FILM & TV
by Donald Clarke
Like a lot of resourceful filmmakers, Tara O’Callaghan, a chatty woman from Phibsborough, made the most of lockdown. Fascinated by how public online sex work had become at that time, she set out to make a documentary on the subject. O’Callaghan ended up focusing her short film on a charismatic, unapologetic woman named Sinead O’Connell. “I’ve never heard a story like hers,” O’Callaghan says. “Starting her online sex work career in her 40s after four kids.” Eventually titled Call Me Mommy, the film – winner of best short documentary at the Galway Film Fleadh – ended the year as a selection for the upcoming Sundance Film Festival. There is no better place to launch a career in independent film than the Utah event. “Oh, my God, it’s everything!” she agrees. “It’s something that I’m still trying to process. I feel like I’m dreaming and I still haven’t woken up.” A force for the future.
When I ask John Carney, director of Once and Sing Street, if there is any fresh talent worth watching in his new film, he does not pause. “Absolutely! Orén Kinlan. Absolutely terrific,” he enthuses. Son of the busy actor Laurence Kinlan, the 15-year-old appears opposite Eve Hewson, Jack Reynor and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Carney’s eagerly anticipated “sort of musical” Flora and Son. “It follows the relationship between a mother and her son, and the many other people within Flora’s life,” Kinlan says. He goes on to tell me he had done a few auditions in the past but he’d been “quite unlucky with them”. Kinlan was emerging from an exam when his dad told him he had a shot at Flora and Son. “Before I knew it, I’d got the part.” How does Carney draw such strong performances from young actors? “There is a lot of coming up with it on the spot,” he says. “He has so much information to share.”
“I can honestly say that when I was auditioning for Rada I think I had seen one professional play,” Faoileann Cunningham tells me. “And I don’t think I had ever met a professional actor in my life.” She goes on to clarify that she had great support at home in Co Cork, but she motored to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London with limited experience. Rada knew what it was at. Cunningham subsequently toured with the musical version of Amélie, directed by Michael Fentiman, and landed a significant role in The Witcher: Blood Origin on Netflix. In 2023, she kicks up to the premier league as a core cast member on the HBO Max series Dune: The Sisterhood, prequel to Frank Herbert’s epic science fiction yarn. Speaking to me from the shoot in Budapest, Cunningham acknowledges she is not allowed to reveal much about the plot. “Oh, very, very little,” she says. We shan’t press her.
We may already be at a stage where we can refer to a wave of Irish actors as the “Normal People generation”. Desmond Eastwood, who played Connell’s flatmate in that series, is the latest to edge towards the big time. “It was such an incredible project to be a part of, to be part of such a young cast. Yeah, it was just a really exciting time for everyone,” he says. The Lisburn man, who studied law at Queen’s University Belfast, will, in 2023, appear opposite Irish acting royalty in two major films. The Last Rifleman features Pierce Brosnan. In the Land of Saints and Sinners features (deep breath) Liam Neeson, Kerry Condon, Ciarán Hinds, Sarah Greene and Colm Meaney. “Rubbing shoulders with these guys was just an unforgettable experience,” he says. “One that motivates you and inspires you to keep working hard and to get to their level.”
I catch Niamh McCormack, suddenly ubiquitous Dublin actor, shortly after she touches down on home turf for a brief visit from her base in London. “I am from inner-city Dublin. I have lived here my whole life,” she says. McCormack studied at the Bow Street Academy but only a few months after she left, Covid hit. She found she still worked “a lot” during lockdown and ended up on The Witcher for Netflix and Willow for Disney+. Her big gig in 2023 is a series currently called The F**k It Bucket, also on Netflix (we’re betting the title may change). The show, set in London, centres on the travails of a young woman emerging from an eating-disorder clinic. “It’s about her introduction back into society, how her peers are reacting and all the complexities of growing up,” McCormack says. “Most of my work has been in international waters, but I’ll always come back home.”
by Andrea Cleary
Michael Fry & Killian Sundermann
Ireland’s favourite internet comedians Michael Fry and Killian Sundermann have been busy over the past few years. Anybody with a Twitter, Instagram or TikTok account is sure to have come across the pair’s character sketches, which include anything from reviews of local hedges to musical covers of iconic pop culture moments (Fry has two albums available on Spotify – Viral Bangers and Internet Mash, Volumes One and Two). He has also appeared in the television series Derry Girls and the adaptation of Graham Norton’s best-seller Holding. It’s rare to find a couple of comedians who broke out without ever having performed a live set, but Fry and Sundermann have already translated brilliantly to the stage. If you can’t wait for their live shows in 2023, they feature in the comedy sketch series No Worries If Not on the RTÉ Player.
