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20 creatives from Northern Ireland scoop Arts Council ACES awards

Monday 27th November 2017 at 2pm 0 Comments Literature , Northern Ireland Music , Visual Arts , Community Arts , Drama , Dance

Pictured (L-R) are ACES artists, Myra Zepf, Kelly Creighton, Rebekah Coffey, Jane Talbot, Mary Murphy, Rhiann Jeffrey, Emily McFarland, Jennifer Goddard, James Conor Patterson, Ayesha Mailey, Koichi Samuels, Davy Watson and Andrea Spencer. Image: Pictured (L-R) are ACES artists, Myra Zepf, Kelly Creighton, Rebekah Coffey, Jane Talbot, Mary Murphy, Rhiann Jeffrey, Emily McFarland, Jennifer Goddard, James Conor Patterson, Ayesha Mailey, Koichi Samuels, Davy Watson and Andrea Spencer.

20 artists from Northern Ireland have been announced as the latest recipients of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s ACES awards 2017/18, a National Lottery supported funding grant bestowed upon Northern Ireland’s most talented emerging artists to allow them to develop their professional, artistic careers and create new work.

Awards under the Artists Career Enhancement Scheme (ACES) are made annually to professional artists working in music, visual arts, drama, dance, literature and participatory arts and are among the most prestigious awards bestowed by the Arts Council.  The artists include three drama awardees, six visual artists, five musicians, five literature awardees and one community artist.

In addition to receiving a bursary of up to £5,000 each, many of the 20 artists have been partnered with a professional organisation or leading artists, at home or abroad, to help each of them to deliver new creative work.  Some of these include;  Prime Cut Productions, Queen’s University, Ulster Orchestra, Institute of Contemporary Art Philadelphia, Moving On Music, An tSnáthaid Mhór, Tinderbox Theatre Company, Seamus Heaney Centre at Queen’s University, composer Garth McConaghie and leading soprano, Nathalie Paulin, University of Toronto. 

Roisin McDonough, Chief Executive of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented: “These 20 artists are already established and highly regarded in each of their fields. The ACES awards are given in recognition of their work to date and to provide them with support to take their careers to that vital next level. The ACES programme has been running successfully now for eight years and addresses the need for on-going training and skills development within the arts sector.”

Belfast musician and singer-songwriter, Davy Watson, has worked with major names in music in the past including Madonna, Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy and Bob Geldof.  His ACES supported project will see him partner with the Ulster Orchestra to develop an On Your Doorstep concert featuring his own music arranged for orchestra. 

On Your Doorstep is an Ulster Orchestra outreach project which aims to bring orchestral music to people in their own neighbourhoods, increase access to and grow audiences for orchestral music as well as collaborate with artists from different musical genres.

Commenting on his award Davy Watson said, “Performing with the Ulster Orchestra will be a unique challenge for me creatively, introducing me to new audiences and with the help of the ACES grant, offer fresh possibilities for my music to be heard.”

The 20 artists awarded ACES funding include:


Community Arts

Visual Arts



The Artists Career Enhancement Programme (ACES) forms part of the wider Support for the Individual Artist Programme (SIAP) administered by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland annually.  As part of its continuing commitment to supporting the development of individual artists, the Council made 244 SIAP awards to artists in 2017/18 totaling £544k.  Since its establishment in 2010, 137 artists have been supported through ACES.

Visit for information on all funding opportunities.

Artist Bios

Rhiann Jeffrey: Rhiann is a Belfast based Freelance Theatre Director and an Associate Director for Prime Cut Productions.  After graduating from Queen’s University in Drama in 2014, Rhiann was awarded a BBC Performing Arts Fellowship, during which she worked with Prime Cut Productions as a Resident Theatre Director. During the year placement, she assisted director Emma Jordan on God of Carnage and After Miss Julie and directed her first professional production, Mydidae by Jack Thorne, in 2015. Other Assisting credits include Red (dir. Emma Jordan) and The Nest (dir. Ian Rickson.).  Directing credits include the NI tour of Both Sides by Jane Coyle, The Bash Plays by Neil Labute, an all female production of Macbeth and Kafka’s Monkey by Colin Teevan. Rhiann is currently directing the Mac’s Christmas musical Hansel and Gretel, and is in the research and development stages for a new play Everyday I wake up Hopeful, which will premiere at The Mac in February 2018.

