Dr Anita McKeown

Director at SMARTlab Skelligs 

County Kerry

Co. Kerry

One-On-One with Anita

Could you tell us a bit more about yourself, your job and how long you’ve lived in County Kerry?

I was born in north east Antrim so I am about as far away from home as you could get in Ireland but I have never felt more at home. I left home in 1989, a different time, before the first ceasefire. I then spent almost 20 years living in Europe, London, and stints in the USA.

In 2010 / 11 I moved back to Ireland with SMARTlab, an ICT research lab with a focus on technology for social change,  from University of East London, as Director of SMARTlab Catalyst, an initiative that would operate as a ‘threshold’ for public engagement at UCD. 

I came to Kerry in 2017 from Dublin and I now lead SMARTlab Skelligs, a satellite research cluster as part of SMARTlabs global network and affiliated to the Inclusive Design Research Centre. Our focus is supporting embedded research in place-based STEAM education, Enterprise and Innovation for under 18s and Placemaking with a focus on Rural Resilience.

What attracted you to living and working in Kerry ?

I’d visited in Feb 2017, SMARTlab hosted one of our PhD seminars here in Cahersiveen.

It was through my work in place-based STEAM education and …

Can you walk us through a day in the life of living in Kerry?

At some point there is always a photograph as the view from my front door which never ceases to stop me in my tracks… except when I can’t see it for the fog! I am amazed that I get to do work that I love. Everyday is different.

How would you describe transport within Kerry ? Is it easy to get around ?

Dreadful and I don’t drive – so you can imagine… There’s a local facebook carpool in Cahersiveen and as most of my work is in south Kerry I can manage, just about. It does cause some problems going beyond the county but they are not insurmountable.

How fast/reliable is your home internet connection ?

I have satellite broadband so it’s ok but it can be unreliable and can cut out or delay often.

Can you tell us about some of your favourite locations or attractions within Kerry?

Some of my favorites include :

The Skeliigs Ring – Jam packed with things to do.

Ballinskelligs Bay

The ruins (castle and abbey) Cill Rialaig

Finian’s Bay

The Wells (Tobairin Holy Well and St Brendans Well)

The chocolate factory

Driftwood surf cafe.

After all this, then up to the highpoint before dropping down into Portmagee – and a lovely evening drink at the Moorings.

What advice do you have for individuals or families interested in relocating to Kerry ?

I think connect with local groups and orgs and help build capacity e.g. Tidy Towns – it’s not just about street cleaning – there’s so many ways to get involved and contribute to sustainable and resilient communities. Also, volunteering – great way to meet others and build networks. If you have children get involved in the school’s communities and parents’ councils  – the last few years have been really tough and volunteering not only gives something to the community but also your own children. Living in a rural community is incredible – nowhere is perfect but being the change you want to see goes a long way to building friendships, support and changing what might need improvement or extra capacity – you probably have skills and knowledge that would be really valuable.

Thank you very much Anita for taking the time to talk with us and thank you for representing Co. Kerry as a Rural Ireland Tech Advocate.

%d bloggers like this: