The Family of Things – Episode 11: Rory O’Neill

Helen Shaw’s latest guest in The Family of Things is performer and accidental activist Rory O’Neill AKA the Queen of Ireland Panti Bliss.

Rory O Neill

Rory talks about his memoir ‘Woman in the Making’ (Hachette 2014) and his personal journey from growing up in rural Ireland to become a ‘national treasure’ as the drag queen Panti who he says has become a sort of ‘avatar for change’. Rory shares the highs and lows of the last two years since his celebrated speech on the stage of the Abbey Theatre which mobilised support for the Marriage Equality Referendum that was passed by the Irish public in May 2015.

The Family of Things – Episode 10: Eleanor Fitzsimons

Author and researcher Eleanor Fitzsimons is our latest guest in The Family of Things.

Eleanor Fitzsimons
Eleanor’s acclaimed biography of Oscar Wilde from the perspective of the women in his life ‘Wilde’s Women‘ opens new windows on both Wilde and his work.
Eleanor’s beautifully written and carefully researched study was published in Ireland in Autumn 2015 and is being released in the US this year. In this conversation with presenter Helen Shaw she introduces us to Wilde’s intriguing mother, Jane Wilde, a celebrated writer in her own time, and his much suffering wife Constance LLoyd as well as the women writers who influenced and inspired Wilde.
Eleanor describes her work as ‘recovering’ lost stories of women in history and sees her journey as akin to excavating the past; bringing forth what has been forgotten or obscured.
Wilde’s Women is published by Duckworth Overlook and you can follow Eleanor’s work and story via twitter.

The Family of Things 9 – Noirin Hegarty

In Episode 9 of The Family of Things, Helen Shaw meets Nóirín Hegarty, former Editor of the Sunday Tribune and now Operations Director with Lonely Planet, to discuss her passion for journalism, how it lead her on an unconventional career path but to her dream job, and how she balances these demanding roles with family life.

Nóirín Hegarty found her calling as a news reporter but moved into news management at just 25 years of age.

She was editor of the national sunday newspaper The Sunday Tribune at a time when there were very few women editors in Ireland and lead that newspaper from 2005 until it closed in 2011. Since then she’s been at the heart of digital change in the print industry but says she’s finally found her dream job with iconic travel brand Lonely Planet. She moved family and home to London to take up an editorial post with Lonely Planet but she then had the chance to open a Lonely Planet office in Dublin – bringing it all back home again.

In this podcast interview for The Family of Things with Helen Shaw, Nóirín talks openly about how tough and macho the editorial newspaper world was and how being a mother of three and a national newspaper editor was a challenging balancing act.

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.

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.

Full six part series of Citizens: Lockout 1913-2013 now online as podcasts with additional content

Bloody Sunday 1913

A six part documentary series narrating the events that led to the landmark labour versus capital conflict in Dublin in 1913. This series that was aired on RTÉ Radio 1 during August and September, explored the leaders on both sides and questioned the legacy of Lockout 1913 for Ireland today.

Citizens: Lockout 1913-2013 brings to life a city where 100,000 people lived in one bedroom tenements and a conflict dominated by big personalities like union leader Jim Larkin and industrialist William Martin Murphy. But while Larkin’s statue dominates O’Connell Street today, the lockout was a crushing defeat for the city’s workers and in 1914 it was Murphy not Larkin who was honoured. Historian Diarmaid Ferriter, Professor of Modern Irish History at UCD, says with the Lockout ‘we tend to read history backwards’ and see 1913 through the prism of 1916. This series starts at 1900 with the visit of Queen Victoria to Dublin and the emerging labour, nationalist and suffrage movements. Its key characters are not just Larkin and Martin Murphy, but socialist James Connolly and women activists in the Women’s Workers Union including Larkin’s sister Delia and Constance Markievicz.

‘This was one where it was workers on one side and employers on the other’ says Lockout historian Padraig Yeates. ‘If Larkin’s achievement was to unite workers for better conditions, Murphy’s achievement was to unite employers, both catholic and protestant. It was a battle of personalities’.


The series features leading historians on the period including Mary Daly, James Curry, Emmet O’Connor, Felix Larkin, Leeann Lane, Lauren Arrington as well as Diarmaid Ferriter and Padraig Yeates and includes contributions from the descendants of Connolly, Larkin, Martin Murphy and Markievicz as well as dramatic readings by actors Barry McGovern, Donna Dent, Stephen Murray, Ronnie McCann and playwright Peter Sheridan. Contemporary leaders also share their views about the legacy of the Lockout including Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn, IBEC CEO Danny McCoy, General Secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions David Begg, Former Fine Gael cabinet Minister Gemma Hussey, SIPTU Vice-President Patricia King and Senator Ivana Bacik.


