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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.

Connacht Tribune

Galway SVP launches annual appeal as national calls reach record levels



Mayor of Galway, Cllr Colette Connolly, launching the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul Annual Christmas Appeal at Ozanam House, St. Augustine Street, pictured with (from left) Frank Leonard, SVP Area President, Galway City East, Seamus McManus, Area President, Galway City West and Deirdre Swords, SVP Regional Administrator, West Region. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Society of St. Vincent de Paul members made around 18,000 visits to homes in the Galway area last year – spending over €1m per year on direct assistance in the area.

And the charity, which helps with a myriad of practical, emotional and psychological problems, has only seen demand for its service grow under Covid.

That’s according to the Presidents of both Galway branches, as the organisation launched its Annual Appeal this week – predicting that, nationally, calls for help will be at their highest level in its history and could reach almost 200,000 by the end of December.

“We are seeing a lot of people getting in touch who have never needed to before, people whose circumstances have changed due to Covid,” said SVP Galway City East President Frank Leonard. “

We in the SVP have adapted to the new way of doing things and ensuring we are getting to people who need help.”

“The bulk of this goes to helping families with food, energy and education costs. Our volunteers are also involved in Education and Youth Initiatives and work directly with the elderly across Galway City,” he added.

SVP Galway City West President Seamus McManus said that they depend entirely on donations from the public and corporate donors – but, he said, thankfully the generosity of the people of Galway to SVP over the years has been outstanding.

“We hope that the response to this year’s Annual Appeal is as equally generous. The money raised in Galway is used locally and this Annual Appeal will support SVP’s work between now and year end and well into 2022,” he added.

National President Rose McGowan said the fact that the Society has received more calls for help nationally than at any other time in its history – and still managed to provide help – was testimony to the dedication of its volunteers and staff and the incredible support of the Irish public.

“We are facing a perfect storm for families contending with a cost-of-living crisis on multiple fronts. Energy prices are soaring, we are seeing rents rise well beyond what people can afford and increasing transport costs are also putting pressure on low-income households,” she said.

“We are deeply concerned that during the coming months this crisis will come to a head as households are unable to find extra room in the budget for escalating energy costs.

“In those circumstances they will inevitably turn to SVP for help. Need is the only criteria we apply when people seek our help. But to provide that help we need the generous support of the Irish public that we are seeking through this 2021 Annual Appeal.

“We are appealing for donations to be made locally, online or over the phone that will help people through this winter and into the new year,” she added.

The public can help by donating online to and nominate ‘Galway’, or by phoning 0818 176 176 and again nominating ‘Galway’.

You can also do this by post to SVP, West Region, Ozanam House, St Augustine’s St, Galway, with cheques made payable to Society of St. Vincent de Paul Galway Area – or keep an eye out for special blue envelopes that will be in newspapers, churches and delivered to homes throughout the country.


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Connacht Tribune

Top award for political heavyweight with Galway roots



President & CEO of The Ireland Funds Caitriona Fottrell with Martin J. Walsh, US Secretary of Labor, at The Ireland Funds Gala.

The son of Galway parents who went on to become Mayor of Boston before moving to Washington to become President Joe Biden’s Secretary of Labour was honoured for his achievements in his native city last week.

Close to 500 guests gathered for the Ireland Funds 40th Annual Boston Gala, where Martin J. Walsh, 29th Secretary of Labor of the United States of America, was presented with The Ireland Funds 2021 Distinguished Leadership Award.

Martin Walsh’s parents were originally from Galway; his father emigrated to the US in 1956 and mother in 1959, before they met in Boston and married there.

The Ireland Funds is a global philanthropic network. Established in 1976, its mission is to harness the power of a global network of friends of Ireland to promote and support peace, culture, education, and community development throughout the island of Ireland, and among Irish communities around the world.

The Boston Gala is one of the largest of The Ireland Funds’ international events and over $1.3 million was raised during the night to support outstanding charitable causes within across the island of Ireland and in the Boston community.

Returning to the city of Boston where he was Mayor for seven years, Martin J. Walsh spoke of his family’s immigration to the US from Galway and the importance of welcoming immigrants of all backgrounds seeking new opportunities, as his family once did, and of paying that opportunity forward.

He thanked those gathered for their generosity to the Ireland Funds and its vital work across Ireland as well as for the City of Boston.



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Salthill will NOT have one-way traffic under new cycleway plans



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Salthill will not be reduced to one-way traffic under plans for the new cycleway along the Promenade, following the intervention of the National Transport Authority in the controversy.

It was confirmed yesterday (Thursday) that a design is now being considered to “ensure the widest support possible”.

Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council – which recently created cycleways in Dublin – will now be involved in the design process.

Last September, city councillors voted in favour of creating a two-way segregated cycle lane along the coastal side of the Prom from Grattan Road to Blackrock as a six-month trial.

However, it subsequently emerged that this would involve introducing one-way traffic along the Prom, with the outbound lane closed to make way for bicycles – this information has not been presented to councillors as they decided to vote on the cycle lane without any prior discussion.

Galway West TD and Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Hildegarde Naughton, subsequently asked the National Transport Authority (NTA) to intervene in the row.

“As a result of a meeting held last week between the NTA and the City Council, I can confirm that both parties are working to review proposals that will meet the objectives of the [City Council] motion while also looking to retain two-way traffic,” she said.

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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