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Saturday 21 July 2018

Spotlight on gifted mum and daughter

Singer-songwriter Megan-Kate Doolan loves to create, just like her award-winning artist mum Bernadette

Megan-Kate and Bernadette Doolan are both hugely creative. Photo: Justin Farrelly
Megan-Kate and Bernadette Doolan are both hugely creative. Photo: Justin Farrelly
Andrea Smith

Andrea Smith

When talented Megan-Kate Doolan stepped out into the spotlight to launch her debut EP recently, her artist mother Bernadette was amazed at the quiet confidence her eldest daughter exuded. "I'm not musical and I think it's incredible that she has the ability to stand up and sing what she has created in front of other people," she says. "I'd rather hide in the corner."

Then again, Megan-Kate (20) is used to facing her fears, as she began busking on the streets of Wexford when she was only 14 . "It was daunting at first, but I really started enjoying it," she says. "I was only doing it for exposure but I was shocked when I got a bit of money for it too."

At a teacher's recommendation, Megan-Kate took classical singing lessons for two years, but classical wasn't her preferred style. She picked up her dad Alan's guitar and began writing songs, and soon people began to take notice. With its quirky, sublime beauty, equal parts delicate and strong, hers is a stunning voice that is undoubtedly headed for great things.

Megan-Kate won a place at Trinity College for music and French, but has deferred it to concentrate on her music at present. She used the money from busking to part-fund her self-titled debut EP, and the rest was raised through a crowd-funding campaign. "When people started supporting me, I was so surprised and grateful that they believed in me," she smiles.

Megan-Kate has learned that it's OK not to fit in with the crowd and have the courage to be individual, and she has great, true friends who are always there for her. She has opened for acts like Mundy, Hudson Taylor and Aine Cahill. Her songs are now getting national airplay and her fanbase is quickly building. One song was inspired by a story she heard of a child who was murdered by a parent. She took part in Wexford County Council's 'Room to Record' music technology programme, and recorded her EP with engineer Brendan Carthy at Orchard Recording. She's aiming to book gigs and festivals in 2018 to bring her music around the country, the prospect of which excites her.

Bernadette (44) has experience of stepping out of her comfort zone when it comes to her twin passions of art and sculpture. She worked in retail for years and gave it up when she and Alan moved to Wexford. A talented graphic designer, he commuted daily to Microsoft in Dublin for the first two years, so it made sense to them for Bernadette to stay home with their three children.

She took ceramics classes as an outlet for herself when Megan-Kate was five, and discovered she was hugely talented at it. She began making gorgeous ceramic shoes and selling her work at local craft fairs, and people loved them. Brown Thomas in Dublin commissioned pieces for a solo art installation in 2005, in celebration of the launch of its shoe rooms by celebrated French footwear designer Christian Louboutin.

When the store asked for artists to donate pieces for a group exhibition in aid of Focus Ireland, Bernadette applied as the subject of homelessness upsets her. She was selected to provide 10 ceramic wall pieces, but her kiln broke down and she had to think fast. She bought 10 canvases, even though she hadn't painted in years, and was thrilled to discover that her paintings all sold on opening night.

This charitable act inspired a new direction in her work, and she now mainly concentrates on painting. She received great support from her father-in-law, Jim Doolan, who is a brilliant painter himself. He has been hugely supportive to Megan-Kate too. "If Carlsberg did granddads..." says Bernadette, whose own dad, Joe Byrne, passed away 22 years ago. Her mum is also Bernadette, and Megan-Kate describes her gran as the "most selfless, strong person." She was devastated when her other lovely grandmother Pat passed away in 2009 when she was 11, as they were particularly close. "She was my best friend and we would ring each other every day," says Megan-Kate, sadly.

Bernadette met Alan when they were 14, growing up in Greenhills. As well as Megan-Kate, they have Harvey, (17), who's very funny, and Daisy (15), who's thoughtful and considerate. They share their home with Roo the dog and cats Joy, Dolly and Boo. Bernadette recalls Megan-Kate being a very easy-going and determined child, and as an adult, she's caring and resilient. She leaves shoes everywhere and has been known to rob her mother's stuff, but surely that's one of the perks of having a trendy mum?

Megan-Kate and Bernadette both reserve huge praise for Alan, who is "very kind, genuine and lovable" and greatly supports them in their respective careers. He and Bernadette have a branding and web design company called Two Heads. While Alan does the design, Bernadette is the "second head", as she's skilled at thinking outside the box and generating ideas.

Highlights of Bernadette's career include winning "best overall work by a non academician" during the Royal Ulster Academy's annual exhibition in 2015. Her sculptural work has evolved into bronze, and she is also in the third year of an honours degree in counselling and psychotherapy.

"I really like Mam's art and the symbolism of it and evolution," says Megan-Kate." "She's the most humble person though - sometimes too humble - and is very caring and strong. She has been a great help to me around music too, especially around the business side of things."

www.megankatedoolan.com www.bernadettedoolan.com

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