Opera singer, podcast producer and host of The Curtis Cabaret
What good is sitting alone in your room? Come hear the music play. Fearghal Curtis, opera singer, podcast producer and host (Let’s Talk About The Arts) and now Ireland’s very own Mein Herr quietly launched a cabaret evening in Dublin’s Sugar Club in late 2022. The Curtis Cabaret is a celebration of Dublin’s queer culture, of the joy of difference, and of building community. Tenor Ross Scanlon, drag artist Wren Dennehy (AKA Avoca Reaction) and Before Brunch podcast hosts Cassie Delaney and Megan Cassidy are among those who have appeared at the cabaret so far, and the plan for 2023 is to continue building this community alongside Dublin’s vibrant queer scene. Expect glamorous costumes, exceptional vocals and, most importantly, a bit of fun.
Presenter, Ireland AM
Ireland’s early birds will soon meet a new host of Virgin Media’s long-running morning show, Ireland AM. Model, influencer and entertainment reporter Katja Mia is getting ready to take on the weekend shows after a long-standing dream of television presenting – her Twitter bio describes her as an “aspiring presenter”. After leaving her job in finance during the Covid-19 pandemic to focus on building a career where her passions lie, she signed with a modelling agency and started presenting fashion and entertainment news on Ireland AM as well as working as a brand ambassador for Penneys and H&M. Black Irish women are vastly underrepresented both on Irish TV and in the Irish beauty industry, and Mia will be a welcome change for those who rarely see people who look like them on screen.
Short, sweet and evocative audio production doesn’t come better than Promenade, the brainchild of Andy Gaffney, host and founder of The Shift podcast network. The show’s first season brought home awards from Irish, British and New York podcast festivals. The premise is simple: a guest is asked to explore a memory from their life that is triggered by a “thing”; it could be the sound of the sea, the wicked witch of the west from The Wizard of Oz, or a bar of Imperial Leather soap. Each episode is short (between four and 16 minutes) and hones in on the fleeting stir of a memory evoked in passing. These are beautifully produced stories that will burrow their way into your heart. The second season is due in 2023.
Presenter, comedian and Flop Culture podcast host
Presenter, podcast host and comedian Fionnuala Jay is one of the funniest people on this island. Her previous podcast, Bandwagons, fostered a devoted following with chaotic, brilliant live shows across the country, while her Instagram stories breaking down the scenes on reality TV series including Love Island and Love is Blind are unmissable (even if you don’t watch the shows). Flop Culture is Jay’s latest project, in which she and a guest delve into pop culture’s biggest flops – think Lindsay Lohan’s B-movies, Fade Street and Madonna’s American Life album – to reassess their place in pop culture history. The podcast is due to return for season two in late January.
by Andrea Cleary
Dublin-based artist Lucy Rice embarked on her first solo venture in the depths of the Covid-19 lockdown. After years spent playing in bands, feeling as though she was losing her identity in the music of others, she decided to undergo a period of reflection and self-reclamation in order to find her own sound. Good thing she did – the Last Apollo project is vibrant with the anxieties of youth passed through a lens of interstellar travel. Singles Reservoir and Moon Boots blend reflective pop with her background in classical music and she has since played a sold-out headline show at Whelan’s as well as appearing at the Trinity Ball. With a couple of EPs on the way in 2023, as well as plenty of live shows, Last Apollo is a young artist with her sights set on the stars.
After releasing her debut album, Personal History, in 2020 Ailbhe Reddy has played a headline show at Dublin’s Button Factory, appeared on The Late Late Show and been a draw for festivals across the country. In 2022 she released an EP of upcoming tracks from her second album, which signals further growth in her songwriting. If hooky choruses, garage rock guitars and clever introspection are your thing, check out tracks Shitshow and A Mess from her second album, due in 2023. The paired-back piano ballad Shoulder Blades is a beautiful slow-burner, giving space for her delicate vocals and vulnerable lyricism to shine. While Personal History explored the hard work undertaken in therapy and self-reflection, these newer tracks point to what comes after the work is done – if it ever is. These are catchy tunes that never shy away from emotional honesty.
The moniker of Donabate electronic artist Conor Kelly, Chósta has been releasing singles that draw on the soundscapes of seaside towns. In 2023 he will release his debut album, Twilight Transmission, “a concept record about a fictional network of interconnected radio stations” recorded in the bleak lockdown days of early 2021. The album features Irish artists Jape (Richie Egan) and Fears (Constance Keane) on a couple of tracks, while the rest blend archive radio clips with minimal yet beautiful electronic beats. Fans of Boards of Canada, Mount Kimbie and William Basinski will find it easy to get lost in this sonic world that celebrates the connections found through station-hopping late at night and the discovery of strange and unusual sounds. This is dreamy music concerned with the liminal space between our interactions, imbuing it with beauty.
