to watch in 2017

Who will be making waves this year in the worlds of technology, food, activism, sport, music, film, fashion, design and the arts? ‘Irish Times’ writers select the movers and shakers for the year ahead

After a turbulent 2016, we cast our gaze firmly forward to the new year, and some Irish people who will be making waves in the coming 12 months. Here, 10 Irish Times writers offer their picks for 50 people to watch across 10 categories in 2017.

We gathered many of the group at D-Light Studios in Dublin just before Christmas for portraits by Irish Times photographer Alan Betson. A number of the group also spoke about their hopes and plans for next year. You can watch that video above, and join the conversation and suggest people you believe are worth watching this year.


Left to right: Radie Peat, Brian Flanagan, Cormac Mac Diarmada of the band Rue; Loah (Sallay Garnett); Stephen McHale, Jess Kav, Neill Dorrington, Tommy Gray of Barq; and Maria Kelly; Bry or Brian O’Reilly. Group photograph: Alan Betson

Robbie Krawczyk
"It'll be a bit more of me and I'll be able to express myself more," chef Robbie Krawczyk says of his first restaurant, which he plans to open in 2017. Krawczyk, who was named Best Chef in Leinster in 2015 and 2016 while head chef at Brabazon Restaurant in Tankardstown House in Co Meath, comes from curing stock. His father, Frank Krawczyk, is a cheesemaker and an important figure in Irish charcuterie. Ten years ago, Robbie started curing and smoking meat himself. "I built a curing room and a smoking room at Tankardstown House to produce charcuterie exclusively for the guests," he says.

Before Tankardstown House, he worked for Richard Corrigan in London, Alice Waters of Chez Panisse in San Francisco and Martijn Kajuiter at the Cliff House Hotel in Ardmore, among others.


After nearly three years at Tankardstown, Krawczyk finished up in December 2016. His major project for 2017 is his restaurant, which he’s working on with a friend. “It’ll be a small, seasonal menu using the best of produce,” he says. “It’ll be heavy with the curing and smoking.”

Mary Farrell
Mary Farrell has been in the cooking game for 20 years, and was the owner/manager of Café Fresh in Dublin between 2001 and 2011. Farrell, a nutritional therapist, is currently director of culinary research and innovation and head chef at Morton's.

But it is her work as a PhD student at Dublin Institute of Technology that we will be keeping a keen eye on this year. She is currently researching her PhD thesis entitled ‘A critical investigation into gender disparity in Head Chef/Leadership Roles in the Irish Restaurant Industry’. “I ran my own business for 15 years and it was only when I started working for other people that I saw how certain kitchens were run. There was a culture of women not being listened to,” she says. “I feel that women in the industry who run their own businesses have more freedom, but what about those who don’t?”

Farrell devised an all-Ireland online chef survey on equality in the Irish food industry, the first national survey of its kind. She built the survey around key issues facing women working in kitchens. She has been analysing the data from almost 580 respondents to present at DIT in early 2017 and write a report based on her findings.

Rachel Flynn
Rachel Flynn has a background as a social researcher and healthcare project manager. She put her project management skills to the test in 2015 with her first food business, Bia Beatha, a pop-up supper club that aimed to highlight the rich culture and mythology surrounding Irish food. Flynn is currently focused on finding a premises for her first café, Salt & Stove. This is also the name of her range of dips, which she has been developing for the past year and a half.

“The dips are a move away from what’s on the market at the moment, to more unusual and interesting flavours such as spinach and feta, and celeriac and butter bean,” she says.

She is taking part in The Food Academy, an initiative from Bord Bia, Local Enterprise Offices and SuperValu to support early-stage food business owners and is also developing a street food project called Hula. She hopes to be one of the first to introduce Ireland to poke, a Hawaiian raw fish salad sort of like sushi in a bowl.

David Love Cameron
Ragged Jack kale and Gortahork cabbage are just two of the heritage vegetables that kitchen gardener David Love Cameron grows in his certified organic garden. The Walled Garden at Helen's Bay in Bangor, Co Down has been up and running since September 2015 and Cameron supplies his produce to some of Northern Ireland's best restaurants including Ox, James Street South and Deanes.

Love Cameron was working as a postman in Antrim before a lifelong talent for gardening led him down the garden path, in a good way. In 2013, he won a scholarship to join the team designing a heritage garden at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Oxfordshire, home to Raymond Blanc’s hotel and two-Michelin-starred restaurant. After a spell at Richard Corrigan’s Park Hotel in Virginia, Co Cavan, Love Cameron returned to the North to create his own walled garden project.

“One of the areas in which I can add value for chefs is by helping them build a narrative around their dishes by introducing interesting varieties,” he says. “Ironically, it’s a fairly new thing to use those old varieties in the kitchen.”

Hilary O'Hagan-Brennan
You might recognise chef Hilary O'Hagan-Brennan as the series chef in RTÉ's investigative food programme, What Are You Eating?, which will be returning to our screens in 2017. Last October marked her third year as head chef at 3fe, the Dublin cafe and coffee roasters.

She co-runs the 3fe kitchen with Holly Dalton and together they implemented a sustainability programme that included a staff well-being programme, where staff are given the opportunity to share their thoughts on issues such as mental health, stress management and gender balance in their workplace.

Alongside Ali Dunworth, a food stylist and the food producer of What Are You Eating?, O’Hagan-Brennan was selected to speak about mental health in the food industry at René Redzepi’s MAD symposium in Denmark last year. She is also co-founder of Athrú, a conference on gender balance in the culinary arts, with Jess Murphy of Kai in Galway, Lisa Regan of Lisa Regan PR, Gill Carroll of 56 Central and her 3fe colleague Holly Dalton.

