The ultimate guide to getting your full Irish at SXSW

10 Mar 2016

6th Street is just one part of Austin the Irish are set to take over at SXSW. Photo via Alfie Photography/Shutterstock

Whether you’re an Irish delegate at SXSW, or an Eirephile looking to soak up all that Ireland has to offer at the US mega festival, fill your plate with this fine helping of tech, music and film from these shores.

SXSW takes place this weekend and, as the worlds of tech, music and film collide in Austin, Texas, there will be plenty of Ireland’s creativity and innovation to showcase and celebrate.

Ireland at SXSW

Click to enlarge this nifty guide to Irish tech, film and music events at SXSW

Eye on Enterprise Ireland

Naturally enough, Enterprise Ireland will have a major presence at SXSW this year, taking with it more than 20 companies from around the country. It will host networking events throughout, marking its sixth year at the event.

Enterprise Ireland will join bodies from all over Europe to give its exhibitors a fast-paced introduction to Ireland during the International Innovation Exhibitor Pitches on Monday, March 14 at 10.15am. This event also promises demos, giveaways and networking opportunities after the pitches.

In fact, the Irish cohort will be welcoming connections throughout the festival. First up is the ‘Meet the Irish!’ event at the interactive registration lounge from 5pm on Friday 11 March, followed by a similar drinks reception in Booth 1007 at 5pm, Sunday 13 March. Then again, on Monday 14 March at 5pm, a final buzzing networking event will take place at the Meet Up Pavilion on the expo floor.

Start-ups to scope out

Based at Enterprise Ireland stands 1007, 1009, 1106 and 1108, the delegation of Irish start-ups cover areas such as wearables, mobile, gaming, apps, digital marketing and HR tools. This is evidence of “Ireland’s thriving and growing indigenous start-up ecosystem”, according to Enterprise Ireland SVP Simone Boswell.


Crowdsight’s idea is a mobile, live event sponsorship tool for brands to connect directly with fans. __________________________


We’re big fans of Drop, with the start-up’s kitchen scale one of the recent wave of connected devices to hit kitchens around the world.


Eightytwenty is a digital marketing agency operating out of Dublin.


An early-stage start-up, Engager is working on a way to improve TV and radio ratings for manufacturers of content.


Firstage is a start-up developing a virtual stage for musicians.


This young company began an R&D programme to develop an accessible diagnostic platform at the 2015 IndieBio accelerator, and continues this work from a cleanroom facility at University College Cork.

Good Travel Software

Operating out of the Digital Exchange in Dublin, Good Travel Software looks at transportation, the mobility landscape in particular.


Operating out of Dublin, Intuition is a global knowledge management solutions company.


From Dublin, Kabzy provides a constant vehicle security and monitoring service using GPS and mobile technology.


Operating out of DCU, KantanMT provides a platform for sophisticated and powerful machine translation.


Kongalytics provides a digital marketing platform for businesses to capitalise on its online presence.


Based in Dublin, OpenBack is a messaging engine that can be integrated into apps and users’ devices.


Overhaul is a US-founded online marketplace to help link up global delivery services.


Based in Dublin, Pip is a wearable tool that, when paired with its companion app, can help users manage stress better.


SynergySuite is a complete cloud-based system to help run hospitality businesses.


As the name suggests, TekTalent is all about filling a skills gap, providing recruitment or outsourced, skilled technologists for employers.


Mayo-based UrbanFox is a digital marketing start-up helping companies to engage with customers.

IDA Ireland showcasing the gateway to Europe

On Saturday 12 March at 6.45pm, Austin’s 6th Street will be closed to traffic for a pop-up theatrical spectacle from renowned Galway street theatre troupe, Macnas.

Supported by the IDA and the Global Centenary Programme, Macnas’ US premiere of The Wild Hunt and the Sleepwalker is sure to amaze and delight onlookers.

Seeing Dublin

Dublin Makes Me by Dublin Globe hosts its first in a series of SXSW events in Esther’s Follies at 7pm on Friday, 11 March, bringing together five familiar faces.

Moderated by The Irish Times journalist Jim Carroll, speakers include Ann O’Dea (CEO and co-founder of Silicon Republic and founder of Inspirefest,) ‘Queen of Ireland’ Panti Bliss; CoderDojo global CEO Mary Moloney and Web Summit co-founder Daire Hickey, who will discuss what makes Ireland’s capital city so special, with the accompaniment of live music and drinks.