Rounding off the year with a set at Other Voices that blended soft-spoken poetry with bodacious hip-hop swagger, Celaviedemai is ready to break through. The Galway rapper blends vulnerability with confidence, and feminism with self-reflection, all while switching between languages and even occasionally sampling Mozart for good measure. This year will bring artist collaborations and tours, as well as an 8-track project due for release in the summer. In the past, she has explored rap and R&B. Her 2022 single Go Down Low is a dance floor-ready afrobeat tune produced by tr2vinhobeatz, while tracks such as For Me celebrate self-confidence and knowing your worth. She appeared on Dublin producer Fehdah’s EP Kinematics alongside fellow Irish artist Denise Chaila. Mai is a genre-hopping force who refuses to set boundaries for her sound or herself.
Slouch rocker Skinner, aka Aaron Corcoran (25), is a breath of fresh air in the Irish scene. His EP Gunge, released in 2021, is an accomplished introduction to his sound, which draws inspiration from no-wave and post-punk acts like The B52s and James Chance while blending the grunge guitar tones of The Pixies. His angst-fuelled lyrics – “what’s the point of even waking up any more?” (Slouch) – are elevated by anxious guitar lines and thrashy bass. It all sounds a bit heavy, but Skinner, despite his angst, is a likable and relatable presence for anyone who wouldn’t go back to experience their 20s again for all the money in the world. He writes with the immediacy of a stream-of-consciousness diary entry and the authenticity of a guy with nothing to lose. The result is a powerful and dynamic sound that is due to coalesce on his debut album in 2023. You can catch Skinner live on his Irish tour in February.
by Malachy Clerkin
It takes a lot to be anointed as the coming big thing in GAA these days, especially since the minor grade changed to under-17. But Patrick Fitzgerald has been picked out, far and wide, as one hurler who could make an immediate impression at senior level, as his performances for Ballygunner have shown through 2022′s club championship. Fitzgerald is still only 18 and will almost certainly need to bulk out a bit more before he really makes the step up. But with Davy Fitz now in charge in Waterford, the campaign to make him part of the new broom in the county will no doubt gather pace. Incredibly skilful, lightswitch fast and with a keen eye for goal, it seems only a matter of time before he is one of the stars of the sport.
Carrying on the legacy created by Natalya Coyle in a sport with virtually no hinterland in Ireland is a huge task for anyone. But so far, Sive Brassil has shown plenty to suggest she is going the right way about it. The 28-year-old Galway woman achieved the best result of her career in Hungary in September, finishing eighth in the European Championships. The standard was so high in Szekesfehervar that her points total at the event would have been good enough for fifth at the Olympics. Everything in Brassil’s life now is pointed towards the 2024 games in Paris. She will need to keep up her rate of improvement and haul herself up a few spots into podium positions in World Cup events over the coming 12 months. If she manages that, there’s no telling where her ceiling lies.
These are heady times for Ireland’s tour golfers. For the first year since 1996 there are three Irish rookies heading out with full cards on the European Tour. It’s called the DP World Tour these days but either way, the sight of Tim McKibbin, John Murphy and Gary Hurley turning out weekly gives Irish golf fans plenty to check out every Thursday to Sunday. Hurley is from the West Waterford club near Dungarvan, a small community club that has the distinction of having not one but two professionals playing on the world stage. Hurley is following the path beaten by Seamus Power, who has made such a brilliant start to the PGA Tour season in the US. Hurley’s early rounds on the DP World tour have been steadier affairs, but he has a full season of guaranteed playing rights to show he belongs.
With the World Cup coming up in the summer, it’s hard to overstate what a huge year this will be for Irish soccer. Between now and then, so many of the Ireland squad will be jostling for position, looking to make an impact on the biggest stage. Leanne Kiernan missed the business end of the qualifying campaign with a bad ankle injury but if she can get herself back fit and firing, she could be a huge asset to Vera Pauw’s squad. Ireland’s approach will be no secret to anyone – they set out to concede nothing and leave their striker with lots of running to do up front. Kiernan looks set to be back in situ for Liverpool by February, giving her a run of four-to-five months to show she can challenge Heather Payne for that spot in the Ireland team. Ireland will need goals in Australia – Kiernan can provide them, all going well.
It would be evidence of a stunning ascent if Jamie Osborne managed to play his way on to the biggest stage this year, but nothing about his progression so far was obvious to anyone, so why not? The Kildare teenager is a rarity in that he has made his way through to the Leinster senior set-up without being hothoused in its academy. Instead, he came from the club scene, rising through the ranks with Naas RFC. Blessed with a huge left boot, Osborne can play right across the backline and went on the Emerging Ireland tour to South Africa in late September where he impressed team management. There are a few ahead of him in the queue but it would only take a middling injury crisis among the Leinster – and possibly even Irish – backs for him to be fast-tracked. In a World Cup year, he could be an unlikely bolter.