Across August  there was three live discussions on the Today with Myles Dungan programme from 10am on RTÉ Radio 1 which featured some of our key historians and authors like historians Mary Daly, Ann Matthews and author Ciaran Wallace and the descendents of the key characters from the period. The live features included short segments of the documentary series also.


Citizens: Lockout 1913-2013 is an Athena Media production for RTÉ Radio 1 made with the support of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland.

To listen back to episodes please see our RSS feed here.

Find it along with our other podcasts on iTunes here.

There is also now additional content online, click here to access it.

Herosongs: Where History and Song Meet Sundays at 7pm on RTÉ Radio 1

Herosongs is presented by Therese McIntyre


Is our connection with the past, and who we think of as heroes, best told by song rather than by history books? What makes a hero and how important has song been in shaping the popular image of that time, and that hero? And in Ireland does failure rather than triumph define heroism?

Across the centuries people in Ireland have passed on their history story through songs of heroes both political and tragic like Robert Emmet, Charles Stewart Parnell and James Connolly as well as mythical characters like Molly Malone and sporting heroes like the champion greyhound Master McGrath. Some of these songs have been handed down through the generations like ‘Mo Ghile Mear’ about Bonnie Prince Charlie while other like ‘Bold Robert Emmet’ were written long after the events in the song.

This eight part series is an Athena Media production for RTÉ Radio 1 and is presented by singer and academic Therese McIntyre, who traces the journey of ballads from the 16th century to today and explores how they shape or distort our understanding of history, real events and real people like Henry Joy McCracken in 1798 or Jim Larkin in 1913. In the series we hear from historians including Diarmaid Ferriter, Kevin Whelan, Eunan O’Halpin, Mike Cronin, and Lillis O’Laoire, retired musicologist and song collector John Moulden and traditional music experts Nicholas Carolan and Grace Toland from the Irish Traditional Music Archive. Therese is joined by singers Iarla Ó Lionáird, Nóirín Ní Riain, Frances Black, Niamh Parsons and composer Eric Bogle who share their own relationship with history, song and these sung heroes.

Herosongs presenter Therese McIntyre originally from Detroit in the US came to Ireland in 1996 to pursue independent studies of the various aspects of Irish traditional culture – music, song, and dance – with a particular focus on the song tradition. In 2009, Thérèse was awarded an Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Science (IRCHSS) Scholarship. Her PhD, which commenced in October 2009, is titled ‘Historical ‘Fact’ versus ‘Folk’ Memory: The Creation and Representation of ‘Heroes’ in Irish Traditional Song and Ballad’.

Herosongs: Where History and Song Meets is an eight part radio series produced by Athena Media for RTE Radio 1. The series  will run weekly for 8 weeks.

The series is made with the support of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland.

Episode Three of Herosongs is to be aired this Sunday 7pm on RTÉ Radio 1. In this episode of Herosongs presenter Therese McIntyre, explores some of the songs in the traditional canon about three historical leaders, Napoleon, Bonnie Prince Charlie and Charles Stewart Parnell, often sung or lamented as loss leaders. She visits Parnell’s grave in Glasnevin Cemetery with resident historian Shane Macthomais and looks at the ballad sheet of ‘The Blackbird of Avondale’ one of two songs with the same title written about Parnell with Grace Toland in the Irish Traditional Music Archive as well her take on the song ‘My Name is Napoleon Boneparte’ also known as ‘Farwell to Paris’. Sean Nós singer Iarla Ó Lionáird shares his memories of singing the song about Jacobite pretender Bonnie Prince Charlie, ‘Mo Ghile Mear’ as a young boy; “I started singing it with the choir when Sean O’Riada was still alive so I’ve had a long relationship with it” and we also hear from history lecturer Maura Cronin of Mary Immaculate College Limerick and Terry Moylan author of ‘The Age of Revolution in the Irish Song Tradition 1776-1815’, about the life of Bonnie Prince Charlie and Napoleon.

You can also listen back each week via our audioboo or alternatively on RTÉ.