Andrea Spencer: Andrea Spencer born 1971 in Hertfordshire, England, started her practise in Northern Ireland in 1993 after graduating from Edinburgh College of Art in with a BA(hons) in Architectural Glass.  Her portfolio takes two divergent paths: public art commissions and autonomous sculpture. Her commissioned art works specialise in innovative applications of glass for the built environment. Her small-scale sculpture and site-specific installations are concept driven, drawing from natural forms to create artworks that carry a personal narrative.  Throughout her work Spencer maintains an emphasis on the unique properties of glass, exploiting the intrinsic qualities of transparency, fragility and fluidity inherent within the material through the making process.  Andrea Spencer’s work is held in significant public and private collections and has been exhibited in galleries in the UK, USA and China. Notably, her work has been regularly exhibited in British Glass Biennale exhibition since 2008, at which she was awarded the Art in Action Contemporary Glass prize for 2012. Her public art commissions can been seen in many healthcare buildings and public locations throughout Northern Ireland and Ireland.  Spencer has been an artist-in-residence at North Lands Creative Glass (Scotland) and has been a visiting artist at Penland School of Crafts (USA) and Pilchuck Glass School (USA). Her work has been featured in the Corning Museum of Glass’ New Glass Review (2010).  She currently maintains a studio in Ballintoy, Northern Ireland.

Ayesha Mailey: Ayesha Mailey is a freelance contemporary dance artist based in Derry. She works as a performer, choreographer, improviser and teacher in the North West of Ireland and further afield. Ayesha works with people of all ages and abilities exploring and composing Poetic Movement. She is committed to developing her particular approach to this movement practice through professional and participatory arts projects.  Ayesha is the Associate Artistic Director of Echo Echo Dance Theatre Company and a member of the Echo Echo Ensemble. She has co-devised and performed in numerous Echo Echo performance projects and productions and collaborated with artists and companies from across Europe and the Middle East. Her work has allowed her to research, teach and perform in England, New York, Germany, Spain, Sweden,  Italy, Hong Kong and throughout Ireland.  During Derry-Londonderry City of Culture (2013) Ayesha received an Individual Artist Award from the Culture Company to create the site-specific dance theatre work Open House. Throughout her career, Ayesha has been commissioned to create and direct children’s dance theatre shows such as Undercurrent (2009-2011), The Chess Piece (2010-2011) and Ludo Lusi Lusum (2014 – 2015).   Ayesha created her first solo production, The Red Thread, in 2007 and performed it in Northern Ireland, Chichester and at the Dublin Fringe Festival. As part of her ACES Award from the ACNI Ayesha will develop a new solo production entitled ‘See Me Disappear’.

Clare Gormley: Clare Gormley is a Belfast based curator. Recent independent curatorial projects include We Speak Silent, a group exhibition at PS² Gallery exploring the performative and political dimensions of speech, and the first UK solo presentation by New York based artist Amber Hawk Swanson, also at PS², as part of Outburst Queer Arts Festival 2017. As well as curating independently, Clare is Assistant Curator at the MAC. She is a graduate of the Glasgow School of Art (BA), The Courtauld Institute of Art, London (MA) and is an alumnus of the Independent Curators International 'Curatorial Intensive' programme. Previously, Clare was Co-Director at Catalyst Arts (2016-17). From 2015-16 Clare worked for Tate as a writer and research project assistant on ‘Performance at Tate: Into the Space of Art’ and organised Tate’s major international conference, ‘The Place of Performance in the Museum’. From 2011-2014 she was Gallery Manager at Pangolin London sculpture gallery, where she delivered a wide-ranging exhibition programme of modern and contemporary art.