FASHION & BEAUTY
by Deirdre McQuillan and Laura Kennedy
The son of Ukrainians in Co Meath, who moved from Nikolaev more than two decades ago, 18-year-old Tommy Solovyov was born in Ireland and began a modelling career through social media, having abandoned plans to become a vet. When a video of clips of different outfits that he posted on TikTok went viral, his following mushroomed; he now has 268,000 followers on TikTok and 54,000 on Instagram. Last September he got his big professional break walking exclusively for Louis Vuitton’s womenswear spring collection in Paris, followed by a campaign for Balenciaga’s winter 23 collection, and another major brand assignment launching this month. With the ability to model menswear and womenswear with equal facility and style, Solovyov often makes his own clothes, is not into trends and likes to express himself in different ways, whether in a feminine dress or a masculine suit. “He has superstar quality, is very creative and is really pushing boundaries,” says agent Aislinn Lawlor of NotAnotherInt, who is guiding his career.
Sculptor turned award-winning fashion designer, Lia Cowan made an impressive debut in October at the Chocolate Factory in Dublin with her first catwalk show called Undisciplined Tulips, a frothy, feminine collection with a poetic edge. With its monochrome palette, voluminous layered tulles, bows and twisted floral tops, the collection drew huge applause “and created a lot of bridal interest”, the 27-year-old says. She makes to order but plans to introduce more affordable casual T-shirts and knits, while maintaining her signature sculptural techniques of quilting and draping. “I want to bring the brand into a new dimension, to show that it is a serious brand [with a style] that is feminine and strong.” Her modular approach, aimed at all body shapes and ages, means each piece, being elasticated, can be moved around the body and worn in different ways; a skirt can become a dress and vice versa. Her fan base, which includes Nicola Coughlan of Bridgerton and Derry Girls fame, is growing, and her flamboyant dresses have graced several magazine covers this year.
Though still studying in NCAD where he will graduate this summer, Conor O’Brien set up a business in August 2021 while working in retail part-time in Beautiful South boutique in Rathmines. From Rathfarnham and passionate about fashion since the age of 10, he learned to knit during the pandemic from a friend of his grandmother, and has established a following for his original handknits, modernised takes on traditional Irish cable-knit patterns and shapes. The 21-year-old is part of a collective of sustainable Irish brands called Iris, who came together before Christmas with a Dublin pop-up shop. He plans to create a colour palette with natural dyes, and focus on pure Irish wool for his degree collection which features Irish tweed and textiles.
Sonny Drummond was looking for his friends at the Longitude music festival in Dublin last July when a man walked up, said he was a scout from a modelling agency and asked if he could take a photo. The 17-year-old agreed, gave the scout, Joel Bough of Elite, his Instagram details and then laughed the whole thing off with his friends. Five months later, on December 3rd, he was modelling for Dior at the Great Pyramid of Giza in one of the most spectacular fashion events ever staged in Egypt. No doubt his looks, height, fitness and athleticism – he plays rugby, Gaelic football and soccer – were factors in his selection as one of 75 male models chosen to show 75 looks to mark the 75th anniversary of the fashion house. Drummond, a fifth-year student at Athlone Community College, is hoping to be cast again for the menswear shows in Paris in January, “but I am not letting it unfocus me”, he says. With English and history his favourite subjects, he is thinking about third level and following his interests in philosophy, film and drama. Creativity runs in the family – his father is the painter Blaise Drummond, and his mother, Síabhra Durcan, is the daughter of the poet Paul Durcan. In the meantime, he will see how far modelling takes him, “but I don’t think I will ever see anything so special again”.
Founder, Lukey Lukey Beauty
Waterford native Luke Nolan is the Dublin-based founder of Irish cosmetics brand Lukey Lukey Beauty. Launched in 2022 with a range of four shades of Dream Cheeks Crème blush packaged in striking blue compacts, Lukey Lukey is a growing name on the cult beauty scene. Nolan (31) began his career as a Dublin hairstylist and studied fashion but says that his passion was for beauty, an industry in which says he struggled to find his place in as a gay man until he created his own brand. The Lukey Lukey website features diverse models and playful make-up, but doesn’t engage in tokenistic marketing; Lukey Lukey is a thoroughly universal, modern brand with a vintage flavour. Nolan is conscious that “even a few years ago”, the branding and universality “wouldn’t have flown with a lot of people, but to me – and increasingly for a lot of Irish people – it’s just what beauty looks like”.
by Gemma Tipton and Martin Doyle
Artist and chef
Graduating from NCAD in 2022, Rudi-lee McCarthy has already achieved some tasty things with his Porto Aperta project. The pop-up art restaurant appeared, with various collaborators, at NCAD, Visual Carlow, and Dublin’s LAB gallery. McCarthy was also at Human Lab at Electric Picnic. Exploring the nature of the tomato, for example, and what it can tell us about our own relationship to colonialism, conquest, consumerism, the land, and the more disturbing side of production in contemporary society, there’s plenty of food for thought in his work. They say cheffing is an art form, but this Westmeath-based artist and trained chef combines both in fascinating ways. “Food is an untapped tool of creativity within the art world,” he says, even as he combines it with film, paint, illustration and performance. Food as art is also a great way to escape the commodification of art: “Once you’ve eaten it, it’s gone. But you’ve had the process of it, the sensory experience.” This year includes developing and evolving Porto Aperta. “I’m at that scary and exciting time,” he continues, having just finished college. “But I’m learning to ferment, making my own vinegars, sourcing funding, working on a series of videos, finding people with similar ideas and collaborating.” Heady stuff. rudileemccarthy.com
Artist and dancer
“Dance is, and will always be part of my practice, but not in an obvious way,” says Vasiliki Stasinaki. The Greek-born, Belfast-based artist, who studied at the Greek National Opera Dance School, had a busy 2022. Highlights included having her piece, Motherland is Calling, shown as part of Array Collective’s Turner Prize-winning installation; as well as working with Joy Gerrard and Frederic Huska, “two artists I admire”, on an exhibition at Queen Street Studios. To-ing and fro-ing to Antwerp for a postgraduate degree, her practice moves between dance, embroidery, printmaking, sound, video and sculpture. She also works collaboratively with Ronan Smyth as SmythStasinaki. This year sees her developing a new work, in collaboration with writer Sarah Gordon, commissioned by Maiden Voyage Dance; as well as an international residency with Morpho Antwerp. “What I do is my way to make sense of the world,” she says. “It’s a need, a bodily, instinctive, primal reaction. Art is one and everything […] all boundaries collapse.” vasilikistasinaki.com
“Playing Bernard in Once Before I Go at the Gate was a biggie,” says Matthew Malone, with characteristic understatement. His can’t-take-your-eyes-off-him role in Philip McMahon’s play won him a Best Actor nomination in The Irish Times Irish Theatre Awards in 2022. Since then he has also been in Aaron Monaghan’s production of Tarry Flynn, and Brokentalkers’ The Boy Who Never Was. Malone has worked steadily since graduating from the Lir Academy in 2018. “I sometimes go over to London for auditions or work,” he says, adding he has a deep love of Dublin. “It’s great that I get to be part of the theatre scene here.” Ambitions for 2023 and beyond include growing his film and TV work; but with a lead role as Bart in the new family musical, Gold in the Water, by Shane O’Reilly coming to Mermaid and Project Arts Centre in spring; and another intriguing (but still secretive) project in development for later in the year, there’ll be plenty of diary juggling going on. “The best and worst thing about the job is that you never know what’s around the corner,” he says. “It’s the thing I struggle with most, and it’s the thing that keeps me happiest – the variety.”
Aifric Prior Beliere
Artist and curator
“2022 brought bodies back in rooms together,” says artist and curator Aifric Prior Beliere, whose work explores sound, performance, sculpture, painting and video. Describing the turn to, and away from online, she points out how “the arts have been a great way to encourage people to share time and space”. Year highlights included a residency, curated by Jobst Graeve: “I got to live in an old abbey in Howth Cemetery, so I often felt like I was playing music to the bones and lost souls.” With group exhibitions, and a curation project, The City in Dublin’s Seville Place, plus work on show in Romania, she also found time to develop an EP. “Sound is a really emotive way to digest time without using our over-stimulated eyes, which have enough to be looking at and, I find, often appreciate a break!” she says. “Since graduating in 2021 I have been pretty full-on working, without much time to reflect on all of the amazing opportunities I’ve had,” she adds. In early 2023, she’s off to South America where she’s planning to make sound recordings, explore and learn. With collaborations coming up and meetings planned, “I’m sure 2023 will have a lot to teach, so it’s about staying open and giving myself time to sit with it all and listen.” aifricpriorbeliere.cargo.site
Nicole Flattery’s debut, Show Them a Good Time (Stinging Fly, 2019), established her as one of Ireland’s finest contemporary short story writers. The collection included Parrot, which won the 2019 writing.ie short story award, and Track, which won the 2017 White Review Short Story Prize. The latter, set in New York City, charts a young Irish woman’s relationship highs and lows with a famous comedian. Similar territory is explored in Nothing Special, her debut novel due out in March, for which Bloomsbury paid a six-figure sum in a two-book deal negotiated by Tracy Bohan, the agent she shares with Sally Rooney, a friend from her time at Trinity College Dublin, where she did a degree in film and theatre, and a master’s in creative writing. From Kinnegad, Co Westmeath, she lives in Galway. In Nothing Special, Flattery (32), with her trademark dark humour, interrogates fantasy and reality, celebrity and the construction of identity, as two young women navigate the complex world of Andy Warhol’s Factory in 1960s New York.
FOOD & DRINK
by Corinna Hardgrave
Cass and Nick McCarthy
Regenerative farmers, Lúnasa Farm
In December 2021, Cass McCarthy and her husband Nick moved to Ireland where they are in the early stages of establishing a regenerative farm on some family land in Clare, raising pastured pigs and beef cattle. Although they are first generation farmers, they bring considerable experience to Lúnasa Farm. Cass, who grew up by the beach in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs, apprenticed at the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in New York state, home of Dan Barber’s Blue Hill Restaurant.
Nick, an engineer from Quin, Co Clare, switched careers when he was in Australia, spending five years running a pasture-raised pig enterprise with a friend, during which time he learned whole animal butchery at Hayters Hill Farm. They are going into their second year of organic conversion at Lúnasa Farm, where their heritage breeds of pigs are free to root and forage in paddocks. To ensure they are meeting their optimal nutrition requirements, the pigs’ diet is supplemented with organic grain, whey from the goats’ milk used to make St Tola cheese, and windfall apples. Their herd of beef cattle is fed and finished exclusively on grass. Lúnasa Farm meat is sold direct to consumers online, and the plan is to develop a range of sausages and Irish-made products that complement their meat.
Founder of Bia!
After watching Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown, and how it approaches conversations around food in different cultural contexts, Victory Nwabu-Ekeoma wanted to open a conversation around how immigrants and migrants are making a place for themselves through food in Ireland. With funding from her local council, she launched Bia!, a 100-page magazine with stories of chefs, food business owners and home cooks. In particular, she looked at how food has connected them back to their homes, and to the people who they are serving here, and how that makes them feel. It was intended to be a one-off project but has attracted so much interest that Nwabu-Ekeoma will be publishing a second magazine. She is keen to make Bia! an immersive experience, using art and photography, and to bring people together at supper clubs to eat and engage with different cultures. She is doing all of this in her spare time, while working in communications with an NGO supporting reproductive health rights across the world.
Luana Camilo dos Santos
Waitress, Chapter One
A restaurant experience is not just influenced by the chef in the kitchen, or the restaurant manager who runs the floor – every single person working there influences the outcome. Brazilian Luana Camilo dos Santos started working as a waitress in Charlotte Quay restaurant in 2019. She moved to Chapter One last February, shortly after the restaurant landed two Michelin stars. It was a completely different approach to service, where a 30-40 minute briefing proceeds service each day. She stared as a runner, climbed the ranks to commis waiter, and then chef de rang, a senior front-of-house position. Camilo dos Santos says it is important to get a sense of what people want from you when they visit. Is this person here for the experience? To enjoy the evening with their guests? Or do they want to be entertained? At a recent meal, she stood out as someone who combines polished professionalism with incredibly warm service. When she completes her business degree, she intends to apply what she has learned about hospitality in a fine dining environment to work in events.
A Wine Idea
Sevgi Tüzel-Conghaile grew up in a wine-producing region in Turkey and started winemaking after completing her studies in food engineering. An MSc in oenology and viticulture from the world’s leading universities in wine, Montpellier SupAgro and Bordeaux Sciences Agro in France and Hochschule Geisenheim University in Germany, followed. Her studies included working in vineyards and wineries in France and Germany, where she continued to make wine for some time. Moving to Galway, she launched a wine tasting business in 2018, something that was pretty novel in the city at the time. Hosting over 150 virtual tastings during lockdown boosted her profile. She is now based in Dublin, has launched an online wine shop, and hosts tastings in a small room on George’s Street. The tastings, restricted to seven people, allow for a personal approach, and are designed to make learning about wine engaging and unintimidating. Her next project is to import Turkish wines; they are wonderful she says, and not yet available in Ireland.
Orange hair will certainly get you noticed, but when you’re on your third degree, it’s not going to be the only thing people will remember. Drogheda native Roann Byrne studied a BSc in baking and pastry, followed by a BA in culinary arts, and is now in the final year of an MA in gastronomy and food studies at TUD. As one of Fáilte Ireland’s Taste the Atlantic young chef ambassadors, she has been travelling around the country visiting artisan producers such as Sally Barnes in west Cork, and popping up on Instagram, cooking at pop-ups around the country with leading chefs such as JP McMahon. She plans to do her MA thesis on women in Dublin city and their influence on Irish cuisine. After graduation, Byrne plans to work freelance on different food projects, from food styling to chef events, and to create a non-profit group to support female chefs and food producers.
by Catherine Cleary
Clare Community Energy Agency
Solar energy will power so much of our future but putting solar panels on our roofs can feel like a scary leap. That’s where Colm Garvey and the Clare Community Energy Agency come in. Photovoltaic panels to generate electricity from sunlight need three components: a panel, a battery and an inverter, Garvey explains. Householders may not feel they can trust what the sales people are telling them. So instead, Garvey can help them deploy a “solar meitheal” where he (and others) project manage the whole thing, “holding people’s hands through the process”. The leader of the meitheal can negotiate group deals for streets or villages. This year Garvey will be training other people to take on solar meitheals in their community, street or town. clare-energy.ie
Jill Kennon and Elaine Murphy Byrne
Carrickmacross Toy Library
Jill Kennon and Elaine Murphy Byrne struck up a friendship in their local library, which had a small collection of toys to use while in the building. It gave them the idea to start a toy library. One of the oldest toy libraries started in 1935 in Los Angeles and exists to this day. Kennon’s Texan husband has a “toybrary” in his hometown of Austin. The idea spawned Carrickmacross Toy Library, Ireland’s first lending library of toys. For €35, parents can sign up for a year and borrow four toys for up to three weeks or return each week for a fresh toy fix. “It’s like getting new toys every week,” Kennon explains, a win for parents’ pockets and the environment. It’s also been a great way to meet parents and connect to a community. They are hoping to get funding to put a toolkit together for other groups to set up toy libraries around Ireland. carrickmacross.ie/carrickmacross-toy-library/
Community Retrofits Ireland
After 20 years working in electronic engineering, Patrick McHugh took a career swerve into community work more than a decade ago helping unemployed people find work. Now he’s bringing together his engineering and community skills in Community Retrofits Ireland. This year they aim to get more than 100 people into full-time employment retrofitting homes with insulation and renewable energy systems. McHugh hopes Community Retrofits Ireland can help solve the problems of fuel-poor homes, where people have to choose between food and heat, and unemployment or underemployment. They will be training people in a skill that will be essential to our climate targets. McHugh also offers free advice and advocacy to people. The win-win from his model is multifaceted: improving the building fabric of Irish homes, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, creating comfortable and healthier homes while generating much needed employment. cnnoilean.ie/fuinn
Open Food Network
“We all need to be building the solutions together,” Evonne Boland says of our broken food system. We have easier access to long-haul vegetables than we do to locally-grown food. Since 2020 she’s been working to bring the Open Food Network to Ireland as a co-op movement. The project creates community-based food hubs where local food producers can sell their food directly. It’s a flexible system where a farmer could take the lead and partner with a community or education centre to set up a weekly food collection or delivery model. This saves the farmer having to spend a day on a market stall and cuts out the waste of stocking a stall for unknown numbers. “We want short local supply chains for food,” she explains. These will be more resilient against shocks like weather. “We’re also giving communities a way to harness their purchasing power in a convenient way and giving farmers a fair price.” Producers can add their profiles to the map and consumers can look at that map and become local champions of the food being produced in their area.
Kit Christina Keawwantha and Malú Colorín
Imagine a fashion model that wasn’t a huge environmental and social problem, and you get something that looks like “local slow food but for clothes,” Kit Christina Keawwantha of Fibreshed Ireland explains. “The Fibreshed model is to bring everything back to the land.” Her co-founder Malú Colorín uses plants to create natural dyes and worked with knitwear designer Liadain Aiken on naturally dyed Irish wool from Moyhill Farm. Until quite recently “our textiles were tied into agricultural systems,” Keawwantha explains. Linen and wool were cash crops for farmers. Now Irish sheep’s wool has to be sent to the UK to be cleaned; the expense means that many fleeces end up as compost “or thrown in a ditch”. They plan to seek a licence for an Irish scouring facility to clean fleeces. They want to work “with farmers and soil scientists” to research what makes a regenerative fibre, one that is climate beneficial, Colorín explains. “That means regenerating communities, the economy and culture.” It could all make for a beautiful wearable idea.
by Una Mullally
An entrepreneur and scientist who founded Wildplan in 2021, Lucy Gaffney is leading Business for Biodiversity Ireland, a new platform that helps businesses assess their impact on biodiversity, advocates for policy reforms and identifies actions they can take to reduce their negative impact on nature. A speaker at the Citizens’ Assembly on Biodiversity, Loss, Gaffney has also worked as a conservation manager with Cork Nature Network. With the Citizens’ Assembly finalising its recommendations this month ahead of its report being submitted to the Oireachtas, expect plenty more conversations about Ireland’s biodiversity this year.
Housing activists group
The Community Action Tenants Union (Catu) has been growing in strength, membership, visibility, and action since it was founded in October 2019. With about 1,700 members, there are now branches across Dublin and in Belfast, Cork, Galway and Maynooth. The union focuses on renters but also claims to be a union for mortgage holders, council tenants and those in emergency and precarious living situations. Catu is often present at eviction and housing protests. It recently successfully advocated for repair works on housing in Ballymun, has assisted members to compel landlords and letting agents to address issues in rented accommodation, and has set up information street stalls. The group is also compiling an oral history on the Irish rent strikes of the early 1970s. Dealing with the housing crisis can often be an isolating experience, but Catu’s energy, enthusiasm, and effectiveness offers a sense of solidarity and community.
Founder, Gorm Media
Although black Irish creativity is now well-established as an exciting cultural wave, particularly in music, our diverse population is still not fully represented in the Irish media. Mamobo Ogoro is the founder of Gorm Media, a start-up that creates digital content foregrounding diverse experiences across demographics in Ireland, hosting workshops and events with members of the black, Muslim, transgender, Down syndrome, and autistic communities – and more. Ogoro has been involved in the Midwest Migrant Community Network committee, and the Ethnic Diversity Forum at Limerick University, where she is a completing a PhD in social psychology. Leaders such as Ogoro are taking it upon themselves to place those who are often spoken “about” at the core of the conversation. She is also an accomplished public speaker, and recently featured in Sarah Webb’s children’s book Be Inspired! Young Irish People Changing the World.
Ruadhán Ó Críodáin
Executive director, ShoutOut
Last year, Ruadhán Ó Críodáin became executive director of ShoutOut, a charity that has been delivering workshops in secondary schools across Ireland for over a decade, with a focus on tackling anti-LGBTQ+ bullying. In 2022, ShoutOut partnered with Bohemians FC, holding workshops for coaches and youth players. Bohs then became the first professional League of Ireland team to march in Dublin Pride. ShoutOut also holds workshops for companies, the proceeds of which go back into workshop programmes in schools. While divisive discourse and disinformation regarding the rights of trans people in other jurisdictions has contributed to a fraught and dangerous environment, Ireland has been relatively adept at withstanding manufactured division. At a time of heightened rhetoric and an increase in anti-LGBTQ+ street attacks, Ó Críodáin is known for his calmness, expertise, and practical approach to encouraging inclusivity and respect. He also serves on the board of the GAZE International LGBTQ+ Film Festival Dublin.
Ukrainian Action in Ireland
As Ireland continues to help Ukrainian refugees in crisis, multiple small support groups and networks have sprung up in communities around Ireland. One overarching organisation is Ukrainian Action in Ireland. Its activities include running the Ukrainian Centre in Dublin, liaising with Ukrainian refugees in Ireland, organising meet-ups and hiking outings, as well as the Irish Ukrainian Pride group participating in Dublin Pride. It is part of the Ukrainian Civil Society Forum, and also organised the March 4 Peace and other anti-war rallies. Across the island, there is a huge, unseen network of activists in private homes; families, couples, and individuals who have welcomed Ukrainian refugees into their flats and houses. This solidarity should not be taken for granted, given those who seek to divert and distort legitimate criticism aimed at Government over housing towards those in desperate need.
ENTREPRENEURSHIP AND TECH
by Ciara O’Brien
Kerri and Alexandra Sheeran
When sisters Alexandra and Kerri Sheeran set up Taly Subscriptions, they had a goal in mind: to make a one-stop platform for all subscriptions. The company targets subscription offerings for meal kits, beauty and grooming, health, coffee and alcohol, giving customers a single point of management for services. Taly is targeting growth in the UK, and has already signed a major deal with Fulfil Nutrition. Previously bootstrapped, the company is now fundraising, aiming to raise €1.5-€2 million.
Narcissips was supposed to be a short-term project. Founder Cathal O’Reilly was working as a management consultant with PwC, and saw the sustainability-focused social enterprise as a way to test his business experience while also supporting the environment. The company produces insulated stainless steel reusable water bottles and coffee cups, offering them to consumers at a price that doesn’t put them out of reach. When things took off, he left PwC to run the company full time. Initially putting his own savings into the enterprise, he now plans to target the UK market. The company also has a philanthropic function, donating to charities that help provide safe drinking water for children in developing countries.
Elise Vens, Emmet Lowry, Nathan Gaborieau
Circular fashion communication platform Ecode was founded by Trinity College Dublin students Elise Vens, Emmet Lowry and Nathan Gaborieau. Masters in sustainability students, they created a system that helps consumers to make informed decisions on the sustainability of the clothing they are buying, both online and in-store. Ecode’s system uses QR codes on individual garments, helping fashion businesses to communicate their social and environmental efforts. The company is already making waves. In September, it was named the winner of Trinity’s annual student entrepreneurship competition Launchbox, and has also been the runner-up in the Provost’s innovation challenge in 2021.
Precision Sports Technology
A recreational weightlifter, Emma Meehan came up with the idea for Precision Sport Technology while training in the gym. Noticing incorrect technique – both in her own training and in those around her – she came up with the idea of using composter vision and artificial intelligence to bring the expertise of personal trainers, coaches and healthcare professionals to a wider audience. The system uses LiDAR technology and AI to track and interpret movement, giving feedback to athletes in real time as they work out, allowing them to correct their technique without supervision from a human trainer or doctor. Any data collected is stored in the cloud and can be used to provide greater insight into clients’ activities, potentially leading to better outcomes.
University College Cork graduate Luke Murphy identified a gap in the market that Training Reels was ideally set up to fill. The company provides DIY production facilities that allow small and medium-sized companies make high-quality marketing videos on a budget. Murphy’s service can cost as little as €20,000 a year, a huge saving on employing an external production company. He came up with the idea when working with his own production company Waking Dreams Media, noting the fees for content marketing were too expensive for many SMEs to use regularly. The self-service model – a video photo booth of sorts – guides users through the process from start to finish, from creating the script to editing the videos with minimal technical experience. Wakingdreamsmedia.ie