Liz Christy & Louise Loughman at the RDS  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Liz Christy & Louise Loughman at the RDS Photo: © Michael Fisher

Three County Monaghan designers hope their displays at an important trade exhibition in Dublin will bring them new business at home and abroad. Liz Christy brought some of her latest work from her studios at Annyalla near Castleblayney to Showcase 2015 at the RDS. She was joined in the main exhibition hall by her friend Louise Loughman. Making up the Monaghan trio was an up and coming international fashion designer from Broomfield, Natalie Foreman.

Liz Christy, Swallow Studios, at the RDS Photo: © Michael Fisher

Liz Christy, Swallow Studios, at the RDS Photo: © Michael Fisher

Textile designer Liz was launching a new luxury collection of silk and marino wool stoles and scarves for ladies and gents, hand-woven by her at Swallow studios. The designs are inspired by Monaghan heritage, including Carrickmacross and Clones lace, and the paintings of Irish artist Roderic O’Connor. She says her love of colour echoes what she sees around her each day in the drumlin countryside: fresh hues of springtime crocuses and bluebells, vibrant highlights in the summer landscape, rich shades of autumn and shimmering, water-filled winter scenes.

Liz is a former pupil of Ardscoil Lurgan in Castleblayney, where one of her teachers was Louise Loughman’s mother Patricia. She went to Galway to study textile design in the mid-1980s and Louise ended up sitting beside her in the same class. Both took the opportunity of doing a course to help start their own business. In 1987 Liz approached the owner of Cleo’s in Dublin’s Kildare Street, Kitty Joyce (who died last year). Her outlet was known as the home of Irish linen and tweed and soft couture knitwear. She became Liz’s first customer and subsequently acted as her mentor.

Liz moved to Annyalla and has worked there since 1996, opening up her studios with one loom in 2004. Now she has four hand looms installed. In 2008 she introduced a range of sheep-design fridge magnets which have been quite popular. In the past her creations have been sold in outlets such as Kilkenny Design, House of Ireland and GlenAran.

The RDS exhibition attracts buyers from all over Ireland from craft shops and other outlets. It also provides an opportunity to meet buyers from abroad. As she was speaking to the Northern Standard Liz had a visit from a Japanese buyer, one of the main markets for such garments. Since the first day she went into business her creations have been exported, with the USA being the main market.

Louise Loughman, Castleblayney, at the RDS Showcase  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Louise Loughman, Castleblayney, at the RDS Showcase Photo: © Michael Fisher

Louise Loughman from Castleblayney was attending the Showcase for the third time with her own stall. In the past she teamed up with Liz, having been based at Swallow studios where she did weaving. Now she is running her own business. Her wallhangings are a combination of batik art and silk painting. The designs she uses are based on the Children of Lir and the Brendan voyage.

The third Monaghan representative was Natalie Foreman. For all of them this was an important opportunity for bringing in business and developing their plans for the future.


Natalie B. Coleman, Carrickmacross, at the RDS Showcase  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Natalie B. Coleman, Carrickmacross, at the RDS Showcase Photo: © Michael Fisher

For the second week in a row, a talented young person educated in Carrickmacross was in the large hall at the Royal Dublin Society showing their creations to the wider world. Fashion designer Natalie B. Coleman (the ‘B’ stands for her late mother’s name, Bridie) was at the Showcase exhibition. The event was intended to celebrate and promote Irish designers and more than 460 took part.

Talking to the Northern Standard, Natalie said she makes clothes that are delicate, romantic, cool and feature lots of print. They are also driven by a narrative. She pointed out to me some of her creations that are hand illustrated and printed on silk organza, with designs based around Enid Blyton’s The Enchanted Wood.

Her work has already been shown abroad, with most of her business done in Paris during fashion week. Berlin, Copenhagen and Amsterdam have also witnessed her designs. Natalie has been to New York and in June will be in Los Angeles. She goes back to Paris in March and will be in Shanghai in China the following month. So this former pupil at St Louis Secondary school in Carrickmacross has enjoyed international acclaim.

After doing her Leaving Certificate Natalie went to the Limerick School of Art and Design. She did her MA at Central St Martin’s University of the Arts in London. She set up her business in a studio in a garage at her family home in Corleygorm, Broomfield and in 2011 established her own womenswear label. She designs wedding dresses by commission. Her father Francie Coleman is well-known in the Donaghmoyne area for training the Ladies GAA Football team.

In 2012 Natalie was awarded the Golden Egg Innovation Award for Designer of The Year. She was recognized as the National Designer of the Year 2012 by Image Magazine at KFW and also received the Future Maker Award from the Crafts Council of Ireland. Her label has been featured extensively in magazines and periodicals both nationally and internationally. Natalie has dressed Irish stars such as Kathyrn Thomas, Sharon Corr, Charlene McKenna and Laura Whitmore as well as many others.