Davy Watson: Davy Watson is a singer, songwriter and musician from Belfast. Rhythm and Blues has become the genre that defines him. The starkness and simplicity of his voice and acoustic guitar playing combine to make his debut EP a true expression of Heart & Soul.  As a young bass player and singer in the late 1970s Davy toured with Philip Lynott and Bob Geldoff. He travelled all over Ireland playing such venues as the iconic Dandelion Market and Dalymount Park. In 1982 a move to Los Angeles saw him playing and recording with Jack Lancaster, Hazel O’Connor and Madonna. Davy formed ‘Trinity’ with Vivian Campbell and was produced by Shel Talmy. His song ‘Only Love’ was used in CBS’s prime time series ‘Live Shot’. Davy was also a regular artist on L.A.’s famous KLOS radio.  Davy returned home to Ireland in ‘96 and received a Masters Degree in Music from Trinity College, Dublin. He built on the success of the American years by regularly touring and recording with Jack L, Henry McCullough and Gráinne Duffy playing Glastonbury and other prestigious festivals and venues throughout Europe.  Davy is now performing as a solo artist and most recently supported Beth Hart on her European tour. With influences from the world of Blues, Rock and Soul, his debut EP Heart & Soul perfectly showcases the extraordinary voice and songs of this wonderfully talented musician.

Emily McFarland: Emily McFarland (b.1987, Northern Ireland) works with video and sculpture. Her work reflects on modes of representation and cultural authority translated through an editing process. Borrowing from an assemblage of film, sound, cultural artefacts, archival footage, personal archives and ‘ripped’ videos which are re-appropriated and subverted in order to draw out subtle parallels and generate alternative meanings.  Recent exhibitions include; The Complex Seer (Solo), The Centre for Contemporary Art -Derry~Londonderry; Draft Systems, WRO Media Art Biennale- Poland; CYFEST 10, New York Media Art Centre - NYC & SOFA, Bogota-Colombia; In the Jungle of Cities, GLASGOW INTERNATIONAL - Glasgow; Í DRÖGUM, Akureyri Art Museum - Iceland; Artist Moving Image Northern Ireland, Platform Arts - Belfast; Fortress, Kakuouzan Apartment - Nagoya, Japan; Prehistoric Loom, NoToilet - Seoul, South Korea; ScreenGrab, Pinnacles Gallery - Townsville, Australia; MFA Degree Show, The Glue Factory - Glasgow; An Other Ending, Glasgow Open House - Glasgow; From Context to Exhibition, The LAB Gallery - Dublin.

Graham Ginty: Graham Ginty is a Bangor based musician and community artist who has been producing electronic music for over 20 years, having released records on labels in the UK, the US, Italy and Spain. He has worked in music and music technology education since 2001, beginning as a lecturer at SERC in Bangor, then moving on to work for the groundbreaking Sonic Academy training centre and distance learning website. He has been a freelance artist since 2010 and has worked on a wide range of community projects for WheelWorks, Giga Training, Seedhead Arts, Down Community Arts and many more, engaging young people of all ages and from all backgrounds, in digital arts programmes from music making to flimmaking, animation, podcasting and digital imaging.  His ACES funded project is in conjunction with Bounce Culture, a collection of creative industries facilitators, headed up by London born DJ Kwa Daniels. The project is called The Science of Sound and will see Graham work with Bounce Culture on delivering a series of workshops for young people looking at recording and manipulating found sounds from the environment, and showing how an understanding of how sound and frequencies work can help to create unique pieces of music. The workshops will culminate with a showcase of the created pieces and the loops will also be taken to Senegal to be used in another upcoming Bounce Project.

James Conor Patterson: James Conor Patterson is originally from Newry, Co. Down. His work has appeared in New Statesman, Poetry Ireland Review, and The Stinging Fly, among others. In 2015 he read as part of the Poetry Ireland 'Introductions' series and in 2013 he received the iYeats 'Emerging Talent' Award for poetry. He has been highly commended for the Patrick Kavanagh Award, shortlisted for the Bridport Prize and longlisted in the Poetry Society's National Poetry Competition. His ACES funded project will focus on producing a collection of poems about his home city of Newry. The collection will be called 'Yew'.

Jane Talbot: Jane Talbot is a writer and performance storyteller based in Ballymoney. Her first collection of short stories, The Faerie Thorn and Other Stories [Blackstaff Press 2015], was adapted for the stage by Big Telly Theatre Company. Jane is also the founder and Project Manager of Women Aloud NI, a multi-award-winning organisation which aims to raise the profile of the women's writing scene in Northern Ireland.

