Bright lights in the big cities

Today’s generation of young Irish people are more confident than ever and are making their mark in cities all over the world. We take a look at some of our most talented emigrants ...

Bright lights in the big cities

Angela Scanlon

I’m ‘bicountry’, the island version of bicoastal. I split my time evenly between Dublin and London. I’ve been over and back a lot over the past couple of years, breaking myself in, and it finally made sense for me to put down more permanent roots at the beginning of this year. I’m a commitment-phobe and of course it’s somewhat terrifying to put it out there, but I love it and it makes sense for me right now. London felt like an itch I just had to scratch. When I first went over, covering shows for Fashion Week, I hated it but I made myself go back because I knew it was somewhere I needed to be. Maybe I was just craving a change; I’ve always created work for myself and am constantly striving to be challenged

I’ve never looked at being Irish as a disadvantage but I suppose I am sometimes frustrated by the defeatist attitudes, the idea that everything is a struggle, and there should be hardship. I think it’s a cultural thing, an underlying lack of confidence. That being said, I adore Ireland and I miss the humour of Irish people, the cynicism and sarcasm and brilliantly ridiculous way Irish people handle difficult situations. We have a very unique perspective on life and that becomes so much more obvious and attractive when you’re away from it.

*Angela, 28, described as ‘One to Watch’ in 2013 by Vogue magazine, is a TV presenter, fashion writer and stylist. See her in Oi Ginger! on RTÉ at 9.55pm on Oct 24.

Louise O’Neill

‘I’m sorry,’ the impossibly pretty intern told me on her first day, her voice squeaking with nerves. ‘But I couldn’t find Josie anywhere.’

Twenty minutes previously, I had handed her a €12,000 Donna Karan gown that was required urgently by Joe Zee, the creative director of Elle Magazine.

I took a deep breath and silently reminded myself of the time Gwen Stefani said my accent was ‘totally adorable’. I had moved to New York in 2010 to intern for Kate Lanphear, the then senior style director of Elle, and seemed to spend a large proportion of my day either repeating myself very slo-ooo-wly or attempting to dispel Irish stereotypes.

It didn’t help that I have red hair, I kept forgetting how much I was supposed to tip my manicurist, and I never met a stranger on the subway that I didn’t want to befriend.

The final nail in the coffin was when a girl from Dublin joined the accessories team and it turned out we had numerous friends in common, thus confirming all suspicions that Ireland is about the size of a postage stamp.

Besides these minor complaints, I always felt extremely proud of my nationality. Indeed, in a city that prizes individuality, I felt it made me unique (well, as long as I avoided Queens). And I’m not alone in feeling that being Irish is something worth celebrating. Perhaps it’s a consequence of coming of age during an economic boom, but today’s generation of young Irish people are more confident than ever and are making their mark in cities all over the world today.

*Louise O’ Neill, 28, is from Clonakilty, West Cork. Her debut novel, Only Ever Yours will be published in Aug 2014.

Niamh Mulvey

I left Kilkenny because I wanted to work in the glamorous world of publishing. After a few years stuffing envelopes, they finally let me proofread the press releases, so I regret nothing. I do play the Irish card at times — if I don’t know what people are talking about then I just pretend we don’t have whatever it is in Ireland (twerking, you say? Nope, not in Ireland...), and it has helped me professionally as I’ve been involved with some fantastic Irish books. A highlight for me was when Quercus published Paul Lynch’s Red Sky in Morning, an incredible novel set in 19th-century Donegal and America.

Do I have any advice for people thinking of moving over? Avoid Clapham because it’s like Copper Face Jacks, if Coppers were a sprawling London suburb. And I’d probably tell them to think of Dublin and London as being like Aidan and Mr Big from Sex And The City. Dublin is Aidan; charming and reliable, you’re guaranteed a good time and it’s easy to get around. London is Mr Big; elusive, difficult, a challenge to navigate, and, well, big. Enormous, like. But totally worth the effort.

*Niamh, 30, is a book editor at Quercus. She has lived in London for three years.

Sharon Brooks

What don’t I miss? That’s difficult to answer as I love Ireland and the longer I stay away the more nostalgic I become. I guess I don’t miss the politics back home but then you come to America and you think ‘hmm, maybe we don’t have it so bad after all’. There are huge differences between the two countries in terms of the criminal justice system, gun laws, security laws, etc. It’s interesting going from Ireland — a country which would not hold much weight on an international level — to America, which is one of the most powerful countries in the world. For example, when I look at what is going on in Syria, I read the Irish Times as an outsider, looking in at a situation that I have no involvement in, but then I read the New York Times and I read it as a contributor, someone who is involved. I guess, when I think about it, that is the reason that I am here rather than in Ireland. Here, whether rightly or wrongly, I feel part of something.

*Sharon, 28, left her job as a barrister in Dublin to undertake a documentary filmmaking course at the New York Film Academy. She is a researcher for Jigsaw Productions, a company spearheaded by Academy Award-winning filmmaker, Alex Gibney.

Aisling Bea

I grew up in Kildare but left when I was 18, and then moved from Dublin to London on the famine airplane when I was 22 and brought most of my bras, pants and pals with me. We’ve a big noisy gang based here now; there’s a rumour Niall Horan is never more than a mile away from a lock-in. We’re the post-Riverdance generation. We’re not the feckless terrorists anymore, we’re the educated dancers who aren’t great with cash, and who doesn’t like a good dancer who can quote poetry and spends too much money?

I love going back to work in Ireland because it feels like you are coming back to your Granny’s, but I think I’ve found a home in London. I’ve done the biggest part of my adult growing up here and I suppose the Judas-land is where half my heart is now. I’ll lock my future kids in a box and let them learn how to speak from Late Late Toy Show repeats though, so they don’t get English accents.

*Aisling, 29, is an actress, comedian and writer. She won the So You think You Are Funny award at the 2012 Edinburgh Festival Fringe, only the second woman to have won it in the award’s 25-year history.

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