Eight Northern Ireland Artists to Watch in 2018

From 'kookie' crafts and cutting edge writing to jaw-dropping circus skills and savvy style, this highly talented bunch have huge things ahead

Poetry: Colin Hassard

Although well-known in the local poetry scene (particularly for the hilarious 'Titanicland'), 2018 is set to be a career-defining year for Colin Hassard. At the end of last year, he received funding from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland to work on his first published collection of poetry, due to come out in October. He spent last year as resident poet on BBC Radio Ulster’s Science and Stuff programme, and there are high hopes for a second series very soon. Hassard is also releasing an album of spoken word and music with his band Dirty Words, which he’ll be supporting with a dedicated tour, on top of multiple festival appearances, beginning with the Imagine Festival in March. On top of all of that, getting married in August, so this will truly be a year to remember for him!

Craft: Andrew Cooke

Ceramic artist Andrew Cooke started turning heads nearly six years ago with his handmade ceramic diddly-bows – the quirky, one-string instrument famously favoured by US country blues singer Seasick Steve. Cooke’s passion for motoring, and in particular hot-rod and kustom kulture has been reflected in much of his work and carved him a reputation as an artist who does things his own way. His studio in the Co. Down hills occupies the site of his father’s old stock car racing track and centres on an ethos of upcycling and sustainability.

2018 is set to be a big year for Cooke as he capitalises on his growing global reputation for making tiki mugs. He is the only tiki maker in Ireland and his unique, original designs – branded KookieTiki - sell all over the world. Later this year he will collaborate with Belfast’s hippest new hotel, Bullitt, on a range of cocktails accompanied by a special limited run of mugs, launched at an exclusive ticketed event celebrating the tiki culture.

Andrew Cooke tiki slide

Prose and Playwriting: Rosemary Jenkinson

Last year was pretty bucket-list-worthy for the Lyric Theatre’s 2017 Writer In Residence Rosemary Jenkinson. She saw rip-roaring success with two perfectly-timed and hilarious plays; Rapid Response: Michelle and Arlene and Michelle and Arlene: Holiday Special each took a satirical, Thelma and Louise-inspired look at how the two leaders might sort out their differences under unusual circumstances. As if that wasn't enough for one year, in November, Jenkinson delivered a powerful TEDxStormont talk decrying political and cultural stagnation in Northern Ireland.

There’s no sign of the writer taking it easy in 2018, however. She returns to the Lyric from February 20 – 24 with her new 'fast-paced, dark comedy rollercoaster' May The Road Rise Up, presented by c21 Theatre Company and featuring a blistering performance from yet another artist to watch, Christine Clare. Jenkinson’s new collection of short stories, Catholic Boys, is out in May, published by Doire Press.


Literature: Shirley-Anne McMillan

The Irish Times describes Shirley-Anne McMillan’s third novel as 'a thought-provoking and hopeful read from a writer to watch.' Having self-published her first Young Adult (YA) novel Widows’ Row in 2012, three years later she signed a publishing deal with Atom Books. A Good Hiding came out in 2016, followed by The Unknowns in late 2017 – already being just as well-received. McMillan had a long career teaching and working with young people, including as an alternative school chaplain, running a Gay Straight Alliance Group and a Peace and Integration Group. So, her powerful fiction writing reflects a real-life commitment to championing the rights of the LGBT youth and community in Northern Ireland. Each of McMillan's three novels takes its own look at bullying, marginalisation, sexuality, discrimination, and the bewildering and sometimes traumatic experience of being a teenager growing up in Northern Ireland – especially if you’re seen as ‘different’.


Circus and Vaudeville: Logy On Fire

Limavady native Steven Logan, AKA Logy On Fire, is as recognisable for his famed and beloved beard as he is for his enthralling mix of fire, circus and vaudeville. His journey as a performer began over 10 years ago when he first moved to Belfast and learned to juggle at a local circus skills club. Since those early days he has added fire breathing, escapology, glass-walking and acro-balance to his wheelhouse, and is widely regarded as one of the top cigar box performers in the UK and Ireland. His live act blends elements of comedy, vaudeville, parlour tricks and death-defying performance and it’s an act which has gotten him noticed. As we publish, he is boarding a plane to Australia, bringing his Price of Two Pints show to FringeWorld – the country’s most popular festival and the third largest Fringe in the world. A tour of Australia, Singapore and Europe follows in the summer, with an appearance at the Edinburgh Fringe to boot. Logy’s star is burning brightly in 2018.

Sustainable Fashion and Design: Emma Gilles

A hair stylist by trade, Emma Gilles opened Crafty Belfast in Belfast city centre in 2010. Inspired by ‘concept stores’ in Berlin, it was a kitsch and quirky place that embodied the word ‘eclectic’. It was a coffee shop, a vintage store, a design workshop, a hair studio… and today the core elements and Emma’s creative ethos remain. Crafty Belfast has evolved into an ethical lifestyle brand, encompassing clothing (#craftylabel, with its signature ‘winky face’ logo), furniture upcycling and hair styling.

Emma’s infinitely-creative vintage put-up hairstyles can be enjoyed at her 'guerrilla salons' which pop up at festivals and events across Ireland and beyond, year-round. Having taken #craftylabel to last year’s London Fashion Week, and seeing her hair and styling on album covers late last year, 2018 is set to be Emma’s biggest and craftiest year yet.

Crafty Belfast

Community Art: Shirley Brown Camblin

Artist, art therapist and creative play facilitator Shirley Brown Camblin has worked tirelessly over the past decade to bring her dream to life – a creative hub in Lisburn where women, men and young people of all abilities and walks of life could enhance their lives through art and self-expression. The Secret Door specialises in inclusive art workshops and activities, welcoming high-functioning adults and children with learning difficulties, as well as children’s after school art clubs, and arts and crafts workshops delivered by Shirley in community groups throughout Lisburn. Her passion for her art – and for helping others to develop through artistic self-expression – is palpable, and we expect her creative community to grow and grow in 2018.

Shirley Brown Camblin

Music, Comedy and Spoken Word: Cat Caulfield

The 25-year-old from Belfast is tipped as one to watch in 2018. This creative all-rounder is a talented singer-songwriter with a growing following on her Facebook and YouTube channels where she showcases both emotive cover versions, as well as her own original music. She collaborated with producer Phil Macs to release her debut single, the searing pop ballad 'When I’m Gone', in July 2017. A vocal advocate for mental health awareness, Cat starred in the video for friend and mentor Kaz Hawkins’ charity single 'Don’t Slip Away' which was released during Mental Health Week in 2017, with all proceeds going to Aware NI.

Not content with trying to conquer the world of music, she can also be found performing poetry, short stories and spoken word pieces as ShambamblesRambles. From laugh-out-loud funny to tear-jerking, she covers the gamut of human emotions in a deeply personal and powerful body of work.