Jennifer Goddard: Jennifer has fifteen years experience of working as a drama facilitator, theatre director, educator, trainer-trainer and arts researcher in London, the South of England, Malmö, Sweden, and throughout Northern Ireland. After completing her degree in Drama and Theatre Studies at Royal Holloway, University of London, she then graduated with an MA in Theatre for Development and a Postgraduate Diploma in Cultural and Arts Management from the University of Winchester, where she subsequently lectured for five years in Theatre in Education, Alternative theatres and Applied Theatre as well as running her own theatre company Theatre Inc. Her performing arts work with communities has ranged from facilitating with groups as diverse as young babies and early years groups, mental health service users, disabled people, people with learning differences, people with dementia, rural communities, primary and secondary schools and tertiary education and young people in care. Her current roles include: Early Years Researcher, Storyteller and Performing Arts Facilitator for the MAC, Drama facilitator for Open Arts, and Teaching Assistant and guest lecturer at Queen’s University Drama Department. She is a board member of Terra Nova Productions, a committee member and consultant for Barnardo’s ‘Don’t Box Me In’ inclusive performance project in Armagh and a member of Queen’s University’s Disability Research Network. She has just completed her PhD in Drama and Disability at Queen’s University. Publications include: ‘Valuing the place of young people with learning disabilities in the arts’ in Valuing Disabled Children and Young People (2016, Routledge), ‘Research into Community Arts and Dementia’ (2014, report for CAP), ‘Performance and Palliative Care’ in Medical Humanities 38(2) (2012) and ‘Enacting change: Disability and the arts in Northern Ireland’ in Journal of Arts and Communities 3(1) (2012).

Koichi Samuels: Koichi (Koichi Samuels) is an electronic musician who has released music on record labels Soma Records, Animal Farm Records, Planet Rhythm and in duo Spires with Phil Kieran (Phil Kieran Recordings). He is also one half of audiovisual project Kandehha with Helena Hamilton. In 2016, Koichi founded club/art hybrid event and platform RESIST, which features international artists from the leftfield of electronic music and audiovisual art.  Koichi started his career as a DJ and promoter playing at warehouse events in and around London's techno and rave scene through the 2000s. In 2012 he started his work in earnest as an electronic music producer after moving to Belfast, Northern Ireland. Drawing inspiration from Belfast’s thriving techno scene and through meeting and collaborating with acclaimed DJ and producer, Phil Kieran, Koichi developed his own unique brand of ambient and at the same time industrial inspired electronic and techno music. Currently, his creative pursuits explore digital aesthetics through live and immersive audiovisual event experiences.  Koichi also has a PhD in the field of music technology and disability and is active in music research and workshops.

Liam Crichton (b.1984 Scotland, BA(Hons) Sculpture, Edinburgh College of Art): Belfast based Crichton creates large-scale sculptures and installations that investigate physical space. He utilises and appropriates the built environment in materiality and currently researches monuments and philosophy. Influenced by post-minimalism,  his aesthetically-driven and predominately site-specific work is often characterised by a dialectic approach that challenges traditional perceptions and cultural environment. Through this Artist Career Enhancement Scheme he will partner with Void, Derry and Hannah Barry, London to develop new works.

Mary Murphy: Mary, a native of Armagh, graduated with BA Hons in Fine Craft Design from the University of Ulster, Belfast in 1988. She then moved to Dublin where she gained experience working with established Jewellery Designers and Goldsmiths before returning to Armagh City in 2001 where she set up her own jewellery design business.  Working in precious metals, silver and gold alongside diamonds, gemstones and pearls, Mary creates bespoke commissioned jewellery pieces and sculptural gifts for her clients. Mary delivers workshops within schools and the community, including silver jewellery making workshops for adults and curriculum lead craft projects (S.T.E.M & S.T.E.A.M.) for primary, post primary schools and colleges.  Her latest personal work is a sculptural jewellery collection entitled ‘Laoch na Laochra’, inspired by the book ‘Cuchulainn- Ulster’s Greatest Hero’ by Reamonn O Ciarain and paintings by Dara Vallely.

