The Brain Box – Episode 1 now on iTunes

“We’ve learned more about the brain in the past 50 years than in the previous 2000” says The Brain Box presenter and lecturer in the Department of Psychology at Maynooth University, Dr. Richard Roche.

The Brain Box, a two part radio series for Newstalk 106-108 fm, brings listeners on a quest into our mind to uncover the secrets of the human brain, ‘the most complex entity in the known universe’, asking questions like What is intelligence?, How are memories made and lost? Is madness linked to creativity? and How close are we to creating true Artificial Intelligence?<p>

“It’s the most complex entity in the known universe. You’ve got these three kilograms of fat, and yet the most fascinating capacities come out of it!”
Professor Ian Robertson, Trinity College Dublin.

Richard meets experts in the field, like Professor Ian Robertson and Professor Fiona Newell from Trinity College Dublin, to talk about the brain and the things that we are still discovering every day, including new research into the exciting area of brain plasticity which states that the brain constantly evolves and adapts, even after damage and into old age, which has implications for the rehabilitation of the brain after trauma and in treating diseases like Alzheimer’s.

Episode 1 – How the Brain Works
What is intelligence, how do we learn, think and create? How do we create and lose memories and why have we learnt more about the human brain in the last few decades than the previous thousands? Neuroscientist Dr. Richard Roche unravels the most complex thing in the universe.
Voices you will hear in this episode include: scientists Fiona Newell, John Foxe, Kevin Mitchell, Shane O’Mara and Olivia O’Leary and synesthete Karen Kane. Part 1 was broadcast on October 17th at 7am and 10pm and is now available for free on iTunes.

Episode 2 – How the Brain Breaks
What causes mental illness? is genius linked to madness? What is autism and how should we treat it? And is dementia inevitable in old age? What happens to us in a stroke or brain injury and how can we recover? Scientist Dr Richard Roche explores the human brain and our quest to know ourselves.
Voices you hear in this episode include neuroscientists Niall Pender, John Cryan and Michelle Kelly, Seamus Cunningham, who has early onset Alzheimer’s, and mother of 2 autistic children Lisa Domican. On Air October 24th at 7am and 10pm. Additional content is available on The Brain Box Audioboom channel.

An Athena Media production for Newstalk made with the support of the TV licence fee via the BAI.
The producer is Helen Shaw.
The presenter is Dr. Richard Roche.
The audio editor is Amy Millar.
Researcher/Recordist is Cormac McAdam.
The Brain Box is made with the funding support of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland and the TV licence fee.

The Kinder Letters – Podcast now on iTunes

The Kinder Letters is a radio documentary broadcast on Newstalk 106 – 108fm about one Irish man’s quest to unravel the mystery of a thank you book that unveils a web of untold stories of human struggle, childhood innocence, and the complex bilateral relations between Germany and Ireland in post-war Europe. This story about war, memory and the power of love airs is now available for free via iTunes

In 1955, 11 year old Irish girl Mary Walshe came into possession of a colourful book of letters, compiled by schoolgirls in Saarbrücken, Germany in 1946. This ‘dankebuch’ thanks the Irish people for their invaluable donations at a time of humanitarian crises after the collapse of Nazi Germany. More than 60 years later, the book passed to her husband Tony O’Herlihy, who as a loving remembrance after her death in 2011 began unravelling the mysteries behind the origins of the book, revealing a complex story about that time in history.

The story of the Dankebuch is shrouded in mystery. I regret that while Mary was still alive we never tried to find out anything about it….So it was a few months after she died that I came across the book again, and I thought now, hold on, Tomorrow has come.

Tony O’Herlihy

The Kinder Letters follows Tony’s highly emotional journey into the devastation of post-war Europe via modern day Dublin and Saarbrücken as he narrates this incredible story of meeting survivors of the original class, hearing first-hand recounts of the time. Historical experts such as executive editor of the documents on Irish foreign policy at the Royal Irish Academy Dr. Michael Kennedy, Irish Ambassador to Germany Michael Collins and researcher in mid-century Irish-Jewish history Dr. Kevin McCarthy reveal Ireland’s largely unspoken positive, yet at times unsavoury, position at that time, such as with the relationship between De Valera’s Ireland and Germany, and the contrasting fortunes of the German orphan children of ‘Operation Shamrock’, against that of the Jewish refugee children housed in Clonyn Castle whose admittance to Ireland had stringent conditions attached because of their religion.