Peace Proms 2015 at RDS  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Peace Proms 2015 at RDS Photo: © Michael Fisher

It has been a great weekend of music and song at the Royal Dublin Society’s Simonscourt Hall in Ballsbridge in Dublin. This afternoon seven national schools from County Monaghan helped to form the large choir of schoolchildren performing at the Peace Proms 2015 along with the Cross Border Orchestra of Ireland. Last night (Saturday) the Model school from Monaghan town took part. This afternoon I met all seven schools from County Monaghan, who arrived at the complex at 11:30am for a rehearsal.

Peace Proms 2015 at RDS  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Peace Proms 2015 at RDS Photo: © Michael Fisher

Two schools came from Carrickmacross, Bunscoil Lughaidh Naofa,  Cloughvalley, and St Joseph’s National School,  Farney Street. I also met pupils and their teachers from Knockconan National School, Emyvale, and my neighbours from  St Dympna’s National School, Tydavnet. There were also representatives from St. Louis Girls’ National School,  Park Road in Monaghan town; Scoil Mhuire,  Moys,   Clontibret  and finally Scoil Mhuire National School, Latton, Castleblayney.

Peace Proms 2015 at RDS  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Peace Proms 2015 at RDS Photo: © Michael Fisher

The Cross Border Orchestra of Ireland (CBOI) was established in 1995 as a peace initiative and is now composed of 120 young people from all over Ireland – north and south. It encourages diversity through music and community. The CBOI is internationally recognised as one of Ireland’s flagship peace initiatives and has become one of the most acclaimed youth orchestras that Ireland has ever produced. The Orchestra is led  by some of Ireland’s top professional musicians including: Conductor, Gearóid Grant; Violinist, Patricia Treacy; Tenor, Emmanuel Lawler; and Uilleann Piper, Patrick Martin. The CBOI undertakes a National Spring Tour annually performing at: 

  • The Waterfront Hall, Belfast / the Ulster Hall, Belfast
  • The Kingfisher Hall, NUI, Galway / Leisureland, Galway
  • City Hall, Cork
  • The Hub, Kilkenny
  • City West, Dublin / the National Concert Hall, Dublin / the Helix, DCU, Dublin
  • Letterkenny Institute of Technology, Donegal
  • The Opera House, Derry
  • The INEC Killarney, Kerry
  • Limerick University
  • Dundalk Institute of Technology

The Orchestra has performed for:

  •  President McAleese at Áras an Uachtaráin
  •  Queen Elizabeth II at Hillsborough Castle (Ensemble performance)
  • Many special international Ministerial gatherings at Slane Castle and Dublin Castle.
    Numerous national commemorations including:
  •  The Battle of the Boyne
  • 10th Anniversary of the Belfast Agreement
  • 30th Anniversary of the twinning of Listowel and Downpatrick
  • 400th Anniversary of the Flight of the Earls in Rome.

International tours and showcase of the best of Ireland:

  • ROYAL ALBERT HALL LONDON –  The CBOI performed to a capacity crowd at the Royal Albert Hall London in 2012 and is only the 3rd Irish orchestra in our history to have performed there.
  • WORLD EXPO SHANGHAI – The CBOI represented  Ireland, the UK and Europe at the historic World EXPO in Shanghai in 2010 where they received an award for the most “Outstanding International Performance”.
  • CARNEGIE HALL NEW YORK  – The CBOI has toured to the United States many times selling out prestigious venues including Carnegie Hall, New York, Chicago Symphony Hall, and Boston Symphony Hall. The CBOI as also sold out concerts in eight cities throughout California including San Fransisco and Los Angeles
  • EUROPE – The CBOI has performed in many European countries such as Italy, England, Czech Republic and Finland.

    Peace Proms 2015 at RDS  Photo: © Michael Fisher

    Peace Proms 2015 at RDS Photo: © Michael Fisher

 The CBOI plays a vital role in enhancing Music and Arts education in Ireland thourgh “Peace Proms”. Peace Proms is a choral education project for Primary Schools devised and delivered by the Cross Border Orchestra of Ireland.  Over 15,000 children from 300 schools participate in Peace Proms annually. It is not a “classical orchestra”. Their music  highlights the pop, folk and traditional cultures of the island of Ireland. They use all the instruments of a full symphony orchestra but include traditional instruments for example Lambeg Drums, Uilleann Pipes and Highland Pipes.  Many of the CBOI’s commissions have been written by Brian Byrne who is recognised as one of Ireland leading contemporary composers and arrangers. Based in Los Angeles, Brian is an IFTA winner and OSCAR nominee.