Marcella Walsh: Described as having a ’captivating presence onstage’ (Irish Times) multiple award winning Northern Irish Soprano Marcella Walsh sings with the company of Scottish Opera and is currently performing in Tchaikovsky’s Iolanta and Verdi’s La Traviata.  The North Belfast Lyric Soprano was an Art’s Council of NI Young Musician’s Platform Award winner enabling her to receive coaching at De Nederlands Opera Amsterdam, English National Opera and The Royal Opera house, Covent Garden. Marcella graduated with a Master in Music Performance from The Royal Irish Academy of Music receiving First class honours in opera, under the tutelage of legendary Soprano Dr Veronica Dunne and was awarded a BMus. (Hons.) from Queen’s University.  She was an Inaugural Young Artist with Northern Ireland Opera, Young Associate Artist with Opera Theatre Company and masterclass participation includes Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Sir Thomas Allen, Sir Dennis O’Neill, and Dame Anne Murray.  Critic’s hailed Marcella’s professional operatic debut at Wexford Festival Opera as having ‘Verdian Impact’ after being broadcast live across the world by NPR Music.  Performances have taken her to Europe, the U.S.A., Asia and throughout the United Kingdom & Ireland as well as receiving a special invitation to sing for the President of Ireland.  Upcoming performances include Christmas concerts with The Ulster Orchestra, Rachmaninoff’s Aleko, Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin and Francesca Da Rimini in 2018.  The ACES award will enable Marcella to receive valuable mentorship and training to compete internationally.

Kelly Creighton: Based in Newtownards Kelly Creighton is a novelist and short story writer whose books include: Bank Holiday Hurricane (Doire Press, 2017) and The Bones of It (Liberties Press, 2015). Runner-up for the McLaverty Award, Kelly has been shortlisted for numerous fiction and poetry prizes. She is the founding editor of The Incubator literary journal.

Eileen McCrory: Eileen McClory graduated from Liverpool John Moore’s University with a BA Hons Dance Studies in 2004 and furthered her training at New York’s Dance New Amsterdam, completing a 2-year Professional Training program.  Eileen's main passion is choreography and she has been making work as Off the Rails Dance (OTR) since 2011, creating a number of short works with commissions from the Crescent Arts Centre, Ulster Hall and Banjax Ltd and producing the full-length work The Dutiful Wife in 2015 to high acclaim, during her residency as a HATCH artist at The MAC Belfast in 2014/15.  In August 2016, OTR spent a month-long residency at Dansmakers, Amsterdam supported by the Arts Council Northern Ireland to research the upcoming work The GAME Show: A Triptych, to be produced in 2018. In 2017 Eileen was also selected to attend the SPACE PROGRAMME at Tyrone Guthrie with The Performance Corporation.  As an established dance artist, Eileen has worked with: The Playhouse, Derry; Tinderbox Theatre Company, Theatre of Pluck, Replay, ponydance, Accidental Theatre, DU Dance, Bruiser Theatre Company and Assault Events (UK). She has performed in international festivals such as Bauhaus Summery (DE) Christchurch Festival, Taranaki Arts Festival (NZ), Darwin Festival (AUS), Greenspace Festival (USA), Belfast Festival at Queens, Feile An Phobail, Pick n Mix Festival, Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival and Outburst Arts (all in NI).   Eileen has worked extensively in Higher Education, most recently as guest choreographer at the University of Cumbria and throughout her post as Teaching Fellow and Course Director of the BA Dance Program at Ulster University 2014-2017, in which she was responsible for leading the dance programme during its phase-out.  Eileen is currently completing an MA Contemporary Performance Practice at Ulster University.   Eileen is extremely excited to be awarded the Artist Career Enhancement Scheme to develop a new work SHAMED in 2018, as an Artist in Attachment with Tinderbox Theatre Company.

Myra Zepf: Myra Zepf is a children’s author from Holywood, Co. Down. She is the first Children’s Writing Fellow for Northern Ireland, based at the Seamus Heaney Centre in Queen’s University, Belfast. She has written four Irish language books for children. Her picture book ‘Ná Gabh ar Scoil!’ recently won an LAI Children’s Book Award, was nominated for CBI Children’s Book of the year in 2016 and has been IBBY Honour-listed. It has also been translated to Korean and to English as ‘Don’t Go to School!’ Both of her historical fiction books are listed on the curriculum in the Republic of Ireland, and ‘Lá Leis na Lochlannaigh’ won the Oireachtas Prize for Fiction in 2015. Her most recent book, ‘Rita agus an Róbat’ is the first of a new picture-book series with illustrator Andrew Whitson.