"It was amazing to get support from people like Maria Canabal of Parabere Forum and Darina Allen at our first conference in July last year," she says. The team is already planning their second conference to take place in summer 2017.
Profiles by Aoife McElwain


Clockwise: Patrick Leddy of Pulsate; (main image, left to right) Howard Kim, Sylvester Mooney and Oisín Kim of WebDoctor; Stephanie Keogh and Bryan Deegan of iGeotec; Dr Nora Khaldi of Nuritas

Dr Nora Khaldi, Nuritas
Dublin-based startup Nuritas has a goal in mind: to promote healthy living through functional and scientifically proven ingredients that are readily available. If that sounds a bit vague, consider this: the company is trying to help people at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes fight it through the use of peptides – molecules discovered in food and food products – that can be added to food.

Khaldi, a mathematician with a PhD in molecular evolution and bioinformatics from Trinity College Dublin, is chief scientific officer and the founder of the company. Things are already looking good for Nuritas, which she set up in 2014. Earlier this year, the company got a major boost when it won a €3 million research grant from the EU. Nuritas also raised €2 million in funding from major investors to help develop its products, including Salesforce founder Marc Benioff and U2 members Bono and The Edge. On the cards for next year is major expansion, with the Irish workforce set to rise to 60 people.

Oisín Kim, WebDoctor
Few people relish the thought of a trip to their GP. There's the hassle of having to take time off work for a start. Then, frequently, you have to wait around in a room full of infectious patients and hand over €50 or more for a 10-minute appointment for something utterly routine. You could opt instead for the new model: online consultations. WebDoctor is an Irish-founded company that is connecting Irish doctors and patients. It started out as a project for a physician friend of Oisín and Howard Kim's family, helping bring things into the digital age. It has now expanded into a significant business that not only provides video consultations, but also an at-home testing service for those who can't – or don't want to – visit a GP surgery.

It’s not just about making things more convenient for the patients; it’s also about making things more efficient for doctors and edging towards a digital medical system despite regulations that may seem to stymie that ambition.

The company now has a contract with Laya to supply online consultations to health insurance customers.

Anatoly Lebdev, Cesanta
The internet of things is everywhere these days. You can hardly move for a connected lightbulb or plug, and the technology is being built into just about everything in a bid to make our lives easier. Dublin-based Cesanta is right there in the middle of it all.>

The startup has created a software platform that makes it easier for everyday objects to connect to each other, and it’s certainly making waves. Among its many customers are Samsung, Dell, HP, Google, Sky and Nintendo. The firm’s founders, Anatoly Lebedev and Sergey Lyubka, are ex-Googlers, from the tech giant’s Dublin office, and the company has been slowly building up its team with talent from the multinationals that populate Dublin’s Silicon Docks.

But the internet of things is only getting started, leaving Cesanta more than enough room to get going on its mission – which, according to chief executive Lebdev, is to deliver the technology to bring all devices online.

Stephanie Keogh, iGeotec
Having taken up the chief executive role in 2015, Stephanie Keogh is heading up this exciting company. iGeotech is a spin-out from Maynooth University. The company has developed a spatial multimedia technology it calls Ubipix, which is based around smartphone and scalable client-server architecture.With Keogh at the helm, iGeotec is currently working on ways to integrate its geospatial technology into 360 degree cameras.

The end result? A more immersive and realistic experience for the viewer. In the age of virtual reality, the more realistic, the better. Plus there are plenty of applications for the technology other than just a good view. More practical applications would be the ability to tag points on a 2.5D or 3D image that could then be measured and used to create a render of an object.

Patrick Leddy, Pulsate
If you walk down Grafton Street and suddenly get an irresistible offer from a retailer pushed to your smartphone, you might have Pulsate and Patrick Leddy to thank for that. The mobile marketing software company offers tools that help app owners interact with their customers and keeps users engaged with apps, including contextualised offers for customers based on certain locations.

Pulsate isn’t the first go around for Leddy and his team. The founder has already built – and moved on from – successful businesses, including app development firm Furious Tribe. But some well-timed pivoting of the business saw the company exit the app development business and move into mobile marketing instead.

It's had some success: retailer Brown Thomas was among its first customers and it has since signed up customers such as Heineken and HP. Now, the firm is expanding, including its US team, meaning we should expect big things in 2017.
Profiles by Ciara O'Brien


Clockwise: Joey Carbery in action for Ireland during the autumn internationals; jockey Rachael Blackmore (on right) in action against Barry Geraghty; Lindsay Peat in rugby mode - she also excels at Gaelic football and basketball; Boxer Christina McMahon and soccer player Séan Hoare

Joey Carbery, Rugby
The cat is so completely out of the bag by now with Joey Carbery that it feels like cheating a little to put him up as one to watch. But before we get carried away with him, it's worth pointing out that he's still only started seven senior games for Leinster and has completed 80 minutes for them just twice. Go to the Leinster website and you won't even find him included in the senior squad list.

And yet it already feels like he’s somebody who will be embedded in Ireland rugby teams for years to come. He was only five days past his 21st birthday when he came off the bench to replace Johnny Sexton for the final quarter of the win over the All Blacks in Chicago. Circumstances conspired to put him there but he didn’t need to be asked twice. He saw out the most famous win in Irish sport in 2016 with aplomb.

So what next? Currently injured, he will get some college work done in UCD over the next while before backing up Sexton for the rest of the season. More and more chances will come his way – the fun will be in watching how he takes them.

Rachael Blackmore, Horse racing
Not everyone is brave with their life. Rachael Blackmore is a jumps jockey so courage is taken as a given and yet it doesn't quite feel like the right term for the decision she made to turn professional in March 2015. Maybe ballsy is more on the mark.

There hadn’t been a female professional jumps jockey in Ireland since the 1980s. Nina Carberry and Katie Walsh have both won the Irish Grand National and ruled Cheltenham countless times but they have always stayed amateur. Blackmore is the first to submit to the grind of low-grade racing on mediocre horses in pursuit of her daily bread in nearly 30 years and she is making a serious fist of it.

In her first season, she rode just six winners, enough to make her question whether it was all worth the slog. So far in her second, she has already passed 20, including three in England. That number would certainly be higher but for the fractured wrist that kept her out of action for the whole of August. Only six jockeys have been legged up for more rides than Blackmore this season – her reputation as a reliable pair of hands is growing all the time.

Christina McMahon, Boxing
Some day, some way, Christina McMahon is going to get her shot at the big time. And when she does, the whole of Ireland will know about it. The 42-year-old fitness instructor from Carrickmacross is such a fizz-bomb of energy and cheer that you can't but wish the best for her. Resistance is futile.

She should, by rights, have had her go at winning a world belt last month but the demimonde of women’s boxing is every bit as murky as its male counterpart and her opponent pulled out at the last minute for reasons unspecified. It was a particularly galling waste of McMahon’s time – she had done her training on a cruise ship in Hawaii after her mother won a holiday on The Late Late Show and brought the family with her. “I came home healthy and fit,” she told Irishboxing.com. “Martin [HER HUSBAND] and my dad were at the buffet, they ate for me!”

A former world kick-boxing champion, McMahon has had 10 professional fights, winning seven. She has run into setbacks at every turn, be they late defections, dodgy doping controls, shady judging, the lot. But she hasn’t given up and is hoping to fight for a world title in 2017.

Lindsay Peat, Rugby
Lindsay Peat is one of those people that make you stare at your shoes and feel bad about how little you've done with your life. She has been an Ireland underage soccer international, an Ireland basketball captain and an All-Ireland winner with the Dublin footballers.

And now, in the year the women’s rugby World Cup is coming to these shores, she has forced her way into the Ireland squad despite only taking up the game in her 30s. She has been around the squad for a year now and played in the November internationals against New Zealand and England.

That was a fairly humbling series for the Ireland women, as they lost all three games against the top three sides in the world – Canada gave them a bad pasting as well. And it was in keeping with a poor 2016, during which they only had two wins from eight games.

But the prospect of a World Cup on home soil will surely raise their game and Peat will be in the mix, driving it on.

Seán Hoare, Soccer
It was always going to be interesting to see where Dundalk decided to spend their money after getting a sniff of the game's upper echelons with their Europa League run this year. Hoare is their first signing, on the face of it a like-for-like replacement for Andy Boyle who has been whipped away by Preston. If 2017 is to go as well for Dundalk as 2016, Hoare's contribution will be key.

A former Ireland under-21 captain, Hoare will be 23 in March. He is an assured presence at centre-back, a good organiser and a calm distributor. There have been rumblings a few times over the past two seasons that the likes of Swansea, Hull and Portsmouth wanted to bring him across the water but this move to the undisputed top dogs of Irish soccer will arguably further his career just as well as any of those.

Dundalk are creating their own reality in the game here and it is a tribute to their success that they are a viable option now for up-and-coming Irish talent. If Hoare can cut out the occasional mistake under Stephen Kenny, then both they and he can keep rising.
Profiles by Malachy Clerkin

Film and TV

Clockwise: Ann Skelly was first spotted at an unsuccessful call for John Carney’s Sing Street; Ruth Coady has produced two films to be released in 2017, Mary Shelley and The Delinquent Season; Tadhg Murphy will be playing an IRA man for Oscar-winner John Ridley in Guerrilla; Barry Keoghan’s career is set to go global, having made his name in the likes of Love/Hate; Fionn O’Shea stars in Handsome Devil, which will close close the Dublin International Film Festival in February

Fionn O'Shea
Last September, the Irish Film Board celebrated a bumper year for home premieres at the Toronto Film Festival. The picture that received the loudest hurrahs was John Butler's wonderful Handsome Devil. The charming, sweetly-voiced Fionn O'Shea stars as an artistically minded youth at a posh Irish boarding school that treats rugby as religion.

“The response at Toronto was overwhelming,” O’Shea says. “It was incredible. I was pinching myself.”

Fionn went to Gonzaga College in Dublin, an institution that is proud of its own rugby tradition. “It is a rugby school, but it also has a great tradition of people going into the arts and they were so helpful with giving me time off to work on different things,” he says.

Back in 2007, Fionn got an unexpected break when Steph Green’s short New Boy, in which he starred, was nominated for an Oscar. More recently, he was among the cast of The Siege of Jadotville. Handsome Devil will close the Audi Dublin International Film Festival in February.

Ruth Coady
Ruth Coady remembers her start in the film business. "The bottom rung was my mother taking me aside when I was at UCD and saying, 'You need to drop out of college'. She pointed me in the direction of movies."

Ruth did a course at DIT and then got a job “making tea” at Parallel Films. Mum’s instincts were correct. Coady worked on productions such as Perrier’s Bounty and Byzantium.

This year, she takes a full producer credit on two of the year’s most anticipated domestic features. Haifaa al-Mansour’s Mary Shelley (originally entitled A Storm in the Stars) studies the relationship between the writer of Frankenstein and poet Percy Shelley. Cillian Murphy stars in The Delinquent Season, the directorial debut of playwright Mark O’Rowe.

Ruth feels O’Rowe’s raw, brave relationship drama will cause couples to leave the cinema “holding hands or not able to talk to one another”. She also believes Elle Fanning will light up the screen as Shelley. “We shot those in 2016 and they come out in 2017. So, this really does feel like a crossover period for me,” she says.

Tadhg Murphy
At the age of 13, Tadhg Murphy, a chatty, funny Dubliner, lost an eye in an accident. "I decided right then I wanted to be the lead singer in a band or an actor," he says. Tadhg says his group were "brutal", but he proved to have a knack for the acting. Following a spell in Trinity College Dublin, he secured regular roles on Black Sails and Vikings.

In 2017, he kicks up another gear with two exciting new TV series. In Will, a study of Shakespeare’s early life, he plays a rival to the title character.

We will also see him as an IRA man in John Ridley’s Guerrilla for Sky Atlantic. Ridley, who won an Oscar for writing 12 Years a Slave, first met Murphy when he was casting the Jimi Hendrix biopic Jimi: All Is By My Side. “He said then, ‘I’d like to give you a part, but you’re too nice’,” Murphy says. “Nobody has ever said that about me. Ha-ha!”

