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Galwayman comes home to head Britain’s Got Talent auditions




Galway has more than enough talent to make its mark on an international scale, according to Britain’s Got Talent producer, Stephen Ridgard.

Born and raised in the east side of the city, Stephen is back home for the sixth time this year, this time scouting the very best of what our county has to offer during an overwhelming audition process for the world renowned talent show.

Stephen Ridgard: Galway's scout for Britain's Got Talent

Stephen Ridgard: Galway’s scout for Britain’s Got Talent, with singer Katy Perry

“It’s nice to get back and try and find the talent and do you know what, we’ve had some fantastic talent,” said Stephen.

“Over the past few days, we had a really good impressionist, an amazing soprano, we had a great dance troupe, and, needless to say, the singers in Galway are out of this world. There are so many amazing singers and a fantastic magician, so it’s going really well.”

The standard of talent in Galway has certainly been represented in the influx of acts that turned up to each of the secret locations hosted by Britian’s Got Talent.

“We’re really happy with the talent in Galway, and the turnout has been great. It’s nearly been packed and I’m almost overwhelmed with the numbers we’re getting.”

The show has taken a step away from the usual arena tour and has instead decided to travel around Ireland to the people instead of the people coming to them.

Not only does this mean no more long hours of queuing in Dublin, but the acts that audition for Stephen have the potential to go straight onto the stage on live television, without having to audition again.

“We get into the community in local bars, community centres, universities, colleges and things like that and it’s quite nice because a lot of people don’t want to queue up for eight hours and it does take away from the experience if you’re tired and hungry, whereas if you’re in your local pub, it’s different.

“You find some great characters and some really good talent this way, too.”

Apart from working with Britain’s Got Talent, the young producer and researcher has proved to be on a very successful career path with other shows such as Body Shockers, The X Factor and Desi Rascals – an Asian form of The Only Way is Essex – to decorate his CV.

Media and broadcasting seems to run in the Ridgard family, as his brother is also highly successful in the industry over in the US working with American Idol, however Stephen’s introduction to the business wasn’t too straightforward.

“I’m a carpenter by trade, that’s what I did years ago, but I got sick of it. I went to college and did my apprenticeship. I thought, I want to do shows, and unfortunately my brother didn’t actually hook me up with any jobs but he pointed me in the right direction.

“You don’t actually have to go to college to get into TV. You can do a four year media course and all that, but it depends what direction you want to go in. Essentially, you can start yourself at the bottom and work your way up and you’re getting hands-on experience. Don’t get me wrong, the colleges are still fantastic; I just knew for me that it wouldn’t have suited me to go back to university. I just wanted to get hands-on straight away.

“My brother did the same thing, he never went to college. He went straight into it, started from the bottom and worked his way up as well. You learn so much quicker in a practical way like that, but if I were to go back and think about it again and had seen how much fun people had doing television and media in college I probably would have done that.”

Stephen’s profession means he’s around quite a few celebrities but he’s aware that he has to maintain a professional attitude, even if deep down he’s a little gobsmacked.

“I was a little bit awestruck with Queen when they were on X Factor, I wasn’t expecting to see Brian May or any of the lads, obviously I knew they were doing rehearsals, but I was just walking by and standing beside them thinking this is a little surreal.

“We don’t normally ask for photos. I wanted one and you can do it, but you know, you have to stay on the professional side, too,” he laughed.

This is the second TV show that Stephen has worked on that’s affiliated with perhaps one of the most recognisable British TV personalities – Simon Cowell.

“I worked with him on X Factor and, I really mean this, he’s actually one of the nicest people you could ever work with. He’s great and, obviously, he has a great head on his shoulders, but he’s super nice, knows what he wants and is a really decent guy, actually.”

Stephen and his regional team are travelling the rest of the country for the next week, including Limerick, Cork, Kilkenny, Waterford, and finally to Dublin again before heading back to London, where he’s based.

“Hopefully we’ll get someone from Galway on stage, fingers crossed,” he said.


Glass roof over Latin Quarter among raft of proposals to Galway City Council

Stephen Corrigan



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A proposal to put a roof over the Latin Quarter – with outdoor heaters to combat Galway’s changeable weather – is among a raft of suggestions that will be considered by the Council as it draws up the next City Development Plan.

The widespread use of outdoor theatre and extended opening hours for retail and cultural attractions are also on the cards as members of the public and lobby groups push for a city that offers the broadest range of tourist attractions.

As part of series of measures put forward to improve the outdoor offering in the city, one submission – which is understood to have been noted by the Council Chief Executive Brendan McGrath in his report on plan, which is at ‘pre-draft’ stage – is to put a glass ceiling on the city centre’s main commercial thoroughfares.

Planners are currently considering the proposal as part of more than 500 submissions made to Council in the first public consultation for the document, which will shape development in the city for six years after 2023.

It’s proposed that by covering the length of Quay Street/Latin Quarter in high retractable glass panes ‘mounted on decorative supports’, and installing street heaters, ‘a comfortable outdoor ambiance could be created’.

This is one of almost 50 submissions made in the area of economic development, where the theme of improving the city’s night-time economy and tourism offering feature prominently.

In another submission from Fáilte Ireland, the tourism authority expresses its desire that the next City Development Plan should have a chapter dedicated to tourism, such is its importance to the city’s economic success.

As well as developing Galway’s growing reputation as a ‘foodie destination’, developing the night-time economy is identified as being ‘an important aspect of ensuring a vibrant city centre and means more than just developing a bar and restaurant culture’.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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100 new jobs for Galway City Sports Direct outlet

Denise McNamara



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The Sports Direct retail giant is set to create up to 100 new jobs when it takes over the former Debenhams department store in the Corrib Shopping Centre.

And the company’s sister outlet Heatons looks set to make a return to the city – possibly in the same building, although management are remaining tight-lipped.

Sports Direct has taken a lease on the Debenhams premises, which has been vacant since before the pandemic, and it will open in June.

“The 65,000 sq ft store will comprise four floors and will consist of Sports Direct, USC and Brand Max. 100 jobs for the store will be created,” a spokesperson confirmed to the Galway City Tribune.

The spokesperson could not confirm that the Heatons brand – which is also owned by English billionaire Mike Ashley – will also be opening as part of the move. The group is currently advertising for staff to work at a new Heatons store in Galway.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Forty firefighters tackle major blaze at Galway golf shop

Francis Farragher



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Up to 40 firefighters from across the city and county fought a major fire at the GolfStyle superstore off the Tuam Road for around six hours on Thursday morning.

Gardaí on routine patrol in the Liosbán Business Park shortly before 3am noticed smoke coming from the roof of the building and immediately alerted the fire service.

The building, which was unoccupied at the time, is understood to have suffered major structural and roof damage in the fire that started in the first floor.

At one point, 11 fire engines from the city, Athenry, Loughrea, Carraroe and Gort fought the blaze, using water tankers and aerial ladders, as well as having a command unit in place.

Firemen equipped with breathing apparatus also had to force their way into the building to tackle the source of the fire, that possibly could have been caused by an electrical problem.

The fire was brought under control at around 7.30am, but the Fire Brigade remained at the scene for a number of hours afterwards in case of any secondary outbreak.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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