During office hours on Saturday and Sunday, 12-13 March, there’s a chance to learn more about the Dublin tech ecosystem as the Office of the Dublin Commissioner for Startups is open to meeting with anyone looking to build a business in Dublin.

On the evening of Sunday, 13 March, there’ll be a memorial wake for the Dublin start-ups that just didn’t make it. Just like a real Irish wake, there will be a book of condolences, whiskey, ham sandwiches and live music. ‘Mourners’ will include Eamonn Carey of Techstars, Brian Wong from Kiip, and Matt Galligan of Digital Soap.

Throughout the event, the Dublin-touting delegates will be distributing a special Dublin Makes Me guide to the Irish capital’s tech scene and lifestyle, while any other Irish ambassadors living it up in the heart of Texas this weekend can check out commissioner Niamh Bushnell’s helpful speaking notes.

Speakers with the gift of the gab

Outside of events like those supported by Enterprise Ireland, the IDA and Dublin Globe, there are Irish roots still to be found throughout SXSW. Irish speakers are dotted around a host of panels, sharing their expertise and perspectives on everything from film finance to the mass personalisation of music on mobile.

Founder and MD of web hosting company Blacknight, Neylon will be taking part in Giving the Internet Away? ICANN Explained, a panel exploring the importance of global internet governance and protecting the open internet.
JW Marriott, Fri 11 March at 3.45pm
Purcell, a strategy director at advertising network Droga5 – and hailing from Waterford – will participate in Inspiring Change Through a Connected World Panel, a panel looking at how causes can get noticed.
JW Marriott, Sat 12 March at 5pm
CEO and co-founder of home cleaning and repair service company Handy, Hanrahan weighs in on supporting workers in the on-demand economy on the panel Portable Benefits: The Future of the Safety Net.
Hilton Austin Downtown, Sun 13 March at 3.30pm
Gillen is the client partner and performance MD at Dublin-based digital agency EightyTwenty. On the panel Selling with Sex: Brand Partnerships and Dating Apps, he will explore how dating apps can further social agendas.
Hilton Austin Downtown, Mon 14 March at 11am
Casey, the founder and CEO of PCH, has his roots in Cork. He will be speaking on Beauty 2.0: Innovation at L’Oréal, a panel that looks at how beauty and tech are coming together to create consumer beauty products.
Courtyard Marriott, Mon 14 March at 3.30pm
Skehan is well-recognised here at home. The celebrity food writer and broadcaster will be participating in How the World of Video Programming Is Changing, a panel that examines trends in digital video consumption.
The Driskill, Mon 14 March at 3.30pm
Musician and technologist Lunny will take part in The Four Horsemen of the Mobile-pocalypse, offering his thoughts on how a more mobile-oriented world has affected awareness in the music industry.
Hilton Austin Downtown, Tue 15 March at 11am
Maher is co-founder and senior executive at Irish film production company Roads Entertainment. He will be talking about new models of film financing on New Financiers: Meet the Film Finance Innovators.
Austin Convention Centre, Tue 15 March at 12.30pm

Music from the motherland

Given our rich history of creating great music, it’s unsurprising that Ireland is sending a vast musical contingent to SXSW.

Irish music at SXSW

Austin, the ‘Live Music Capital of the World’ will welcome a slew of Irish acts this weekend. Photo from SXSW 2012 via GSPhotography/Shutterstock

The Music from Ireland Showcase in Maggie Mae’s on the eve of St Patrick’s Day will have many of the below acts performing, while the Full Irish Breakfast Day from 11am to 6pm on Friday 18 March will see many Irish acts performing in the intimate setting of BD Riley’s – and they provide breakfast!

Latitude 30, Tuesday 15 March at 9pm
Maggie Mae’s Gibson Room, Wednesday 16 March at 1am
Maggie Mae’s, Tuesday 15 March at 11.10pm
Departure Lounge, Saturday 19 March at 11pm
Maggie Mae’s Gibson Room, Wednesday 16 March, at 8pm
Maggie Mae’s Gibson Room, Wednesday 16 March at 9pm
Maggie Mae’s Gibson Room, Wednesday 16 March at 10pm
Maggie Mae’s Gibson Room Wednesday 16 March at 11pm
Maggie Mae’s Gibson Room, Wednesday 16 March at 12am
The Sidewinder Inside, Friday 18 March at 9.45pm
Maggie Mae’s, Wednesday 16 March at 1.15am
The North Door, Thursday 17 March at 10.45pm
The Majestic, Wedsnesday 16 March at 7.30pm
The Main II, Thursday 17 March at 1am
Lucille, Saturday 19 March at 9pm

Ireland on the SXSW screen

Ireland has a long history of success in the entertainment industry, with countless Irish actors, directors and writers making it big in Hollywood. Irish filmmaker Ben Cleary, in fact, just won an Oscar for his short film Stutterer. SXSW gives Austin a taste of that Irish talent, with Irish films and Irish connections screening at the festival.


