athena media weblog

A year of challenges and opportunities

November 24th, 2014 by Helen Shaw

It’s that time again. Time to assess and review, reflect and complete. Already Dublin and Manchester have the Christmas trees alight and we’re already taking booking into 2015 so this post is a chance to catch up on what’s been happening this year 2014. We did have one birth - our lovely production assistant Kate Ní Chélirigh had her beautiful baby boy Fiachra in Spring - and Fiachra has the honour of being the first Athena Media baby! We’re 11 years in business since September of this year and while some of our ex staffers like Chris Clarke have indeed had children Fiachra is the first one to arrive while someone is working with us. So here’s Fiachra and Kate!

Kate with baby Fiachra

We had an eventful year though in terms of moves. By February we decided to open in Manchester in MediaCityUk and we officially launched by Mid March in the amazing location of The Greenhouse. MediaCityUk is inspiring. A new city of glasses and water at Salford Quays just outside Manchester City.

MediaCityUK

The BBC has relocated BBC learning , CBBC, BBC Sport and Breakfast TV there and just across the water is ITV’s Coronation Street. We’re busy since March getting our feet under the table there and looking to connect with work. We established as a UK business and we’ve got some publicity there too.

Back home in Dublin our offices at Adelaide Chambers went through something of a crisis. We moved back to the Digital Hub by end of April to the charming Townhouse Twenty2 on Thomas St - once a public library and now our production base and head quarters. We brought our sofa with us - took off its covers and invented a new office sport, AthenaSofa where people who visit or work write and draw on the sofa. Have a look at some the evidence.
Come and visit and leave your trace too!

Louis Denvir

Ailbhe Kelly

Aileen O'Toole

Beyond writing on sofas we’ve been busying with several key projects. in February we won a tender to create a transmedia children’s rights advocacy tool for the Office of the Childrens Ombudsman Its Your Right with audio, video and content made with and for children around their rights and lives. By September our digital producer Leon O’Neill had rolled out a iPad application for it and by November 20th we were both celebrating the Universal Children’s Day anniversary of the 25th UNCRC and a great win with the silver award at the Appy awards for best children’s app.

Karen McAuley from the OCO and Leon O'Neill from Athena Media at the Appys

In content we produced our first audiobook for Audible by May - Pat Falvey’s The Summit, in January we produced the content for the UCD iPad add James Joyce: The Dead and we completed the Newstalk/BAI radio series Science is Everywhere with Lara Dungan. The radio series won Silver in the New York Radio Awards in June and we also had the privilege of two Gold Awards in New York for our 2013 radio series Citizens Lockout 1913-2013 and Herosongs. The Herosongs presenter Thérèse McIntyre went to New York to collect the awards.

Thérèse McIntyre in New York

Our James Joyce The Dead reading by Barry McGovern won a finalist certificate - bringing our awards from New York Radio Festival since 2012 to 3 Gold, 1 Silver and 2 Finalist Awards. We’ve pretty much made independent production history as an Irish independent company with that haul!

Our audio editor Amy Millar, the audio force behind all those award-winning projects, also went to the Celtic Media Festival in May to collect our finalist certificate for Herosongs.

In this year’s work we’ve been producing 3 broadcast project which were awarded funding in June by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland - Extreme - a TV documentary for Setanta Sports, Vocal Chords - a radio series with presenter Iarla Ó Lionáird for RTE lyric fm and Bright Sparks a new science series with Prof. Shane Bergin for RTE Radio 1.

By September we were lucky enough to get a fourth award - for a single radio history documentary Kinder Letters for Newstalk which is a fascinating WW2 story crossing between Ireland and Germany.

Our producer Robert Hope, the mainstay of so much of our work recently, moved to Berlin in April but he continues to work with us on a contract basis and Rob has been busy travelling Europe recording amazing music for Vocal Chords. Michael Gallen, composer and recordist, is also recording with us for Vocal Chords and Michael and Iarla went to London recently to record an exclusive interview with Peter Gabriel. That interview was so compelling that we all decided to make a single stand alone programme based around Gabriel which goes out on RTÉ lyric fm on St Stephen’s Day at 7pm. The full series starts May 1st 2015.

In Manchester one of the most fascinating projects to date has been media training with Chinese Media and we’ve now moved into The Landing right beside the BBC. in November we were there for the screening of Unbreakable with Mark Pollock - the presenter of our Beyond Limits series - and we continued our support for the Mark Pollock Trust by running in the Run in the Dark.

So its a year of moves, expansions, a birth and some of decorations for our window ledge and walls in terms of awards. We’re really proud of our work for Its Your Right, it shows the value of transmedia story-telling and in particularly the work with teen songwriters Carla and Ellen and the performance of Shield.

‘Shield’ by Ellen and Carla - LIVE at St. Peter’s College Dunboyne from ItsYourRight on Vimeo.

So for 2015 ……we hope to kick off the year hoping to make this a better world. Literally. We are supporting and working with the European Year of Development and we’ll be at the launch in January with the President Michael D Higgns. great company, great cause. What are you doing to make this a better world?

Celebrating the Rights of Children

November 17th, 2014 by Helen Shaw

This week marked Universal Children’s Day and we’re celebrating the rights and voices of children with national radio station Newstalk fm on November 20th. It marks 25th years of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and 25 years of facing up to the challenges of realising the rights of children as human beings to have the resources and support to live full lives. In Ireland children’s rights have radically changed over the past 25 years with an increased emphasis on the right of children to be heard and seen with national agencies like the Office of the Childrens Ombudsman protecting the rights of children here for the last 10 years.

Across 2014 we’ve been working with the OCO to create an advocacy and awareness project around the rights of children and we worked with children and young people from 5 to 18 to both tell their stories and create content for the project website, video and audio channels and the iPad application we’ve created for use in schools.

The project gives us the opportunity to work with some of the amazing NGOs supporting children in Ireland including the Children’s Rights Alliance and Barnardos. We took the theme of empowering children to have their voice heard and one of the most delightful aspects of the project was working with teenage singer-songwriters Ellen and Carla in the performance of their song Shield which became a song for both the project and the concept of the OCO.

‘Shield’ by Ellen and Carla - LIVE at St. Peter’s College Dunboyne from ItsYourRight on Vimeo.

On November 20th Newstalk will use some of the audio stories from children on air and on their website and we’re encouraging people to share the stories and tell their own.

Respecting the rights of children ensures our future and its people like Nobel prize winner Malala who has inspires children here to stand up and make the case for human rights for all.

Running Blind

November 5th, 2014 by Helen Shaw

It’s November and the darkness is beginning to descend. Time to run. Literally. It’s the Run in the Dark on November 12th evening and our crew will be running in both Dublin and Manchester (I’m Manchester!) for the Mark Pollock Trust to support our colleague and friend Mark Pollock. I’ve just got my running card and even if I have to crawl it – I’ll do it.

run in the dark race number

After all no matter how tough it is Mark and Mark’s story makes it worthwhile.

It is year four. And what a difference four years makes. It’s not that we’ve got faster or better but the four years traces the extraordinary recovery of Mark post his accidental fall in July 2010 when he broke his back. Mark has been blind since he was 22 and the by September 2010 he was still desperately ill. But by September 2011 he was back in Dublin and trying to re-build his independent life with his partner Simone George. The Mark Pollock Trust was born, headed by the energetic Piers White – a friend of Mark’s and it is now a global event with running nights on Nov 12th right around the world. In Ireland Dublin is already fully booked but in Manchester and Belfast you can still join the run and support an amazing guy who is changing the world for the better.

You can also catch the documentary film about Mark’s story Unbreakable in selected cinemas around Ireland and Mark and Simone, along with director and friend Ross Whitaker, have been doing a tour of question and answer sessions after the screenings.
The film will be shown internationally in 2015.

If you can’t see the film watch Mark’s Ted Talk.

That idea of ‘Im not interested in the problems, Im interested in the solutions’ motivates me every day. I hope it can do the same for you.

Thinking BIG, Living the Vision and Going for Growth

October 8th, 2014 by Helen Shaw

I was delighted to once again facilitate the Women Mean Business Conference & Awards in Dublin, at the magnificent Shelbourne Hotel, on October 6th. Incredibly it is now 8 years running and I have had the privilege of being the host for all 8 years. It is always a positive and uplifting event but this year’s theme ‘Think BIG and Live the Vision’ seems to have captured the zeitgeist of our times; coming out of a deep recession and literally putting our heads up and gasping for air.
There is a sense, at the moment, that we’ve been in a long cold winter where we got used to sitting in the dark with the heating off. The economic thaw and awakening this year is beginning to show real results and like nervous crocuses we are daring to come out of the dark and see if it is time to grow.
The event this year, as always the brainchild of Rosemary Delaney of Women Mean Business Publishing, featured an all Irish cast of women leaders and speakers - outstanding achievers who have walked the walked of both thinking big and making their visions realities. We started the day with Dublin’s new Commissioner for Start-ups - Niamh Bushnell - and she has the tough task of drawing all the elements of enterprise and entrepeneurship together to make Dublin a fantastic city for start-ups.

(Niamh I noticed is as short in height as I am!)

Niamh has moved back to Dublin from New York and talks about the need to create a collaborative community in the city where everyone working in the same space works together. Seems simple but for anyone who has been in the enterprise and start-up sector in Dublin they will know it is often quite the opposite where there is not only no common thinking and community but a lot of competition and territory guarding by players. Niamh, who has a background in sports mentoring, seems a wonderful addition to the sector and we’re looking forward to what she does next.

As facilitator my focus is always on bringing the whole show together and while big ideas and visions are welcome it is also critical that big ideas become action plans and that visions are not dreams but structured goals and outcomes. Our next speaker Deirdre Somers, CEO of the Irish Stock Exchange, (and the first woman to hold that position) hit that topic on the head and talked of the need for Ireland to overcome its need to often belittle achievement and she talked about a culture where we can feel embarrassed by ambition and by the very idea of thinking above our station.
It is a common phrase in Ireland ‘who does she think she is?’ or ’she’s getting above herself’ ….we like to bring people down and often we’ve a public narrative which begrudges ambition and mocks ‘big thinking’ . Deirdre was highly critical of the enterprise culture which encourages start ups to see their end game as selling for millions within 3 years rather than becoming a substantial company in its own right. We applaud those who sell their companies rather than acclaiming those who stick it out and go on to employ hundreds of people and become global leaders themselves.

Elaine Coughlan of Atlantic Bridge is a major global player in capital investment and is currently working between Ireland and China. She charmed the WMB audience with a powerful and insightful overview (which even included a picture of George Clooney!) and inspires most of us to think the 1.4 billion China market should be part of our coming quarter plans. Elaine went on to give the conference some spot on networking tips in the networking session - including ‘never be afraid to ask for help’ and ‘dont talk about yourself - ask questions!’.

The event is always about rewarding achievement and the winners this year were :

WMB Businesswoman of the Year Award 2014: Anne Heraty, CEO - CPL Resources plc.
WMB Female Entrepreneur of the Year Award 2014: Ramona Nicholas, Managing Director - Cara Pharmacy
WMB Woman in Technology Award 2014: Leonora O’Brien, CEO and Founder - Pharmapod Ltd.
Boots WMB Empowering Women Award 2014: Paula Fitzsimons, Director and Founder - Going for Growth
Newstalk WMB Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award 2014: Debbie Deegan, MD and Founder - To Russia with Love

It was the afternoon key note speech by Lucy Gaffney chairperson of Communicorp which really lifted the house. Lucy is probably one of the most powerful businesswomen in the country, and has worked side by side with Denis O Brien for decades, but her talk was frank, down to earth and hilarious. She managed to get part of the human anatomy into it in a unique manner and left everyone with both a smile and some clear-thinking insights. Believe in yourself, work with people who believe in you, and dont listen to the critics. In Ireland that may just be the key to success - an ability to flick the mute button on the crowds who say it can never work, it’s been done before and anyway it won’t work.

Our video crew led by Amy Millar and Barry MacNeill shot the day and they’ll be turning around a short video within the week but while we wait - here is one they made earlier - the 2013 event - featuring Cherie Blair.

WMB Conference & Awards 2013 Women Mean Business Publishing from Athena Media on Vimeo.

Its all Chinese to me

September 26th, 2014 by Helen Shaw

I often encourage my niece with the idea of doing something that scares you everyday - or at least every week. But for me one of the most challenging missions recently has been to present to a group of leading Chinese media people - addressing their questions about digital and broadcast media in the UK and Europe but without a word of Chinese in my head. I learnt how to say hello 你好 and goodbye 再见 but the whole experience reminded me just how little I know about China and how much I need to learn. Which is a good thing to wake up to. I came away from the session feeling slightly bewildered as normally my key communications advice is to know your audience and figure out how to connect with them but in this case it was extremely hard by the end of the session to know what I had communicated or how I had connected. Every word had to be translated and I also realised how much you lose control when your language and conversation has to go through a translation loop. It reminded me how difficult it is to connect without language and the need for those of us on this side of the world to reach out and learn the language of 2 billion people. So full of enthusiasm I did enroll in the local night course in breakthrough Chinese convinced that at least by my next session with the Chinese (and thankfully there will be a second one!) I would know more. I rolled up with my notebook in hand only to be told the numbers were too low to go ahead. Dejected I left. So anyone out there who want to help me learn a little Mandarin Chinese please let me know! In France my friend says her daughters learn it in school in the same way we learn German - not the first language they learn - but the second or third. How many Irish schools are teaching Chinese? How many business courses include Chinese in their modules?

For my part it has started a new learning curve trying to get beyond the assumptions and understand the economy, culture and people, in all their diversity, behind so much of what influences my everyday life and world. ‘Made in China’ may be the most common phrase a child in Ireland learns if they are picking up things around the house - but how much better if we were teaching just a little of that language to get behind that product stamp ?

Autumn production highlights

August 19th, 2014 by Helen Shaw

We’re back into the swing of production on three major new productions, one television and two radio. Our TV documentary Extreme presented by Kipper Maguire is a fast paced story of the people behind extreme sports like base jumper and skydiver Conor Heelan, surfer Easkey Britton, long distance swimmer Fergal Somerville and thundercat speedboat racer Aileen Mann, you can see a short preview of the action at our vimeo. Our Extreme production team is being led by Barry MacNeill and Aoife Nathan with additional camera work by Raja Nundlall, John Fay and Eleanor Bowman. Its for Setanta Sports Ireland with funding support by the BAI and the TV licence fee and its scheduled for screen next Spring.

Kipper Maguire at Saint Mary's track filming Extreme

Our radio series Vocal Chords presented by Sean-nós singer Iarla Ó Lionáird of The Gloaming is for RTÉ Lyric fm and explores the global experience of voice and song. Our audio editor Amy Millar is leading on this project and the production team includes composer Michael Gallen and our intrepid associate producer Rob Hope who has now re-located to Berlin. The series will be recording across the winter and spring and there’s some big name surprises on the guest list! Its also supported by the BAI funding scheme.

Our second radio series which is entering production is a new science series Bright Sparks presented by TCD physicist Dr Shane Bergin and its exploring cutting edge innovation and discovery in Irish research centres. Its for RTÉ Radio 1 for air next Autumn - October 2015 and its been driven in our staff by Cormac McAdam. Again its funding supported by the BAI and like most Irish production companies today we’re highly dependant on the funding which draws on 7% of the TV licence fee and funds public media broadcast content in Ireland. We remain one of the few companies producing award-winning content under the scheme for both radio and TV and for both public broadcasters and commercial outlets. This year alone our BAI funded content won three awards at the New York Radio Festival and our TV documentary strand on paralympians Beyond Limits and Beyond Limits The Next Generation is still being screened on Setanta Ireland and features many of the athletes winning internationally and aiming to qualify for Rio 2016.

Its your right logo

Besides our production news our transmedia project for the Office of the Children’s Ombudsman (OCO) is wrapping up this Autumn with the launch of the free iPad app around the content and which is aimed at schools and educational use. We’re extremely proud to have worked on this project around the vital conversation of children’s rights and we love using our content skills in our-reach projects like this or our recent work for UCD through the James Joyce The Dead iPad app and the site www.joycesdublin.ie. For us content is all about reaching out and connecting with people, shaping conversations and expanding knowledge, so making digital projects and mobile applications is a wonderful way of ensuring our stories reach further and have more impact. If you are interested to know more about the OCO project check out www.itsyourright.ie. We’re marking 25 years of the Convention on the Rights of the Child this November and mainstream content like this gives both primary and secondary schools tools for children to play with and it empowers their sense of their own citizenship.

A Night at the New York Festivals Radio Awards 2014

June 24th, 2014 by Helen Shaw

By Anita Walsh

NY Festival Awards

The Empire State building shone brightly over the 2014 New York Festival awards honouring the World’s Best Radio Programmes. Strong and encouraging themes emerged as radio professionals from all around the world gathered to celebrate their craft. Gold and Silver recipients from Sweden, Canada, Australia, USA, India and, of course, Ireland spoke about not just their winning productions, but a love for radio, the spoken word and soundscapes that couldn’t fail to inspire. Ben Manilla, a New York Festival winner every year since 1987, summed up the audio passion nicely observing that “when you see something it goes to your brain, but when you hear it, it goes to your heart.”

Many awards on the night were delivered to hard hitting documentaries with topics including domestic violence, rape, war, terrorism and more. Several award recipients, humble in acceptance, noted that their counterparts in Syria, Egypt and beyond are jailed and worse for doing a job that many take for granted. The call to celebrate free speech and the quality of journalism on display was a joy to see, along with the heartwarming speeches illustrating that radio can, and has, made a difference in people’s lives, at home and abroad.

A final common ground among winners on the night was a call to action to keep radio strong and to keep independent radio flowing. Sentiments echoed by independent production company, Athena Media, it is wonderful to see such powerful radio produced worldwide, and encouraging to see a passion to continue.

Congratulations to all at Athena Media on winning four awards on the night: Gold for Herosongs, the history meets song series in the best educational programming category; Gold for Citizens: Lockout 1913-2013, the landmark history series in best history programming; Silver for science series Science is Everywhere in best science and technology programming, and Finalist award for James Joyce: The Dead, an illustrated reading by Barry McGovern, in the best narration craft category.. Well done to Helen, Lisa, Amy and the Athena Media team, Herosongs presenter Therese McIntyre, Science is Everywhere presenter Dr Lara Dungan, and music composers Michael Gallen and Rob Hope for all of the excellent work on these projects.

It has been a good week (or two) for Athena Media

May 23rd, 2014 by Helen Shaw

We’ve settled into our new home in The Digital Hub at Townhouse Twenty2 Thomas St despite the jack hammers working outside. We love this old library building with its high ceilings and big windows and it’s blend of history and digital futures. The only downside is the on-going roadworks which dominate Thomas St at present. But beyond that temporary challenge we’re definitely celebrating in Athena Media. This month marks ten years since we set up as a start-up in The Digital Depot, the Hub’s incubation zone, and we’re marking our tenth birthday with not just a return to one of the most beautiful of the old buildings under the restoration keep of the project but we’ve expanded into the UK with our new office and presence in MediaCityUK Manchester. We’ve come full circle, from an owner-director start-up to a flourishing and growing company employing talented people in the heart of two cities. But buildings and jobs are not just what we’re celebrating in May. We’ve just heard a few more magic numbers to add to that perfect ten. Just days ago we got the news that four of our radio programmes are finalists in the international radio awards at The New York Radio Festival.

We’re no stranger to the New York Radio Awards. In 2012 we won Gold for our history series Death of an Empire, on the collapse of the Soviet Union with presenter Seamus Martin and just last year we were finalists with our series Grassroots on positive community profiles. Because of our wins I’ve been invited to be part of the international jury for the last two years (but of course we’re barred from voting on our own programmes!). But it was still a complete surprise to get four finalists in this year’s competition. The four are Herosongs (RTÉ Radio1), Citizens: Lockout 1913 (RTÉ Radio1), and Science is Everywhere (Newstalk) all of which were funded by the The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, and the Barry McGovern narration of Joyce’s “The Dead” was funded by UCD and broadcast by RTÉ lyric fm. We’ve made history as an independent company in that we’re certainly the first Irish independent to have four different programmes voted as finalists and we may even be a rarity globally as the four programmes are four three different broadcasters and represent two different forms of funding. Its been quite a coup so far and the Gold, Silver and Bronze decisions will come on June 23rd. Win or not on that day we’re over the moon to box above our (very small) weight in the international arena. We think it reflects well not just on our creative team, and in particular our audio editor Amy Millar who was the audio designer behind all these projects, but on all indie radio and shows the potential, if supported, for creative talent from Ireland to shine and lead. In these categories we’re up against the best and most funded radio programming in the world from BBC Radio 4, ABC in Australia, CBC in Canada and NPR in the United States. We’re particularly appreciative to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland fund Sound & Vision which has supported the making of three of these projects. Without this fund we’d be doing very little broadcasting. It is the beating heart of independent production and creativity in Ireland.

On the heels of the news of four finalist programmes in the NY Radio Awards came the news that we had got three projects; two radio and 1 television, approved for funding support by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland in its Sound & Vision Round 20. Much like the New York Radio round this was a 100% success rate and gives us a diverse range of projects from sport (EXTREME for Setanta Sports Ireland) to arts/music (Vocal Chords for RTE Lyric fm) and science (Bright Sparks for RTE Radio 1). It was to say the least a major relief and joy for us as tons of hard work went into this round given we had suffered total rejection (four projects…!) in the last funding round in December. Robert Hope who is now based between Berlin and Dublin spear-headed our BAI submissions and he has to take a very big bow for the quality of the submissions that went through this time around. The competition for funding in our sector is extremely tough and each round gets tighter and tighter so while we’ve got 3 submissions funded in this round we actually haven’t had a new funded submission in nearly a year and a half as our previous batch of projects were all approved in 2012. So in our business we know make hay while the sun shines as this burst of heat of award nominations and funding comes after a very dry season! In reality we have not had a new broadcast project since December and all our work so far in 2014 has been outside broadcasting – predominately for the wonderful It’s Your Right children’s project for the Children’s Ombudsman which we won by public tender in late February.

Broadcasting and independent production is a highly precarious business. There’s no guarantees in our gig and we are always pitching and always bidding. Part of our decision-making behind the move to MediaCityUK is not just to expand our UK broadcasting business and work but equally to diversify. We know how fragile it is to depend on funding rounds as a business. It’s not secure and not a good basis for employing people and giving them careers and futures. Our mix has to be broadcasting and digital publishing – like our new business in audiobooks and our first book The Summit read by author Pat Falvey available now on Audible,Amazon and iTunes.

We love broadcasting ; we love documentaries but like any business keen to survive we have to adapt and find new sources of funding for our stories and ideas. We know what we do matters to us. We hope it matters to those who listen and watch and our aim is to make transformational stories, to tell stories that make a difference, about people shaping the world we live in and the ideas and passions that drive them.

Moving to Manchester & MediaCityUK

April 16th, 2014 by Helen Shaw

Media City UK

It has been a busy first quarter for Athena Media in that by January we took the decision to move North or more precisely to the North of England and divide our operation between Dublin and Manchester. By mid March we joined the prestigious MediaCityUK setup and opened shop in The Greenhouse which is just off the main piazza in Salford Quays and around the corner from the BBC where the Daleks beckon! We have established as a UK company and joined the UK independent sector and we’re busy opening doors, networking and connecting. Some of our neighbours in The Greenhouse include Steve Coogan’s company Baby Cow.

The Greenhouse

MediaCityUK is rapidly expanding and is currently home to BBC Five Live, BBC Sport, BBC’s Children’s output CBBC and BBC Breakfast. ITV has shifted its base there too and across one of the bridges you find ITV’s flagship soap Coronation Street in its brand new set. We’ve already found lots of common ground with companies and businesses in the cluster and delighted too to have connected with some Irish business leaders there like Elaine Mullan at Bright Future, an innovative mobile software company.

Media City

Click here to see what the Manchester Evening News has to say about all the new arrivals to The Greenhouse in MediaCityUK.

It’s all a new beginning for us and we’re currently getting very used to the Aer Lingus and Ryanair schedules to Manchester but it’s an exciting new phase for our ten year old company. Wish us luck!

The science of now is everywhere

February 24th, 2014 by Helen Shaw

Dr Lara Dungan

We’ve a new radio series starting shortly on Newstalk called Science is Everywhere which explores the everyday stories of our daily life and the science behind them. Its presented by Dr Lara Dungan a young scientist with a PhD from Trinity College in immunology who is now studying medicine at UCD. The series has had a long gestation. I think the idea started a couple of summers ago when my adorable niece Dara Shaw was in on work experience during her transition year. (She’s now in the midst of her Leaving Cert year so that says just how long this gestation period has been!) Dara loves science and hopes to take science at UCD in the future but when she was in with us on her work experience I asked her to come up with some ideas about science programming particularly aimed at getting people who don’t think they know much about science (and assume it’s boring!) but who may be surprised by the science stories about the things we take for granted in our everyday life. Science is Everywhere was born from that conversation and Dara worked on an outline which was initially for a children’s and young people series but later became the Newstalk/BAI series, which starts on air from March 15th. Dara’s ideas were aided and developed over coffee in the Science Gallery with her cousin John Howard who was then finishing his Masters degree in science at Trinity College Dublin. (John is now living in Bilbao living each day!) While the 8 part series which we finally created is a lot different to those humble notes in the Science Gallery it’s interesting how some of the themes and the core idea remained. What we set out to create was a series to surprise people and intrigue people by revealing the scientific principles behind everyday things like the water which flows from their tap or the honey they tip into their breakfast bowl. The topics range from climate change and weather chaos to the concept of the plastic brain which features a wonderful interview with the ever inspiring Mark Pollock, who features in the current Science Gallery exhibition ‘Fail Better’.

You can listen to a promo for the series on our audioboo channel and we shortly put up some of the specials in the Science is Everywhere series which we put out at Christmas including the full feature length documentary on the science of sound and music.
The series features some of the dynamic young scientists who are shaping research and innovation in Ireland; people like physicist Shane Bergin and stem cell engineer Danny Kelly from TCD, as well as UCD geneticists Emmeline Hill and Emma Teeling (my second cousin!) who’s work is leading globally. Probably, for me, the most fascinating material relates to the brain and in particular this idea that the brain is plastic and can be re-engineered throughout our lives. That’s a liberating thought; that we’re not fixed or settled but can continually reform, re-shape and adapt. Richard Roche, of the Brain Council, put it brilliantly and provocatively when he said we’ve learnt more about the brain in the last twenty years than in the thousands before it. The brain, as the undiscovered frontier of human endeavour and exploration, intrigues and motivates me.

Hope you enjoy the series and our thanks as always to the crew behind it including Lisa Essuman who recorded most of the series on location, Amy Millar our talented audio editor who recorded our studio interviews and did a beautiful mix on the programmes and of course Kate Ní Chléirigh who managed the series administration, recorded interviews and assisted with all aspects of final productions. Robert Hope, as always, showed he is the master of vox pops and produced some great pieces from the streets while the series features the music of both Robert and Michael Gallen, our in house composers whose music compositions lift all our productions.