Paul McVeigh: Paul McVeigh’s debut novel, The Good Son, won The Polari First Novel Prize, The McCrea Literary Award and is currently shortlisted from the Prix de Roman Cezam in France. Paul’s short stories have appeared in journals and anthologies, on BBC Radio 3,4 & 5 and he was shortlisted for Irish Short Story of the year at the Irish Book Awards in 2017. He was the co-founder of the London Short Story Festival. His work has appeared on TV, on London’s West End stage and been translated into 7 languages.

Rebekah Coffey: Rebekah Coffey is fast becoming a household name in her native Northern Ireland. Having graduated with a first class Bachelor of Music degree from Queen’s University, she went on to receive her Postgraduate Vocal Diploma from the RNCM in Manchester.  Rebekah has performed with many of the UK and Ireland’s leading orchestras such the Hallé, Ulster Orchestra, BBC Concert Orchestra and RTE Symphony Orchestra.  She made her BBC Proms debut in 2009, appearing in the Proms in the Park which was broadcast live on BBC4.  On the operatic stage, Rebekah has performed roles with Opera North, Castleward Opera, English Touring Opera, Northern Ireland Opera, Opera Theatre Company, Lyric Opera and at the Buxton and Belfast Festivals.  Her operatic roles to date includes Adele in Die Fledermaus (J Strauss),  Atalanta in Xerxes (Handel), Pamina in The Magic flute (Mozart), Oscar Un Ballo in Maschera,  Flora in The Turn of the Screw, Gretel and Sandman/Dew Fairy in Hansel and Gretel, Valetto/Amore  in The Coronation of Poppea, Despina in Cosi fan tutte, Pamina Die Zauberflote, Cecila Iolan, Teobaldo,  Don Carlos, Oscar in The Masked Ball, Peaseblossom in A Midsummer Night Dream, Marcellina Fidelio, Vespina Infedelta Delusa, Miss Catchall in Vera of Las Vega (European premiere),  the Tailor’s Daughter in The Tailor’s Daughter (Irish Premiere) and Postcards from Dumbworld by Brian Irvine.  Recent Concert performances with the Ulster Orchestra include The Christmas Concert, Regional concert with conductor Christopher Bell (2016), Lillian Bland (Brian Irvine, 2017 ) and Mozart Great Mass in C Minor with Belfast Philharmonic Choir (2016). Previous work with the Ulster Orchestra includes; Arias in Advent lunchtime concert, Barber’s “Knoxville: Summer of 1915” with Principle Conductor JoAnn Falletta, The Queens Jubilee Celebration Concert and Mass of the Children featuring the Belfast Philharmonic Choir and Ulster Orchestra.  Rebekah also enjoys a busy teaching career and is a vocal coach at the Ulster Youth Choir and the National Boys Choir of Scotland.  Rebekah is also a singing tutor at Queen’s University Belfast and has also been a member of the judging panel for BBC Radio Ulster’s School Choir of the Year in 2015 and 2016.

Samantha Moore: Northern Ireland based silversmith Sam Moore graduated in 2009 from her BA in the University of Ulster and has completed her Masters in 2011.  Her work in the medium of silver and precious metal, investigates how objects, inherited, gifted, collected and found, tell the stories of our lives: the things we surround ourselves with and allow to occupy our most personal spaces in the rituals of our daily lives.  Combining a love of ritual, storytelling and of course a decent drink, the work often contains stories and interior scapes made out of silver and gold with precious and semi-precious stones, layered with delicate pierced patterns in hand formed vessels.  “I concern myself with how an object, a simple cup, communicates through its material. How metal can be formed, forged, raised and manipulated in order to create a vessel and the capacity of that vessel to ‘contain’ something more.”  Silver provides a vehicle for an ongoing fascination with cups, vessels and drinking rituals.  Having had success early in her career, Sam has exhibited with the V&A, Somerset house, Bonham.


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