Highly acclaimed at the Sundance Film Festival, John Carney’s Sing Street tells the story of a teenager in recession-era Dublin (that’s the 1980s recession, not the more recent one). When forced to move from his private school to an inner-city public school, he decides to start a band to impress a girl, and begs, borrows and steals to shoot pop videos.

Catch Sing Street at:

  • Rollins Theatre, Friday 11 March at 6.15pm
  • Marchesa, Monday 14 March at 8pm
  • Alamo Ritz, Wednesday 16 March at 11.30am


I Am Belfast is a documentary from Mark Cousins, which tells viewers the story of Belfast – its changing landscape, its history – through the personification of the city as a gentle, older woman.

Catch I Am Belfast at:

  • Alamo Ritz, Saturday 12 March at 4.15pm
  • Alamo Lamar, Sunday 13 March at 10.45pm
  • Alamo Lamar, Wednesday 16 March at 8.15pm


From BAFTA-nominated writer and director, and Cork man, Billy O’Brien, I Am Not a Serial Killer tells the tale of 16-year-old John Cleaver and his dangerous obsession with serial killers. After resisting terrible impulses, Cleaver lets loose when a monster comes to town.

Catch I Am Not a Serial Killer at:

  • Alamo Lamar, Sunday 13 March at 8.15pm
  • Alamo Ritz, Tuesday 15 March at 4.30pm
  • Alamo Lamar, Wednesday 16 March at 11am


Snowfall is the story of an anxious young man who has a moving experience at a friend’s house party. A first short film from NCAD graduate Conor Whelan, a story of fleeting love, mixed emotions and how we interact with each other is packed into a brief four minutes.

Catch Snowfall in animated shorts sessions at:

  • Rollins Theatre, Saturday 12 March at 4pm
  • Topfer Theatre at ZACH, Monday 14 March at 11am
  • Alamo Lamar B, Thursday 17 March at 7.45pm


Short film Ernestine & Kit follows the titular characters – two women in their 70s – as they drive around north Co Sligo, passing judgement on what they imagine to be the immoral lives of those they drive past.

Catch Ernestine & Kit in shorts sessions at:

  • Topfer Theatre at ZACH, Saturday 12 March at 2pm
  • Rollins Theatre, Sunday 13 March at 10.15am
  • Stateside Theatre, Thursday 17 March at 3.45pm


Damien O’Donnell, director of feature film East Is East and TV show The Savage Eye, brings his short How Was Your Day? to the SXSW audience for its North American Premiere. Winner of Best Irish Short at the Foyle Film Festival, the 13-minute film follows a woman excited about the approaching birth of her first child.

Catch How Was Your Day? in shorts sessions at:

  • Topfer Theatre at ZACH, Saturday 12 March at 11.30am
  • Rollins Theatre, Sunday 13 March at 1pm
  • Stateside Theatre, Thursday 17 March at 6.15pm


In this Galway Film Fleadh Award-winning animated short, a shipwrecked fisherman takes shelter in an abandoned house on a remote island, only to find he is not alone.

Still from Geist via SXSW

Still from Geist via SXSW

Catch Geist in animated shorts sessions at:

  • Rollins Theatre at the Long Center, Saturday 12 March at 4pm
  • Topfer Theatre at ZACH, Monday 14 March at 11am
  • Alamo Lamar B, Thursday 17 March at 7.45pm


SXSW will see the world premiere of the Preacher pilot episode. Based on the comic series of the same name, this AMC show follows preacher Jesse Custer – possessed by the offspring of an angel and a demon – as he crosses America to find God. The show stars our very own Ruth Negga, fresh from a smash turn in Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD.

Catch the Preacher premiere (and a Q&A with the creators and actors) at:

  • Paramount Theatre, Monday 14 March at 2.45pm

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Main Austin, Texas image by Alfie Photography via Shutterstock