Ann Skelly
Aoife McArdle's Kissing Candice is sure to be one of the most analysed Irish debuts of 2017. Ann Skelly, already a recognised face from her role as Rachel Reid in Red Rock, stars in the off-centre drama. "It's about today's youth culture," Ann says. "I play a girl called Candice who has epilepsy. Her meds, her dreams and her imagination all blur with reality. It's very different from anything else that's been made in Ireland."

McArdle, a gifted film-maker who has shot videos for U2 and Jon Hopkins, sounds like the ideal director. The irrepressible Skelly, who was first spotted at an unsuccessful call for John Carney’s Sing Street, will also be seen in the Blackpills web series Playground. Created by Luc Besson, the show sounds like a riot.

“It’s about these teenagers who are raised to be killers,” she says. “We had to stunt-train a week beforehand. We did all these armed stunts. It’s probably the best fun I’ve ever had doing anything.”

Barry Keoghan
Barry Keoghan has been bubbling under for some time, but 2017 will be the year in which his career goes properly global. Raised in Dublin's inner city, Barry first appeared on screen as a teenager in Fair City and Mark O'Connor's dynamic film Between the Canals. A mix of notoriety and celebration greeted his role as Wayne, the killer of cats, in Love/Hate.

Next year Barry will boss the screen in four enticing productions. The Killing of a Sacred Deer, Yorgos Lanthimos’s follow-up to The Lobster, also stars Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman and Alicia Silverstone. He is buffeted between Michael Fassbender and Brendan Gleeson in crime drama Trespass Against Us. He is currently shooting Lance Daly’s Black 47, a drama set during the Famine, in central Europe. Then there is Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk.

That epic retelling of the famous second World War evacuation, which also features Cillian Murphy and (no, really) Harry Styles, is already among the most slavered-over releases of 2017. It reaches us in July.
Profiles by Donald Clarke


Clockwise: Éabha Campbell, baker and Conor O’Flaherty, entrepreneur; Eilís Barrett, author; Harry McCann, entrepreneur; Liam and Paddy Doran, models

Conor O'Flaherty, entrepreneur
In 2015, Conor O'Flaherty (now 18) made a pitch to his parents as to why he should drop out of school in Galway and work on Pursue, his agency for online influencers. Since then he hasn't looked back.

“Influencers are personalities who create content or let’s say that they express themselves on the internet,” he explains. “They might film themselves going to town or they might film their Leaving Cert holiday or a make-up tutorial.”

O’Flaherty pairs up online influencers with brands they are passionate about who then promote that product or brand to their thousands of followers on social media channels including Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat. He says he helps to “refine” their personalities and that with a bit of hard work, an influencer could earn €100,000-€150, 000 a year.

Now he’s living in Dublin and working on Pursue with five global brands, including the beauty brand Laneige and the marketing company OmniCom Group. In 2017 he’ll continue working on Pursue and will expand on an earlier business called Centus, an agency for influencers within the travel industry.

The Dorans, models
Liam (15) and Paddy (14) Doran are regulars in photographer Perry Ogden's shoots, modelling for H&M and Fred Perry using backdrops such as the Ballinasloe Horse Fair. They have appeared in Harrods Magazine, Dust magazine and the Italian lifestyle magazine D, which also featured their younger sister Christina (12) and brothers Tom (10) and Felix (9).

From a travelling community in Celbridge, Co Kildare, the brothers also appeared in Glen Hansard’s music video for The Lowly Deserter, along with Christina, Tom, Felix and their youngest brother QE (5). There’s healthy competition between them, with each sibling saying they’re the best looking but Felix thinks Liam is the best model “because of the way he looks”.

While modelling is more of a hobby for the older brothers now, their mother Mary says the lads are well-liked by everyone they work with so when a photo shoot comes along, it’s simply a case of getting the call and showing up on the day, ready to pose.

According to Liam, none of their schoolfriends know about their modelling career because they don’t read fashion magazines but they have more photo shoots planned with Ogden for 2017.

Eilís Barrett, author
By the end of 2017, author Eilís Barrett will have her second young adult novel published by Gill. Her first novel Oasis, which was released in March 2016, details the survival of mankind against a deadly virus and Genesis will pick up from where that left off. The 17-year-old is home-schooled which means she can focus on the subjects that interest her (at the moment she is studying Korean), giving her enough time to work on her writing.

“I usually try to spend between three and five hours of my day writing or editing or whatever I am doing with the book at the time,” she says. “Then, obviously, I spend a lot of my time reading because you can’t write if you don’t read.”

Barrett regularly gives talks in schools and the advice she passes on is to complete projects. “Finish things. Because we are very good at starting things and it’s a lot harder to actually finish them,” she says.

The first chapter of Genesis is available to read for free on eilisbarrett.com

Éabha Campbell, baker
When 16-year-old Éabha Campbell was named the winner of Foróige's National Junior Baking competition for the second year in a row at September's Ploughing Championships, part of her prize was to have her winning recipe for a tea-infused, spiced fruit muffin manufactured and sold by Aldi, making her the supermarket's youngest supplier.

Whenever friends call over to the Monaghan teenager’s house, they expect a fine spread of baked treats and that’s what she delivers. “In school, whenever there’s something happening, some kind of event on, they’re always like ‘you can bring stuff, you can make stuff’,” she laughs.

Campbell started baking at a very young age, helping her mum and grandmother in the kitchen, but when she won the baking competition last year she knew it could be more than a hobby. Her 1916 centenary-themed muffins are already on the shelves in 128 Aldi supermarkets across Ireland, which she says is “weird but really, really cool”.

Harry McCann, entrepreneur
For most of his secondary education, Harry McCann has worked on projects that promote the study of science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem). In 2013, he founded Kid Tech, a company that teaches children about coding and technology. In 2014 he founded the Digital Youth Council, a council that brings the youth voice together, providing an opportunity for young people from any background to get more involved with Stem outside of school or university.

“The mix is huge. We have 12 year-olds and people who are studying in Trinity and we have a really good mix of guys and girls as well. We try to make sure the council is a good representation of the youth of Ireland,” he says.

The 18-year-old from Clane, Co Kildare is currently studying for his Leaving Cert ("Not enjoyable but it has to be done") and while he plans to study government in University College Cork next year, he hopes to expand the Digital Youth Council into as many countries as possible. He will also be working on Trendster Press, a news site that encourages young people to get more involved with current affairs and news.
Profiles by Louise Burton


Left to right: Radie Peat, Brian Flanagan, Cormac Mac Diarmada of the band Rue; Loah (Sallay Garnett); Stephen McHale, Jess Kav, Neill Dorrington, Tommy Gray of Barq; and Maria Kelly; Bry or Brian O’Reilly. Group photograph: Alan Betson

One of the most striking things about Irish music in 2017 is its diversity. The recent brouhaha about Irish radio and the confusing signals aired in that debate about Irish culture missed the point that the music being made here has never been so eclectic, colourful, compelling or impossible to categorise.

Sallay Garnett has been making music of such distinction for a while. These are sounds influenced by her years growing up in Sierra Leone and Maynooth and powered by good training on piano, voice and violin. She also developed a yen for collaborations while at Trinity College where she worked with a sweep of musicians across several genres.

Garnett has been on various lists of acts to watch in the past, but was never quite the finished product at those stages. Recent performances, though, suggest all the elements in her powerful blend of folk, pop and soul have clicked into place and there are songs in the current set that exhibit power, poise, panache and personality. Expect to see and hear a lot more of her in the year ahead – and hopefully on some Irish radio stations too.

Maria Kelly
Once heard, Maria Kelly's songs are likely to stick with you for a long time. They're beauts: rich rubs of gentle sounds and melancholic observations sung in a voice that is a silky, splendid thing. Lyrically, show a maturity and an observational nous that bode well for this young Westport singer-songwriter

Kelly says she’s been writing songs since she was a 10-year-old nipper so perhaps she was hitting the 10,000 hours target while her peers were wasting their time on social media. Certainly, the likes of Before It Has Begun, Black and Blue and especially this year’s mesmeric Stitches are the work of someone who knows what suits her own style.

Live – whether with a band or just solo – Kelly turns these songs into a world full of characters and tales you want to hear more of. At present she’s writing more songs and adding to that store of material and we reckon she’s got what it takes to make a quiet impact in the year ahead.

There's a strand of quality running through the musical CVs of Dublin-based four-piece Barq. Between them, the members have recorded, collaborated or performed with Kodaline, Hozier, Lethal Dialect, Damien Dempsey, Róisín O, Jape, Ryan Sheridan – and many more.

But the sound Barq are creating is unique: a tough-as-they-come mash with elements of hip-hop, jazz, r’n’b and funk rubbing shoulders with rock and pop.

If you’re looking for an Irish act bringing a groove informed by records such as The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, To Pimp A Butterfly and New Amerykah and bands such as Hiatus Kaiyote, you’ve come to the right place

Barq’s ace in the pack right now is firebrand lead singer Jess Kav, and her mighty voice and big soul energy. She’s one of the reasons why Barq are such a strong live draw: they seem to have played every Irish festival and shindig of note over the past 12 months.

Tracks released in 2016 such as That Thing You Love and Gentle Kind Of Lies were good calling cards for the band and bode well for their future studio adventures.

For the past few years, Brian O'Reilly has been going about his business with great effectiveness – so much so that although the Dubliner is one of the Irish acts who are likely on the cusp on an international breakthrough, not that much is known about him. Initially known as BriBri and now as Bry, O'Reilly has a great knack for writing songs full of heart and a bit of razzle-dazzle, which go down well at a time when a lad like Ed Sheeran is taking the world by storm.

But in the age of social media, it is O’Reilly’s ability to win huge audiences via his YouTube channel that is really impressive. With a section that chronicles his bucket list quest to visit as many countries in the world as possible as well as videos featuring his wife, Candice Cathers, O’Reilly has found a simple, effective way to get his music and story across to a huge number of people.

The trick now is to turn this online traction into a sustainable music career. His debut album has been on release since November and he will start 2017 at the influential Eurosonic festival in Groningen in the Netherlands, where European festival bookers go to find acts. Chances are Bry will be doing a lot of travelling in 2017.

One of the best Irish bands to emerge in the past few years has been Lynched, the four-piece who threw a new box of paints at the folk song canvas and came up with something exciting, with huge resonance both at home and away.

Out of Lynched now come Rue, a folk trio taking big new steps with an old form. Featuring Lynched’s Radie Peat along with Cormac Mac Diarmada and Brian Flanagan, Rue are digging deep into the tradition from both sides of the Atlantic.

Their rendition of Sally in the Garden, for instance, is a spooked-out thriller, with impeccably played music and a dastardly atmosphere, while a version of Katie Cruel, filmed by Myles O’Reilly and Donal Dineen, comes with a haunting helping of heavyweight harmonium.

With Lynched set to have a busy year, it remains to be seen how much time Peat and Mac Diarmada will have for Rue but they're well worth checking out should they come your way.
Profiles by Jim Carroll


Top: Andrea Horan of HunReal Issues and Tara Derrington of MAM (Mothers Artists Makers). Bottom: Calvin and Andy Sweeney of Syria’s Vibes; Rosi Leonard of Irish Housing Network

Calvin and Andy Sweeney, Syria's Vibes
For many people, the carnage and destruction in Syria is almost too immense to get one's head around. But Calvin and Andy Sweeney have tackled the issue in an unexpected way. Their organisation, Syria's Vibes, uses music, events and parties as a fundraising mechanism for humanitarian efforts in Syria. The brothers are also founders of the SCOOP Foundation, which builds schools in Cambodia and India, but Syria's Vibes takes a more irreverent approach to a very serious subject. Gigs, club nights and parties in venues and clubs around Dublin raise money and awareness for the cause, earning thousands of euro in the process. For the Sweeney brothers, it's an inventive initiative, and crucially one that's raising hard cash for medical help for Syria's victims.

Dublin Tenants Association
In 2016, rent went further out of control around Ireland and, in particular, in Dublin. With renters feeling increasingly powerless, a number of people renting in Dublin decided the least they could do was get together. Dublin Tenants Association is a peer-support group where fellow tenants can find information, support, and voice their concerns. The association meets weekly in Dublin 7, and also runs active and smart social-media campaigns highlighting stories of rent rip-offs and the struggles the average renter is going through in an increasingly squeezed private sector.

The DTA also fulfils an important role as an information provider for people who may be struggling with leases abruptly ending or rent being increased. In 2017, we’ll learn whether or not Simon Coveney’s rent cap will have a positive impact, but until that becomes clear (or not) the housing crisis and renters experiencing it will continue to dominate the news cycle. Dublin Tenants Association, and groups like it, will continue to grow members trying to affect change, and also to learn about their rights as tenants.

Andrea Horan, HunReal Issues
As the campaign to repeal the eighth amendment soldiers on, one of the most interesting aspects of the broader movement is how many different and dynamic grassroots DIY movements have been started by people. One of those organisations, the HunReal Issues, started by Andrea Horan, is a brilliant piece of a complex puzzle.

By advocating feminist issues and placing itself firmly in the mainstream, the organisation fizzes with energy. Horan herself is a powerhouse – endlessly positive, smart, engaged, and well-versed on the issues impacting young women. Horan also runs the Dublin nail bar Tropical Popical, providing a great base for a feminist revolution. In 2016, the group gained wide attention with its Maser-commissioned mural on the Project Arts Centre in Temple Bar, and in 2017, the HunReal Issues will continue to inform, entertain and mobilise, all with its unique style and flair.

Rosi Leonard, Irish Housing Network
As 2016 wrapped, one direct action captured the public's imagination as well as kicking off a massive debate about homelessness. Leonard, from the Irish Housing Network, was front and centre of the Home Sweet Home occupation of Apollo House in Dublin city centre. The Irish Housing Network is a collection of housing and homeless groups fighting this ongoing housing and homeless crisis. As a spokesperson, Leonard is pragmatic, getting straight to the point and explaining the high-profile and, for some, controversial action in taking over a Nama-owned building.

Homelessness is a very emotionally charged issue, and leaders of agencies that assist the crisis generally get good press. High-profile direct actions are notoriously difficult to steer, yet Leonard and her colleagues and fellow volunteers managed to effectively bring massive attention to the issue, as well as further the conversation about disused buildings and dereliction. The homelessness crisis, with a whole cohort of new homeless people changing the landscape of the issue, will continue in 2017, and people power will form at least some part of challenging people on the streets and in emergency accommodation.

Tara Derrington, MAM (Mothers Artists Makers)
After Waking The Feminists wrapped its public form, the resonance of the movement is still being felt. The seismic shift in the theatre and arts world towards addressing gender inequality led to other initiatives. MAM, Mothers Artists Makers is an organisation that emerged from Waking The Feminists, supporting and advocating for mothers who work in theatre. In asking questions about how mothers in the industry can be supported, why they often leave for long periods, and how they can be helped back into the industry after maternity leave, MAM, like Waking The Feminists, is tackling much broader issues through the prism of the theatre world.

Director Tara Derrington and others are leading this conversation and group, bringing the childcare issue into an arts world that often views itself as right-on, but is no more immune to discrimination against women who sacrifice parts of their career for childcare. If Waking The Feminists began with conversations, it's high time mothers in the arts also became a topic.
Profiles by Una Mullally


Hazel McCague, designer
Hazel McCague describes 2016 as a "game changer" for her. While earning her stripes working on event, stage and set design with Body & Soul, Queens of Neon and aerial performance company Loosysmokes, she capped it off with the creation of Lay of the Land.

Collaborating with her friend Kari Cahill, they curated a site responsive art project which took place at the tombolo headland of Brow Head on the Mizen Peninsula in west Cork. Along with four other artists, Lay of the Land engaged with the location as source and backdrop for creative output culminating in an exhibition.

“When you reconnect with the land you become present and very open and so feel way more connected to the people around you. These connections lead to an incredibly positive and creative LOTL experience for everyone involved,” says McCague.

In 2017, McCague is developing a range of textile products in response to wild landscapes of Ireland as well as scouting new locations for further Lay of the Land interventions.

Laurence Lord, architect
With a stated agenda to "strengthen the relevance of architecture as a social enterprise and create spaces that stimulate new forms of community and interaction", Laurence Lord is one half of the duo who, along with Jeffrey Bolhuis, spearhead Architecture Practice and Experimentation (AP+E) out of Dublin and Amsterdam.

Returning from Copenhagen to Ireland in 2015, Lord, under AP+E, collaborated with the whippersnapper Urban-Agency and photographer Matthew Thompson to design the inaugural Irish National Pavilion at the Shenzhen Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism Architecture. Shan-Zhen told the unlikely story of historical connections between Shannon and Shenzhen. In 2017, they are building a wonder cabinet for the education programme of our much beloved Dead Zoo (Natural History Museum) and running a research unit in Year 4 in the Cork Centre for Architectural Education examining the impact of one-off rural houses on existing landscapes.

Lord is also collaborating with Emmett Scanlon on Out.Post.Office, a community design unit, as part of the MArch program at UCD.

Jordan Ralph, designer
Jordan Ralph has been edging ever closer to the cusp of his breakthrough in the design world. The NCAD industrial design graduate was the recipient of a Irish Design Institute award for sustainable design for his LaunchBox project in 2015 which led to client work for the likes of Tullamore DEW in 2016. With a committed focus on "repurposing existing materials and objects" as evidenced by his usage of skip bags in the LaunchBox incubator space for Trinity College start-ups, Ralph is clued in to the value of harnessing the aesthetic experience.

This year, Ralph will be working on a sculptural collaboration with artist Gearoid O’Dea, the recent Sky Arts award winner; creating visuals for musician Gemma Dunleavy and working with biomedical engineer Dr Peter Knief on development of 3D print-functioning prototypes.