Podcasts of the RTE Radio 1 series The Media Show now online

Brenda Power

The Media Show, presented by Brenda Power, returned to RTÉ Radio 1 on Saturday 6 April at 7.30pm. The eight-part series is now in its second season, following a very well-received first run in April 2012.

Produced by Athena Media and for RTÉ Radio 1, The Media Show will see Brenda and team following key decision-makers in media both in Ireland and across the world, looking at the people behind our media and finding out how it works.

You can find all the podcasts of the aired episodes below as well as additional online content.

To listen back to the series click into our audioboo board here

The series is also available on the RTE RSS feed here or on the Athena Media RSS feed here.

Grassroots Documentary To Be Broadcast 1st January On Newstalk

Sing out with strings

Newstalk will air the hour long documentary Grassroots at 8 a.m on New Years Day. Over eight weeks radio producers Lisa Essuman and Robert Hope looked at community action projects where people are making a positive difference to society. Diverse initiatives included a drum circle in Killarney county Kerry, a community circus in Galway and the Irish Chamber Orchestra’s efforts to teach the joys of music to children across Limerick City.

The Series has been running in short form every Saturday on Shenanigans with Sile on Newstalk and the final 2 episodes will be aired on 22nd & 29th of December. For previous episodes and promos go here

Grassroots is an Athena Media Production for Newstalk 106-108fm funded through the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland Sound and Vision Scheme.

Listen to Wide Open Opera – Athena Media’s radio series and documentary for RTÉ Lyric fm

Re-Imagining Opera is a five part series for RTÉ lyric fm from Nov 19-23rd on the future of opera in Ireland. Do people think it’s an art for the rich or is it an art form being starved of resources and forcing performers abroad? What do we feel and think about opera?

The production team is being led by award winning producer Helen Shaw and the recordist is Michael Gallen, himself a talented new composer. The radio production is being supported by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland and the documentary will chart the story behind Wide Open Opera and its mission to radically change the status of opera as an art form in Ireland. The new opera company is led by conductor Fergus Sheil. Athena Media previously worked with Fergus on the Opera for Carlow radio project which was shortlisted for a PPI Award in 2011.


Episode 1: When things fall apart 19/11/2012

Last year the newly formed Irish National Opera Company closed just two years after its birth was announced. Opera Ireland had been wound down to form it and by June 2011 Irish opera seemed to be in crisis. Twelve months on new roots emerged including a new opera company launched by conductor Fergus Sheil called Wide Open Opera. An Arts Council award of €600,000 supporting its first production Wagner’s Tristan & Isolde provoked debate. Should Ireland still yearn for a national company? What are the elements which will grow a unique Irish opera voice?

Episode 2: New Roots 20/11/2012

Funding opera is a challenge particularly in a deepening recession. Yet those at the heart of new opera productions are embracing the opportunities.

Episode 3: Wide Open Opera 21/11/2012
Fergus Sheil says the name of his new opera company is designed to make everyone feel opera is for them. ‘We don’t want to think outside the box – we want to break the box’ he says and charts his personal journey across opera to that decision. Does Ireland need a new company?

Episode 4: Taking on Tristan 22/11/2012

For its first production Wide Open Opera takes on Wagner’s epic classic Tristan & Isolde. It’s a life ambition for conductor Fergus Sheil but why is this opera so important? The tragic tale of the beautiful Irish princess and the Cornish war hero inspires some of the most beautiful music in Wagnerian opera but we talk to performers and musicians about why this is such a special opera and hear from someone who attended the last performance of Tristan & Isolde in Dublin some 50 years ago.

Episode 5: What next? 23/11/2012

With several major opera highlights this year including Lyric Opera’s Aida production in November following Wexford Opera Festival we explore the future of opera in Ireland. With Wide Open Opera planning new Irish opera productions and exploring how to get opera into non-traditional venues.

Wide Open Opera: Taking On Tristan is an hour long behind the scenes feature on the story of Wide Open Opera, a new opera company launched by conductor Fergus Sheil, who staged Wagners Tristan and Isolde as its first production starring the Irish soprano Miriam Murphy Isolde. The opera was performed in the Bord Gais Energy Theatre in Dublin last month and a recording of the opening night was broadcast on RTE lyric fm on November 24th at 7pm. Michael Gallen, a young composer himself, shadowed the new opera company from its first rehearsals to its final curtain call. The documentary is an Athena media production for RTE lyric fm and is made with the support of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland. The producer is Helen Shaw and sound editing by Brendan Rehill. To listen to the full podcast of this documentary go here