Karen Kirby hails from Donaghmore in County Tyrone. During her time at the local St. Patrick’s primary school she was given her first opportunity to take to the stage to sing, and she hasn’t stopped since then!
Her father, a former member of one of the seventies showbands “The Huskeys” and accordionist with a céilí band as well, ensured that young Karen’s home was ever-filled with music. Karen took up the accordion when she was seven years old, but she kept up with her singing, and she took part in the Scór competition with the Donaghmore Youth Club. It was then that she first became interested in the Irish language. She attended evening classes and her interest in the language grew when she went to secondary school, through trips to the Gaeltacht every summer and the school’s Cór Gaelach (Irish choir), which won many prizes over the years at the annual Irish language festival, Oireachtas na Gaeilge.
While at university in Belfast, Karen founded “The Swing Gals”, with members of her school choir. The group’s barber shop singing style won it attention and earned the girls frequent appearances on television and radio programmes throughout Ireland.
Karen studied French and Spanish at Queen’s University in Belfast, initially following the dream of becoming a linguist, working in the European Union. However, Irish and music were integral to her life, and the two came together in 1995 when she started presenting a radio programme in Irish on BBC Radio Ulster. For eight years she presented “Karen na hAoine” every Friday, and she stepped in front of the cameras for the first time in 1996 when she presented the series “Sneachta Dearg”.
She has spent time working in the BBC newsroom, presenting news bulletins on radio and working on the daily news programme “Newsline”. Karen got the chance to indulge her love of music while presenting “The Late Show” on BBC Radio Ulster, and she still presents the show during the week on occasion. She was recently on the judging panel of the music series “Deis Roc” on TG4.
Karen works in the BBC as a producer of Irish language television programmes, and has produced programmes such as “SRL” and “Blas Ceoil”. She also directs television programmes for independent companies from time to time; these programmes are broadcast on BBC NI and TG4.
There’s a tiny chance you haven’t noticed that Lynette Fay hails from County Tyrone. She was born and raised in Dungannon and she also went to school there. She began to learn Irish while she was attending the Convent of Mercy and this enthusiasm for the language continued while she was a student at the Girls’ Academy.
While she was at the Academy, Lynette didn’t spend much time in the classroom because of her great love for public speaking, debating, acting and music. She was one of the founders of the Irish Choir in the school and she was lead singer with Na Ceannródaithe, a band which sang the blues in Irish and which won two All-Ireland Championships at the Slógadh Náisiúnta.
She realised early on that she wanted to pursue a career in the media and for that reason she did a number of radio interviews and newspaper articles on various subjects while she was at Galway University, where she received a degree in Irish and History. She spent a year studying in the University of Edinburgh, an experience which left a deep impression on her. Lynette began working in the BBC in 2001, just after finishing a postgraduate in the media.
She can often be heard on Blas, BBC Radio Ulster’s Irish-language magazine programme and for the last five years, Lynette has produced and presented the Sunday GAA programme, An Domhnach Mór, during the Championship. She is often to be heard as well on English programmes on the BBC, such as Hugo, Weekend Extra and The Sean Coyle Show. Recently, a Friday edition of Blas, a programme which she edits and presents, won a bronze award at the Irish National Radio Awards, PPI.