Barry Mottershead

Artist, designer, doctor, and surfer to share stories about living and working in Sligo at national festival

  • Four creatives selected to represent Sligo at event
  • to showcase opportunities in moving west at SeaFest
  • Inspiring videos made along West coast to be shown at Marquee

Four of Sligo’s creative business people have been specially selected to represent the West of Ireland at SeaFest, Ireland’s national maritime festival.

Ashleigh Smith, Prannie Rhatigan, Martina Hamilton, and Barry Mottershead, will speak about their individual experiences of living and working in Sligo at a dedicated Marquee.

SeaFest which takes place in Galway from June 30 to July 2, will highlight Ireland’s abundant maritime resources – raising awareness of the value and opportunities provided by the sea and celebrating Ireland’s ocean heritage.

Packed with fun and interactive family-friendly events, the festival will see Galway Harbour and Docks transformed into an open-air sea world for three days with activities including seafood cookery and science to cultural history, deep sea exploration and much more., an initiative of the Western Development Commission (WDC), will be hosting its own Marquee at SeaFest and treating visitors to three days of exciting and inspiring events focusing on creative business and lifestyle in the West of Ireland.

Ashleigh, Prannie, Martina, and Barry have all been selected to tell their inspiring stories at the Marquee which will host a number of keynote speakers, fun performances and a showcase of brilliant West of Ireland products and businesses all inspired by the sea and surfing culture.

Each of the four speakers’ work is in some way inspired by Sligo and they will be highlighting the best of what’s happening here, and what the West of Ireland has to offer.

Ashleigh SmithAshleigh Smith is a designer and founder of the Atlantic Equipment Project, which makes bespoke carry equipment inspired by the West of Ireland surfing community. She said: “I was blessed to grow up in the North of Sligo, ‘under bare Benbulben’s head’. There was a lovely old woodland just behind our house where we camped, and learned about badger sets and pancake mushrooms. Days not spent in the woods were usually on the beach or reefs surfing the great waves we have here.

“I studied design in university, both in Ireland and The Netherlands. This was a great education in the iterative process of design. I believe that simplicity is one of the greatest assets of good design, and I think my youth, living simply and resourcefully, has influence my work now.

“My passion and love for this place is intrinsic to my company, The Atlantic Equipment Project. We build backpacks and satchels from natural and durable fabrics, designed to last, and support your experience of the wild. When I am not super busy with work, life living on the West Coast is filled with surfing, swimming, and hiking. The place is stunning, but the people bring it to life! Our community is full of clever folks who have found their own way of supporting an interesting wild life here. That makes for authentic, vibrant friends who are a bit mad, and wonderfully supportive.”

Prannie RhatiganPrannie Rhatigan is a medical doctor with a lifetime experience of harvesting, cooking and gardening organically with sea vegetables. Born and raised in the North West, where she still lives, she is an expert in the connections between food and health. Her first cookbook, the “Irish Seaweed Kitchen”, published in 2009 has become the ultimate bible for cooking with sea vegetables. She said:

“I grew up in Cliffoney Co. Sligo and inherited my knowledge of seaweed from my parents. My father knew the nutritional value of everything on the shore, where we visited regularly to harvest various seaweeds for kitchen and garden use and to share with visitors to the area.

“This early interest in nutrition and wellbeing developed into a study of medicine, after which I returned to the North West. Armed with a lot more knowledge, my fascination with seaweeds and their health benefits expanded and in 2009 I brought out ‘the Irish Seaweed Kitchen’.

“I couldn’t imagine living or working anywhere else. The West of Ireland is an amazing place, basking in the reflective glory of the Wild Atlantic Way. Other people are discovering what we’ve got here and even though we love it, that makes us appreciate the little things even more. Living in the North West is such a healthy friendly place to be. The fast pace of today’s world can be decelerated very quickly by heading to the nearest beach or mountain trail and tanking up on fresh air and silence.”

Martina LeonieMartina Hamilton has been designing her own jewellery collections for over 30 years. Martina’s designs are inspired by the wonderful, ever-changing Atlantic coastal landscape where she lives. She said:“I was born and raised in Sligo and when I was a student I studied Fine Art Sculpture here. The sea is the biggest draw for me visually. When the tide goes out and leaves an imprint in the sand, that can find its way into a collection of jewellery.

“I’ve always gone out to Streedagh beach for inspiration. It’s always had a pull so it was magical when I found out that I have ancestral links to Dernish Island. This has massively influenced my work and I made a film about it last year, and it also connected to my next collection of work, Island Links.

“The love of the sea is in my bones and I’m lucky that I can express that creatively. I love living here, it’s all I know. Everything is within five miles of you, there’s so many lakes and rivers and, if you’ve got time off, you can just jump in the car and head out to them. There’s a great cultural scene, a great theatre, there’s so much going on in Sligo. It has all the intimacy of a small village.”

The fourth speaker, Barry Mottershead, who is originally from South Africa, is a big wave surfer and adventurer. Barry fell in love with the West of Ireland and moved here 15 years ago after passing through Sligo on a backpacking journey around Europe. He spends every winter chasing monster swells that stack up along the west coast and, by day, he runs Sligo Kayak Tours. experts will be on hand at SeaFest to discuss creative ideas for new businesses and advise people on how they might make their own move to a new and fulfilling life in the West of Ireland, one of Europe’s great unspoiled regions.

As well as opportunities to ‘meet and greet’ speakers and businesses in’s showcase area from 10am – 6pm each day, there will be some great prizes and giveaways on offer too. is also partnering with the Irish Surf Festival, Shore Shots, to celebrate the very best in surfing, film, ideas and discovery on the west coast. Unique and inspiring films and videos produced along the West Coast by filmmakers and videographers will be shown at the Marquee throughout the three days.

Karen Sweeney of the Western Development Commission said:

“We are delighted to be part of the SeaFest 2017 experience for what is set to be an exciting, fun and educational weekend.

“We pride ourselves on promoting the West of Ireland as a great place to live, work and do business through our campaign. The West of Ireland is known for its creativity, beauty, lifestyle and, of course, that Wild Atlantic coastline but also as a place where businesses can thrive and grow.

“Come meet us at our Marquee; each day we will have a bumper schedule to educate, entertain and encourage people to dream their own big move to the beautiful West.”

More in our SeaFest section here.