Peace Proms 2015 Commemorative Brochure

Peace Proms 2015 Commemorative Brochure

Over the past 18 years, the CBOI has played an important role in building and nurturing vital cross border and cross community relations. We are delighted to have recently established a link with the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association Northern Ireland Branch and look forward to showcasing our combined cultural talents and working with them for a better future.
Belfast Odyssey Arena Sunday 8th February  3pm Belfast Peace Proms
Limerick  Saturday 28th February


Web Summit Main Stage  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Web Summit Main Stage Photo: © Michael Fisher

It was all very high-tech as around 10,000 visitors gathered in Dublin for the Web Summit at the RDS. Another 600 were at an IATA travel conference in the National Conference Centre. So imagine how the restaurants, pubs and similar businesses that open late to cater for guests felt when they were faced with overnight water restrictions amounting to a cut in supply between 8pm and 7am.

It’s because the infrastructure in place is old and needs to be replaced. Dublin City Council says that the extent of the leakage is largely owing to the age of the network, with an estimated 1200 kilometres of the network being over 50 years old. In addition to this demand can rise during a cold spell if taps are left running in an effort to prevent frozen pipes. The normal demand for water in the Dublin Region is 540 million litres per day. However during a cold spell demand can increase to a staggering 636 million litres. This means that the treated reservoirs such as the one at Ballymore Eustace in County Wicklow empty at a much faster rate than they can fill, which leads to a depletion of treated water storage reserves.

Anyway the main problem for delegates at the RDS appeared to be the breakdown in the wifi system upon which each visitor is so dependent to do business. It seems to have crashed temporarily owing to the large numbers attempting to sign in. Despite these difficulties, I’m sure plenty of networking was done and new contacts were made with potential investors for startups.

Invest Northern Ireland stand at Web Summit in RDS  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Invest Northern Ireland stand at Web Summit in RDS Photo: © Michael Fisher

One of the stands I visited was that of Invest Northern Ireland. Another was representing Berlin as a city to do business.


Web Summit, RDS  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Web Summit, RDS Photo: © Michael Fisher

The main hall at the RDS complex in Dublin was a hive of activity during the Web Summit. Presentations being made on various stages. I immediately noticed the stands of some major players in the world of business: Microsoft, PayPal, Verizon, Bing and a host of others including media players such as the Irish Times and RTÉ. But walking through to the next hall is where I found the real activity and what I thought was the most interesting part of the event.

Presentations at the Web Summit  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Presentations in the Startup Village Photo: © Michael Fisher

This was the Alpha Startup Village. No large stands as in traditional exhibitions. Instead, each exhibitor was standing beside a board which had a poster with the name and some details of the company and on the wooden shelf underneath, there was room for one laptop. This is where new companies are born and bred. These exhibitors are young entrepreneurs all with different apps to promote and looking for investment. Much of their time here is spent networking and when two of them separately stopped me for a chat (seeing my media badge), I was happy to speak to both companies about their stories.

Gaylord Roukine of  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Gaylord Roukine of Photo: © Michael Fisher

Interested in mountain climbing? Then Gaylord Loukine from Namur in Belgium has just the app for you: is designed to help climbers around the world to share their passion for the sport, to discover new spots for climbing and also to make new friends in what they hope is an inspiring way.

Bastien Sannac of   Photo: © Michael Fisher

Bastien Sannac of Photo: © Michael Fisher

The other app I was introduced to promises a new perspective to help you understand music. Bastien Sannac is the founder of which employs twelve people and is based in Paris.


RDS Dublin: venue for Web Summit Photo: © Michael Fisher

RDS Dublin: venue for Web Summit Photo: © Michael Fisher

Entering the Royal Dublin Society headquarters in Ballsbridge I wasn’t sure what to expect from the web summit. Pre-summit publicity suggested there would be 10,000 people from over 90 countries gathered in the various halls, a big increase on the few hundred at the start four years ago when Paddy Cosgrave and his team began work. Was it just a big PR exercise for Irish and international technology companies, or was it a chance for app developers, many of them young graduates, to do business?

Main Stage at the Web Summit, RDS  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Main Stage at the Web Summit, RDS Photo: © Michael Fisher

It was certainly a major logistical exercise and the hotels and restaurants in Dublin are no doubt benefitting from the influx, although having to cope with water supply problems doesn’t do much to promote the interests of the capital. I noticed there was another major gathering in town: at the National Conference Centre, the International Air Travel Association is holding the third World Passenger Symposium with some 650 delegates. So Dublin is certainly attracting plenty of business.

Múirne Laffan, Head of RTÉ Digital  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Múirne Laffan, Head of RTÉ Digital Photo: © Michael Fisher

The RDS complex was bustling with summit participants packed into various halls. It was late on that I discovered the impressive main stage, where An Taoiseach rang the bell for the US NASDAQ stock exchange this afternoon, the first time it had been opened on Irish soil. I found the RTÉ lounge in a good spot in the main hall. Managing Director RTÉ Digital Múirne Laffan was there and she had been one of the speakers this morning on digital marketing, examining the topic ‘Content is King’. I notice there was some criticism on social media about the low percentage of female speakers at the summit.

(to be continued)