“I’m looking forward to devising more conceptual projects this year, especially focusing on ‘pop up’ culture,” says Ralph.

Llaura McGee, designer
Dreamfeel is the practice of multi-award winning artist, designer and video maker Llaura McGee. She is conceiving of, and executing, fresh and imaginative narrative forays in the video game world which range from Glaswegian punk lesbians (Curtain) and the dating life of a struggling writer told by endlessly zooming into their words (The Infinite Notebook) to the return journey of a young woman to the west coast told by erasing every diary entry you read (If Found, Please Return).

McGee scooped the Grand Prize at A Maze, the international video games and playful media festival, in Berlin for Curtain and most recently took the Grand Prix for her work on If Found, Please Return at the Irish Design Institute Awards. They commended her work by stating: “There is a point where new technology stops being about how effective it is technically, and becomes once more an instrument at the command of a collective artistic spirit.”

McGee’s work perfectly pivots about the heart of this acknowledgment.

Daragh Soden, photographer
While the eyes of the international photography world were clearly focused on the widely-acclaimed work of Dubliner Eamonn Doyle in 2016, the young Dubliner Daragh Soden made further strides in establishing himself on the radar of an ever expanding audience.

The recent graduate from the Newport BA in documentary photography garnered attention from buzz outlets such as Vice and It’s Nice That for Newport Masculine, his series of pre-Brexit portraits of the disillusioned young men in the place he called home over the duration of his studies. The Cabinteely native also won the British Journal of Photography Breakthrough Award for an image from his earlier Young Dubliners series which captured the spirit and ennui of the youth of the city.

In 2017, expect Soden to garner even more attention for his as yet untitled series with drag queens which places him in the picture also. "Essentially it's a work that questions the gender roles we are expected to perform in western society and also the role of the artist photographer," explains Soden. It's a bold visual statement of a talent forging his own unique path.
Profiles by Michael McDermott


Lorna Foran
With her pre-Raphaelite looks and tumbling russet hair, Irish model Foran is sought after internationally. Her career began almost by accident when a friend texted a picture of her to a photographer who liked redheads. He shot her for i-D magazine, but her big break came when she fronted a campaign for the Spanish brand Camper with her image on billboards all over Europe.

In the last two years, she has worked on campaigns for Gucci, Marni, Orla Kiely and Kenzo among others, walked at Paris haute couture for Jean Paul Gaultier and John Galliano (in thigh-high wellies) at Martin Margiela. Magazines such as Tank, i-D and Another have featured her many times. A favourite photographer is newcomer Hayley Weir with whom Foran often works.

The 25-year-old from Celbridge did an arts degree in sociology and geography in Maynooth graduating in June in 2012. Moving to London, she started working in retail, in American Apparel and later with English heritage brand Sunspel in Shoreditch.

“Photographers like me because I am not really pretty in the conventional sense – it’s a different look that’s not about looking glamorous,” she says. Her preference is for photographic rather than catwalk work and, though enjoying her current success, is also conscious that she has still not done anything with her degree.

Michael Stewart
Michael Stewart, recipient of the first Kildare Village €15,000 fashion bursary, is completing his masters at the Royal College of Art in London. From Kilkishen in Co Clare, this LSAD (Limerick School of Art & Design) graduate won Student of the Year at the Irish Innovation Awards and was chosen for the In the Fold touring exhibition as part of Irish Design 2015.

According to Zoe Broach, RCA’s head of fashion, Stewart “is a completely dedicated student who . . . has a lovely spiritual side and the Irish landscape is hugely important to him and its shape and form is the way he sees the body”.

His talents were encouraged by his mother and teachers and his work was exhibited in Ennis – in a show opened by Síle de Valera – where his watercolour landscapes all sold. The pressure to produce became so overwhelming that he abandoned his brushes and didn’t pick them up again until 10 years later in his late teens. Illustration still plays a key role in his work.

His first collection, Commune, a series of simple silhouettes in white cotton was embellished with elaborate green beading that took him 600 hours to do; craftsmanship is an essential part of his approach and he uses traditional techniques in new ways. His second, a series of red gowns moulded and manipulated around the body, demonstrated his ability to work in 3D. He is preparing for his graduate collection in June in which handwork will be central. “Working in couture would make me really happy,” he says.

Niamh Quinn
Though still in her 20s, London based make-up artist Niamh Quinn has an impressive portfolio. "I work with skin and make pictures," she says. She has travelled all over the world on editorial shoots for Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, i-D and Dazed & Confused magazines, on campaigns for Celine, Victoria Beckham, Loewe, M.i.h Jeans and Warehouse, working with top photographers and models. In the last few months she has completed campaigns for Gucci in Rome and Victoria Beckham's eyewear.

Quinn’s style is natural rather than glamorous – and she believes strongly in good facials. Her big break was working with the celebrated German photographer Juergen Teller on the Celine campaign and more recently with Jamie Hawkesworth favoured by JW Anderson among others. She has also worked with Irish professionals such as photographer Boo George, stylist Celestine Cooney and the designer Simone Rocha.

From Blackrock, Co Dublin she is the daughter of sculptor Bob Quinn and studied in the Dún Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology before heading to London. Quinn is married and has a small baby. She has just completed a short Nowness video for the US label Maiyet.

Aideen Gaynor
The daughter of scenic painter Neville Gaynor, Aideen graduated from NCAD in June with a collection entitled Hard-Boiled Wonderland influenced by Haruki Murakami's novel of the same name. With its Japanese inspired shapes, Victorian corsetry with floral embellishment from wallpaper designs by Christopher Dresser, the collection won the €4,000 Designer to Watch bursary from Brown Thomas.

Gaynor then won the Absolute Prize for the Most Creative Collection at the International Mittel Moda competition in Milan for young graduates, chosen from over 14,000 entries.

During college she made corsets for the TV series Penny Dreadful and has just worked on costumes for Into the Badlands, the martial arts series for AMC TV in the US. Her intention is to apply for an MA in the RCA in London, but is heading to New York in the new year to sell her collection.

