Artists To Watch In 2015

Siobhan Fenton shines a light on the stand out names working in literature, film, music and more

Comedy: Shane Todd

The 26-year-old comic is a regular on the Northern Irish comedy circuit, and found online fame through his viral videos channelling the larger-than-life, cocksure character 'Mike McGoldrick'. 2014 saw Todd appear on BBC Northern Ireland's comedy panel show Monumental, and he already has a host of gigs and festival appearances lined up for 2015. The year should see his fanbase grow even stronger as he continues to make the transition from online cult comic to mainstream headliner.

Music: OneKnown

For Belfast-based DJ, producer and songwriter Chris Hanna, it's been... emotional. In 2012, he anonymously entered the public consciousness as Unknown, posting accomplised two-step tracks to YouTube and subsequently peaking the interest of the likes of Ellie Goulding, who dearly wanted to know who the hell he was. A fruitful collaboration with vocalist Gemma Dunleavy followed, under the collective title Unknwn, and with Champion Sound Music behind him, the sky seemed like the limit for Hanna.

But the pair split in late 2014 as if out of nowhere, and it was back to the drawing board. Hanna then relaunched as OneKnown – his third moniker in as many years – and new music produced in this guise is as good as anything he has released to date. Whatever the year ahead holds for him, there will be plenty of fans following his progress. 

Prose: Jan Carson

Jan Carson is a young novelist whose writing contains quick wit and an eye for quirky phrasing. She studied at Queen’s University's Seamus Heaney Centre before joining the Ulster Hall as an outreach officer, and published her first novel, Malcolm Orange Disappears, in 2014 to widespread critical acclaim. Set in Portland, the magical realist novel charts the relationships between a mother and son, exploring themes of grief and loss.

This year, Carson is set to release her second novel, Roundabouts. This time, Carson returns to her home soil or inspiration, choosing Ballymena as the setting for the narrative. The novel will centre around the lives of locals returning to their hometown of Ballymena after long stints outside of Northern Ireland.

Visual Art: Ruth Moore

Enniskillen-based fine artist Ruth Moore was the recipient of the prestigious Taylor Art Award in 2014. Her winning work was the series Ordinances and Angels, which saw her photograph a number of women from above as they sat in contemplative silence. The strikingly intimate portraits are a study in the ‘fragments of the everyday existence of being’, as well as the idea of ‘the female worshipper’.

After graduating from the University of Ulster in June 2014, Moore began a residency at Belfast Exposed, the photography studio and gallery on Donegall Street. Her plans for 2015 are to commission stand alone written work to accompany her portraits and enhance her visual talents with the collaboration.

Boogaloo and Graham

Screenwriting: Ronan Blaney

Homegrown film Boogaloo and Graham was longlisted for an Oscar nomination in the international short film category in November 2014, to the delight and surprise of a filmmaking industry subsequently floored by the announcement that NI Screen's DCAL grant is set for a 50% cut. That emerging filmmaking talent could achieve so much on so little acted as a much-needed tonic in a very dark time.

The much lauded short film was written by Ronan Blaney and follows two young boys in 1970s Belfast as they discover the facts of life, aided with the help of their pet chickens. Blaney will find out on January 15 if the Oscars voting panel puts his project through to the next stage in the judges' selection process. Following on from the success of his feature script Love Bite, Boogaloo and Graham could be the making of one of the country's most exciting writing talents.

Acting: Sophie Harkness

Actor Sophie Harkness is set for her fabled 'big break' when she stars in new comedy drama, Number 2s, which hits our screens next week. Harkness – who also boasts a degree in Law and Criminology from Cardiff University, and recently starred in the sci-fi film X Moor – will play leading lady, Sinead.

Written by the team behind comic classic Give My Head Peace, the show follows the lives of civil servants at Stormont as they attempt to placate and please bickering politicians. Harkness' biggest role to date, Number 2s is a major boost for her fledgling career, and is sure to push her firmly into the media spotlight. 

Poetry: Nathaniel Joseph McCauley

A recent graduate of the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry at Queen’s University (and friend of novelist Jan Carson), Nathaniel McCauley is a young poet at the centre of Belfast’s vibrant written and performance poetry scene. His debut short collection, The Dyer’s Notes on Indigo, was released in 2013.

2014 saw him named as one of 15 artists successful in the Art Council of Northern Ireland's Artists Career Enhancement Scheme (ACES), which will see him edit a new collection The Joiner's Song. With much more work in the pipeline, McCauley is a new voice to listen out for in a city known for its poets. 


Fashion: Chloe Dougan

The Belfast School of Art graduate has recently been awarded a residency at the University of Ulster to develop her obvious talent. Dougan debuted her inaugural collection at Belfast Fashion Week in Autumn 2014, and got many heads turning with designs that utilise many different textures in imaginative and unexpected ways – rich silk trousers, dramatic boleros in Mongolian fur, and distressed zips were the order of the day.

Her work has recently received support from local and international style icons. Belfast-based stylist Cathy Martin, for example, recently wore a Dougan design to the celebrity Global Gift Gala Ball in London, where it drew compliments from Victoria Beckham, no less. With another collection to come in the New Year, the designer hopes to make an indelible mark on the global fashion market.