This documentary captures a rare glimpse of post-war Europe through the microcosm of this children’s book, and through a rich canvas of archive, music and interviews reveals Ireland’s position within Europe at a time of chaos.

The Kinder Letters is produced by Robert Hope and Amy Millar of Athena Media

A short write up about the program is also available on The Independent.

The Kinder Letters is an Athena Media Production for Newstalk 106 – 108fm made with the support of the BAI and the TV licence fee. All rights rest with Athena Media Ltd.

Vocal Chords – In Conversation with Christy Moore – now on iTunes

Christy MooreA life lived with the company of song and the singing voice is how Christy Moore describes it and in this his 70th year he shares his journey with fellow singer The Gloaming’s frontman Iarla O Lionaird. Moore traces his vocal story from his childhood growing up not just in a singing family but in friendship with his boyhood friend Donal Lunny. This Vocal Chords special gives voice to Moore’s story, his music and his musical influence. In Conversation with Christy Moore aired August 14th 2015 at 7pm on RTÉ lyric fm and can be downloaded for free via iTunes.
For this compelling one-on-one interview, Iarla visits Christy Moore at his home in Dublin to talk about his relationship with the voice and songs, and what it means to be a singer. Sitting in the very room where Moore creates his music, he shares with Iarla the inspiration for his songs, his love of the folk tradition, and his many influences over the years including Ewan MacColl, The Clancy Brothers, and even being at singers’ clubs like ‘An Goilín’
The singing voice is one of Christy’s oldest and cherished companions, and for that he is “blessed, fortunate and full of gratitude”, but also knowing the remarkable power he has to share his voice with the world, he describes the relationship that the singer has with their audience, saying
“In order to project yourself out to hundreds or thousands of people, you got to open up, you’ve got to open up your chest, your lungs, your voice, your throat, your mind, and you have to reach out in a way that couldn’t do here now, it’s just impossible, I always think it’s a magic thread, that goes from the song and the singer out to the audience and comes back again and this special air is created, that allows us to listen in a certain way allows us to sing in a certain way, allows the work to breathe and shine and sparkle in a certain way.”

The Family of Things 8 – David Gillick

In Episode 8 of The Family of Things, Helen Shaw’s guest is a man known for his winning speed and more recently his winning food – it’s champion sprinter and Celebrity Masterchef David Gillick.

David Gillick, who is now retired from competitive running, still holds the Irish indoor and outdoor 400m records and he won two Gold European medals as well as being a world finalist during his track career. In this episode of The Family of Things David shares his life story, what motivates him and what he has learnt along the way. Today he is a corporate coach sharing his sporting strategies with business leaders and he is also mentoring school students in athletics as well as playing in his local GAA team.

David Gillick tells Helen about the moment he knew he wanted to be a professional athlete as well as discussing his move to Loughborough University, the place that not only furthered his career but where his met his wife, Charlotte Wickham. David’s story of the boy from Ballinteer who made it to the highest levels of sporting achievement is both personal and inspiring and he chats about how his love of cooking grew from his obsession with fitness and how his Granny, now in her 90s, has been an inspiration in life.

The Family of Things Episode 7 – Linda Buckley

Helen Shaw’s guest in this episode is Cork born composer Linda Buckley who writes contemporary music drawing inspiration from the world around her, from the soundscape of her childhood growing up on a diary farm overlooking the Old Head of Kinsale to other places close to her heart including Iceland. Buckley’s work has been performed by Crash Ensemble, the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the University of York Javanese Gamelan to name a few, and its mix of vocal, acoustic and electronic sounds is often termed spacial music. Buckley draws references from medieval music and sees her works not just as compositions but as live engagements defined by space and audiences. The podcasts draws from Buckley’s work including Torann, Eriu, Chiyo, Telephones and Gongs, Revelavit, Numarimur, Do you remember the planets, Fall Approaches Jump and O Iochtar Mara, and you can find out more on her website

Bright Sparks

Bright Sparks is an eight part science documentary series for RTE Radio 1 presented by physicist, Professor Shane Bergin from Trinity College Dublin. The series broadcasts, 7-8pm Sun May 24th – Sun July 12th 2015 on RTÉ Radio 1. You can catch up with podcasts of Bright Sparks via iTunes.