JJ Donnelly
Jessica Donnelly's family background is in fabrics and interiors as her great grandfather Eamon Donnelly founded Hickeys, now run by her father Myles and uncle Ian. Her mother Ruth Stanley is an interior designer, but Jessica, who grew up with horses, originally wanted to be a vet. After work experience in fourth year with fashion designer Yasmin Velloza, she decided to study fashion and graduated in June from NCAD. A finalist for the River Island Bursary and for the Persil Fashion Awards, she scooped the Dublin Fashion Festival Young Designer award this year. She is on a year's design internship with Dunnes Stores.

"I would love to have my own business", she says, "and create wearable classic pieces – tailoring with a sporty edge". 
Profiles by Deirdre McQuillan

The arts

Artists to watch in 2017 (left to right): Susanne Wawra, Kevin Gaffney, Elaine Hoey and Lucy McKenna; Bassam Al-Sabah

Susanne Wawra
In 1989, the Berlin Wall came down and Europe changed. "I want to solidify my memories – but how do you make a memory?" asks Susanne Wawra (36), whose work comes from her own history of growing up in East Germany before the fall of the wall. Her large collages on fabric attempt to call up those fractured but significant moments from the past that accumulate to make you the person you are. She describes it as like "being a spectator in my own life", where memory is something that "hovers between the real and the imagined".

Wawra moved to Dublin in 2007 to work for Google but then went to study at the National College of Art and Design (NCAD), and won the Talbot Gallery Graduate Award in 2016. This gives her a studio for a year in the heart of Dublin’s Monto art quarter, plus mentoring.

For Wawra, winning was “hugely motivating and an immense recognition. It is absolutely fantastic to have my own studio straight after college”. Her work is attracting increasing attention and she is planning a solo show in mid-2017.

Lucy McKenna
At first glance, Kilkenny-born Lucy McKenna (34) has a typical art CV. There are group shows, a solo show in Thurles, another in Co Laois and one in Calgary, Canada. But look again and discover she has been an artist in residence at Facebook, as well as at the Armagh Observatory, and in 2012, she travelled to Cern in Switzerland to communicate the scientists' work to the world.

“That came through Twitter,” remembers McKenna, who was selected from a global call. “They gave us this incredible tour, we met astronauts, saw the AMS (alpha magnetic spectrometer) from the Space Shuttle, and met the guy who designed it, who’d gotten a Nobel Prize. It was mind blowing.” McKenna has mild synesthesia, which means she sees colours connected to numbers and letters. “I think our senses are underused; it’s so primal and so animal, and we’ve bred that out of ourselves. If you didn’t have them, how would you know you’re alive?”

From her studio at Temple Bar Gallery, her current work builds on this, “it’s an organic form of data visualisation that I’m excited about exploring”. McKenna’s work will be on show at The LAB in Dublin in February (thelab.ie). Then, in September, she travels to New York for a three-month International Studio & Curatorial Program (ISCP) residency.

Elaine Hoey
Winner of last year's RDS Taylor Art Award, Elaine Hoey (46) graduated from NCAD with first-class honours in 2016, and is now studying for her masters. She makes interactive installations using virtual reality and video-gaming technologies to create environments that test complacency and the viewer's sense of place in the world. Her award-winning installation at the RDS, The Weight of Water, threw the viewer, or participant, into a refugee's journey, seeking asylum in Europe. A version is also on show at the Science Gallery's Design and Violence exhibition until January 22nd (dublin.sciencegallery.com).

Hoey wants her work to open up conversations and says “working with an emerging medium such as virtual reality, means you get to be part of the conversation in defining its creative potential.”

Her latest project explores the rise of right-wing politics in Europe and the US, and looks at how the aesthetics of fear are politically mobilised. Hoey will be showing at the RHA’s Futures in March (rhagallery.ie), at NCAD in June, and at Draíocht in October (draiocht.ie).

Kevin Gaffney
Dublin-born Kevin Gaffney (30) works primarily in film and, in 2015, was the first Irish artist to win a Sky Academy arts scholarship. This included mentoring by art-world heavyweight Kathleen Soriano, and the chance to work on what Gaffney describes as "my biggest film production yet". He filmed A Numbness in the Mouth at Shackleton's Mills on the edge of Dublin, which was a kind of homecoming after residencies in Iran, South Korea and Taiwan.

In his films, social mechanisms are sometimes pushed to absurdity. A Numbness in the Mouth imagines a near-future Ireland, in which a bumper harvest means every citizen is required to consume at least 2kg of flour a day to ensure the economy remains in balance. It’s a beautifully judged parody of our own situation, where the requirement to consume in order to maintain the recovery may be detrimental to ourselves and the planet.

Gaffney’s four main films, all inspired by his travels, are on show at the Millennium Court Arts Centre in Portadown until January 25th (millenniumcourt.org) in the largest exhibition of his work to date, and he will be giving a talk there on January 18th. In June, Gaffney will move into the Fire Station artists’ studios, so expect even more from this fascinating artist soon.

Bassam Al-Sabah
Born in Iraq, Bassam Al-Sabah (22) moved to Ireland in 2004. Graduating from the Institute of Art, Design and Technology (IADT) in Dún Laoghaire last year, he was included in the RDS Taylor Art Award exhibition, and also received the RHA's Graduate Studio Award, giving him a vital base from which to work. His art includes film, sculpture and installation and looks at his own childhood experiences in Iraq.

“I’m paying attention to the variation between personal and collective experiences of traumatic events,” he says. Exploring children’s broadcasting in Iraq from the 1970s on, Al-Sabah unpacks the parallels between make-believe and truth, the hero and the every day. “Collectively,” he says, “we can recite factual truths but individually we only have our point of view.”

Opening up ideas of trauma and false memory, Al-Sabah describes how "displacement, sentimentality, personal mythology and nostalgia play a significant role," as he tries "to capture the experience of being shifted from one culture to another". Al-Sabah is working on some projects to be realised later this year, so watch this space.
Profiles by Gemma Tipton