“Scientists are curious people who wish to explore the world around them. Their ideas are sparked by shared conversations. Bright Sparks invites you to listen in on those conversations and understand the root of ideas, discovery, invention and how science works”
– Shane Bergin

For more information on Bright Sparks you can visit the website and view the press release here. Bright Sparks is on Facebook and you can follow Dr. Shane Bergin on Twitter and join in the conversation with #brightsparksradio & #brightsparksRTE. Read about Dr. Shane Bergin and Bright Sparks in the Irish Times.

Vocal Chords

Vocal Chords is a five part music documentary series for The Lyric Feature on RTÉ lyric fm presented by one of Ireland’s most acclaimed sean-nós singers Iarla Ó Lionáird.  In a global exploration Iarla explores the question whether singing is mankind’s primary means of communication and why we sing in both times of joy and sorrow.  In a vocal landscape from the sean nós tradition in Ireland, to the Zulu Mbube music of South Africa. Iarla talks to outstanding performers like Peter Gabriel, Sinéad Ó’Connor and Maria Pomianowska to uncover the story behind song, singing and the  unique vocal styles of the world.  This series takes listeners on a rich audio experience  while addressing the simple but vital question, ‘What happens when you sing and why do we sing?’

The series runs from May 1st to May 29th 2015 2015.

You can catch up with the series on iTunes or our RSS feed.

The Family of Things – Episode 6

The Family of Things is a new audio transmedia project from Athena Media. It’s a podcast series about ideas, life and how we live it. Helen Shaw meets actor and writer Mark O’Halloran the creative force behind the darkly comic films Adam & Paul and Garage. Mark talks about growing up in a big family in Ennis and his journey to become a writer and performer. He describes how limiting Ireland was as a young gay man and how a year spent in Amsterdam liberated him. He found a creative soul-mate in director Lenny Abrahamson and the two made the acclaimed independent film Adam & Paul in 2004. Mark shares life, love and loss in an open and revealing conversation stretches from his recent time filming in Havana for his new film ‘Viva’ to his poignant experiences in Iran.

All episodes are available for free online and you can subscribe to The Family of Things via RSS or on iTunes

The Family of Things – Episode 5

The Family of Things is a new audio transmedia project from Athena Media. It’s a podcast series about ideas, life and how we live it. Sean nós singer and songwriter Iarla Ó’Lionáird is Helen Shaw’s guest in this edition of The Family of Things. Iarla is the voice of the acclaimed Irish ensemble The Gloaming whose album by the same name has received multiple award nominations. Iarla grew up in Cúil Aodha in Co Cork in an Irish speaking community in what he calls ‘ a hive of song’ and along with his ten brothers sang, as a child, in Seán Ó Riada’s choir. He talks about his relationship with his voice, his language and his creative journey from singing the cows back home to releasing his work through Peter Gabriel’s label Real World Records. Today he performs across the world not just with The Gloaming but also with operatic work by Irish composer Donnacha Dennehy.


All episodes are available for free online and you can subscribe to The Family of Things via RSS or on iTunes

The Family of Things – Episode 4

The Family of Things is a new audio transmedia project from Athena Media. It’s a podcast series about ideas, life and how we live it. In the fourth episode the guest is Hans Zomer, Director of Dóchas, a development network, and lead organisation on the European Year of Development in Ireland. Hans talks about being shaped by his Dutch presbyterian roots, his family’s experience of World War 2 and his childhood growing up in Cameroon. He speaks five languages but says he now feels Irish and dreams in English. 2015 is an action year for world development with two landmark UN events aiming to secure a new set of development goals and a global agreement on the environment and climate change. For Hans it is a challenge to all of us to ask and answer how can we make a positive difference in 2015?

The first three episodes of The Family of Things featured poet Nessa O’Mahony and author Denise Deegan and Dr.Shane Bergin.

All episodes are available for free online and you can subscribe to The Family of Things via RSS or on iTunes